Peace Negotiations and Divergent Views

There were two main differences between the two sides. First, the period of transfer. The Israelis wanted a 5 year period of transfer, where as the Syrian want it done in a month only. The second, the final line of withdrawal should go back to the pre - 1967 boundaries. Where as the Israelis wanted to withdraw to the British Mandate Boundaries, thus leaving two Syrian areas still under its occupation: Banias, facing the Dan settlement in the north, and Al-Hima in the south. Syrian asserted, from the start of the negotiations, that it will only agree to a complete bargain. For Syrian was convinced that there was no need to rush toward the Israelis. Syrian also asserted the need to unify the Arab negotiating track, and to show no ease towards implementing resolutions 242-338-425 as the bases of the terms of legal reference and a guarantee for the Arab rights. The Syrian track therefore had witnessed a diversity of the negotiations levels of representation, methodology and frameworks.

Although the outcome indicated that nothing had been achieved, yet the negotiation round held in Washington on 22 February 1994 had effectively witnessed a raise in the level of representation manifested by the meeting of the two Chiefs-of-Staffs ( Hikmat Al-Shihabi of Syria and Iyhud Barak of Israel). On the one hand, and its coming in the aftermath of a cessation of the bilateral negotiations on the other. It furthermore surpassed dividing principles from details. It proceeded on a parallel line into the security arrangements and the time schedule of withdrawal and naturalization. This meant that the real development along this track lay in letting behind the difference on the concepts and to set the priorities. Although the events reflected the surpassing of such stage, but the formula parts indicated the difference on the balancing points as evidenced through the series of the exchanged statements which eventually pushed this track far behind such stability. Syria had defined the concept of peace which was represented, as a unique alternative, by the Golan restoration and practicing its sovereignty thereon. Syria saw that the withdrawal arrangements as proposed by Israel did not meet the least of the Syrian demands. The Negotiations between the two sides led in the meeting of 24 May 1995, led to a framework of understanding about the security arrangements. The agreement included many points, some of which were:


• To assert the equality of the practical measures on ground, i.e. to concentrate upon the technological points which might be solved through military technical negotiations so that the duty of such negotiations be limited to setting the starting and ending points of the security arrangements and the geographical areas to have them constructed thereon . It is worth mentioning here that the "quantitative" concept of the security arrangements was approved to reflect the demands of similarity and equality.

• The double Israeli talk, Peres, the Foreign Minister, called for a withdrawal from the Golan as a price for peace, whereas Rabin, the Prime Minister, called for a withdrawal conditional to a comprehensive peace, and that such withdrawal be on stages.

• The real addition to the agreement was represented in bringing the Israeli intransigence into view.

Security Arrangements from the Israeli Point of View

The security arrangements came clearly into view along the Syrian-Israeli track during the two meetings of the two Chiefs-of -Staffs, The Syrian Al-Shihabi and The Israel Barak first , then Amnon Shahak, who met Al-Shihabi in December 1994 and July 1995. In the last meeting it was announced that it had been agreed upon setting an unarmed zone on the borders of the two sides, establishing secure areas and early-warning posts that allow each side to monitor the other besides the mechanism to supervise such arrangements.

The Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that the agreement reached in the meetings of the Syrian and Israeli Chiefs-of-Staffs was an outcome of an Israeli document of understanding, which, he alleged, was a secret 17-page document he disclosed in the Knesset session of 28 June 1995. Hereunder is a presentation of its most important points:

Article 1: The objective of the military group is to discuss the security arrangements whose application on ground, within the peace framework, guarantees the possibility of the two States to live in permanent peace and security and to reach an agreement as regards such arrangements.

In Article 7: The security arrangement should include the following means: (a) a buffer unarmed zone between the two armies, So that the Israeli Army withdraws and gives up the excellent defensive line which gives it sufficient responses to the Israeli defensive requirements, (b) the objective of the foreign existence to be deployed in such zone is to constitute an additional political barrier intended basically for the decision of admitting of military forces into the Golan.

(4) The depth of sectors will represent an indicator to the extent of the two sides commitment to the agreement and provide for a sufficient warning time for defensive deploying in case one of the two sides violates the agreement.

(5) Pursuant to the above, our position concerning the principle of equality should be comprehensive.

Article 9: In this concern, it is important to recall the importance of Mt. Hermon. Our position is that the Israeli army must continue to receive the information which are only obtainable through deployment in such Mt. Hermon.

• The Document of Israeli understandings with Syria:

For security arrangements such as disarmament, force reduction, early warning and foreign existence.

• The security arrangements should observe the sovereignty of each side and its territorial integrity.


Position towards the Golan before Madrid Peace Conference

The Israeli policy was characterized with intransigence and rejection of the idea of withdrawal from the Golan pursuant to the ideological Israeli principles summarized under the motto "Israel! Your land is from Euphrates to the Nile" or the motto "The Complete Israel's Land", in addition to many other considerations summarizing the importance of the region. Israel insisted upon keeping the Golan even under the projects of peaceful settlement before Madrid Conference. In this concern many Israeli politicians are quoted; Aba Aban, the Israeli Foreign Minister in 1969, said, "It is necessary that the Golan remains in our hands", The late Rabin, the then Israeli Prime Minister in 1969, told Kissinger, the USA Secretary of State, that "The depth of our control should not be more than 20 kms away from the international borders. I don't want to raise void expectations, because we can not withdraw a long way in the Heights even for abolition of the state of war, and will not descend from the Heights even for a complete peace. You have promised us that you won't press us in this concern". This attitude towards the Golan has been adopted by all governments; rightist or leftist. It is the single view regardless of its various circumstances and demands. This however does not belittle the assumption that the rightist governments are more intransigent than the leftist ones concerning the future of the Golan. Four years after the change that took place in Israel , Minachem Begen and his government imposed in 1981 the Israeli law in the Golan. Israel assumed a difficult attitude that any peace with Syria should be based on the Israeli existence in the Golan>

The Position displayed during Madrid Conference (1991)

Madrid Conference was held on 30 October 1991 on the bases of the two Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 in addition to the principle of "Land for Peace". While the Arab side welcomed the American-Soviet initiative, Israel attempted to disregard the basic terms of conference of such initiative, without being able in the meantime to reject the endeavours of peace so that it would not be accused of being the obstacle that obstructs peace in the area. Israel previously expected that the "NO" would come from the Arab side so that it avoids the political and informative position of standing against the peace efforts. Yitzhak Shamir, the then Israeli Prime Minister, has referred in Madrid Conference to the occupied Arab territories by only mentioning the need of Israel to such territories. Quoted as saying in his speech at inaugurating Madrid Conference, Shamir said, "We know that our partners in the negotiations will present to Israel demands concerning the land, but the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it is obvious through examining its long history, does not relate to the land. We are a nation of four million, the Arab nation is 170 million spreading from the Atlantic to the Arab Gulf; we control 28 thousand km2 whereas the Arabs own a parcel of land of 14 million km2. Therefore the question is not land, the question is our being". The bases of the Israeli peace presented by the Israeli government in Madrid Conference are initiating from disregarding the withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.

Partial Withdrawal

During the discussions of accepting the idea of withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan, the Israeli officials put their declarations and plans at the service of a partial withdrawal from the Golan, which was later referred to as the peace compromise with Syria. One of the most important declarations was that of Rabin, the Prime Minister, quoted as saying, "This government wants peace and is ready for the peace which will give us security. It accepts compromises even if they were painful. For the peace with Syria, we are ready to withdraw from the Golan to recognized and secure borders. But we are not going to talk about the ranges of such withdrawal". The Israeli Army Staff Command did not recommend the withdrawal; it planned to push the Syrian Army 5 km away from Tiberius Lake, preserve Al-Houleh Lake and most of the water resources.

Total Withdrawal

Amid Syria's refusal of plans and proposals, and its insistence upon a total withdrawal from the Golan in accordance with the "Land for Peace" principle, information was leaked about many commitments of returning the whole of the Golan up to the June 4th, 1967 lines. News, copying a book issued in September 1996, said that the late Rabin had secretly undertaken to Bill Clinton, the then American President, to return the Occupied Golan for peace with Syria in addition to some security arrangements as well. This was later frequently confirmed by Syrian officials, headed by the late President Hafez Assad, Vice President, Foreign Minister and Syrian Ambassador to Washington. Information referred to Rabin's approval of withdrawal to the borders of June 4th, 1967, i.e. to the borders preceding the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Golan. The Daily "Yediot Ahronoth" disclosed that Clinton, at the burying ceremony of Rabin, asked Shimon Peres, who assumed the premiership after Rabin's assassination, if he agreed to the commitments of his predecessor. The Daily went on that Peres, who was not aware of Rabin's negotiations, was taken by surprise, but despite his hesitation, agreed to commit himself and endeavor to carry on the negotiations on the same basis. The beginning of such commitments dated back to the summer of 1994 during a conversation between Warren Christopher and Rabin who confirmed that he could not withdraw from the whole of the Golan without definite security arrangements and under American guarantees, Christopher confirmed that such guarantees were out of question. Based on such statement, both sides agreed that Christopher should take this subject for granted and that negotiations about the June 4th, 1967 lines would be carried out thereafter. The prevailing impression seemed to be that Rabin practically directed two separate bodies during the negotiations with Syria. Such impression was reinforced on the light of Rabin's directives to his Chief-of-Staff, then Iyhud Barak, and Amnon Shahal thereafter, before they left for Washington to carry out negotiations with the Syrian Chief-of-Staff, Major-General Hikmat Al-Shihabi. Rabin, on the one hand, conducted negotiations with the Americans to discuss the possibility of withdrawal as far as the lines of June 4th, 1967, and, on the other, ordered the Israeli army to plan and administer the negotiations about a partial withdrawal that kept the Israeli army on parts of the Golan. This was not taken by Americans as a contradiction , but as tactics of negotiations. The strategist Israeli Commentator, Za'eev Shaiv, disclosed that Rabin delivered Christopher a paper of conditional understanding for Israel's withdrawal from the Golan to the June 4th, 1967 lines based on security arrangements and normalization of relations between Syria and Israel. An official foundation reporting to Rabin, the Prime Minister, confirmed that the settlement proposed by Israel was depending on a complete withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan. Itamar Rabinovitch, the Israeli ex-Ambassador to Washington, revealed that the Israeli Prime Minister had secretly delivered, to the USA, Israel's consent to discuss with the Syrians the complete withdrawal from the Golan to the borders of June 4th, 1967 as far as the coast of Tiberius Lake. Reports said that Rabin did not only give secretly his agreement, but also openly declared that "withdrawal is as deep as peace shall be". The approximation between the secret and open declarations made the secret announcement more important than mere intention. Well informed sources said that the negotiations carried out between Syria and Israel in Merry land basically assumed that Israel had agreed to withdraw from the whole of the Golan. According to such sources, the Americans told the Syrian Arab side that Rabin, the Prime Minister, had decided to withdraw from the Golan.

Acceptance of the idea of withdrawal

During the reign of Rabin's government, Israel recognized that the Security Council Resolution 242 which had requested Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 was also applicable to the Golan. This, compared with that introduced by its precedent government of Shamir's, was considered by Strategists as a materialistic change. Rabin drew out a new formula embodied by Israel's view to the Golan. It was summarized under the statement "withdrawal is as deep as peace". Rabin estimated that peace with Syria should depend on four elements:

Depth of withdrawal

• Period of withdrawal which as he said should be measured by years

• Stages of withdrawal

• Security measures

Perez, the then Foreign Minister, declared that the Golan is a Syrian territory and that it is difficult for the Israeli decision makers to imagine the immediate advantage; "We historically win in case we make an agreement with them. It is our affair to politically lose, because the fruits of such agreement will appear to us only in the future but we will be required to pay the price now".

The Question of the Frontiers

The question of borders represents one of the most complicated issues of the negotiation process between Damascus and Tel Aviv. The roots of this question date back to the early 20th Century. According to the Ottoman administrative divisions, and until the First World War, the Golan was a part of Province of Damascus. The borders of such Province parallel the west bank of The Jordan River, including its resources, stretching as far as Al-Houleh Lake through the middle of Tiberius Lake then along the west bank of this River leaving it within the territory of the Province of Syria. Hebron Region was inside Beirut Province. Once more the administrative character was applicable to the borders between these two Provinces.

The harmonious status continued to prevail in the various fields along the two sides of the administrative borders between Syria and Palestine. Most of the social activities were made within a unified historical and geographical framework. The question of the political borders did not appear until the beginning of the French and British colonization of Syria and Palestine in the modern history.

During the First World War, Britain and France acted for partaking the Arab East Countries which were considered as the legacy of the Sick Man. Sykes - picott Treaty of 1916 included the bases of such partaking imposed by a variety of factors; ( geographical, economical, military, political, etc.. ), but implementing such partaking was postponed until the aftermath of the War.

The Golan Water Issue

The question of water resources of the occupied Golan constitutes one of the important impediments along the Syrian-Israeli track. Syria is requesting to restore its control over such resources, whereas Israel consumes per year 122 Million M3 from Al-Hasbani River, 121 Million M3 from Banias River and Mt. Hermon besides many springs spreading all over the Golan, whose water contributes to more than 12% of the Israeli water requirements estimated at 1,800 Million M3 per year. The Israelis are trying to overcome the obstacles along the way of their proposal of establishing what they call "the peace channel", which will constitute an unbeatable military barrier in the Golan areas from which they will withdraw. Implementing of such channel would lead to the "win-win formula" because such channel would meet a great part of water requirement of both sides, they both would be considered as equal winners and the "victor-victor formula" would disappear. This channel, furthermore, would constitute a military barrier or partition that would withhold the forces of any of the two sides in case a military confrontation breaks out, and cause each side to thoroughly think over the losses which would be inflicted upon it due to an aggressive action intended to be carried out by said side.

Courtesy: NICE


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