Let’s assume, just for the sake of making a point, that Syria will get the Golan Heights, which is sovereign Israeli territory in every way (Israeli law applies there just as much as it does in Herzliya; it is impossible to evacuate residents from there the way they were removed from Gaza, because property rights in the Golan are identical to the ones in Tel Aviv.) What will Bashar Assad do in such case?
Phase 1: About a million Syrian residents will be settled in the Golan immediately. The Syrians are already arguing that about 100,000 Syrians fled the Golan in 1967. If we count them and their descendents, we’re already at 500,000. You want proof? Even though the Golan Heights are not in Syrian hands, a presidential decree has already been issued announcing that any Syrian resident who moves to the Golan will receive a government allowance.
This is what the Syrians did in Lebanon in order to take it over. While the Syrian army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon, the Syrians left 800,000 laborers behind who work in Lebanon and transfer their salaries back to Syria. And so, the Syrian chokehold on Lebanon has remained intact, despite the apparent withdrawal. Elsewhere in the world, the Syrians would be referred to as “settlers.” Israel is not allowed to do the same. But when Syria does this, it’s apparently ok.
Phase 2: This will enable Bashar Assad to realize his dream with no interruptions – establishing a “resistance” against Israel in the Golan Heights. Officially, he will argue that he has no connection to the terror attacks that would be directed at the Galilee region and northern Israel from the Golan, heaven forbid, yet in practice Syrian intelligence officers will do as they please vis-à-vis northern Israel. In fact, they already did it in northern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s pro-government leader Saad al-Hariri openly accused Syria and its intelligence agencies not only of being behind the acts of two odd underground groups, but of “inventing"” them in order to sabotage Lebanon. Why won’t the Syrians do the same in the Golan? Would a peace deal with Israel stop them? With Lebanon they have not only peace, but even an official relationship of fraternity and friendship.
Phase 3: Assad’s minority Alawite regime will be toppled, as a peace deal will in fact serve to precipitate his downfall (and for that reason, Bashar won’t be pursuing real peace with Israel.) His regime has no legitimacy in Syria as it is, particularly when it comes to the Muslim Brothers, whose power keeps growing. Al-Qaeda already issued a death sentence on Bashar over his apparent ties with Israel and cruelty to Islamic radicals.
Once Assad’s regime is toppled, the Golan Heights will turn into the radical spearhead against Israel, and not only from Syria: People will be coming from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Terrorism will be two-pronged – both from the Golan and from Lebanon. Life in the north will turn into an unbearable nightmare, yet the situation will be irreversible. The Golan will shift from being an empty region to being a home to one million zealous Syrians.
The Sinai Peninsula is so large that the situation there is always reversible. On the Jordanian front we didn’t renounce anything, and on the Palestinian front we can always reoccupy any territory. Yet with Syria the situation will be different: From an empty buffer zone, the Golan Heights will turn into a crowded anti-Israel region for generations to come. From a strategic asset to Israel, the Golan would turn into a burden on top of the other regional efforts to eliminate Israel. Our future generations won’t forgive anyone who would do that.