Golan Heights
Golan Heights

The following information is from the 2/10/15 BBC News profile regarding Golan Heights region:

“The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size.”

“Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. Most of the Syrian Arab inhabitants fled the area during the conflict.”

“An armistice line was established and the region came under Israeli military control. Almost immediately Israel began to settle the Golan.”

Golan Heights panorama
Golan Heights panorama

“Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war. Despite inflicting heavy losses on Israeli forces, the surprise assault was thwarted. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.”

“Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognized internationally.”

“There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers. There are some 20,000 Syrians in the area, most of them members of the Druze sect.”

Golan Heights- Bnei Yehuda
Golan Heights- Bnei Yehuda

Strategic importance

Image caption While still under Syrian control, the Golan Heights were used to bombard Israeli territory below

“Southern Syria and the capital Damascus, about 60 km (40 miles) north, are clearly visible from the top of the Heights while Syrian artillery regularly shelled the whole of northern Israel from 1948 to 1967 when Syria controlled the Heights.”

Golan Heights-Mount Hermon
Golan Heights-Mount Hermon

“The heights give Israel an excellent vantage point for monitoring Syrian movements. The topography provides a natural buffer against any military thrust from Syria.

The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.”

“The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel’s only ski resort.”

Israel Mt Hermon
Israel Mt Hermon

Stumbling blocks

“Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.”

“In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.”

Ehud Barak of Israel
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel

“But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.’

“Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee and says the border is located a few hundred meters to the east of the shore.”

Map sowing Golan Heights, Gaza, and West Bank
Map sowing Golan Heights, Gaza, and West Bank

“A deal with Syria would also involve the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the territory. An Israeli newspaper estimated in 1999 that compensation for the settlers would run to $10 billion.”

“Public opinion in Israel appears not to favor withdrawal. Opponents say the heights are too strategically important to be returned. An opinion poll in January 2004 suggested that a majority of Israelis opposed plans to hand back the Golan to Syria.”

Golan Height's water resevoir
Golan Height’s water resevoir

On-off talks

“Indirect talks between Israel and Syria resumed in 2008, through Turkish government intermediaries, but were suspended following the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over a corruption inquiry.”

“The new Israeli government under Benyamin Netanyahu elected in February 2009 indicated that it was determined to take a tougher line over the Golan, and in June 2009, the Syrian leader said there was no partner for talks on the Israeli side.’

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Syrian civil war

“The new US administration of President Barack Obama – who took up office in January 2009 – declared the restarting of talks between Israel and Syria to be one of its main foreign policy goals, but the advent of civil war in Syria in 2011 put paid to any progress.”

“Syrian fighting reached the Golan ceasefire lines in 2013, when Israel returned fire after rebel shells landed in Golan. Israeli and Syrian Army troops exchanged fire across their lines in May.”

Golan Heights
Golan Heights

September 2014 Phillipines pull troops from Golan Heights (from 9/22/14 NY Times Profile)

The United Nations peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, of which Filipinos formed about one quarter, has been subjected to attacks by Syrian insurgents.

October 2014 In Golan Heights imagined risks become all too real (from 10/5/14 NY Times Profile)

“The Golan Heights, long Israel’s quietest frontier, is now one of its most unpredictable, and residents are training to handle the worst.”

November 2014 At Golan Heights, Israel eyes Syria chaos (from 11/6/14 NY Times profile)

“A general said that for now neither the rebels nor President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia assisting him, were interested in engaging Israel.”



January 2015 Two rockets fired from Syria hit Israeli-controlled parts of Golan Heights (from 1/28/15 NY Times profile) 

“The rockets fell on open ground and no casualties were reported. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire on the suspected launching sites.”

April 2015 (from 4/27/15 NY Times profile)

“The Israeli news media said that three or four men were killed in the airstrike, and a spokeswoman for the Israeli military said that an armed squad had crossed into Israeli-controlled territory. One dead as Druze attack Israeli ambulance in Golan Heights.”

Golan Heights- Mount Hermon
Golan Heights- Mount Hermon

June 2015 One dead as Druze attack Israeli ambulance in Golan Heights (from 6/23/15 NY Times profile)

“It was the second time in 24 hours that Druse protesters stopped Israeli ambulances, amid mounting anger in their communities over the rebel assaults on Druse villages on the Syrian side.”

October 2015 As Syria reels, Israel looks to expand settlements in Golan Heights (from 10/3/15 NY Times profile)

“With Syria “disintegrating” after years of civil war, some Israelis argue, it is hard to imagine a stable state to which the territory seized in the 1967 war could be returned.”

“The aggressive development goal — 100,000 new residents across the Golan in five years — is being promoted by Naftali Bennett, a senior Israeli minister and one of many Israeli leaders and thinkers seizing on the chaos in Syria to solidify Israel’s hold on the Golan.”

Golan Heights
Golan Heights

“With Syria “disintegrating” after years of civil war, they argue, it is hard to imagine a stable state to which the territory could be returned. Further, they say that international — or, at least, American — recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan would be an appropriate salve to Israeli security concerns in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran. Some proponents of this push, who unlike Mr. Bennett support a two-state solution with the Palestinians, also see this international recognition as an important way to distinguish the status of Golan from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

“We’re in a whole new strategic situation, and a new strategic situation requires new strategic responses,” said Mr. Bennett, who promised to introduce a plan this fall involving “several hundreds of millions of shekels” to create jobs, housing, schools and transportation in the sprawling, green Golan Heights.”


        • This writing on the middle east does take time, I tried to answer your comment on TPP, but the blog has disappeared. I wrote that I have this awful feeling that TPP, with help from the republicans will get pushed over the finish line. The folks who put this deal together are counting on most voters not taking the time to read it because it is a long and cumbersome task.If there are fixes that would mitigate the harm, people will need to speak up soon. I plan to attempt to read this which will definitely be exhausting..

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