By Hillel Fendel, Israelnationalnews.com
Though Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that he “knows nothing” about reports of Syria’s “willingness” to accept the Golan in stages, Golan residents are taking no chances. Uri Heitner of the Golan Residents Committee says Israelis must be aware of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s true intentions: “It’s enough to see him walking arm in arm with [Iranian leader Mahmoud] Ahmedinajad and talking about a ‘new Middle East without Jews’ to know what he really wants. The State of Israel must realize that the choice is simple: Either we keep our sovereignty in the Golan, or we give it up to the axis of evil.”
Reports circulating on Tuesday stated that Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem recently expressed willingness to compromise on its demand for the entire Golan immediately. Muallem reportedly told British sources that Syria would announce an end to the hostility between Syria and Israel if it receives half the Golan, would agree to allow Israel to build an office in Damascus in return for another 25 percent, and would open a Syrian embassy in Israel in exchange for the whole thing.
Netanyahu’s office announced Tuesday afternoon that it knew nothing of such a plan.
Heitner lives in Kibbutz Or-Tal, in the northeastern Golan, just under ten kilometers from the Syrian border. “I don’t understand what there is to be excited about in this new plan,” he told Arutz-7. “It’s like saying that they are willing to kill us slowly and torturously instead of in one fell swoop.”
Israel took control of the Golan Heights from Syria after years of the area being used for attacks against Israeli farmers in the Hula Valley and on the eastern Kinneret shoreline below; 140 Israelis were killed in these attacks, and many more were injured. Israel freed its northern areas of this threat during the last days of the Six-Day War in June 1967, and the Golan was formally annexed to Israel in 1981. Over the years, 32 Jewish kibbutzim and moshavim have been built in the Golan, as well as the full-fledged town of Katzrin.
Governmental talk of ceding the Golan in 1996 and 1999-2000 was repressed by widespread popular national campaigns against the idea. In the mid-90’s, a million stickers and thousands of banners reading “HaAm Im HaGolan” (The Nation is With the Golan) graced porches, billboards and cars throughout the country; in January 2000, some 300,000 people took part in one of the largest demonstrations in Israeli history, calling on then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak not to agree to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Surveys have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis oppose a withdrawal from the Golan, for reasons having to do with security, Jewish history, water, agriculture, and more.
Regarding the situation today, Heitner says, “It is known that Netanyahu favored a withdrawal; he says this is not true, but the reports are well-known. I want to believe that there will never be a prime minister who will agree to sign an agreement with Assad – especially now that it is known that his father [Hafez Assad] refused to make a deal with [then-Prime Minister] Barak just because Barak refused to give him a few dozen meters near the Kinneret. I have to assume that Netanyahu will not agree to give away the entire store [and go further than Barak].”
“But if the worst happens,” Heitner continued, “we will resume the ‘Nation with the Golan’ campaign on a massive scale. Support for the Golan grows all the time, and if we have to wage another public campaign, we will do it in full force.”