Four years ago, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak offered to give Syria the Golan Heights. The negotiations that followed failed to reach an agreement, however, and four years later the Golan remains in Israeli hands.

A few weeks ago, just hours before the start of Yom Kippur, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman presented the reasons why Israeli planes attacked a terrorist training camp in Syria that was connected to the recent suicide attacks in Jerusalem. In his speech, Gillerman noted Syria’s support for Palestinian terror, detailing each attack in which Syria has had a direct role. 

Here are a few of the many facts presented by the ambassador:

1) The Islamic Jihad organization, which operates within Palestinian Authority-controlled territory and was responsible for many of the recent attacks, has its headquarters in Damascus.

2) Syria offers various levels of support to many terrorist organizations including Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In addition, Syria has actively coordinated attacks with known terrorists.

3) State-run Damascus Radio has boldly admitted that “Syria, its political leadership and its Arab people have turned Syrian Arab soil into a training camp, a safe haven, and an arms depot for the Palestinian revolutionaries.”

4) Syrian President Bashir Assad stated on May 15, 2002, regarding acts of terror against Israelis: “If I had not been president of Syria, I would not hesitate to participate in hem.” (How presidential.)

Every statement by Gillerman was backed with evidence so overwhelming that the Security Council, which initially had convened to discus the condemnation of Israel for attacking the terrorist camp, decided to reconvene and discuss the matter at a future date. The damning record of Syria could not be ignored – even by the UN. (Of course, one should not expect the UN to act against Syria regardless of the accusations.)

The question beckons, how would Syria use the Golan Heights if it had them back? Just imagine that relatively small yet strategically invaluable region – hills rising to the peaks of Mount Hermon which overlooks Israel, Lebanon and Syria – in the hands of a dictatorship that promotes and facilitates terror against Israel. The answer is obvious.

How close Israel came to a monumental debacle with Barak’s offer! It would have been hailed as another ‘diplomatic breakthrough,’ with more signings, ceremonies, and Israeli land withdrawals, but in the long run it would have served as another proof of the folly of such concessions.

Has granting the PA control over the territories curbed terrorism? Has Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon removed the threat of Hizbullah? Has Egyptian control over the Sinai, granted by the original camp David accords of 1978, ensured that the Sinai would not become a conduit for smuggling weapons to terrorists in Gaza?

In the event that Assad wakes up one day and decides to wear a garment of ‘moderation,’ Israelis and all people of good will who oppose terrorism must remember what Assad (like his father before him) has always stood for. The last thing Israel needs is yet another menace on yet another border.

The majestic peaks of the Golan Heights look right over Northern Israel. Many of the Syrian positions used before 1967 to shell Israeli settlements in the Hula valley still stand intact, serving as reminders of how this strategic area was used when in Syrian hands. Israel’s continued hold on the Golan will not only help prevent any similar misuse, but will allow the Jewish state to use this vital area to vigilantly guard its borders and help ensure that the northern part of the country remains as quiet as it can be.

The Israeli ambassador’s words must be remembered. They give more than ample reason why the Golan must remain in Israel’s hands.

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