Opinion

Israel Hayom

How the Syrians lost the Golan … twice

It turns out that time was not on the Syrian regime’s side.

An organic vineyard in the Golan Heights. Credit: Hedva Sanderovitz via Wikimedia Commons.
An organic vineyard in the Golan Heights. Credit: Hedva Sanderovitz via Wikimedia Commons.
Eyal Zisser
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

Syria has twice lost the Golan Heights. The first time was in June 1967, when Hafez Assad, the father of current Syrian President Bashar Assad, was defense minister and along with his cohort in the Syrian leadership irresponsibly pushed the region towards what became the Six-Day War.

This led Syria to a humiliating military defeat, in which it lost the Golan to Israel.

The second time occurred in March 2019. The all-out war waged by Bashar against his people, with heavy support from Iran and Hezbollah, who became his patrons, spurred U.S. President Donald Trump to his end goal of declaring American recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights.

The majority of Israeli prime ministers since the early 1990s, when peace negotiations over peace with Syria began in the wake of the Madrid Conference of 1991, were willing to retreat from the Golan. Some were willing to implement a partial withdrawal, while others were actually prepared to see the Syrians return to the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

But both Assad the elder and his son refused to meet the minimum requirement for a peace agreement, which they possibly never wanted to begin with. They assumed time was on their side, and that the Golan would wait for them until Israel would accede to relinquishing it for nothing in return.

Time, however, was not on the Syrian regime’s side.

Although Bashar Assad emerged victorious from his country’s civil war, he is now learning that together with the terrible death and devastation left it its wake, the aftermath has also made him dependent on the will and desires of his masters in Tehran and Hezbollah. What’s even more important is that large swathes of his country remain beyond his control and are doubtful to return.

Trump’s declaration is the direct result of the war in Syria and Assad’s conduct, and it does more to ensure the future of Israel’s presence on the Golan Heights than any deed or proclamation any foreign or even Israeli leader has made in the past.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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