by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
On Monday, while flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald J. Trump reversed decades of foreign policy by declaring that the United States was recognizing Israel’s autonomy over the Golan Heights. Like so many of his decisions regarding Israel, Trump’s position is one that is as positive as it is bold — and one that is long overdue.
In fact, not only is it standing with our only free, democratic ally in the region, it actually is a moral imperative.
It’s imperative to understand the historical context that you will never, ever get in the media coverage.
The plight of the Jewish people and their relationship with the land adjoining the Mediterranean Sea dates back to the antiquities. Before the 8th century B.C., there was a Kingdom of Israel. In the 8th century B.C., it was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, thus ending Jewish self-rule in the area. The region exchanged hands numerous times between the Persians, the Romans, the Arabs, and the Crusaders, among others. However, through it all, the Jewish people never abandoned their faith, and they never abandoned their ties to the land.
Fast forward to the nineteenth century AD. Many Jews had been kicked out of their land and were living throughout Europe. The 1800s saw the growth of the Zionist movement by the diaspora (Jews living away from the homeland), called for a renewal of Israeli independence and self-rule.
In 1894, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, a French Jew, bought a large tract of land in Golan for settlement. When the Jews tried to settle it, hostility from surrounding Arabs frustrated their efforts.
In 1918, the League of Nations adopted the Balfour Declaration heralding the support of a Jewish state in lands then held by Palestine. Many Jews responded by moving back to the area known as Israel.
After the First World War, Golan became part of the French mandate of Syria, and in 1941 it was passed to independent Syria. WWII saw the unprecedented slaughter of Jews by Nazi Germany, which led to the swelling of the Jewish population in Palestine.
In 1947, following the end of World War II, the United Nations recommended that the area east of the Mediterranean Sea be partitioned into independent Arab and Jewish states. Although the Jewish Agency was elated, Arab elements were adamantly opposed to the idea. In 1948, David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, declared the creation of a Jewish state, and on that same day, the United States of America recognized the provisional Israeli government as the State of Israel. The announcement was met with immediate hostilities from Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq, and the Arab-Israeli War began. Finally after fighting for its existence, in 1949, the State of Israel was admitted into the United Nations, officially validating its existence. But Israel’s relationship with its regionals neighbors was not to be a peaceful one.
Enter the Golan Heights again.
Almost immediately, the emerging State of Israel was attacked by the Palestinian Fedayeen, and in 1967, hostilities from Syria and Egypt led to the Six-Day War of 1967. That war saw Israel take the Golan Heights. They won that area like so many other countries had gained territories before them; they fought for it and kept it.
Never, in the history of the world has there been a situation where a country forcefully annexed a territory only to have the rest of the world attempt to renounce its claim. It is interesting that Israel should be the lone example of such diplomatic hostilities. Regardless, between 80,000 and 131,000 Syrians fled from the area.
The attacks would continue upon Israel. During the 1970s, it fended off multiple attacks from the newly established Palestinian Liberation Organization, which quickly devolved into a fomenter of terrorism. And in 1972, the world reeled in horror when Jewish athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic games in Munich, Germany.
The conflicts would not cease — but were not started by Israel.
In 1973, the year after the horrific attack on innocent Israeli athletes, the Yom Kippur War began with Egyptian and Syrian armies launching an invasion into Israel. In one of the most brilliantly executed military responses in history, Israel repelled the attackers inflicting significant losses upon its vastly superior enemies while minimizing its own casualties.
The 1980s saw continued attacks from surrounding countries and terrorists upon Israel while Iraq worked to develop a nuclear reactor while Iran worked to develop a nuclear arsenal. In response, in 1981 Israeli military planes attacked and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor. The following year, Israel responded to continued attacks by the PLO by destroying its bases in Lebanon.
As Israel forged into the 1990s, Iraq, under the control of Saddam Hussein, launched countless missile attacks upon Israel. Eventually, the United States would invade Iraq and unseat Hussein, while Israel stayed away from the hostilities.
An attempt was made to address the controversies regarding the West Bank and the governance of Palestinians living in Israeli territories through a negotiated solution with the signing of the Oslo Accords with the PLO in 1992, implementing self-rule by Palestinians living in portions of the West Bank.
But perhaps no more poignant a moment occurred in Palestinian-Israeli relations than when Yasser Arafat unilaterally walked away from the table without a commitment after being offered almost unbridled concessions by the Israeli Prime Minister, Erud Barak. The failure of the Camp David Summit led to the displacement of Prime Minister Barak by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who, in 2001, still unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip.
But these actions would not lead to a peaceful Israeli existence. Instead, another terrorist organization, Hezbollah, largely supported by Iran, carried out open hostilities against Israel, which have continued to this day.
Today, Israel continues to be harassed and threatened by organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, with support from Iran, and although the State of Israel has grown into a strong independent nation and a regional power, its security is not guaranteed under the open hostilities from neighboring countries voicing their intent to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. Through this time, Israel maintained control of the Golan Heights because it gave such a military advantage to its enemies who could see and attack most of northern Israel from it.
So why didn’t the United States recognize Israel’s jurisdiction over the Golan Heights?
When Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 and subsequently annexed them in 1981, its actions were met with condemnation from Egypt, Syria, and other Arab nations. Not a single country recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Instead, most nations, the United States included, and the United Nations claimed that they preferred a peacefully negotiated solution to the issue, and opted not to choose sides on the matter. Consequently, for more than 35 years, Israel has stood alone on this issue, the object of active hostilities from its neighbors who would use the Golan Heights to attack Israel again.
The fact is that the Golan Heights are of fundamental importance to Israel and its security. It acts a buffer against one of its mortal enemies, Syria. With its high topography, the Golan Heights serves as an excellent reconnaissance venue under Israel, and a strategic value launching site under its enemies. And not to be dismissed. the Golan Heights provide 30% of the nation’s water supplies.
Moreover, to pretend that a negotiated peace agreement regarding this strip is even possible is a nonsensical position and one that flies in the face of reality; a reality that for thousands of years has represented only aggression against Jews and their homeland.
So given all of this history and current reality, President Trump was absolutely correct in discarding the deceitfulness of political correctness that has thus far enveloped America’s position regarding Israel. Indeed, Israel is our greatest regional ally and the United States should unabashedly stand behind it in the world stage.
If the Golan Heights is important to Israel, then it is important to the United States. President Trump’s proclamation on Monday merely affirmed an unmistakably obvious fact — and an undeniably moral position.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and served in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.