The Israeli response to the Trump initiative should be a demand for an international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights and a demand for a comprehensive agreement, which won’t allow the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in the Syrian Golan Heights, west of the Damascus-Suwayda road and south of the Damascus-Beirut road. Israel, in return, would pledge that a fulfillment of these two demands would pave the way for practical negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has good reason to demand a stabilization of the northern border as part of a preliminary diplomatic move. This is more urgent and important than reaching agreements with and making concessions to the Palestinian Authority.
In the Oslo Agreements and later on, Israel made significant concessions and offered even more significant concessions, while the PA didn’t offer and didn’t provide a thing in return, and even committed terrorism against Israel. The little that was achieved was the security cooperation, and that only happened after Yasser Arafat’s death.
Now, with a proposal for renewed negotiations as part of the comprehensive regional agreement with the moderate Arab states on the table, it’s time to demand something in return before offering further compromises.
This return could be a recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights and security arrangements on our northern border. It will make it much easier for the Israeli government and the Israeli society to move towards another agreement with the PA, and it isn’t an obstacle to negotiations with the Palestinians.
A rare opportunity
The major changes the Middle East is going through and the results of the brutal civil war in Syria have changed the states’ borders, and these borders won’t go back to what they were since the Sykes–Picot Agreement. Now is the time to set the line established in the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement as the international border between Israel and Syria.
With a diplomatic effort and proper PR activities, we will succeed in enlisting the support of the moderate Arab states, which see terror-spreading Iran as the threat to stability in the Middle East.
Instead of keeping up with the negative reactions, instead of constantly being dragged, Israel should see Trump’s proposal as an opportunity to start initiating again. We have a chance to demand and gain international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights, and it’s an opportunity we must not waste.
Major-General (res.) Amiram Levin is a former IDF Northern Command chief.