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Annexation and the French initiative

May 6, 2016 at 10:26 am

Israel annexed the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in 1981, 14 years after the June 1967 war. Despite the fact that none of the UN member states recognised this annexation, the Israelis continue to consider the territory to be part of the Zionist state. The issue of this annexation has never been addressed as a dangerous problem over the years and the world seems to regard it as a done deal.

Although the so-called “Axis of Resistance” was formed by Syria, Qatar, Hezbollah and Hamas, no one addressed the Golan Heights issue, which has remained largely forgotten. This axis and its “resistance” did not fire even one bullet on the Golan front, while it did in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Golan Heights, moreover, seem to have been completely forgotten in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, even before the formation of this axis. Although I have not forgotten the struggle of the Syrians in the Golan and their resistance throughout the occupation, this does not change the fact that the situation imposed by Israel has become a fait accompli, and there has been a general acceptance of this.

Today, though, the issue of the Golan Heights has re-emerged on two levels, linked to new developments associated with the occupied West Bank. The first is the new call to enforce Israeli law on “Israeli citizens” — settlers — in the West Bank and the second is the French-Israeli deal for Israel to accept the initiative from Paris in exchange for overlooking Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied Golan.

Israeli politics was surprised by Minister of Justice and right-wing Jewish Home MP Ayelet Shaked’s call for Israeli law to apply to settlers within a year by means of an order from the Israeli Central Command. This call is not new, but it was rejected in the past by the judiciary. The surprise is that it has been brought up again for purely domestic reasons, despite the fact that this would be considered the first step towards annexing the occupied West Bank, which was the case with the Golan Heights.

The timing of this proposal is linked very closely to what is being said about the negotiations being conducted between Netanyahu and the Labour Party led by Yitzhak Herzog over the expansion of the narrow governing coalition to give it a better chance of survival. However, the expansion of the government will be at the expense of the parties that are part of the coalition, including Jewish Home. There were leaks from the negotiations between Netanyahu and Herzog to the effect that in the event that the Labour Party joins the government, it will be handed the foreign ministry and negotiation portfolios.  

What is more important in the eyes of the Jewish Home Party leader is that the ministry of justice is handed over to the Labour Party; hence, the incumbent, Shaked, immediately made her proposal in order to confront Netanyahu and gain popularity amongst the more right-wing, neo-fascist and anti-Palestinian members of the Israeli public. This would also make the Jewish Home Party appear to be more right-wing than Netanyahu’s Likud. Hence, if the prime minister hands Jewish Home’s ministries to the Labour Party, the former party may well leave the coalition, although this is unlikely. If it does happen, Jewish Home will lead the right-wing opposition and arguably have a better chance in the next parliamentary elections with even more support from the neo-fascist far-right.

In last year’s Herzliya Conference on national security, Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennet called on the world to recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights given the “fact” that Syria no longer exists as a state. “It’s clear that had we listened to the world and given up the Golan, Daesh would be swimming in the Galilee,” he claimed, before adding that there are currently 23,000 Jewish settlers living in peace in the Golan Heights because Israel did not give in to the world’s “hypocritical” demands.

Today, it seems that there may be a response to this proposal. As part of its new initiative, the French government is trying to please Israel so that it will accept the proposal. According to Israeli diplomat and negotiator Uri Savir, Paris is holding talks with Netanyahu’s government and the US in order to formulate a proposal that makes important amendments to the initiative and come up with something that Israel will agree to. This would include the international community turning a blind eye to Israel’s annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and leaving the territory off the negotiation table in exchange for Israel’s willingness to take security risks and accept the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. According to this proposal, the concept of “land for peace” has been changed, making it only limited to the West Bank territories. According to Savir, the prevailing chaos in Syria will contribute to the acceptance of this proposal.

These deals are being made in the context of pleasing Israel first and foremost, even as it is busy taking advantage of the regional and international unrest for its own benefit. According to Bennett, the world has become even more hypocritical, but it is being so in favour of Israel and on the rubble of Arab rights, both in occupied Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights.

Translated from, 4 May, 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.