Golan On The Table, Gaza In The Sights

In the past, when the press has reported that Israel’s leaders were talking to Syria about returning the Golan Heights for peace, I was skeptical. First Yitzhak Rabin, then Binyamin Netanyahu, then Ehud Barak signalled to Syria that they were willing to contemplate a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement. Yet, when I compared the price to be paid with the possible benefits, it wasn’t clear to me that the deal was a good one. What were we losing by holding on to the Golan, and what would we gain by giving it up?

In contrast, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was clearly debilitating our country, and we obviously stood to gain much by leaving them and allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Today, Ehud Olmert’s government is talking, indirectly, with Syria about returning the Golan Heights in the framework of a peace agreement, and with Hamas about a cease fire in the Gaza Strip. Now the benefits of an agreement with Syria seem obvious to me, while I’m skeptical about a possible agreement with Hamas.

Gershom has concisely summed up the reasons to pursue the negotiations with Syria. Iran is behind the malevolent forces on Israel’s borders, and in the current geopolitical constellation, the best way to neutralize Iran’s influence to our north is to create a situation in which Syria’s interests will tie it to the West. All the signs are that Syria is seeking such an opportunity.

Iran is also behind the Hamas arms buildup. With Iranian help, Hamas is swiftly extending the range of its missiles and mortars. A cease-fire would make the lives of Israelis who live within range (my oldest daughter, who lives in Sderot, is one of them) much easier. But will it lead Hamas to abandon its Iranian patrons?

Right now, that seems unlikely. Syria knows that it will never regain the Golan by force of arms no matter how much Iranian support it receives. But from Hamas’s point of view, their Iranian connection has been immensely profitable and they see Israel’s viable military options as limited.

Don’t get me wrong–I favor pursuing the talks with Hamas. But if I were prime minister, I’d try to move the talks with Syria forward quickly. With Hamas, I’d move slowly, while intensifying military pressure on the Gaza Strip. We can make a good deal with Syria because we have something they want that they can’t get except by making peace and abandoning their Iranian patron. To make peace with Hamas, and to convince them that their Iranian connection is detrimental, we need to show them first that we’re willing and able to pursue the fight.

Hamas’s strategy is to keep upping the ante–firing a missile at Ashkelon, sending a truck laden with tons of explosives to a border crossing. Their assumption seems to be that if they keep intensifying their attacks, Israel will give in.

A full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip would be bloody and costly in life and property for both sides. A bad cease-fire, however, will make such an enventuality more likely, because if the cease-fire fails, the only option left will be major military action. Ironically, the best way to avoid an invasion is to prepare for it. Military pressure will produce a stronger agreement, one with a better chance of turning into a permanent peace.

4 thoughts on “Golan On The Table, Gaza In The Sights”

  1. Although this is not directly related to this thread, I think it is important that this comment be seen because it directly reflects on they way evertything is run in Israel….

    For those of you who care about Israel and its “vibrant democracy”-today the country and its “legal establishment” hit one of the low points in its entire history. I have been listening on and off to the radio and they are reporting, practically live, on the police interrogation of Talansky who is accused of giving Olmert cash payoffs. The reporters are coming on the air and saying “prosecutor Abarbanel asked Talansky this question… and Talansky’s response was…”. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? THIS IS A LEGAL LYNCHING. I will tell you the truth…I despise Olmert, to me he is the skull-basher of Amona…but what kind of “rule of law” is this? It has gotten to the point that every elected official can be destroyed by the “rule of law mafia” (Haim Ramon’s term-and he is another politician I despise). The right of the people to be ruled by the leaders of their choosing has been completely destroyed in Israel. Two Presidents in a row have been ousted, one on very shaky evidence and now four Prime Ministers in a row have been investigated PUBLICLY. This is a disgrace and the ruling oligarchs have to know that they are building up more and more hatred among the population for their high-handed behavior. They have completely gutted parliamentary democracy. This can not go on.

  2. Unfortunately the Bushie’s have given The Iranians great latitude to cause trouble by eliminating the Iraqis , putting some ccnsiderable hurt on the Talaban ;thus eliminating two costly advisaries and failing to support a government friendly to us in Lebanon.Then our stupid relations with the Russians ,giving Putin his chance to be “big man on campus” in Russia,a chance to fill the void with Iran. A good bet that the weapons being shipped out of Iran are being provided by Russia.A good tradeoff with Czar Vladimir is the Eastern Europe Missile Defense System’\,we don’t need it.
    Hamas is the key .Yes they have a sorry track record but they are not going to commit military suicide or maybe they will ,I don’t think so advantage Israel.Make it clear a four sided invasion of Gaza is in the offing bring up all the troops,the gunboats, the amphibious landing craft and say play or get anniliated and go from there

  3. I need to make a correction….this was not a “police interrogation”, it was an unusual “deposition in open court” but it is as bad as leaking a police investigation (as is done all the time with accused public officials all the time in Israel). All the allegations are made public and the accused’s name is blackened without any real opportunity to defend himself. I stand by my statement, this is a legal lynching.

  4. Maybe Israeli television should only permit reruns of Sex in the City to be shown in Gaza and block all satellite pickups from other Arab countries .Further let Hamas know that one of the stars is Jewish or beam old Lewis Black or Don Rickles stitchs in on a 24 hour basis.Maybe a little Jon Stewart may bring them to the table?

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