President Bush still seeks a comprehensive peace for the Middle
East. That could require resolution of the Golan Heights, the
disputed territory northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Israel controls
it; Syria wants it.
Although Mr. Bush has not pressured Israel to give up the Golan
Heights, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is leaning toward this
concession on his own. It's a presumed variation of the "land for
peace" formula. And it would be a monumental mistake. Any such
retreat from the strategically vital Golan could imperil Israel and
the United States.
Let's be clear about Syria's intentions. Syria shares with Iran a
design to destroy Israel. Both countries have documented intentions
toward Israel that meet all legal tests for genocide.
Both also support assorted terrorist groups, which hold that same
goal. Syria maintains close ties to Hamas and to Hezbollah, which is
an Iranian proxy. Further, Al Qaeda, which has close ties to Iran,
could discover opportunity on the Golan if Israel abandons it.
Recent testimony by Central Intelligence Agency officials to
Congress made the case that Syria, with apparent help from North
Korea, had been preparing to join the nuclear club. On Sept. 6,
2007, Israel's correct grasp of anticipatory self-defense put an end
to these activities.
If official "peace" talks were reopened, Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad would be risking nothing. But Israel's risks would be
substantial. Israeli control of the Golan Heights is still needed
for deterrence against a coordinated attack. Continued control is
also critical to secure Israel's supply of drinking water.
Prime Minister Olmert is confident that giving up the Golan could
be the best way to induce Syria to make peace with Israel. This
means that he must also believe that Syria, as a diplomatic quid pro
quo, would be willing to relinquish its ties to Iran and assorted
Islamist terror groups. But these beliefs would be based upon a
naive legalism. More plausibly, perhaps, Olmert's position is based
on certain domestic political motives.
Olmert's incorrect reasoning lies ultimately in the critical
limits of guarantees in our anarchic world. International law is not
a suicide pact. Still lacking a central authority with real power to
keep recalcitrant states in line, our world legal order permits each
country an inherent right of self-defense.
The Israeli Defense Forces must maintain its surveillance on the
Golan. Pre-1967 warning stations do not have a clear line of sight
into Syrian territory. …