Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2018. © Richard Kemp
The Golan Heights were a launch-pad for aggression against Israel from the rebirth of the state in 1948 until captured by Israel in a defensive war in 1967. Even today, territory adjacent to the Golan is used to threaten Israel. It is time for the international community to recognise Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights as legitimate and necessary. Such a bold move would do much more than just support Israel’s security — it would also advance peace and regional stability.
The Golan Heights, bordering Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, dominate the Jordan Rift Valley which contains the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The Heights were allocated by the British and French governments to the French Mandate of Syria in the 1920s and were transferred as part of the newly independent state of Syria in 1946. When the administrative line between the British and French Mandates was drawn in 1923 no consideration was given to defence against aggression from either territory.
The picture has of course changed immeasurably since then. Vulnerability of Israel to occupation of the Heights by hostile forces is proven by recent history and re-affirmed by events from the start of the civil war in Syria until today. This vulnerability remains even with the advent of modern warfighting technology.
As part of the Arab League, Syrian forces launched an invasion of northern Israel across the Golan Heights in June 1948. After the 1949 armistice, there were years of sporadic attacks against Israel from the Golan Heights, including cross-border raids by Fatah and shelling of civilian communities by the Syrian Army. Syria intensified its artillery fire against Israel on the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967. Israel then seized a major area of the Golan Heights to protect its citizens and its territory. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War by Arab states against Israel, the Syrians re-took part of the Golan — vital ground for offensive operations against Israel — but were subsequently thrust back. Continue reading