The Battle for the Golan Heights

By Album, Andrew | The Middle East, September 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Battle for the Golan Heights


Album, Andrew, The Middle East


After months of inactivity, the Israeli-Syrian track of the Middle East peace process is very much on the move. And, as Andrew Album reports, an agreement maybe far closer than many People think.

Last summer, when Jordan followed the Palestinians into signing a peace deal with Israel, and other Arab countries on the periphery of the decades old conflict started to cosy-up to the Jewish state, many thought that a Jerusalem-Damascus deal would be quick to follow.

President Hafiz al-Assad, however, has been happy to bide his time and play hard to get. He has sat back and watched as Israeli leaders have publicly intimated that concessions are on offer and even enticed US President Bill Clinton to the Syrian capital, without offering anything concrete in return. Now, just as some have begun to question whether an agreement can be reached, Assad appears ready to deal.

In a recent address on Syrian national television, Assad not only admitted to his people that high level negotiations were taking place, but also prepared his audience for an eventual peace treaty. In an indirect attack on PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Jordanian monarch King Hussein, he recalled, "we earlier pledged that we would not advance a single step until others advanced as well." Now that any presence at a united Arab front had evaporated due to the actions of others, Syria had no option but to engage Israel.

"What can we do?" asked the Syrian president, "since the others have left us and gone forward? They say they have made it ahead of us. We do not want anyone to go backwards." His announcement was followed by the resumption of military talks in Washington between Syrian Chief of Staff Hikmat Shihabi and his new Israeli opposite number Amnon Shahak.

For an accord to be reached, the two sides must agree on what are termed as "the four legs of the peace table". The first is Israel's commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin has accepted that any deal will involve an Israeli withdrawal, but has refused to talk about the extent of a pull-back.

"The depth of Israel's withdrawal will be determined by the depth of peace," he declared. The second element is Syrian agreement to a normalisation of relations with Israel. Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Share has spoken of his aspiration for a "warm peace" but the Israeli public remains sceptical. The third element is the timetable for withdrawal. As Shara conceded some months ago "the truth is that Syria is talking of a speedy withdrawal within months while the Israelis are talking of a withdrawal within years." The final leg of the peace table is the security arrangements, which are more complex.

* To set the ball rolling, a series of confidence building measures are being proposed, such as joint border patrols, advance warning of military manoeuvres and training exercises, together with the installation of a direct communications link between the two armies' command centres.

* Israel will settle for nothing less than a complete demilitarisation of the Golan Heights and its hinterland, with the redeployment of the bulk of Syria's forces to Damascus and further east. As a quid pro quo, Israel will probably have to pull back some of its troops.

* To help eliminate the possibility of a surprise attack, Israel will seek to retain its early warning facilities on the Golan. These will provide the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) with a clear picture of what is happening, almost as far as Damascus. In return, the Syrians would expect an early warning station overlooking the Galilee. These would be bolstered by access to US satellite intelligence.

* One suggestion that has been raised on several occasions is the proposal to locate an international force on the Golan Heights, to cement the security arrangements. Fearful of a repetition of events in 1967, when UN troops evacuated at Egyptian President Nasser's behest, Jerusalem has been pushing for the US to provide such troops.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Battle for the Golan Heights
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?