When Barack Obama became president, he finally put one issue to rest: No, the Democratic Party is not pro-Israel. But the WikiLeaks revelations have now put in doubt another claim: that the Democrats want peace for Israel and her neighbors.
The question is raised with regard to John Kerry, the Democrats’ previous standard-bearer. One of the leaked diplomatic cables divulges that in a meeting with the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa, Kerry “added that Netanyahu also needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights into a formula for peace.”
Despite proof of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s supplying Hezbollah with missiles, Assad is, according to Kerry, “a man who wants change.” Kerry also told Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani that he was “shocked” by what he saw in Gaza, and said its rebuilding must be a priority.
And although this should come as no surprise, Kerry fully backed the establishment of eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
But the Golan Heights disclosure is what exposes Kerry for the untrustworthy fraud he is. We can thank him, however, for giving us an opportunity to review why exactly his line of thinking–and that of the Democratic Party–is so damaging to Israel’s security and to the peace process in general.
First, we must dispel the notion that the Golan Heights in particular, and peace in general, are Syrian goals. As Barry Rubin notes in The Truth About Syria, the very idea that Palestine could exist independently is an affront to Syria’s historical identity. As Assad’s father once told Yasser Arafat, “There is no Palestinian people or Palestinian entity, there is only Syria, and Palestine is an integral… part of Syria.”
This is consistent with the way Syrian leaders have always spoken about the conflict, and the fact that it was said to Arafat’s face shows just how unapologetic the Syrians are about this facet of their national ego. Incidentally, the Stephen Walts and the Andrew Sullivans of the world feverishly push the theory that despite his past territorial concessions and public affirmation of the two-state solution Binyamin Netanyahu still “believes in Greater Israel, and simply wants to occupy the West Bank indefinitely.” The reality, however, is that it is Syria’s obsession with Greater Syria that has plagued the modern Mideast for nearly a century now.
Because of this, Syria much prefers constant conflict to regaining the Golan Heights, because peace would mean they lose “southern Syria” forever. Rubin notes:
There are very good reasons for this policy. A peace settlement would deny Syria its major–even sole–advantage in the inter-Arab struggle and would increase U.S. influence, inevitably favoring Egypt, Israel, and Jordan over Syria. Even if Israel became accepted as a normal regional power, its interests would still clash with those of Syria. Jerusalem would be far more likely to cooperate with Jordan and Egypt, Syria’s rivals. In short, Syria’s obstructionism and hawkishness are quite logical. Peace would make it a second-rate power.
It would also be prudent to briefly debunk the claim that Syria somehow has a “right” to the Golan, and that Israel contravened international law by annexing the Heights. After the annexation, Professor Julius Stone of Hastings College of the Law put this smear to bed: “There is no rule of international law which requires a lawful military occupant, in this situation, to wait forever before [making] control and government of the territory permanent…. Many international lawyers have wondered, indeed, at the patience which led Israel to wait as long as she did.”
Kerry’s comments about the Golan also beg the question: Does John Kerry believe Israel has a right to defensible borders? Even Democratic leaders in the 1990s repeatedly stressed Israel’s need for defensible borders. So why is Kerry pushing for Israel to give back the Golan?
The Golan Heights would give Syria–and its stockpile of missiles–a perfect perch from which to launch strikes or even ground-based attacks. Notice how the Golan front has been pretty quiet since Israel took control of the Heights? It’s not a coincidence. Martin Indyk, in his book about the Clinton administration’s Mideast adventures, quotes Colin Powell as saying that “no military officer would want to give up” the Golan.
And that is the main problem with Kerry’s comments. The best way to maintain peace between Israel and Syria is for Israel to hold the Golan. In addition, because they do not want peace, Syria’s leaders will ensure that any farcical negotiation over the Golan Heights will go nowhere, especially if it is intended to be part of any agreement that brings about the establishment of a Palestinian state. Such a state would be opposed by the Arab states in the region, but perhaps by Syria most of all.
To recap, Kerry wants to: give the Palestinians–with their Iranian-funded weapons–sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem, and persuade Israel to give up its defensible borders and that which has brought it some measure of peace on its Syrian border. John Kerry, opponent of peace in the Middle East.