When Syria controlled the Golan, between 1948 and 1967, it systematically shelled and attacked the Israeli towns below, killing 140 Israelis and injuring many more.
Syrian media are reporting that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has informed Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that he is willing to give up the entire Golan Heights. Olmert allegedly made the offer via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Opposition MKs say Olmert is negligently forsaking Israeli security merely so he can survive politically.
Sources in the Likud - the party that polls show will replace Olmert's Kadima as Israel's largest in the next elections - say Olmert is sorely misguided. "There is no limit to the dangerous concessions that Olmert is willing to make simply so that he can remain in office," Likud Party elements were quoted as saying. "We now hear that Olmert is willing to make far-reaching concessions to Iran's ally, Syria, which supports Hamas terror and arms Hizbullah."
Eitam vs. Olmert
MK Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Effie Eitam (National Union), a former IDF Galilee Formation commander and a resident of the Golan Heights town of Nov, said simply, "Olmert is abandoning Israel's security."
Eitam added, "In a last-ditch effort to present to the voters some kind of diplomatic achievement, Olmert is willing to give up a security and national asset. Israel's control of the Golan has led to more than 40 years of quiet on Israel's border with Syria."
"The Nation is With the Golan"
Governmental talk of giving away the Golan in 1996 and 1999-2000 was repressed by widespread popular national campaigns opposing Golan withdrawals. In the mid-90's, thousands of banners and a million stickers reading "HaAm Im HaGolan" (The Nation is With the Golan) graced porches, billboards and cars throughout the country, and in January 2000, some 300,000 people took part in one of the largest demonstrations in Israeli history, calling on then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak not to agree to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Referring to the above campaigns, MK Eitam said, "I recommend that Olmert take advantage of his vacation in the Golan to meet and talk with Israeli citizens touring and hiking in the Golan this week, and he'll see that 'the nation is with the Golan' and will allow no one to give it away to the Syrians."
MKs Tal and Shteinitz
MK David Tal, of Olmert's own Kadima party, said Israel's departure from the Golan would lead to the entry of Hizbullah terrorists into the area. Tal said he plans to advance legislation that would require a referendum on any Golan giveaway.
MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) said, "This is an unprecedented security blunder... Without the Golan, Israel will have difficulty defending its existence or maintaining the Kinneret Sea and the water sources there. I have no doubt that the 'nation is with the Golan' and not with the Prime Minister."
The Syrian reports about Olmert's willingness to cede the Golan were broadcast on an internet site and a television station.
Olmert himself, in his pre-Passover interviews last week, confirmed that he and Assad were exchanging messages. Though Israel and Syria have no diplomatic relations, Olmert said, "I can only say that I am very interested in a peace process with the Syrians, I am working to this end, and I hope that my efforts will result in something significant."
Syria Shelled Israel from the Golan
Syria controlled the Golan for 19 years, beginning in 1948, and used it to systematically shell and attack the Israeli towns below, such as Ein Gev and others in the eastern Galilee. 140 Israelis were killed in these attacks, many more were injured, and heavy property damage was also inflicted.
Israel liberated the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, thus freeing northern Israel of the Syrian threat. Israel soon realized that the Golan was vital not only militarily, but also in terms of water, history, and more. The Golan was officially annexed to Israel in 1981, and over the years, 33 Jewish communities were built, including the full-fledged town of Katzrin.
Today, close to 17,000 Jewish residents in 33 communities (27 kibbutzim and moshavim, 5 communal settlements and the town of Katzrin) live on the Golan Heights and the slopes of Mt. Hermon. In addition, 19,000 Druze and 2,000 Muslims live there as well.