For the Sake of Peace, the West Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

In 1967, Israel seized the Golan—an area inhabited by Jews since biblical times—in a battle initiated by Syria, and in 1981 formally applied its laws there. Yet, as late as 2011, the U.S. was encouraging Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the territory to Damascus in exchange for promises of peace. To Rafael Bardaji and Richard Kemp, it is high time for both Washington and its allies to admit that the Jewish state’s continued control of the Golan is most conducive to regional stability:

As part of the Arab League, Syrian forces launched an invasion of northern Israel across the Golan Heights in June 1948. After the 1949 armistice, there were years of sporadic attacks against Israel from the Golan, including cross-border raids by Fatah and shelling of civilian communities by the Syrian army. Syria intensified its artillery fire against Israel at the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967. . . .

Recognition by the international community [of Israel’s control of the Golan] would not encourage wars of aggression but, on the contrary, would deter them. Returning the Golan Heights to Syria would not only endanger Israel and against their will consign the 25,000 Druze living there to the depredations of President Assad; but it would also send the message that an aggressor has nothing to lose as there is no territorial price to pay for its violent actions.

Western support for Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights would equally extract a price from Assad—albeit a comparatively small one—for the war he has waged against his own people in which millions have suffered and perhaps half a million died. In this, the West has plenty of words but few tools at its disposal. Rejecting Assad’s claim on the Golan Heights is one of them, especially as he now seems set to retain virtually all of the status quo ante even after the monstrous war crimes he has committed.

But such a move by the West would be much more than just a rap on the knuckles; it would also be an expression of the new reality. In the past Israel offered Syria the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, but its offers were always rejected. Many Western experts and governments naïvely viewed Assad as a potential partner for peace with Israel. The events of the last seven years have proved beyond all doubt that he is nothing other than a murderous despot who must not be given any opportunity for further aggression. This is really the crux of the issue: Western action now could make a concrete contribution to preventing conflict in the future.

Read more at Colonel Richard Kemp

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

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7