Goodbye To The Golan?
Rabin seems sold on trading the Heights for Syrian
peace. But can he sell the idea to the Israeli people?
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he signs building up over
the past few weeks lead al-
most inevitably to one con-
clusion: The Rabin
government has reconciled itself
to giving back all of the Golan
Heights to Syria in return for
"I think the decision has al-
ready been taken by both sides,
and it's only a matter of time,
maybe months, perhaps around
the beginning of the year [before
it is worked out and made pub-
lic]," said Hebrew University pro-
fessor Moshe Maoz, who is
considered, along with Ambas-
sador to the United States Ita-
mar Rabinovitch, to be Israel's
leading authority on Syria.
That Israel holds such a posi-
tion isn't a startling revelation to
Middle East observers. Rather,
it's taken as a given. "I think
everybody knows what the deal
is. It's peace for the Golan," said
former U.S. Secretary of State
James Baker in an interview
with Israel Television. What re-
mains to be settled,
Mr. Baker continued, are the
"bows" of peace, such as the pace
of Israel's withdrawal in tandem
with Syria's normalization of re-
lations, and the extent of mutu-
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
denies all this, saying he is pre-
pared for "withdrawal on the
Golan, not from the Golan." An
Israeli official repeated the gov-
ernment's line, adding, "We have
never raised the issue of total
withdrawal." In the next sen-
tence, however, the official ex-
plained: "It would not be a wise
tactic for us to say now what the
final price is that we will pay."
The price Syrian President
Hafez al-Assad demands is the
entire Golan. As Professor Maoz
put it, this a "red line" for him.
Mr. Assad considers the Golan
Heights occupied Syrian terri-
tory. He also has the precedent
of the Camp David treaty before
him. In return for peace with Is-
rael, Anwar Sadat got back the
whole Sinai — all the land Egypt
lost in the Six Day War. Mr. As-
sad will not settle for anything
The Israeli government, for its
part, is absolutely determined to
make peace with Syria. Recent-
ly both Mr. Rabin and Foreign
Minister Shimon Peres warned
publicly that if such an agree-
ment is not achieved, Israel could
face a potentially catastrophic
war by the end of the decade. Mr.
Peres also mentioned that Israel
already had recognized Syrian
sovereignty over the Golan, im-
mediately after the Six Day War.
(Israel shortly withdrew that
recognition, and years later ef-
fectively annexed the Golan,
which Mr. Peres didn't mention.)
And Mr. Rabin wooed the Syrian
leader by saying, "If Assad wants
what Sadat got, he has to give
what Sadat gave."
So the reasoning goes like this:
a) Mr. Assad's non-negotiable
condition for peace is the whole
of the Golan Heights; b) Mr. Ra-
bin insists on making peace with
Syria; therefore c) Mr. Rabin is
willing to return the whole of the
Golan to Syria.
Before the 1992 election, Mr.
Rabin held the opposite view: the
Golan was vital to Israel's secu-
rity, he would say, more vital
than a peace treaty with Syria,
so all of it must remain in Israeli
hands. After the election he
changed policy, saying he was
ready to compromise. Why has
he seemingly gone 180 degrees
from his original position, to a