(Washington, D.C.) — President Trump made history this week by signing an official proclamation declaring that the United States now recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He did so during a Monday ceremony in the Oval Office with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. [Read the leaders’ remarks here.]
I commend President Trump and Vice President Pence for making this morally correct, strategically wise, and long-overdue decision. And I pray the U.S. and Israel will continue to work ever-more-closely together to prevent Russia, Iran and Turkey from taking over Syria and making it a forward operating base from which to attack the Jewish State.
In 1967, Syria planned and prepared to use the Golan Heights as the launching pad of a massive invasion of Israel. Their goal: to help Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser “throw the Jews into the sea” and utterly annihilate the Jewish State.
Syria’s plans, however, were thwarted when Israel won the “Six Day War” — stunning all of the Arab states — and took possession of the Golan Heights.
In 1973, Syria again planned and prepared to invade Israel and utterly destroy the Jewish State. In close cooperation with the Egyptians, Damascus launched a massive surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar.
Syria’s plan, however, were once again thwarted — precisely because Israel now controlled these commanding heights. Israeli soldiers and tanks positioned in the Golan Heights faced an overwhelming onslaught by Syria tank units. But the Israelis present in those mountain passes fought bravely and were able to fend off the initial Syrian wave just long enough until the IDF could call up reserves to come to their rescue and decisively push the Syrians back for good. Had Israel not controlled the Heights at the time, it is very likely that Syria would have succeeded in capturing most (and perhaps all) of northern Israel.
Most world leaders consider the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied territory.” But let’s be clear: Israel was not the aggressor in 1967. Israel was not seeking to annihilate anyone or destroy an entire country or even expand its territory. Instead, Israel won the territory in a defensive war against an enemy threatening her people with genocide. Just six years later, Israelis leaders used the territory to defend their people against a second war of annihilation. Since then, the Heights have provided critically important strategic depth on a front with a neighbor long-hostile, and now disintegrating into murderous chaos.
Imagine if Israel had handed this territory back to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Would Israelis have been safe from a man who has murdered more than 500,000 of his own people in recent years?
Would Israel have been safe from a man who has used chemical weapons against his own people?
Would Israel have been safe from the genocidal forces of ISIS which captured large swaths of Syria and, until their caliphate was recently crushed, kept advancing against the borders of Israel?
Would Israel have been safe from a regime that has allied itself with Iran, whose mullahs also threaten to “wipe Israel off the map”?
The truth is it would be insane to turn this land over to the agents of terror and genocide. That’s why Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory in 1981, after concluding that it could not survive another war from the north without possession of the Golan Heights. At the time, the Reagan administration sharply criticized Israel’s decision. But now the Trump White House and State Department have come to realize that on this issue Israel has been proven right after all. Hopefully, other nations will study the issue more carefully and come to the same conclusion.