It seems that we Jews can never get a break. The formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights by the United States should have been a day of jubilation, but instead it was a traumatic day for Israelis. Rockets were being launched deep into central Israel by the terror group Hamas in Gaza overshadowing the significance of the US gesture. The fighting has been fierce, and because civilians have been hurt this time, Israel must see tangible gains in this round with Hamas.
In his remarks at the formal signing of the presidential proclamation at the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “US recogniti
on of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sends messages to the Arab world from President Trump that the region was invaluable to Israel’s defense. Your proclamation comes at a time when the Golan is more important than ever for our security, when Iran is trying to establish bases in Syria to strike at Israel.”
Bibi also highlighted Israel’s historic and legal right to the region. “Your decision to recognize sovereignty is a two-fold act of historic justice. Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of self-defense, and the Jewish people’s connection to the land goes back generations.”
President Trump said at the signing, “This was a long time in the making. It should have taken place many decades ago.”
Regrettably, many do not remember or have not adequately studied the Six-Day War. Those of us who lived during this period know how frightening it was during those first few days; we feared Israel would be lost. It looked like every Arab country was waging battle against us, with having the most current Russian arms in their arsenals. It was so serious and threatening for the safety of Israel then, that I took my entire school to Washington to protest the situation and beseech President Johnson’s help to save Israel from what looked like doom. It was very interesting; by the time we arrived in Washington on the third day of the Six-Day War, President Johnson had already been briefed by Israel. He told us to go home with the firm belief that all will go well in the end.
The miracle of the Six-Day War was breathtaking. The amount of territory seized was amazing, and for several years the Arabs were “ungehlaiked” (put in their place) and the entire land was peaceful. I remember going to the Golan Heights in 1969, where the UN peacekeeping force was bored out of their socks keeping the peace. The soldiers got a kick out of seeing my then-six-year-old daughter on the tour with me. They put on her a helmet and a flak jacket and told her to help them with their job. She saw first-hand how important the Golan is to Israel.
Despite the strategic and historical importance of the Golan Heights for Israel, the United States remains alone in recognizing Israel’s claim of sovereignty. Many countries view Israel’s control of the region, which Israel gained in the 1967 Six-Day War, as illegal under international law. David Weinberg, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said, “Trump’s decision is important in that it teaches a lesson to Arab leaders. The longer you wait to make peace, the less you’re going to get. Assad, the father and son, blew their opportunities to make peace with Israel and to regain control of the Golan. Now Syria pays the price.”
Weinberg goes on to say, “And it offers an important lesson to the Palestinians. Trump is saying, you can reject my about-to-be-presented peace plan, but know that if you do, you’ll lose.”
President Trump’s actions demonstrate a clear and definite move away from the unsuccessful paradigm that existed for many years with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Palestinians were under the impression that the more they rejected the peace plan, the more concessions Israel would make to them. That delusional approach is over. Weinberg stressed, “If the Palestinians continue to reject Israel’s offers for peace, the US could recognize Israeli annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria or step back from support of Palestinian statehood.”
As we approach Pesach and the Israeli elections, the Arabs will continue to cause as much havoc as possible; but with Hashem’s help, their efforts will be in vain.
Cynthia Zalisky is a community activist who resides in Kew Gardens Hills.