It’s easy, given the leitmotif of Middle East peace rhetoric, to look at the possibility of peace between Israel and Syria as being inextricably tied to a hand-over of the Golan Heights to our Arab neighbors in exchange for a deal. That’s the way it’s been ever since 1967, it’s all the Assad dynasty has been able to think about (in the hope of restoring the face they lost in the war they also lost), and it’s what the Americans, Europeans, and Israeli Left think is involved.
I’ve also been stuck in that rut for some time, thinking that if that’s the price of peace with Syria, then we’d better learn to do without. The strategic value of the Golan to Israel, the water rights that come with it, and the fact that, while the Druze on the Heights say they’re spiritually citizens of Syria, they’ve easily done their share as valuable citizens of Israel, and will probably continue thus, are part and parcel of Israel’s possession of that patch of land.
And then I read JoeSettler’s post on the Muqata blog, where he shakes the foundations of that line of thinking. Starting from the position that peace-making with dictatorships is risky, he goes on to take a close look at the benefits that Arab nations have received in exchange for peace with Israel (including American aid for Egypt and water for Jordan). Egypt got back the Sinai, but Jordan did not request (or, likely, even want) Yehudah and Shomron back under its umbrella. Land is not an essential element in peace-making, after all.
JoeSettler writes, “Israel will not give up the Golan, that is the price Syria must pay for peace with Israel and for the benefits that peace with Israel will bring them.” In addition, he writes, “Israel must demand that regime change takes place and democracy is introduced so we can make sure that any treaty we sign is (relatively) stable.”
I often find myself resistant to the land-for-peace mantra, and this post clarified why that is so: “Israel needs to stop thinking that only Israel gains from peace.”
And that goes for the rest of the world, too.