ICYMI… Have you seen that acronym on any of the web sites you have visited. I am seeing it increasingly. It means In Case You Missed It…ICYMI. Today I will blog about something today ICYMI. Yesterday, Thursday March 21, President Trump broke with years of US diplomacy by Tweeting that it was time for the US “to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights” saying that the Syrian territory that was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War “is of critical strategic and security importance” to Israel and to stability in the region. Since the 1967 war, Israel has occupied the Golan Heights, while the rest of the world pretended to be incensed by it. But even pretenders are happier when their pretense is not challenged by others. Syria is obviously feeling bolder as they are taking back more and more of their lost territory to rebels in the north of Syria. With the backing of Russian Aircraft and Iranian funded Hezbollah fighters, Syria is gaining momentum in reestablishing itself as the single power within Syria. This new found confidence has them puffing their chests out and challenging the now 52 year occupation of the Golan Heights by the Israeli government. Up until this tweet, no US President has uttered a word about the Golan Heights and like the rest of the International Community has not considered supporting Israeli’s position claiming that territory as Israeli. Why has the entire global community embraced this hypocrisy and continued to ignore it is happening? Why is this piece of terrain so important to Israel and to Syria?
Israel? The Golan Heights is an area of 1,800km² on the border between Israel and Syria. Today it’s mostly occupied by Israel, but it was under Syrian sovereignty until June 1967, when Israel took control of most of the area in the Six-Day War, a military conflict with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Although Israel controls only about two-thirds of what is known as the Golan Heights, it controls the most strategic points. The Golan is recognised as part of Syria by the United Nations. UN Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from Golan and other territories it occupied in 1967, including Gaza and the West Bank.
There appears to be two, possibly three primary reasons the Golan Heights is so essential/strategic to Israel:
1. It controls the high ground between the Israel and Syrian borders. The possessor of this terrain can effectively dominate terrain in both directions, north and south. Israel does not want to give up this terrain because of its military significance.
2. Israel has hoped to hold onto the Heights and use it as a bargaining chip for peace. It has been called Israel’s “land for peace” gambit. The only problem is, several nations have not actually recognized Israel as a nation. Syria is one of those countries. If Syria were to enter into negotiations over the Golan territory, they would, by de facto, be recognizing Israel as a nation, something they are not prepared to do.
3. I say this is possibly a third, because there are rich underground water resevoirs in the Heights. This is a rich source of irrigation water for vast farmlands in the Golan. Israel does not want to lose access to these highly valued water resources. The Golan Heights are thought to provide around one-third of Israel’s fresh water supply. Water from the Golan travels to the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.
Syria? The occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel is a black eye on the history and government of Syria. It is a piece of property that has been used as a rallying point against Israel for many years. Syria simply cannot lose this for national pride. It appears that Syria’s primary reason for getting the Heights back? It is a strategic place for battle. Historically, whoever controlled the Golan Heights was able to control the entire Palestinian (now Israeli) Valley.
Israel sees the Heights (Ramat HaGolan) as a maginot line for their very survival. Their thinking is; If they lose the Golan Heights, they lose their nation. The rest of the world knows that is true as well. So they pretend it is not happening. President Trump is not much of a pretender, so in his 21st March Tweet he called the world to look at its pretenses, and that is leaving the world in an “emperor has no clothes” sort of position. Everybody is up in arms. What will this lead to? Well, it goes without saying that people will do a lot of extreme things to avoid looking complicitous in a world where shame and honor are ruling the day.
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