Golan Heights: U.S. National Security Interests Protected by Israeli Sovereignty
A legislative initiative for the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights was introduced into Congress this week. This effort should be recognized as one taken to promote America’s interest. Recognizing Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan means shoring up the security of America’s bulwark of democracy in the Middle East. It is essential to the national security of both allies.
ISRAELI CONTROL OF THE GOLAN HEIGHTS IS A BULWARK AGAINST IRANIAN AND RUSSIAN EFFORTS TO DOMINATE THE MIDDLE EAST
Syria is a hot mess growing ever hotter with its closest collaborators, Russia and Iran, jockeying for position to be the marionette holding Assad’s strings.
Whether or not Assad regains control over his decimated country, it will be difficult or impossible to remove the expansionist efforts of Russia and Iran to fill the void created by Assad’s weakness. The United States is doing what it must, which means watching the battlefield carefully, and weighing its options.
One obvious linchpin is the stabilizing role of Israel in the region. Should Israel lose its control over its border with Syria, the U.S. would be required to invest enormous manpower and other assets to prevent the Islamist strongmen in the area from overrunning and ultimately taking control of the region. Just as the Taliban did with Afghanistan, Islamists will seize the stragegic asset of the Golan Heights as a firebase from which to dominate the region and from which to stage terrorist attacks worldwide.
Iran is not the only concern. Russia has made its presence felt by transferring massive amounts of arms to the enfeebled Syrian Army, thereby throwing a rope – with strings attached – to Assad. And Israel has come through for the U.S. in the past, most notably in 1970 when Soviet-backed puppets Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization sought to overthrow America’s ally, the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. Had Israel not stepped up, the Soviets would have had easy access to disrupt western oil supplies in the Persian Gulf.
More even than efforts to shore up Israel, the legislative initiative introduced on Tuesday, Feb. 26th by Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Gallagher will strengthen U.S. interests and abilities in the volatile Middle East.
The short, simple bills introduced into the two chambers, S.567 and H.R. 1372, will both increase Israel’s ability to defend itself and stabilize the region. They thus would enable Israel to protect the West, precluding Islamists from controlling territory from which they can threaten the Great Satan – which is what Iran calls the U.S. – and the rest of the West. Israel can thereby ensure that the U.S. is better able to have limited boots on the ground in the region.
THE GOLAN HEIGHTS PROVIDES PERFECT SNIPERS’ NEST
The Golan Heights is a geographical plateau on Israel’s northwestern border with Syria. It soars to approximately 1700 feet above Israel’s Galil, home to a diverse mixture of Jewish, Druze, Christian and Arab Israelis. The Sea of Galilee from which this region takes its name is a major source of Israel’s water.
Prior to the 1967 Six Day War, the Golan Heights was controlled by Syria which used its dramatic topographical advantage to shell Israeli farms and villages. The local residents were forced to sleep in bomb shelters.
During the 1967 war, Syria and Jordan allied with Egypt, the Arab military power in the region, to assault Israel. Their united goal was eradicating the Jewish State. Despite the imbalance of weaponry, manpower and position, Israel defeated the Syrian army in two days of fighting.
At the conclusion of the war, Israel offered a deal to Egypt and Syria: return of the conquered Sinai and the Golan Heights in exchange for peace. The united response from the Arab League Summit that summer was the infamous “Three No’s.” “No peace, no negotiations and no recognition.” Even so, this was not the last time Israel offered to return the Golan Heights to Syria and was rebuffed.
After several more wars initiated by Syria to annihilate the Jewish State, Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights in late December, 1981.
THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR HAS DRAMATICALLY EXPANDED THE ROLES AND TYPES OF TERRORIST GROUPS IN THE REGION
The bloody, cataclysmic civil war in Syria began nearly a decade ago. This war has brought with it hordes of guerrilla terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda into the immediate region. With that sea change, coupled with Iran’s unquenchable thirst for a land corridor through the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea, Israeli control over the Golan Heights is essential both for its existence and to secure America’s national and global interests.
Although Israel acquired the Golan Heights in a defensive war and despite Syria’s refusal to exchange peace for return of the land, the United Nations has refused to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the region, denouncing and rejecting Israel’s formal annexation of the region.
National Security Advisor John Bolton went to Israel in June and met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister called on the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The proposed legislation introduced this week articulates two principles behind the effort. First, a bit of diplomatic integrity. In 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker “provided diplomatic assurance to Israel that ‘the United States continues to stand behind’” assurances given by Pres. Gerald Ford in 1975 that the U.S. would assure “Israel’s security from attack from the Golan Heights” and that the U.S. would weigh heavily Israel’s position that it must “remain on the Golan Heights.” That assurance was made to Israel yet again in 1996, by then-President Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
Giving credence to one’s diplomatic assurances to allies is at the nub of America’s credibility and standing in the world.
As importantly, the bill acknowledges the current regional reality of wildly escalating terrorism in the region, especially to the north, from Iranian proxies in Lebanon and Syria.
“Israel’s security from attacks from Syria and Lebanon cannot be assured without Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the bill states in the Sense of Congress section, underlining that it is in the United States national security interest for that to happen.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION IF THE BILL BECOMES LAW
The Separation of Powers doctrine limits Congress’s power to define the boundaries that the U.S. recognizes for a foreign country. That issue remains in the bailiwick of the President. This bill, however, aims at something more modest but quite important: if it becomes law, the bill will mean that any reference to “Israel” in an Act of Congress would be interpreted to include the Golan Heights.
As Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) explained when he and his colleagues introduced the Senate version of the bill, “The Threat Iran poses to America and Israel requires acknowledging the reality of Israel’s control over the territory as a matter of national security.”
Not one Democrat member of Congress has signed on to these national security bills thus far.