Tuesday, May 27, 2008
MKs from Right and Left: We Are Staying on the Golan
Dozens of MKs and Golan Heights community leaders participated in an emergency meeting of the Knesset Golan Lobby on Monday. The session was convened in the wake of last week's announcements by Syrian officials and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that negotiations were already underway with the Ba'athist dictatorship.
MKs from parties in the coalition and in the opposition were represented at the meeting, including one cabinet minister. Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) provoked a storm of controversy when he said that relinquishing sovereign Israeli territory to Syria would constitute a crime which entails the death penalty. MKs from both the political right and left called on Eldad to take back his statements, but the legislator has refused to do so, saying he was merely quoting the Israeli Penal Code. He subsequently went further and requested that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz order a police investigation of Prime Minister Olmert for the crime of treason.
Minister Eitan: The Golan is the Same as Tel Aviv
Minister Rafi Eitan (Pensioners) recalled the Golan Law, passed in 1981, which formally annexed the Golan Heights to the State of Israel. "For me, giving away part of the Golan Heights is like giving away part of Tel Aviv," Eitan said. Referring to what he called an "earth-shaking" speech by the late Prime MinisterYitzchak Rabin, delivered in a town in the Golan region, Minister Eitan paraphrased, "He said that we are staying here forever. It is ours."
Minister Eitan added an up-to-date geostrategic perspective on the issue, as well: "The security argument is a first-tier argument. We are expecting to be surrounded by an Iranian crescent that will link up with the Shiites in Iraq, with the Shiites in Syria, with the Shiites in Lebanon, together with the Sunnis of Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Sooner or later, it will come, and then what will we say when the Syrians are sitting on Lake Kinneret?"
Netanyahu: We Have Common Sense
In his comments at the meeting, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) also mentioned a famous statement by Rabin. "In 1992, he said, 'Whoever descends from the Golan Heights forfeits the security of Israel.' That statement was correct then, it was correct afterwards, and it will be correct tomorrow as well," Netanyahu said. "We know that statement is correct because we were at one time not on the Golan Heights, and we suffered unending attacks for 19 years. The situation in which we were down below and they were up above led to them attacking us down below from above, all the time, without let-up."
Netanyahu warned that there will be nothing preventing Syria from violating any agreement reached once Israel gives up its strategic advantage on the Golan Heights.
"In addition," MK Netanyahu concluded, "we should remember that this is also a question of justice, a question of continuous [Jewish] connection [with the Golan region], and also a question of common sense. We have common sense. We are staying on the Golan."
Coalition Party Members for the Golan
Otniel Schneller, an MK from Prime Minister Olmert's Kadima party, warned that the issue of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights must not become a political issue. "If we turn it into a dispute among political parties, then we will have lost the ability to function as one to keep the State of Israel on the Golan Heights," he said.
In separate statements, made ahead of the Golan Lobby meeting, most Kadima party ministers indicated their opposition to turning over the Golan Heights to Syria in any foreseeable deal. At Monday's meeting, MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) called on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to make her position on the issue known to the public.
Another member of a party in Olmert's coalition government, MK Yoram Marciano of Labor, turned up at the meeting and declared, "I intend to support you and your struggle. That is why I came here - in order to say 'no' to withdrawal from the Golan Heights."
Among the Israeli public, Katz claimed, 70% oppose concessions on the Golan.
The Majority Opposes Golan Concessions
MK Yisrael Katz (Likud) emphasized that more than 70 out of the 120 Knesset Members oppose withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Among the Israeli public, Katz claimed, 70% oppose concessions on the Golan.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP), who is a resident of the Golan Heights, warned, "Public opinion supports the Golan, but the public will be a target for innumerable manipulations...."
The mayor of Katzrin, the largest city on the Golan Heights, Sammy Bar-Lev, took part in the meeting as well. He told the MKs that the residents of the region are "determined to continue developing the Golan for all of the people of Israel. There is no majority in the Knesset, nor in the nation for withdrawal from the Golan. I hope that the people of Israel will continue to be with us."
Yossi Peled, former Northern District Command chief for the IDF, called a withdrawal from the Golan Heights "suicide." Peled took a philosophical turn and concluded by saying, "Peace for the Jewish State is not a goal. Peace is a means to a goal, and our goal is to ensure the physical existence of the Jewish State. That is the goal and hopefully we will then be able to achieve peace."