by Ari Lieberman
A move that would send a clear message to Iran.
Last week, House Foreign Affairs Committee Member, Congressman Ron DeSantis (R.,-Fla.), proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act recognizing the Golan Heights as an integral part of Israel thereby validating Israel’s 1981 annexation of the territory. Though non-binding, the declarative resolution, which would have likely passed if brought to the House floor for a full vote, would have sent a strong message to the world, but chiefly Israel's enemies, that after eight years of relentless hostility from the previous American administration, the US-Israel alliance is back on track and stronger than ever.
But for inexplicable reasons, the amendment didn’t pass muster with the House Rules Committee and consequently, never made it do the House floor for a full up or down vote. Sources close to the matter stated that the White House put pressure on Speaker Paul Ryan to kill the resolution and render it dead on arrival. The White House for its part denied playing any role in the shelving of the resolution claiming to have only recently become aware of its existence. When contacted by the Washington Free Beacon for comment on the matter, Speaker Ryan’s office remained uncharacteristically mute.
On the heels of President Donald Trump’s historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and transfer the United States embassy there in compliance with U.S. law, a congressional resolution recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan would have represented a powerful one-two combination. It would have signaled an end to past anachronistic foreign policies dictated by the swamp.
Up until June 1967, the Golan Heights, a rocky volcanic plateau overlooking Galilee, served as a platform for Syrian artillery strikes against Israeli Galilean villages and collectives. It is roughly 45 miles long and 17 miles wide at its widest point. From 1948 until 1967, Syrian artillery harried and harassed Israeli farmers tilling their fields and fishermen tending to their business in the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Kinneret. In addition to artillery strikes, the Syrians also tried to divert the Golan’s waters from flowing into the Jordan River in an effort to deprive Israel of water resources. In sum, rather than using the Golan for productive purposes, the Syrians used the plateau to rain death and destruction and make life for Israelis miserable.
On June 5th 1967, Israel, rather than waiting for its enemies to hit first, acted resolutely and launched a preemptive strike against its belligerent Arab neighbors. While Israel was engaged in battling Egyptians to the south and Jordanians to the east, Syria decided to take advantage of the situation to indiscriminately shell Israeli towns, villages and farming collectives in Galilee.
On June 10, the guns fell silent leaving Israel in full control of the Sinai Peninsula, Judea & Samaria, east Jerusalem and crucially, the strategic Golan Heights. No longer could the Syrians menace Israel as they had done before the Six-Day War.
In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law, which extended Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Syrian Druse residents of the Golan were given the option of accepting Israeli citizenship and many have since taken up Israel on the offer. Before 1967, the Golan was largely barren but today the land is productive featuring a booming tourist industry, the largest ski resort in the Middle East, cattle farms, a commercial green energy wind power station, and an abundance of wineries. In fact, some of the world’s premier wines herald from the Golan. Currently, there are approximately 20,000 Jews and 20,000 Druse living in the Golan in peace and tranquility. The area is in fact, among the most tranquil in Israel with many Israelis vacationing there to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
The Syrians, who never demonstrated any meaningful, good-faith effort to reach peaceful accommodation with Israel, despite Israeli flexibility on territorial concessions, attempted to retake the Golan Heights in October 1973 but were repulsed with severe losses. In 2011, Syria devolved into full-scale civil war that witnessed the use of poison gas by Assad as well as massacres and indiscriminate shelling. Syria no longer exists as an independent country. Instead, Assad can be viewed as a petty warlord who takes his dictates from Tehran.
No one seriously believes that Israel should be compelled to give back the Golan. Had it ceded the territory, a move encouraged by former Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran or ISIS would today be dipping their feet in the Kinneret. Though Representative DeSantis and supporters of a strong Israel haven’t received a plausible explanation as to why the Golan Heights resolution was shelved, DeSantis hasn’t given up the fight. Following the nixing of the resolution he tweeted, “With respect to US recognition of Israel control over the Golan Heights, we’ve only begun to fight...” We wish him Godspeed.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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