The Obama administration has drawn up a plan for Israel to give much of the strategic Golan Heights to Syria, informed Middle East security officials told WND. And what land Israel continues to use, it must rent, according to the plan.
Last week, WND first reported that Dennis Ross, an envoy for the White House in the Middle East, visited both Israel and Syria in recent weeks to discuss specifics of a deal in which Syria eventually would take most of the Golan.
The specifics of the plan, however, were not disclosed.
Days after the WND article appeared, similar reports surfaced in the Israeli and Arab media. Those reports also did not cite specifics of the plan.
Now WND has learned that Ross proposed that Israel give to Syria large swaths of the Golan Heights. Areas of the territory that house Israeli industrial zones will not need to be evacuated, but Israel is expected to lease the land from Syria, according to the informed Middle East security officials.
The U.S. plan has Syria declared the owner of most of the Golan while Israelis leasing land from Syria would be expected to pay direct taxes to Syria, the security officials said.
The security officials said Ross initiated the process of reaching out to both Israel and Syria in November.
The officials said the Israeli government did not approve or reject the plan.
The security officials said they do not expect any deal between Israel and Syria in the near future.
The officials said Ross is trying to get Syria to pay a price for the deal, such as scaling back its relationship with Iran and its support of Hezbollah.
The officials hinted the delay of an international probe investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is related to regional political dealings, including the talks with Ross.
Syria widely has been blamed for Hariri’s death, although the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group is expected to be blamed directly if the probe results are released. The probe was supposed to be released months ago, but has been delayed continually.
Syria twice has used the Golan Heights to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
Syria is in a strategic and military alliance with Iran. It has been accused of helping fuel the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Syria is a state sponsor of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, reportedly helping the Iranian-backed Hezbollah to arm itself with more than 10,000 missiles and rockets. Also, leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations are based in Syria.
The U.S. plan for the Golan comes as President Obama last week bypassed the U.S. Senate by using a congressional recess period to directly appoint four new ambassadors, including the first U.S. envoy to Syria since 2005.
It marks the second time President Obama bypassed another agency or government branch to appoint a new ambassador to Syria.
WND reported in July that Obama bypassed Hillary Clinton’s State Department in his announcement he would send a new ambassador to Syria, even disrupting agency negotiations with the Syrian government aimed at extracting concessions from the Damascus regime for the stepped-up diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Syria several years ago in protest against Hariri’s assassination.
The Jewish Golan
Media accounts routinely billed the Golan as “undisputed Syrian territory” until Israel “captured the region” in 1967. The Golan, however, has been out of Damascus’ control for far longer than the 19 years it was within its rule, from 1948 to 1967.
Even when Syria shortly held the Golan, some of it was stolen from Jews. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland on the Golan were purchased by Jews as far back as the late 19th century. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire kicked out some Jews around the turn of the century.
But some of the Golan still was farmed by Jews until 1947, when Syria first became an independent state. Just before that, the territory was transferred back and forth between France, Britain and even Turkey, before it became a part of the French Mandate of Syria.
When the French Mandate ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria, which quickly seized land that was being worked by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Jewish Colonization Association. A year later, in 1948, Syria, along with other Arab countries, used the Golan to attack Israel in a war to destroy the newly formed Jewish state.
The Golan, steeped in Jewish history, is connected to the Torah and to the periods of the First and Second Jewish Temples. The region was referred to in the Torah as “Bashan.” The word “Golan” apparently was derived from the biblical city of “Golan in Bashan.”
The book of Joshua relates how the Golan was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh. Later, during the time of the First Temple, King Solomon appointed three ministers in the region, and the area became contested between the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus.
The book of Kings relates how King Ahab of Israel defeated Ben-Hadad I of Damascus near the present-day site of Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan, and the prophet Elisha foretold that King Jehoash of Israel would defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik.
The online Jewish Virtual Library has an account of how in the late 6th and 5th centuries B.C., the Golan was settled by Jewish exiles returning from Babylonia, or modern day Iraq. In the mid-2nd century B.C., Judah Maccabee’s grandnephew, the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannai, added the Golan Heights to his kingdom.
The Golan hosted some of the most important houses of Torah study in the years following the Second Temple’s destruction and subsequent Jewish exile; some of Judaism’s most revered ancient rabbis are buried in the territory. The remains of some 25 synagogues from the period between the Jewish revolt and the Islamic conquest in 636 have been excavated. The Golan is also dotted with ancient Jewish villages.