Monday, August 06, 2007

At Least 3 Reasons to Keep the Golan Heights

I just came back from 3 wonderful days of vacation in the Golan Heights.

We enjoyed the wide open spaces, the stunning nature trails, the flowing water in the streams and waterfalls...

Who could ever dream of giving this away to Syria?

But apart from the stunning natural landscapes, there are at least three very good reasons why Ehud Olmert would be wise not to negotiate at all on the fate of this land.

1. Emotional. There is a national consensus about it. As Nadav Shragai wrote in a Haaretz article a couple of weeks ago: “The Golan is a lot more "Israeli" than "Syrian." It has been Israeli for 40 years, double the time it was in Syria's hands. It has been under Israeli sovereignty for 26 years... The Golan has become a part of Israeli life. It is the most frequently visited part of the country, dotted with dozens of Jewish communities, agricultural fields, industrial areas and tourist resorts, nature reserves and wild landscape.

... For the past two generations at least, the Golan became ingrained in our consciousness as an inseparable part of the state... It doesn't take a poll to know that the Israeli public is tied to the Golan, loves it and senses through healthy intuition that it is part of it.”

2. Historical. I’m not sure why we talk about ‘returning’ the Golan to Syria. In the brief period Syria held the Golan, they turned it into a launching pad, all too similar to Hezbollah’s behavior last summer and the Kassam attacks on the South today. The Syrian army shelled the border communities, tried to tamper with Israel’s water system and turned life in the North into a Sderot-style hell. The Golan was conquered in a justified defensive war. We paid for it with blood. The Syrians lost it fair and square.

In Biblical times too, the Golan was always part of
Israel. Archeologists repeatedly find evidence of Jewish sovereignty, from the reign of Solomon, through the Second Temple period, the heroic battle of the city of Gamla and the Talmudic period. It was certainly no foreign land.

3. Security. In 1992, before the elections, the late Yitzhak Rabin declared, “As for the future, it is inconceivable that even in peacetime we should go down from the Golan. Whoever even thinks of leaving the Golan wantonly abandons the security of Israel.”

He acted a little differently after his election but the facts remain:

1. The 400 square mile area is of supreme strategic importance.

2. Its high ground provides early-warning capability. Without it, Israel would be exposed to surprise Syrian attacks, just like in 1948, ’67 and ’73.

3. The Golan dominates the Jordan Valley.

4. There are only two natural terrain bottlenecks through which tanks can advance. These ‘choke points’ are defensible and indeed Israel used them to repel 1,400 Syrian tanks in 1973.

5. If the Golan were in Syrian hands, they could overrun Israel in a matter of hours.

6. Over one third of Israel’s fresh water comes from the Golan. In 1964, when they possessed the area, Syria attempted to cripple Israel’s water supply. What would stop them trying again?

In short, whatever way you look at it, Ehud Olmert should make it clear that any peace negotiations should be conditional on one thing: The Golan Heights are not for sale.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Needed: More Inspiration for Israeli Youth

A recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post stated that 25% of today's youth in Israel do want to be in military service, or have been disqualified from the military due to physical of emotional problems. No longer are the country's youth considering careers in the military either, as even this opportunity is becoming less available due to budget tightening measures to help keep the country's inflation index at a near 0 level.

Why is this happening when Israel's enemies are become more militaristic, and are willing to become martyrs in order to kill or wound more and more Israelis? The answer may lie in the fact that modern Israeli youth have simply changed most of their values from doing everything for their country to simply doing everything for themselves.

That's right; Israel has become a "No. 1" oriented society, where people are only interested in looking after themselves and not for society as a whole. Beginning as a country with a "one for all and all for one" mentality in the country's early years, Israel has become a country in which social minded goals for the nation's youth have been replaced with materialistic ones; including new cars, private homes, and frequent trips abroad. It's actually cheaper to fly to Turkey or Greece on holiday than to spend the same time at an Israeli resort hotel – kosher food and all!

Instead of pursuing vocations involving physical work, such as driving a bus or truck (once very desired vocations), or as a tradesman or mechanic, today's youth prefer to pursue careers in information technology where they also receive a late model car to drive to and from their posh, air conditioned jobs, enjoying a lifestyle that even their parents could only dream about.

Last summer's Lebanese war did more than simply point out the problems that reserve soldiers faced by a government unable to provide for their basic needs while in the field. This war also indicated a society who simply wasn't prepared to go to war, while the country's enemies have been training and building up their military infrastructure. This 'infrastructure' now includes a virtual army or more then 15,000 trained soldiers in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, consisting of 4 field brigades, and an increasing array of munitions and explosives, most of them smuggled in under the obliging eyes of Egyptian soldiers and international "monitoring" forces.

When the country was fighting for its existence in the 1948 War of Independence many of the men fighting in Israel's military and paramilitary forces were either volunteers from abroad or Holocaust survivors who had only been freed from Nazi death camps a few years before. These men, and women, knew that it was either fight or die, and many did die during those first terrible months, especially in battles like the Battle of Latrun (in which more than 600 former Detention Camp inmates were slaughtered trying to take the Jordanian held Latrun Police Station) and the Battle of Burma Road, in which the American volunteer, Col. Mickey Marcus, lost his life.

Inspiration: what more inspiration is needed other than the obvious; in that the State of Israel is in perhaps more danger than it has been in since the Yom Kippur War and War of Independence. With Syria and Iran, two of Israel's arch enemies, now forming a military alliance, and Hezbollah once again at full strength along Israel's northern border (not to mention Hamas in the South and Israel's "former" enemy, the PLO, entrenched in the West Bank) The people of Israel have no shortage of enemies to deal with.

The main concern now for the Jewish State is whether the country's youth are ready, and able, to accept the challenges needed to prevail. - Headlines