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http://www.jpost.com/com/Archive/26.Sep.1999/Opinion/Article-3.html

Golan or peace

By DANIEL BLOCH, The Jerusalem Post Sunday, September 26, 1999

(September 26) - There were three occasions in the past when a window of opportunity opened for seriously negotiating a peace agreement with Syria's Hafez Assad. No one can be sure that these negotiations, if conducted seriously and intensively, would have produced a peace agreement, but we never managed to reach that point on any of those occasions.

The first opportunity occurred between 1981 and 1982, when American diplomat, Philip Habib, was shuttling between Israel, Syria and Lebanon. It seemed possible then to negotiate a comprehensive agreement between Israel and Syria based on a territorial compromise in the Golan, in exchange for allowing Syria to have a free hand in Lebanon. But the Begin-Sharon government preferred to uphold the unfortunate alliance with the Christians in Beirut and started the ill-fated, ill-conceived and badly planned and executed Lebanese War.

That fatal misconception, in addition to all the other mistakes, broke the myth of the Israeli invincibility, particularly in Lebanon. Before 1982, the macho saying was that all you need to win a war against Lebanon is the IDF's orchestra. Seventeen years later it sounds like a black, bitter and gruesome joke.

So Israel has lost the possibility of a barter between its hold on South Lebanon and a certain compromise in the Golan. Today Syria is demanding total withdrawal from all the Golan in exchange for peace.

The next real opportunity occurred during the second Rabin government.

Assad was ready to negotiate with Rabin. Rabin himself was ready to give priority to negotiations with Syria over the talks with the Palestinians, because he did not believe that Arafat was truly ready for peace.

When negotiations in Oslo proved that an agreement with Arafat was possible, Rabin, as a pragmatic statesman, agreed to move forward on that track, but continued parallel talks with the Syrians. At the time of his assassination, he was very close to a positive conclusion.

Unfortunately, Shimon Peres felt too weak to continue the talks and conclude an agreement before the elections. Had he continued, he could have changed the elections to a referendum on peace with Syria and won.

Netanyahu, to his credit, did not close the window of contact with Syria, using the good offices of his friend Ronald Lauder. But, Netanyahu, like Peres, was afraid to take the bold step forward. He feared the settlers and the right-wing extremists, and lost the chance to advance peace and stay in power.

Barak is doing his utmost to reopen negotiations with Assad. He was bold and sincere in announcing his readiness to give up most of the Golan before the elections and he did it in the lion's den: in appearance before Jewish residents of the Golan Heights.

Nevertheless, he received substantial support at the polls from those very settlers. And all opinion polls prove that he will have a comfortable majority supporting the exchange of the Golan territory for a comprehensive peace with Syria.

But, Barak and his government must speak with one voice and send a clear message, both internally and externally, of its readiness to exchange territory, including the dismantling of settlements, for full peace with Syria.

It was pathetic to watch Yitzhak Levy, Barak's housing minister, inaugurating some new quarter in one of the Golan's settlements, joining with some other members of the futile movement against withdrawal from the Golan. Ariel Sharon, the man responsible for losing our Lebanon bargaining chips, is now trying to use the Golan as a political tool to advance his quest for leadership.

But the precedent had already been set by Begin: The Israeli government, with Sharon's acquiescence, accepted the principle of withdrawal to recognized international boundaries, wherever they existed, with our neighboring countries.

It is crystal clear that we cannot eat the cake and keep it: We must give back almost all of the Golan, including the settlements, to achieve peace with Syria, both on the Golan border and in South Lebanon.

There is no other way.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is daydreaming. He is entitled to preach his convictions but he is not allowed to act in any way that might jeopardize the chances for peace. The choice is clear: peace or Golan.

The majority prefers peace.

(c) 1995-1999, The Jerusalem Post - All rights reserved


http://www.ArabicNews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/990923/1999092319.html

Le Monde: The Golan is a Syrian territory

Syria, Politics, 9/23/99

The French daily Le Monde said that the Syrian Golan is a Syrian territory and that Israel has no right to oppose its restoration back to Syria. In its Wednesday's editorial, on the occasion of the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Paris, the French daily said Israel cannot claim that it owns in the Golan any historical or cultural roots."

The paper quoted Barak as saying in an interview that, "To achieve peace, concessions should be made, even if these concessions are painful for Israel."

Barak added in his statement to Le Monde that he won the elections in Israel because he said the truth in this matter, adding he will "continue this mission, even if it will be painful and he will do what he says."


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