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Old Military Baracks, Golan Heights
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Golan Heights with Mount Hermon in the Background
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli Chief Negotiator with Syria
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Israeli wind turbines on the Golan 5 km south of Qunaitra
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Nimrod's Castle, a Crusader Castle on the Golan Heights
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Will Biden reverse Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights?

by Rhonda Spivak, Feb 19, 2021

According to an article dated Nov 2, a senior Biden campaign official told Jewish News Syndicate that Joe Biden  would likely not reverse the recent U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights made by the Trump administration.
When asked if Biden would maintain this recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan which  U.S. President Donald Trump declared in March 2019, the senior Biden campaign official said, “I don’t think a Biden administration would reverse that,” adding that “it was de facto recognized anyway. It was largely symbolic. It didn’t really change the calculus either by the United States or Israel or any of the neighboring nations.”
I hope that Biden does not go back to treating the Golan Heights as "occupied territory" as previous U.S. Administrations before the Trump Administration have done. It would be a mistake to do so.
It is to be noted that according to Israeli political analyst Guy Bechor  if Israel had returned the Golan Heights to Syria, it likely would have populated the Golan Heights extensively. That's because Syria had to uproot hundreds of thousands of citizens from their farms in Eastern Syria since the area had a severe water shortage given that forced farming of water-hungry crops like cotton and wheat  resulted in a total drying up of wells and famine. Syria would therefore want to gain control of the Sea of Galilee to solve its water problems, and would populate the Golan Heights extensively in the future. This would mean that if Israel had ceded the Golan Heights to Syria, in a war situation, it would  be more problematic for the IDF to reconquer the Golan since it would mean conquering a massively populated area, with potential for hand to hand combat, like in Gaza. 
I have looked back at an interview I did in 2012 in Jerusalem with former Israeli Chief negotiator with Syria, Itamar Rabinovich, who is a former Israeli Ambassador to the United States. This interview took place well after the civil war in Syria had broken out. I asked Rabinovich whether in retrospect it was  a good thing that Israel did not cede the Golan Heights to Syria, which could have included access to the Kinneret. To my surprise, he maintained that it would have been worth returning the Golan heights to Syria in a peace agreement.  Rabinovich, who negotiated with Syria under Prime Minister Rabin in the mid 1990's told me  that if Assad had been willing to enter a peace agreement at the time that it would have been worth giving back the Golan Heights. He added that "The reason that talks failed is because Syria did not want to become a more open society, and that is what a peace treaty would have meant."
Rabinovich was is a former President of Tel-Aviv University (1999-2007), also did not see a problem with the assessment that  if Israel had  ceded  the Golan Heights to Syria, it is likely that Syria would have populated the Golan Heights extensively, making it more difficult for Israel to reconquer it in any future conflict. Rabinovitch answered, "That is what the right-wing says to justify not giving up the Golan. It is possible that populating the Golan would give the Syrians an economic interest in keeping the peace."
I disagree with Rabinovich and think it's a good thing that Israel never gave back the Golan to Syria.


Writing in Ha'aretz, following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Ari Shavit, explained that he had been mistaken in favouring  the return of the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace agreement with Syria.



As Shavit wrote back in 2012, after the Syrian civil war broke out "If there had been peace in 2000 today there would have been a bloodbath. If we had gone to bed with Assad a decade ago, we would be waking up this year with Jihad. If we had given up on Katzrin and Snir, we would be having terror in Dan and Daphne. Various and odd substances would be discharging into the sources of the Jordan. Frequent shooting incidents would be breaking out in Tel Katzir and Bhaon. The Syrian Heights would have turned into a black hole far more dangerous than the black hole of the Sinai desert. The idea of peace, which was right for its time and correct in terms of method, would have turned into a nightmarish reality that we would have found difficult to sustain. Sooner or later, Israel would have been forced to go back to Tel -Fahr and Nafah and continue into Quneitra. But this time, the climb up would have cost the price of bursts of ballistic missiles on Tel Aviv. The peace in which I believed and I recommended would have become a major war in which thousands might have been possibly killed."
Finally, when I asked Rabinovich in 2012 to make a prediction about what would happen in the Syrian civil war, Rabinovich replied, "I don't make predictions," but then he added, "but I will say that Bashar Assad is doomed."
His prediction regarding Bashar Assad turned out to be wrong.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.