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December 25, 1981 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-12-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

10 Friday, December 25, 1981

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Syrian Intransigence, Years of Shelling, Led to Golan Annexation

By VICTOR BIENSTOCK

Fences make good
neighbors, the poet said,

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But Israel never had good
boundaries with Syria until
it captured the Golan
Heights in the Six-Day War
of 1967 and while this gave
Israel a safe and secure bor-
der, it only intensified the
Syrian lust to destroy the
Jewish state.

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One of the few certainties
about the future borders of
Israel after the 1967 war
was that the Golan Heights,
or at least the extremity
occupied by Israel, would
remain forever in Israeli
hands. That doughty old
warrior, David Ben-Gurion,
who was in favor of return-
ing the captured territories
to their former Arab oc-
cupiers in the interests of
peace, always insisted,
however, that two areas
must never be given up —
East Jerusalem and the
Golan Heights — the former
because it was the soul of
the Jewish people and the
latter because as long as the
plateau was in alien hands,
peace and security could not
be assured for the people in
the valleys below.
Not so long after the
capture of the Golan
Heights, we jeeped up the
rough road that had been
cut into the steep slope
and visited a Nahal set-
tlement being estab-
lished less than a mile
from the new border.
Living conditions were
primitive; a raw, chill wind
penetrated the improvised
workshop where babies
crawled around the floor at
their young mothers' feet as
they worked, making san-
dals on a sub-contract from
Dafna, the "mother-kibutz"
in Israel. The men not on
guard duty were digging the
deep shelters in which they
expected to spend so many
hours.
When I asked the Jewish
National Fund director of
the Golan settlement pro-
gram why the youngsters
were being placed so close to
the boundary, he tersely re-
plied: "If we don't go to the
borders, the borders will
come to us."
We gingerly stepped
through a partially cleared
minefield to reach a magni-
ficent vantage point over-
looking miles and miles of
one of the most beautiful
areas of Israel. I wrote then:
No one who has ever
stood on the ruins of a Sy-
rian gun emplacement
there and looked out over
the plains and villages of
the Huleh Valley which
the guns dominated
could ever agree that this

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natural fortress should
ever be placed in alien
hands and permitted to
threaten the Jewish far-
mers in the valley below
. . . the recovered
Jerusalem area and the
heights are now and
forever part of Israel."
The Golan Heights rise
2,000 feet, huge and forbid-
ding, at the edge of the
Galilee. From 1948 to 1967,
the Syrian gunners there
had made the plateau into
what they thought was an
impregnable fortress with
concrete bunkers, miles of
barbed wire, mine fields and
permanent artillery
emplacements almost im-
mune to return fire from the
plains below. And for 19
years, despite truces and
armistices, they had done
their best to make life for
the Jewish settlers below a
hell on earth.
Not until Israeli troops, at
heavy cost, scaled the
heights, smashed through
the barbed wire, the
emplacements and the
minefields and silenced the
Syrian guns did the Jewish
settlers below first know the
great pleasure of being able
to sleep in their own beds
without waiting for the
alert signal to send them
rushing to the shelters.
There was never any
doubt from the first day that
the Golan would remain
forever Israeli. In hostile
Syrian hands the heights
were a staging point for in-
vasion, a constant threat to
the lives of Israelis and a de-
terrent to the development
of the most fertile area of
the Jewish state. In the
Golan Heights were two of
the three sources of the Jor-
dan River, Israel's principal
source of water, without
which it could not exist.
There is an historical
precedent for inclusion
of the Golan Heights in a
Jewish state. The Golan
Heights and Mount Her-
mon lay within the bor-
ders of King Solomon's
realm in ancient times.
They are shown there in
the maps of Solomon's
kingdom in the superb
Atlas of Israel pub-
lished in 1970 by the Sur-
vey of Israel and the
Elsevier Publishing Co.
of Amsterdam.
Remains of Jewish set-
tlements in the Golan in the
Second Century BCE have
been uncovered and there
are signs of a substantial
Jewish population having
been expelled from the
Golan by its Byzantine con-
querers.
When captured by the Is-
raelis in 1967, the Golan
Heights plateau was
sparsely populated, mostly
by Circassians and Druze.
Only a small area was culti-
vated and the major activity
was cattle-raising- by the
Circassians. Most of the
Arab Moslems in the area
were the families of Syrian
officers commanding the
Syrian garrison.
The Golan plateau is flat
and unprepossessing. Neg-
lect over the centuries de-
stroyed most of the fertility

which Israeli settlers are
not trying to restore, but
there are spots of incredible
beauty such as the oasis at
the headwaters of the
Banyas River, which may
be developed into tourist at-
tractions.
Some 6,000 Israel
settlers in about 30 set-
tlements are developing
the Israeli end of the
plateau with farms, or-
chards and light man-
ufacturing. Their results
are impressive but the
most breathtaking aspect
of Golan is the view from
the escarpment overlook-
ing the green fields of the
plains below, the blue-
green fishponds shim-
mering in the bright sun-
light surrounded by
miles and miles of green
farmlands and orchards,
interspersed here and
there by Israeli settle-
ments, toylike in the dis-
tance.
There was never the least
thought then that some day
the Golan would be re-
turned to Syria as part of a
peace settlement the way
the Sinai Peninsula was re-
turned to Egypt. The Sinai
was a vast protective land
barrier, but the Golan, in
enemy hands, would be an
invasion route and a con-
stant threat to the Israeli
settlements in the valleys.
Syria has always been the
most intransigent of Israel's
neighbors, the one least in-

I

clined to accept the fact of
Israel's existence.
Possession of the Golan
reduced Israel's vulnerabil-
ity and has reversed roles,
putting Syria on the defen-
sive since Damascus lies at
the end of a 60-mile road
from the Israeli-held section
of the Golan — with no
natural barriers to slow
down armored forces. Re-
tention of the Golan would
be the only way Israel could
be assured of secure bound-
aries as conditioned by t'
Security Council's Reso
tion 242.
There has been no
pressure on Israel from
any source to return or
even to discuss the return
of the Golan to Syria. Is-
rael holds about 500
square miles in a strip
about 15 miles deep at its
widest, separated from
Syrian-held territory by a
narrow buffer strip
patrolled by a United Na-
tions force.
The most likely reason for
Began's dramatic action
was the possibility that the
morale of the Israeli settlers
in the Golan had been af-
fected by the situation in
teh Sinai where Jewish
settlers will have to aban-
don their homes.
Begin's action, a virtual
annexation of the Golan, is
reassurance to the Israelis
in the Golan that the Sinai
story will not be repeated at
their expense.

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