Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whose land anyway?

A particularly nasty tooth/root canal has kept me from blogging in the last few days so I haven’t felt much like commenting on anything beyond anything which required more than a nod of my head but I have been watching the alleged ‘peace negotiations’ with Syria.

Frankly, it is hard for me to take such discussions seriously considering the Israeli Prime Minister is under multiple police investigations for bribery – although, I would not put it pass the Syrians not to have stuffed and envelop or two in their day – especially, if the option existed to bribe the PM to give up the Golan Heights.

If Olmert thought announcing backdoor negotiations for a peace agreement with the Syrians would entice Israelis to raise his poll numbers to at least 2 digit support levels; he was greatly mistaken. Ha’aretz:
About two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria - more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world, a recent survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute headed by Professor Yitzhak Katz for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The survey, intended to assess Israel's sovereignty and independence in its 60th year, was initiated by Dr. Udi Lebel of Sapir and Ariel colleges.

The section referring to the state's borders shows two main tendencies. One is harsher positions - 68 percent of the people surveyed want to preserve the existing situation including keeping the West Bank and Golan. The other tendency is to prefer the Golan to any other region.

Two fun facts about the Golan Heights is that more Israeli Jews live in the Golan Heights than Israeli Arab/Druze and the Golan Heights has been under Israeli control longer than Syria ever ruled the Golan. Another fun fact about the Golan Heights comes from the Jewish Virtual Library:
The Jewish presence on the Golan was renewed in 1886, when the B'nei Yehuda society of Safed purchased a plot of land four kilometers north of the present-day religious moshav of Keshet, but the community -- named Ramataniya -- failed one year later. In 1887, the society purchased lands between the modern-day B'nei Yehuda and Kibbutz Ein Gev. This community survived until 1920, when two of its last members were murdered in the anti-Jewish riots which erupted in the spring of that year. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased approximately 18,000 acres of land about 15 km. east of Ramat Hamagshimim, in what is now Syria.

First Aliyah (1881-1903) immigrants established five small communities on this land, but were forced to leave by the Turks in 1898. The lands were farmed until 1947 by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Israel Colonization Association, when they were seized by the Syrian army. Most of the Golan Heights were included within Mandatory Palestine when the Mandate was formally granted in 1922, but Britain ceded the area to France in the Franco-British Agreement of 7 March 1923. The Heights became part of Syria upon the termination of the French mandate in 1944.
Apparently, the original deed and title for the 18,000 acres which Baron Rothschild purchased in 1891 was transferred to the Jewish National Fund in 1957.

However, the one question no one seems interested in asking is why do the Israelis even need a peace agreement with Syria, and what tangible advantage would the Israelis receive or gain for giving up the Golan Heights?

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