In a joint op-ed Sunday, Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid urged the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and warned against the notion of ceding the strategic ridge to President Bashar Assad.
By recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the territory, the two politicians argued in an opinion piece for The Times of Israel, the US could “extract a price from Assad for his despicable behavior without putting boots on the ground in Syria.”
Lapid is the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Ya’alon is a former IDF chief of staff and defense minister, who is expected to seek to return to national politics in the next elections. Ya’alon has been expected to set up his own party for a Knesset run, but the unprecedented joint article prompted some speculation about a possible alliance. The Walla website on Sunday evening headlined a report about their joint ToI article, “On the way to a political alliance?” Aides to both men downplayed the notion, however, with sources close to Lapid noting that he maintains contacts with many people, and those close to Ya’alon saying that the future of the Golan is an issue “above politics” and “of national importance and consensus.”
Tracing the history of the Golan back to the Bible, the two noted in the article that in the 21 years that Syria ruled the Heights, from 1946 to 1967, “they turned the Golan into a military base, rained rocket fire on the Israeli communities which are under the Golan Heights and tried to divert Israel’s critical water sources to dry the country out.”
In stark contrast, since Israel captured the area in the 1967 war, “Israel developed the Golan Heights and turned it into an impressive center of nature reserves and tourism, with high-tech agriculture, award winning wines, a flourishing food-tech industry… The Druze population of the Golan Heights… were granted all the same rights as any other citizen in Israel, as would be done in any genuine democracy.”
While continuing to demand the Golan in the name of international law these past seven years, noted the writers, Assad “has massacred over a half a million of his own people and his actions led to the displacement of 11 million more.” He has used “chemical weapons against his own people.” Assad’s is “a dark regime led by a psychopath supported by the most malevolent forces on earth today.”
“The fact that anyone in the Western world” still takes Assad’s demand for the Golan seriously “is worse than naivete – it is insanity,” they wrote. “The fact that the Golan Heights is under Israeli rule is the only thing that saved it from the Syrian valley of death.”
“The American administration and both parties – Republicans and Democrats,” they urged, should “lead an international process of recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” To do so “is historically just,” they argued, and “strategically smart.”