Arguments against an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights are so self-evident that they simply fly off your tongue. But that doesn't mean that it is unnecessary to make them. This is especially the case when supposedly serious people like former IDF chief of general staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz – co-architect of the strategic disaster which was the Second Lebanon War – advocate withdrawal in exchange for "peace."
So here goes.
Since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Golan Heights has been Israel's quietest, most stable border. This is largely the case because the Syrians know that from the Golan Heights, the road to Damascus is wide open.
An Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights would destabilize the border by removing Israel's offensive deterrent capacity against Syria. Since nature abhors a vacuum, Israel's deterrent capacity would be transferred to the hands of Syrian dictator and Iranian proxy Bashar Assad and his henchmen. Additionally, in the wake of an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights on the heels of Iran's consolidation of its hold over Lebanon, Assad's regime will be triumphant. His decision to cast his country's lot with Iran will be perceived an act of brilliant statecraft.
While there is no certainty about how long it would take before Syria took advantage of the new situation to initiate aggression against Israel, it is clear that an Israeli withdrawal would raise tensions dramatically. And those tensions would find the remainder of Israeli territory more vulnerable to an Iranian-Syrian attack than ever before.
Today Syria already has the capacity to attack all of Israel with its Scud and Nodong ballistic missiles. But while these missiles can terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, their guidance systems are generally assessed as too primitive to enable them to be successfully deployed against tactical and strategic targets. Possession of the Golan Heights would enable Syria to use more conventional armaments to precisely target IDF positions, arms depots and attack formations throughout Northern Israel. So one of the consequences of Israel's handover of the Golan Heights would be a steep rise in the price in blood that a post-Golan Heights-withdrawal-Israel would be forced to pay to win any future military contest with Iranian proxies Hizbullah or Syria. Indeed it would dwarf the heavy price that Israel paid for victory in 1967 and 1973.
And the cost of an Israeli relinquishment of the Golan would not be paid by Israel alone. With Syria in control of the Golan, Damascus and its allies in the Iranian axis would be even more willing to assert themselves in battlegrounds like Iraq. Their renewed will to fight would limit still further the possibility that the US could remove its forces from Iraq without risking the prospect of Iraq being forced into the Iranian axis.
Moreover, with Israel's strategic options massively curtailed as a result of its surrender of the Golan Heights, the Iranians would have far less cause to fear that Israel would launch a counter-attack in the event of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel or a preemptive attack against Iranian nuclear installations.
IN HIS statement Saturday in support of Olmert's announced intention to give Assad the Golan Heights, Halutz said, "For real peace one must be willing to pay a real price." While this is no doubt a true statement, it is completely irrelevant. Everyone knows that Israel won't get a "real peace" from Assad. Indeed it won't even get a pretend peace from Assad.
To understand why Israel can expect to receive absolutely nothing from Syria in exchange for the Golan Heights, one needs to look no further than Syria's last big peace treaty with a neighbor. In 1989, Syria agreed to withdraw all its troops from Lebanon under the Taif Accord that ended Lebanon's civil war. Needless to say, Syrian troops continued their illegal occupation Lebanon for the next 15 years and still today continue to block Lebanese independence by arming Hizbullah.
Or consider Israel's "successful" treaty with Egypt, under which Egypt received the entire Sinai Peninsula in exchange for signing a peace treaty with Israel. Due to Egypt's willingness to sign the deal, Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship has been hailed as a moderate and friendly regime by the US and Israel alike. And yet, short of going to war against Israel, since it signed its peace treaty, Egypt has done just about everything in its power to endanger Israel's security.
At the cabinet meeting Sunday, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin warned the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government that Hamas has missiles with ranges long enough to hit Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. Diskin added that with the border between Gaza and Egypt breached, time is working in Hamas's favor. With every passing day of Israeli inaction, Hamas brings in more and more advanced weapons.
Aside from Iran, which is the major source of Hamas's weapons, Egypt has done more than any other country to enable Hamas's missile war against southern Israel and its takeover of Gaza in general. As MK Yuval Steinitz has noted repeatedly over the past several years, those missiles didn't just magically appear at the Egyptian-Gaza border. Those Iranian weapons are transported in ships through Egyptian waters that dock at Egyptian ports. The weapons are then offloaded onto trucks and travel overland across the country before reaching Gaza.
Egyptian security forces could intercept these weapons at any point along the way. But they pass through unmolested because Egypt wants Hamas to have those weapons to attack Israel and to keep the border destabilized.
And if this is what Israel gets from our supposedly moderate Egyptian friends, what can Israel expect to receive from our radical Syrian enemies? Here it bears noting that Syria is still preventing the International Atomic Energy Agency from sending inspectors to check out the site of the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria that Israel destroyed last September 6. And again, if this is how Syria treats the UN, how will it treat Israel after Israel relinquishes its ability to threaten the Syrian capital?
GIVEN ALL of these self-evident drawbacks of Olmert's proposal to surrender the Golan Heights to Syria, it is obvious that the plan is ridiculous. Similarly, in light of the massive danger such a withdrawal would entail, withdrawal advocates like Halutz are exposed as complete fools.
But the fact that this is true does not diminish the chance that Israel may still give up the Golan Heights if those who advocate this policy remain in power and continue to enjoy public respectability. Reality has counted for little in Israel's political and strategic discourse in recent years.
The lunacy of transferring control over south Lebanon to Hizbullah in 2000 and of giving Gaza to Fatah and Hamas in 2005 was just as obvious as the lunacy of relinquishing the Golan Heights to Syria in 2008. Moreover, the lunacy of transferring control over Gaza and Judea and Samaria to the PLO was obvious to anyone with eyes to see in the 1990s. And yet, even though all the opponents of these strategic fiascos made these arguments until they were blue in the face, Israel still withdrew.
All along and still today, standing against these voices of sane reality were voices preaching utopian peace. Men and women like Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Shulamit Aloni, Tzipi Livni, Yuli Tamir, Sheli Yachimovich, Amnon Shahak, Uri Saguy, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and their chorus of "peace" operatives in the media castigated all proponents of reality-based policymaking as nothing more than fear-mongering fanatics and enemies of peace almost indistinguishable from the likes of Hizbullah, Hamas and all the rest.
And of course the voices of reason were correct every time and never thanked for their wisdom. Indeed, they continue to this day to be condemned as fear-m
And in spite of the fact that the utopian peace junkies have been wrong every single time, they are still the first to be put on television and the radio to advocate Israel's capitulation on every conceivable front. Even as the cemeteries fill up with the charred corpses of Israelis killed because of their utopian madness, they are still feted as experts and wise men and elder statesmen.
The one hopeful sign of change is found in the Israeli public's reaction to the current malformed public debate about Olmert's new plan to give Assad the Golan Heights. In the past every time a government launched negotiations or simply called for unilateral surrender of land opinion polls showed an immediate jump of some 20 percent in public support for the initiative. Today's polls suggest that public support for a withdrawal from the Golan Heights has decreased since Olmert announced he is negotiating their surrender.
If during past negotiations and planned withdrawals, politicians enjoyed the support of 45 percent of Israelis for their moves, today Olmert has the support of only 22 percent of Israelis for his plan to give up the Golan Heights.
The fact that Israelis are reacting negatively to people like Olmert and Halutz and their advocated withdrawals for "peace," may simply be a consequence of the public's contempt for these men specifically. That is, it is possible that the public would be more supportive of capitulation to Syria if more popular leaders like former prime minister Ariel Sharon were advocating it.
But it is also possible that the public has finally had enough of these utopian gasbags and their capitulation agenda. One can only hope that this is the case. Because while Israel will not be destroyed if its leaders are stupid enough to relinquish the Golan Heights, without the Golan Heights, Israel's chances of survival in the long term will be vastly diminished.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.