[News] As Israel Plots Endgame in Occupied Golan, Bennett Must Remember Lessons of the Past

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Wed Jan 5 11:04:15 EST 2022


palestinechronicle.com
<https://www.palestinechronicle.com/as-israel-plots-endgame-in-occupied-golan-bennett-must-remember-lessons-of-the-past/>
As
Israel Plots Endgame in Occupied Golan, Bennett Must Remember Lessons of
the Past
January 5, 2022
------------------------------
Israeli Government approves a plan to double the number of illegal Jewish
settlers in the Golan Heights. (Photo: via Prime Minister of Israel Twitter
page)

*By Ramzy Baroud <https://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud>*

With Syria still embroiled in its own war, Israel has been actively
rewriting the rule book regarding its conduct in this Arab country. Gone
are the days of a potential return of the illegally occupied Golan Heights
to Syrian sovereignty in exchange for peace, per the language of
yesteryears. Now, Israel is set to double its illegal Jewish settler
population in the Golan, while Israeli bombs continue to drop with a much
higher frequency on various Syrian targets.

Indeed, a one-sided war is underway, casually reported as if a routine,
everyday event. In the last decade, many ‘mysterious’ attacks on Syria were
attributed <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-59561148> to Israel.
The latter neither confirmed nor denied. With the blanket support
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-israel-idUSKCN1R61S6> given to
Israel by the Donald Trump administration, which recognized Israel’s
illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights of 1981, Israeli reluctance
to take credit for the frequent and increasingly destructive and bloody air
raids has dissipated
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/9/5/israel-says-it-launched-200-strikes-in-syria-since-2017>
.

Briefly, some in the Israeli government were concerned
<https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/09/03/a-biden-administration-and-the-potential-dangers-to-israel/>
by the possible repercussions of the advent of Joe Biden to the White House
in January 2021. They worried that the new president might reverse some of
the pro-Israel decisions enacted by his predecessor, including the
recognition
<https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/27/trump-officially-recognized-israels-annexation-of-golan-heights.html>
of the “Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” due to the “strategic and
security importance to the State of Israel”. Biden, a long-time supporter
of Israel himself, did no such thing.

The initial concern about a shift in US policy turned into euphoria and,
eventually, an opportunity, especially as Israel’s new Prime Minister,
Naftali Bennett, is eager to break the Right’s historic dominance over the
Jewish settlement movement in occupied Palestinian and Arab lands.

“This is our moment. This is the moment of the Golan Heights,” Bennett
declared
<https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-plans-double-settlement-occupied-golan-heights-81943620>
triumphantly at an Israeli government cabinet meeting held specially to
officiate plans regarding the further colonization of the Golan on December
26.

The following statement by Bennett speaks volumes about the context of the
Israeli decision, and its future intentions: “After long and static years
in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement
in the Golan Heights.” The reference to ‘static years’ is an outright
rejection of the occasional freezing of settlement construction that mostly
took place during the so-called ‘peace process.’ Bennett – who, in June
2021, was embraced
<https://www.npr.org/2021/06/13/1005724415/netanyahu-is-out-naftali-bennett-will-be-installed-as-israels-new-prime-minister>
by Washington and its western allies as the political antithesis to the
obstinate Benjamin Netanyahu – has effectively ended any possibility of a
peaceful resolution to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Golan.

Aside from predictable and clichéd responses by Syria and the Arab League,
Israel’s massive push to double its settlement activities in the Golan is
going largely unnoticed. Not only Israel’s right-wing media, but the likes
of Haaretz are also welcoming the government’s investment – estimated at
nearly $320 million. The title of David Rosenberg’s article in Haaretz
tells the whole story: “Picturesque but Poor, Israel’s Golan Needs a
Government Boost to Thrive.” The article
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-picturesque-but-poor-the-golan-badly-needs-a-government-boost-1.10503865>
decries government ‘neglect’ of the Golan, speaks of employment
opportunities and merely challenges Bennett’s government on whether it will
“stay the course”. The fact that the occupation of the Golan, like that of
Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, is illegal under international law is
absent from Israeli media coverage.

Namely, Israel’s main focus currently is to normalize its occupation of
Arab land entirely. But if that mission has failed over the course of 54
years, can it succeed now?

For Israel, the illegal settlement enterprise, whether in the Syrian Golan
or in occupied Palestine, is synonymous. It is inspired by deep-rooted
ideological and religious beliefs, compelled by economic opportunities and
political interests and assuaged by the lack of any meaningful
international response.

In the case of the Golan, Israel’s intention was, from the onset, to expand
on its agricultural space, as the capture of the fertile Syrian territory
almost immediately attracted settlers, who set the stage for massive
agricultural settlements. Although the home of merely 25,000 Jewish settlers
<https://www.france24.com/en/middle-east/20211226-israel-approves-plan-to-double-settler-population-in-golan-heights>,
the Golan became a major source <https://www.winesofisrael.com/regions/> of
Israeli apples, pears and wine grape production. Local tourism in the
scenic Golan, dotted with numerous wineries, thrived, especially following
the Israeli annexation of the territory in 1981.

The plight of the steadfast Golan Arab Druze population of nearly 23,000
<https://www.france24.com/en/middle-east/20211226-israel-approves-plan-to-double-settler-population-in-golan-heights>
is as irrelevant in the eyes of Israel as that of the millions of occupied
Palestinians, whether under siege in Gaza or living under a perpetual
occupation or apartheid in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Golan
population is equally isolated and oppressed but, like the Palestinians,
continues to resist despite the heavy price of their resistance. Their
hardship, however, is likely to increase with the expected doubling of the
Jewish settler population.

Israel is, of course, aware that popular uprisings will eventually be
mounted in response to its latest colonial endeavors, but various factors
must be giving Bennett the confidence to continue with his plans. A major
source of reassurance is that it could take Syria years to achieve any
degree of political stabilization before mounting any source of challenge
to the Israeli occupation. Another is that the Palestinian leadership is in
no mood for confrontation, especially that it is, once again, on good terms
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/meeting-bidens-security-adviser-abbas-urges-closer-us-palestinian-ties/>
with Washington, which has resumed its funding of the PA soon after Biden’s
inauguration.

Moreover, in Israel, the anti-settlement movement has long subsided,
crystallized mostly into smaller political parties that are hardly critical
in the formation or toppling of government coalitions.

More importantly, Washington has no interest to initiate any kind of
diplomatic efforts to lay the ground for future talks involving Israel, the
Palestinians and certainly not Syria. Any such attempt now, or even in
coming years would represent a political gamble for Biden’s embattled
administration.

Israel understands this absolutely and plans to take advantage of this
opportunity, arguably unprecedented since the Madrid talks over thirty
years ago. Yet, while Bennett is urging Israelis in their quest for
settlement expansion with such battle cries as “this is our moment’, he
must not underestimate that the occupied Palestinians and Syrians are also
aware that their ‘moment’, too, is drawing near. In fact, all popular
Palestinian uprisings of the past were initiated at times when Israel
assumed that it had the upper hand, and that people’s resistance has been
forever pacified.


*R**amzy Baroud is **a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine
Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “**These Chains
Will Be Broken*
<https://www.amazon.com/These-Chains-Will-Broken-Palestinian/dp/1949762092>*:
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity
Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center
for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is* *www.ramzybaroud.net*
<http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>
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