Israel Isn’t Leaving the Golan Heights—Nor Should It

Jan. 18 2019

According to recent reports, Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing Washington to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which were taken from Syria in the 1967 war. While in the 1990s, and as late as 2010, Jerusalem expressed willingness to negotiate a deal with Damascus that would involve returning all or part of the territory, the Syrian civil war has removed that option from the table. Steven A. Cook comments:

Whether Washington recognizes Israel’s annexation or not, the Israelis are never withdrawing from the Golan Heights—nor should they. . . . [The former] Israeli interest in trading away the Golan Heights was predicated on a belief—or wishful thinking—that a peace treaty [with Syria] would break the Syria-Iran-Hizballah axis. It makes sense on paper, but peeling the Syrians from Iran and Hizballah was never going to work. Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, was at best a grudging participant in the peace process of the 1990s. Syrian diplomats showed up for talks, but they never actually negotiated much. . . . The former Jordanian foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, recounts [that] the Syrians sought to obstruct regional peace rather than contribute to it. . . .

Quiet along the Israeli-Syrian front for the last 45 years is a function not just of the capabilities of the IDF but of the unparalleled advantage the Golan Heights gives Israel’s armed forces. The Golan multiplies Israel’s force in the event of a war, but, more important for Israeli security, the area is an unrivaled intelligence-gathering platform. From its posts atop the Golan Heights, the IDF can look and listen in on the valley below that leads to Damascus, only about 45 miles away. Nothing is foolproof, of course. The Israelis occupied the Golan Heights in 1973 and ran into a lot of trouble when the Syrians attacked on October 6 of that year, but all things being equal, there is no question that holding onto the plateau is superior to withdrawing and the uncertainty of an agreement with the Syrian regime. . . .

[W]hen the younger Assad proved himself to be a bloody blunderer who put the regime in jeopardy, it was the Iranians who came to the rescue. The Syrian leader now owes his and his regime’s survival in part to Iran, which has sought thus far unsuccessfully to establish a permanent presence on Israel’s border. Iran and its expeditionary force, Hizballah, are a threat to Israelis security. The Golan Heights is critical to keeping both from achieving their ends.

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More about: Bashar al-Assad, Golan Heights, Hafez al-Assad, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians