In recent years, US President Donald Trump has made history. He recognized that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. He withdrew the US from the Iranian nuclear deal, which was catastrophic to regional security. And now, he has officially recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, a region that is of critical importance to Israel’s security. In the wake of these developments, the world should follow in Trump’s footsteps and recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights now.
The world needs to recognize that Jewish history in the Golan Heights did not begin in 1967. The great Golan Heights plateau was part of the biblical land of Israel and ancient Jewish coins from the Bar Kochba Revolt have been found in the area. Indeed, archaeologists have discovered at least 34 synagogues dating from the late Roman to the Byzantine period in the Golan Heights.
Starting in the late Ottoman period through 1947, Jewish communities sprung up in the Golan Heights as the area was supposed to be included as part of the Mandate for Palestine. Only the forceful eviction of the area’s Jewish residents prompted them to leave the area.
At the same time, the Golan Heights has an important Druze community, whose members have been living on this land since the times of Jethro. Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, claimed that only 3-4% of the Druze in the Golan Heights support the Assad regime and they do so in exchange for payment. According to him, the rest of the Druze community in the Golan Heights is disgusted by the atrocities committed by the Assad regime especially in the wake of the Suwayda massacre, where 258 Druze were slaughtered and 14 Druze women and children were abducted after Assad withdrew his protection from the community.
He proclaimed that “the Golan Heights are liberated from the oppression of the Assad regime; if we give the residents of the Golan Heights a choice, they will certainly choose to remain under Israeli rule.” According to him, Trump’s decision demonstrates that out-of-the-box thinking can lead to good decisions that “prevent the forces of evil from legitimizing terrorist attacks against Israel.” He argued that this message can be further reinforced if other countries follow in Trump’s footsteps.
During the course of the Syrian Civil War, 560,000 people were slaughtered, thousands more were raped and 11 million others were compelled to flee their homes. Today, they are either internally displaced persons or refugees outside of the borders of Syria.
Until rather recently, Assad was not really paying for his crimes. With the withdrawal of the US from Syria, Assad has been slowly and gradually reasserting his rule over more and more areas of Syria. He has not faced trial for all of the crimes that he committed against humanity. But now the tide is turning. Only now, due to Trump, is Assad finally beginning to pay for his crimes.
By recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, US President Trump is finally telling Assad that enough is enough. He is acknowledging that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is a tyrant who massacred his own people, leveling entire cities to the ground via barrel bombs, utilizing chemical weapons against children, raping and slaughtering dissidents inside of Syrian prisons and ethnically cleansing minorities from his country. Given what Assad has done to his country since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Trump is asserting that Assad should not be given the right to control more areas, thus prompting more people to suffer under his totalitarian rule. There is no reason why the Druze of the Golan Heights should be compelled to join the Syrian nightmare.
The Druze in today’s Syria have no future. Like the Yezidis, Christians, Kurds and other persecuted minorities within Syria, the Druze are oppressed because their beliefs are not in accordance with nationalist Baathist ideology. Given this reality, those Golan Druze who have not already done so can become Israeli citizens and enjoy full civil rights in a democratic country, once Israel obtains international recognition of its annexation of the Golan Heights and the Golan Druze population understands that they have northing to fear if theyt do so.
If more countries start recognizing the Golan Heights now and subsequently proclaim that they are doing it because of how Assad committed democide against his own people, it will be a warning sign...that any dictator who massacres his own people and ethnically cleanses minorities will lose out politically.
Given this, if more countries start recognizing the Golan Heights now and subsequently proclaim that they are doing it because of how Assad committed democide against his own people, it will be a warning sign - for all but also for Israel’s enemies - that any dictator who massacres his own people and ethnically cleanses minorities will lose out politically. It will be a message stressing that no longer will the world sit by silently as tyrants and despots repress peaceful protesters and innocent civilians.
No longer will the world continue to appease and to give into the dictates of tyrants. No longer will we give away lands to bloodthirsty dictators in exchange for the fake illusion of peace. As Soviet Jewish dissident Nathan Sharansky once proclaimed, “The only peace that can be made with a dictator is one based on deterrence.”
The Golan Heights is critical to Israel’s security. Should the Assad region ever once again gain control of the Golan Heights, the results would be devastating for the State of Israel. The Jewish state could find itself in a situation where cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem had rockets raining down on them from the north, as was the situation prior to Israel obtaining the territory in 1967. Holding onto such a plateau would give a strategic advantage to any enemy who seeks to destroy Israel.
Furthermore, should Syria obtain the Israeli part of the Golan Heights under the Assad regime, it would be a horrific blow to Israel’s deterrence for the only way to deter Assad is to show him that his own bloody actions against his people have led not only the US but the world entire to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Only if the world does this, Assad will think twice before repeating such a bloodbath again.
Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights (under formation) and a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian female suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”