Golan Overlooking the Galilee
Golan Overlooking the Galilee

The majority of the Knesset faction of Kadima - Israel's largest party and political home of the Prime Minister and most of the more influential Cabinet ministers - opposes a giveaway of the Golan Heights.

The results of an internal party poll to this effect were published on the Kadima party website.  The site emphasizes that the results are "fluid," as they are dependent on the precise nature of an agreement that might be signed with Syria.

Prime Minister Olmert has not denied reports of last week that he transmitted a message to Syria stating he would be willing to give up the entire Golan in exchange for peace with the North Korean ally.

"Do You Favor Significant Withdrawal?"

The party's 29 MKs were asked whether they would support a "significant withdrawal" from the Golan Heights.  This term was defined as either the uprooting of all or most of the 33 Jewish towns there, or their transfer to Syrian sovereignty with a measure of Israeli autonomy.

Fifteen of the 29 MKs said they are totally against a "significant withdrawal." These included ten members of the Knesset Golan lobby - Ruchama Avraham Belila, Eli Aflalo, Tzachi HaNegbi, Yoel Hasson, David Tal, Marina Solodkin, Ze'ev Elkin, Ronit Tirosh, Michael Nudelman, and Shai Hermesh - as well as Yaakov Edry, Sha'ul Mofaz, Avraham Hirschson, Ze'ev Boim, and Otniel Shneller.  This number includes four Cabinet ministers (Mofaz, Boim, Edry and Belila).

Transportation Minister Mofaz told reporters in Washington on Monday that surrendering the Golan to the Iranian ally would mean giving Iran control of the high ground overlooking much of northern Israel. The former Defense Minister, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is visiting Washington as part of the American-Israeli strategic dialogue that takes place every six months.

The position of two Kadima MKs - Minister Gideon Ezra and Amira Dotan - is not clear.  Ezra has gone on record as saying that there is no point in talking with Syria at present.

Twelve Kadima MKs say they favor a "significant withdrawal" from the Golan in exchange for peace with the country the US terms a "terrorism sponsor."  They are Olmert, Ministers Livni, Dichter, Sheetrit, Ramon, and Bar-On, and Shlomo Mula, Dalia Itzik, Menachem Ben-Sasson, Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael, Yochanan Plesner, and Majli Whbee.

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 Jewish towns towns below.  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, over 17,000 Jewish residents live in the Golan and the slopes of strategically-vital Mt. Hermon. In addition, 19,000 Druze and 2,000 Muslims live there as well.

History to Repeat?

It is noteworthy that when Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert first floated the idea of a Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, many of their Likud party members opposed it.  As time passed and political circumstances changed, however, their opinions did as well.