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I recently went up north for Shabbat. I spent hours just looking at the mountains of the Golan Heights as they reddened toward evening. But slowly the pure pleasure I was getting out of their amazing beauty was replaced by a deep discomfort.
So wrote left-of-center Israeli columnist Ari Shavit on Thursday in Haaretz (full text available by scrolling down here). He knew well, of course, that beyond the tranquil scene he was witnessing lay Syria, a zone of turmoil and brutality.
couldn’t help but think what would be happening today if the ideological position I had long held—peace in return for the Golan—had been accepted…. I have to admit that if the worldview I had championed had been applied, battalions of global jihadis would be camping near Ein Gev [beside the Sea of Galilee] and there would be Al-Qaida bases on the shores of [the lake]. Northern Israel and the country’s water sources would be bordering this summer on an armed, extremist Islamic entity that could not be controlled.
Shavit and most of the Israeli left had, of course—until the chaos erupted in Syria last year, when they fell silent—long advocated restoring the Golan Heights to the tender mercies of the Assad regime. In 2000 then-prime minister Ehud Barak tried in earnest to hand the Golan over to Hafez al-Assad, father of the current embattled president. Assad responded by posing conditions that even the “peace”-hungry Barak could not meet—inducing relief among realistic Israelis and frustration among the left.
Shavit now sees, though, that even in the hypothetical scenario of the Assads accepting the Golan offer and then keeping the peace, they always headed a despised, minority regime in a region marked by severe volatility. He envisions global-jihad forces on the shores of the lake because, of course, such forces are now running rampant in Syria and threatening to fill its leadership vacuum once Bashar Assad falls—though, if so, it will fortunately be with the formidable Golan Heights between them and Israel.
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