Written by The Lekarev Report
According to a report published today in the Syrian media, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has informed Damascus that Prime Minister Ehud OImert has agreed to surrender the entire Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria.
The Prime Minister's Office declined comment Wednesday on the report, saying that "we will not comment on the said report but we can refer everyone to the prime minister's holiday interviews saying that we know what the Syrians want of us, and they know what we want of them."
Clearly, a "no comment" response is not good news!
Several days ago, Syrian president Bashar Assad confirmed Olmert's remarks that Jerusalem and Damascus were holding talks through a third party in a bid to look into resuming the negotiations between the two countries.
In his pre-Passover interview with Israel's daily paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, Olmert addressed the Syrian issue. He was asked whether he was willing to declare that Israel would cede the Golan Heights for peace as have some previous Prime Ministers.
"I don't know what Netanyahu, Barak and Rabin said," Olmert replied. "What I can say is that I am very interested in a peace process with Syria, I've been acting on this issue and I hope that my efforts mature into something meaningful.
"I can assure you that on matters concerning Israel and the Syrians, they are well aware of what I want from them, and I know very well what they want from us."
Reactions to Golan Heights Issue
Outrage and disgust characterize the reactions of members of Knesset upon hearing the news that Olmert appears to have already agreed to cede the entire Golan Heights to Syria.
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 spokesmen 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."
MK Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Effie Eitam (National Union), a former IDF Galilee Formation commander and a resident of the Golan Heights, 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."
Eitam added, "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."
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."
A stong reaction came from Ze'ev Elkin, within Olmert's own Kadima party. Elkin said "unfortunately the prime minister, as usual, is playing games with the Israeli public and the international community by releasing trial balloons and scattering promises that he cannot keep." Elkin, who is one of Olmert's toughest critics inside Kadima, said "just like he did when he spoke of dividing Jerusalem, haphazard withdrawal from the Golan is also something the PM doesn't have support for, either in the Knesset or within his party."
"It's very unfortunate that Olmert is raising expectations and the State of Israel will have to pay a heavy price in years to come, [a price] that will harm its security and not bring peace," Elkin added.
The Golan Heights - Israel's Security
By way of background for those who have never visited Israel, here are the facts:
Syria controlled the Golan Heights for 19 years, beginning in 1948, and used it to systematically shell and attack the Israeli towns below, such as Ein Gev and others on the eastern shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). 140 Israelis were killed in these attacks, many more were injured, and heavy property damage was also inflicted - over and over again.
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 live on the Golan Heights and the slopes of Mt. Hermon. In addition, 19,000 Druze and 2,000 Muslims live there as well. These communities are fully developed with schools, public buildings, synagogues, medical facilities, etc.
Surrendering this region is akin to national suicide. I hope you can see this map clearly. The Golan Heights is the white area and you will immediately notice that it follows the eastern shore of the Kinneret, Tiberias is directly across the sea and would be in clear range of Syrian firepower.
I - among many others - can see the Golan Heights clearly from my balcony. Thousands of Israelis and hundreds of towns and cities would be extremely vulnerable to Syrian agression.
You can be sure there will be a continued outcry against it.
SOURCE: The Lekarev Report