After 55 Years, the Druze of the Golan Are Choosing Israel over Syria

Sept. 9 2022

While the Druze population of the Galilee and Israeli cities serve in the army and in the government, and in general consider themselves—and indeed, are—an integral part of the Jewish state, the Druze of the Golan Heights are a people apart. Although they have the option of applying for Israeli citizenship, most have declined to do so, preferring to maintain their close ties with Syria, which possessed the Golan until 1967. That is starting to change, writes Fadi Amun:

Official government figures . . . show that over the past five years, the number of citizenship requests filed by Druze residents of the Golan Heights has [steadily increased] from 75 requests in 2017 to 239 in 2021. The number for 2022 will likely be even higher still. In the first half of the year alone, 206 requests were submitted.

Yusri Hazran, a historian and senior lecturer at Shalem College in Jerusalem who has researched trends and changes in Druze society in the Golan Heights, predicted that within twenty years, about half of the Druze residents of the Golan will hold Israeli citizenship. According to Hazran, the Syrian civil war has “smashed the idea of a Syrian nation” and severed many links between the Golan Druze and Damascus, including cross-border sales of produce and university attendance.

Mila, [a] Druze woman, said she applied for citizenship in 2021, which was swiftly granted. But her decision is a secret to most. “My parents don’t have [Israeli] citizenship, and they accepted and respected my decision. The broader family doesn’t know about it, and I assume that if they were to find out, some of my relatives would sever their ties with me,” she said.

According to Hazran, some also fear retaliation against relatives still in Syria should it become known that they received Israeli passports.

Amun notes that Golan Druze who refuse citizenship also declined to be interviewed, citing their fear “that talking to the media could make them ‘targets’ for Israeli authorities.” But one cannot but wonder if they are as reluctant to state their real fear as they are to be speak to journalists—namely retaliation not from Israeli authorities but from Syrian ones.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Druze, Golan Heights, Israeli society, Syrian civil war

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan