The Israeli people understand the importance of national sovereignty better than most, having had to defeat numerous invasion attempts just to secure their right to exist as a nation.
The recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu — a forceful proponent of Israeli sovereignty — to a fifth term as Prime Minister shows that Israelis remain as committed as ever to their independence. At long last, they have an ally in the White House who feels just as strongly about Israel’s right to exist.
For 52 years, Israel’s national security has depended heavily on its control of the strategically vital Golan Heights. Shamefully, not one world leader had the courage to recognize this reality before President Trump.
In fact, Israel has faced almost constant pressure to relinquish its control of the territory. Syrian troops first streamed through the Golan mountain passes in 1948 in an attempt to strangle the nascent State of Israel in its cradle. After Israel halted that invasion, the region was demilitarized.
That solution proved inadequate, however, because in 1967 the Israel Defense Forces had to fight a bloody slog up the hills to stop the Syrian Army from raining shells down on Israeli towns and villages. Israel occupied Golan after that in order to protect the Jewish homeland from hostile neighbors after the area was used twice to launch military attacks on Israel
Ever since then, the “international community” has demanded that Israel forfeit the rocky cliffs, despite ample evidence that they are essential to the country’s ability to defend itself.
Israeli allies and enemies alike would have the Golan Heights returned to the brutal Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, whose father, Hefez al-Assad, ordered hundreds of tanks to invade Israel through this very piece of land in 1973. Only the tenacity of the Israeli soldiers at places like the “Valley of Tears” — and Israel’s ability to retain the territory and its all-important high ground — saved the Jewish state from destruction then.
Israel will never surrender this hallowed ground, stained with her soldiers’ blood and vital to her security. The Israeli government made that perfectly clear in 1981 when it officially incorporated the Golan Heights into the State of Israel and offered citizenship to all inhabitants, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Indeed, the Golan Heights have been a part of Israel for much longer than the 21 years that Syria held them after French decolonization.
Yet, successive American administrations have refused to recognize these clear and inalterable facts, preferring to cling to the fiction that the Golan Heights legitimately belong to Syria. There may have been limited justifications for perpetuating that fraud in the past, but that time is long past.
Seven years of brutal civil war in Syria ought to have dispelled any notion that Israel would ever pull its troops back to the flat plains of Galilee and let the heights fall into the hands of Assad — or Hezbollah, or al-Nusra Front, or whoever winds up in control of southwest Syria. With Iranian proxies, Russians, and Turks also openly operating in the area, it is in Israel’s vital interest to hold these heights permanently.
Strategic considerations alone, however, fail to adequately convey the real significance of the Golan Heights after the five decades that they have existed as a part of Israel. The region is not just a military bulwark, it is an integral part of the Jewish state, home to more than 20,000 Israeli citizens. It is the center of Israel’s wine industry and the site of the country’s only ski resort.
The real question isn’t why President Trump chose to acknowledge reality and grant American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; it’s why he is the only leader brave enough to do so.
Within moments of the President’s announcement, the global diplomatic establishment sprang into action to defend the cowardly and apathetic anti-Israel consensus that apologists for Arab dictatorships have demanded for decades. All 28 members of the European Union refused to recognize Israel’s territorial integrity, just as they still refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the true capital of the Jewish state. Then, every other member of the United Nations Security Council joined together to pass a resolution insisting that Israel is “occupying” the Golan Heights. Only President Trump’s American delegation at the U.N. stood for Israel’s right to defend itself.
Once again, the extent to which President Trump has put himself out on a limb to defend the Jewish state cannot be overstated.
It’s that kind of boldness, however, that Israel needs now more than ever. With the ink still wet on President Trump’s Golan Heights presidential proclamation, the IDF is locked in a deadly duel with Islamist terrorists who have been launching rockets into Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip. The strategic vantage point provided by the Golan Heights allows Israel to counter this military threat without leaving its other borders vulnerable.
Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, though, Israelis can deal with this threat and all others in the future, secure in the knowledge that the land they need to defend their opposite border is firmly and forever in their hands.
Katrina Pierson is a senior adviser for Donald J. Trump for President Inc.
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