Syria has been wracked by civil war for over two years, with a variety of factions, from “moderate” groups to Islamists associated with Al Qaeda to IS (Islamic State) fanatics vying for control of the country, or what is left of it. All are fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops, and to an extent, each other.
One thing that makes most Israelis very happy – and extremely relieved – is that the country never fell for the temptation of “peace with our northern neighbor”: For years, pundits on the left explained how much better off Israel would be if it surrendered to the ministrations of the Assads – the elder Hafez or the junior Bashar – to withdraw to the 1948 armistice lines, allowing the Syrian leaders to “dip their feet in the Kinneret.”
But recent reports have the Al Qaeda-backed Al-Nusra extremists in control of the Syrian Golan, meaning that if Israel had indeed left the entire Golan Heights, the Islamists would be perched above the Galilee, a perfect position from which to take “pot shots” at farms and cities – or to launch a full-scale missile war against Israel, as Syria did prior to its loss of the Golan in the Six Day War in 1967.
One Israeli who still regrets not withdrawing from the Golan when Israel had the chance is Yariv Oppenheimer, head of far-left group Peace Now. Speaking to the Galei Yisrael radio station, Oppenheimer said that he did not think that leaving the Golan would have been a mistake. “If Israel was at peace with Syria everything would have been different,” Oppenheimer said. “Of course, if things had not worked out we could have retaken the Golan anytime.
“If we had signed a peace agreement with Syria, there would have been no Second Lebanon War in 2006, because we would have been at peace with Lebanon too. It is possible that peace could have even prevented the civil war in Syria, and IS and Al-Nusra would not have taken over the Golan in the first place. But if they did, we may have had to reconquer it.”