There are 194 nations in the world. Out of those, precisely 193 acquired their territory through the use of military force. That’s how borders have traditionally been drawn. Most of these campaigns were offensive. I have asked many military experts, historians and scholars about this, and they have, to a person, told me that there is only one nation in the world that gained territory through the use of force that has been sued, time and time again, to relinquish that territory. You guessed it: The State of Israel.
What is so profoundly outrageous about this is that Israel acquired lands in defensive wars. It’s not as though Israel is a colonial state that set out to acquire land to enrich itself and its people. Israel acquired the Golan Heights in an act of self-defense after being attacked on all sides as part of the June 1967 Six-Day War and managed to successfully retain this land in the 1973 war.
Syria is a failed state. We have seen how the eight-year-old brutal Syrian civil war at the hands of the Syrian President Bashar Assad has left at least a half a million of his own people dead and 5.6 million refugees, along with 6.8 million internally displaced persons.
According to a recent article in Commentary by the legal scholar Vivian Bercovici, “Since World War II, the accepted understanding of international law that involves territorial loss during conflict is quite straightforward: The attacking nation may not retain permanently land acquired as a result of armed conflict.”
For those who are objecting to this move: Kindly inform us of with whom, precisely, Israel is supposed to negotiate with? Let’s take a look at the players inside Syria. Assad? Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the head of ISIS in the Levant? Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that works hand in glove with Assad? Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, who now has approximately several thousand troops in Syria?
The reality on the ground is that the 400 square miles of the Golan Heights is the demarcation line of a Hobbesian state of war of “man against man” and a relatively tranquil, democratic area.
The political reality within Israel is that every Israeli—right, left and center—agrees that the Golan Heights are critical for the survival of the state. Gen. Giora Eiland stated that “there is no solution to Israel’s survival without the retention of the Golan Heights.”
Every Israeli knows that whoever controls the high ground of the Golan controls the security of the area. Most of us have stood there and peered down into Damascus and Beirut. We know it affords a protective shield extending all the way down to Sea of Galilee.
And the Israeli intelligence and military officials up there are the “eyes and ears” for vital intelligence and military information that they willingly share with the United States.
Words matter. By framing the language of the Golan Heights as “Occupied Territory,” it whets the appetite of Israel’s enemies and indicates to them that this region is still in play.
That is why it is no less than infuriating when 14 nations of the U.N. Security Council met last week at the request of Syria to condemn America’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Would any of these distinguished representatives ever subject their own citizens of their nations to the uncertainty of “trading land for peace” if they had such wolves banging at their gates?
As I have written many times in the past, the birth of Israel was supposed to have been the denouement of the age-old problem of anti-Semitism. Instead, it is the focal point for all anti-Semites.
And many of them are distinguished representatives wearing suits and ties, casting their votes in the United Nations.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.