What If Israel Had Given Up the Golan Heights? A Lesson for Syria's Crisis

(Wall Street Journal) Aaron David Miller - As Syria continues to be ravaged, I wonder what would have happened had U.S. efforts succeeded in negotiating an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement in the 1990s. For almost two decades, I was part of a U.S. negotiating team that tried to reach such a deal. But had we succeeded, the results might have been catastrophic for Israel and for the U.S. Several U.S. presidents and Israeli leaders considered longtime Syrian President Hafez al-Assad a strategic thinker with whom one might do business. Rarely did we focus on the prospect that an Israeli-Syrian accord might be at risk if instability in Syria led to a change in regime. But fear of instability in the Arab world didn't stop Menachem Begin from returning Sinai to Egypt; it didn't stop Rabin from concluding a peace deal with Jordan's King Hussein; nor did it prevent the Oslo accords with the Palestinians. Had Israel given up the Golan, Israel would be facing a hot front confronting Hizbullah, Iran, and a range of Islamist jihadis. Given the Golan's strategic importance, Israel would have had to reoccupy it and would have found itself in the middle of Syria's civil war. Withdrawal from Gaza produced Hamas. Leaving the Golan could have produced worse. It's a cautionary tale for well-intentioned U.S. and Israeli peacemakers alike. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.

2016-04-18 00:00:00

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