TEL AVIV – The Obama administration is pressing Israel to enter into negotiations with Syria aimed at compelling an Israeli retreat from the strategic Golan Heights, WND has learned.
Syria is in a military alliance with Iran. The country twice used the Golan, which looks down on Israeli population centers, to mount grounds invasions into the Jewish state.
Informed Middle East security officials tell WND that Dennis Ross, an envoy for the White House in the Middle East, visited both Israel and Syria last week to discuss specifics of a deal in which Syria would eventually take most of the Golan.
According to the security officials, Ross is slated to become Obama’s main envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian affairs issue, with the current envoy, George Mitchell, expected to step down.
With Israel, Ross discussed specifics of a deal with Syria, including which territory Israel would be expected to evacuate in both the Golan and the Jordan Valley, the security officials said.
The officials said that Ross told Syria it needs to scale back its relationship with Iran and stop facilitating the re-armament of Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah reportedly now has over 10,000 missiles and rockets, including a large number that can reach Tel Aviv and beyond.
During the 2008 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah’s rocket attacks against the Israeli north in 2006 killed 43 Israeli civilians and wounded more than 4,000.
The Middle Eastern security officials, meanwhile, told WND there were some signs U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iran are having an effect on the regime in Tehran. The officials said that in recent months, Iran decreased its funding to Hezbollah as well as to the Palestinian terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The Jewish Golan
News 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 was still 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 Golan Heights 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.