|Basil Hakki | Ph.D. Engineer||United States|
Forty years have passed since Israel conquered Syria’s Golan Heights. Israel’s arguments for keeping the heights for security reasons have become tenuous. Syria has meticulously adhered by the agreements it signed with Israel and the border has been peaceful and quiet. There is no reason to assume that future agreements will be any different.
The reason for Israel to keep the Golan heights rests in large measure on the unwillingness of the Israeli government to make the difficult decision of removing the Israeli settlers from the Golan. This is unfortunate because the general interests of both the Syrian and the Israeli people are best served by a comprehensive peace agreement, normalization of relations, and the return of the Golan heights to Syria. It is increasingly obvious that the demands of the maximalists on both sides of the dispute are unrealistic. The hope of the Israeli right wing extremists to establish by force a Biblical Judaic Kingdom extending from the Euphrates to the Nile is far-fetched. Similarly the call by Arab hard liners to throw Israelis into the sea is empty rhetoric. The fact is that both the Israelis and the Arabs must learn to coexist and share the space, water, and precious resources that the region has to offer.
If both sides can see beyond their fears, inhibitions, and short term interests they will realize that a fully functional peace will bring benefits to both sides. The Israelis have the technical, scientific and financial resources to build a strong economic alliance with Syria in particular and other Arab countries in general. Syria has the human and material resources that can be harnessed to fuel strong economic growth that benefits both countries. In addition the significant resources that Syria expends on its military can be better spent on education, health care, and economic infrastructure. People on both sides stand to gain by peace between Syria and Israel. The benefits far exceed the limited gain of a few settlements scattered on the Golan heights.