While the U.S. has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, most of the world still insists that the territory properly belongs to Syria. Douglas Feith explains why Syria’s claims to the area rest on shaky historical grounds, and why the Middle East is better off leaving it to Israel.
Syria has been an unhappy political experiment. It never secured for its multiethnic population freedom, prosperity, or domestic tranquility. Aided by Iran and Russia, the Bashar al-Assad regime has just won a long civil war through mass murder of its own civilians (including by use of prohibited chemical weapons) and by imposing on other countries millions of desperate, impoverished refugees. Under the circumstances, there is no compelling reason for local or world powers to remain committed to reassembling Syria as it existed before the civil war, [let alone before 1967]. . . .
Syria’s borders do not have deep roots in religion, culture, or history. They reflect nothing profounder than the interests of France and Britain at a moment in the early 20th century. [And they] have spawned resentment and belligerence among the country’s leaders, who have never respected the lines. They have continually used their military forces or terrorist proxies to violate the sovereignty of Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. . . .
When Syria someday, with new leadership, seeks to reestablish official relations with the United States, it will now have to do so on the understanding that Israeli retention of the Golan is a closed issue. Syria’s new leadership would not then be asked to humiliate itself by ceding the territory but only to recognize that President Assad lost it permanently as one of the many consequences of the civil war.