May 25, 2019

Dropping the Green Line

Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

I occasionally use this platform to follow up on my op-eds that run in The New York Times. The format is simple. My Times op-eds often elicit a lot of responses by email, on social media and in the comments section. I sift through these comments and choose a few recurring themes, which I address here.

But first: If you haven’t read my op-ed about President Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, the region captured from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967, read it on the Times website (if you have access). One key paragraph says this:

Trump’s statement … is the final nail in the coffin of the 1967 line — the armistice line that separated Israel from its neighbors before the Six-Day War. More than 50 years since this line was crossed by the Israeli military, we can finally kiss it goodbye. … The “land for peace” formulation for the past five decades has been a basis of all peace processes. … Mr. Trump seems to have accepted the position of Israel’s government and given up on the idea that Israel has to withdraw to a decades-old line to get peace.

Trump signed the proclamation on March 25 in Washington, D.C., with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side.

Now, the comments and my responses.

Just like Crimea
“therev56” commented: “What is the difference between this and Crimea? If occupying territory becomes claiming it, why would the U.S. complain about Russia in the Baltic?”

My response: There’s a big difference. Crimea was an unprovoked action of aggression, while the Golan was occupied during a war that Israel was forced to fight against Arab aggression.

“Israel already has controlled the Golan for more than twice as long as Syria controlled it.”

But why?
Eric Jenson wrote: “If there is any legitimate reason that Israel should be controlling Golan Heights, I’m not finding it in this article. Is the only point that, ‘It’s good that Trump recognized Israel’s control of Golan Heights, because Israel really, really wants to control Golan Heights and really, really wants the U.S. to legitimize it’?”

My response: The reasons are many. First, because Israel already has controlled the Golan for more than twice as long as Syria controlled it. Second, because it was occupied in a war of aggression initiated by Syria. Third, because it is strategically important for Israel to keep this territory. Fourth, because Syria has zero claim on morality and lawfulness. Fifth, because holding the territory doesn’t mean holding the population under occupation. Sixth, because there are Jewish historical ties to Golan.

One-state solution
David from Miami wrote: “Dear Mr. Rosner, You and friends are accomplishing the ONE STATE solution you don’t want. It will start out an apartheid state, but after a while, justice will prevail and it will be a binational state ‘from the river (and Heights) to the sea.’ You are burying the Zionist vision all by yourselves.”

My response: Why one state? The Golan has nothing to do with the two-state solution. As for the Palestinians, the remedy for them doesn’t have to include a withdrawal of Israel on the basis is the 1967 line. My article doesn’t call for annexation of Palestinian cities. It calls for 1) keeping the Golan, and 2) dropping the Green Line as the starting point for negotiations.

 What about the Druze?
Ambrose Murphy asked: “What do the inhabitants of the Golan Heights think? They are Druze, I think, and probably care less about Syria than they do about Israel. But it is weirdly colonial to dispose of a population, not just a territory, without talking to — or even about — the people who live there.”

My response: There are about 50,000 people living on the Golan Heights (the part under Israel’s control). A little more than half are Druze. The Druze can become Israeli citizens. Most of them choose not to do it. Why? Because they are afraid that one day Israel will hand back the Golan to Syria. They assume, not unreasonably, that in such a case, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime will punish those who didn’t show loyalty to Syria and accepted the Israeli offer. In other words: The more the Druze are convinced that Israel’s stay is permanent, the more of them will become Israelis.

As a Jew
Jackson wrote: “Although it makes me feel disgraced to be an American with family connections to Israel, this editorial is certainly a wake-up call to exactly why I will never visit Israel again, why I will never allow family names to be exploited by being placed on the wall of Holocaust remembrance, Yad Vashem, why I will vote against Trump, and why I will redouble my contributions to the progressive American-Jewish organization Jewish Voice for Peace.”

My response: Oh, you’re going to double your contributions to Jewish Voice for Peace? In that case, Israel must reconsider its position. Seriously, do you really expect Israelis to care much about the opinions of people who feel ashamed at having “family connections to Israel”?