Following the seizure of the Syrian Golan Heights by the Syrian military loyal to leader Bashar Assad, the IDF was recently forced to shut down the Mazor Ladach field hospital. The hospital had treated approximately 6,800 casualties of the brutal seven-year Syria civil war as part of Israel’s Good Neighbor program.
The first losers here are, of course, the Syrian people in need of medical care.
Israel had also been providing sorely needed medical equipment, baby formula, food and fuel to the Syrian refugees amassed along Israel’s northeastern border. The proximity of over 100,000 Iranian-backed troops as far south as Quneitra makes the delivery of these life-sustaining materials even more treacherous.
Now Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have become increasingly entrenched in the area, making this region, which has been relatively stable for 45 years, a potential line of confrontation.
This constitutes just one more chapter in the rapidly expanding book of Iran’s pernicious influence in the Middle East. They aim to create an uninterrupted land bridge stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean Sea.
Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights creates an important roadblock in that land bridge.
The Golan Heights is an area of approximately 500 square miles that was captured by Israel in its defensive war of 1967 and was successfully retained, once again, in its defensive war of 1973 from attacking Syrian forces.
Since 1974, when a Separation of Forces Agreement was negotiated, the Golan Heights has remained relatively peaceful.
The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force oversees the 50-mile-long buffer zone between the two sides. However, it has occasionally been attacked by Fatah al-Sham Front (formerly known as the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida). Thus, the 1,000-man force, tellingly, prefers to remain on the Israeli side.
The Golan Heights has served as the demarcation line between the chaotic, feuding forces of radical Islam and the liberal, Western-oriented State of Israel. It creates the definitive dividing line between authoritarian rule and a vibrant, thriving democracy.
The Golan affords Israel a unique topographical vantage point for defensive and intelligence strategy from which its military can peer directly into Damascus and Beirut. It affords the population of Israel a unique defensive shield.
In 1981, the Israeli government voted to extend Israeli civil law to the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly met with Russian President Vladamir Putin to request that he use his influence to remove Iranian troops from Syria. However, although Moscow has offered assurances, the Russians have already demonstrated that they are unwilling to do anything to remove Iranian forces. The IRGC and Hezbollah forces have been deeply intermingled with Syrian army forces, and have even been given Syrian military uniforms to conceal their activities.
There are no surprises here. The Syrian regime has been kept on life support through Putin’s Russia and the Iranian ayatollahs. Russia is only concerned about flexing its power on the world’s stage and sees the failed state of Syria as an opportunity to do so. And Iran is on a march to establish its own Shiite caliphate.
Earlier this summer, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated his exhortation that “Israel is a cancerous tumor that must be eliminated.” IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said, “I am awaiting orders to eradicate the evil regime [Israel]” and “Israel has no strategic depth and therefore this can be easily achieved.”
The inherent instability of Syria has created fertile territory for Russia and Iran, as well as for a whole scorpion pit of terrorist groups such as ISIS, Fatah al-Sham Front, Hezbollah and the IRGC to dig in.
Israel’s presence on the border of the Golan Heights offers the United States valuable eyes and ears into all of these pernicious forces. It has been a force of stability in the region for 45 years and offers a protective shield for all of us in the West. Many of these same forces that hate Israel also vehemently despise the United States.
As long as the Golan Heights is perceived as being “in play” as part of the “occupied territories,” the illusion that it might someday be captured by Syrian or Iranian forces is perpetuated, which in turn perpetuates a potential state of war.
The simplest way to put an end to this dangerous illusion and to Iran’s voracious appetite is for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. That would send a strong, clear, unequivocal message to America’s foes in the region without putting a single boot on the ground.
Originally published: http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/time-to-recognize-israeli-sovereignty-on-the-golan/
Photo: Cpl. Gal Ashuach, IDF