Like Turks, Israel must show determination in dealings with Syria
Uri Heitner Published: 01.01.07, 16:11
Peace declarations coated by threats of war on the part of Bashar Assad, Ahmadinejad's and Nasrallah's close partner, are met by the Israel public with a healthy response, as it appears in the polls: Peace? Sure. But not at the price of withdrawing from the Golan. At the same time, we see in the media a campaign of appeasement based on the old cliché that "the price of peace with Syria is known the Golan." I suggest that we examine this axiom.
Almost two years ago, a historic event happened in the Mideast that for some reason did not publicly resonate in Israel. The Syrian regime recognized for the first time the Alexandretta (Hatay) region as sovereign Turkish territory after dozens of years where Syria strongly demanded Turkish withdrawal from this area. At the same time, Syria maintains its persistent stand that demands an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. How can we explain the duality in Syria's attitude to those two regions?
In both cases we're talking about two regions that in different periods belonged to Syria, yet today they are controlled by its neighbors and Syria viewsed them as its territory and demanded sovereignty in both of them. If there's a difference between the two, Syria's demand for the Golan is in fact weaker than Alexandretta. In Alexandretta, as opposed to the Golan, there's a large Arab-Syrian population. The Golan, as opposed to Alexandretta, constituted a base for Syrian aggression against its neighbor belligerence that caused Syria to lose the Golan.
The difference between the Golan and Alexandretta is not found in the Syrian position. In both cases, the Syrian position was identical an uncompromising demand to "return" the area to Syrian sovereignty. In both cases, Syria educated its citizens and children to view it as occupied territory. In both cases, all Syrian maps showed the Golan and Alexandretta as Syrian regions.
The significant difference is between Turkey's attitude to its land, sovereignty and borders and Israel's attitude to its land, sovereignty and borders. For dozens of years, Turkey was unwilling to discuss any kind of compromise in Alexandretta. It never expressed a willingness to cede Alexandretta in exchange for peace. It never negotiated a withdrawal from Alexandretta. Its attitude was clear and simple Alexandretta is ours. Period.
For dozens of years, Turkey showed determination in safeguarding its national objectives and strategic interests. It turns out that the stubbornness and patience paid off. When the Syrian interest necessitated peaceful, neighborly relations with Turkey, Syria recognized reality and in contradiction to its pledges for dozens of years renounced its claim for Alexandretta.
It would be appropriate for Israel to adopt the Turkish model and respect its sovereignty in the Golan just like Turkey respected its sovereignty in Alexandretta. Just like the Turks, Israel too must show determination and patience. We should not discuss the Golan, negotiate over the Golan, or agree to create any kind of link between the Golan and peace with Syria. Just like Turkey, Israel must say that the Golan is ours. Period.
Just as was the case with Turkey, determination will pay off for Israel too. And if a day comes where the Syrian interest is to sign a peace deal with Israel, Syria will have to recognize reality and accept Israeli sovereignty in the Golan. Turkey waited patiently for 66 years. We may have to wait less.
The price is known? It's all in our head. We must change our way of thinking and make it clear: We're ready for peace with Syria, despite our reservations over Assad's regime, but the Syrians must know the price of peace: They must renounce their demand to get the Golan from us.
The writer, who is member of Kibbutz Ortal, serves as director of the Golan Community Center
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