By Areej Zaher*
14th December 1981 was a grievous day for Syria, when the Israeli Knesset declared Israel law, judicial and administrative sovereignty over the Syrian occupied Golan, although it was rejected by the UN council and the international community. The General Assembly of the UN backed Syria’s legitimate right of its freedom and sovereignty according to the UN council’s laws 242 and 338 which demanded Israel full withdrawal of the occupied Arab lands in 1967.
In his latest statement about Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump declared his recognition of Israel sovereignty over Golan, which meant changing at last the US administration’s role as an intermediary between Syria and Israel to make a settlement according to international law 242 that stated “Israel withdrawal of territory it occupied in 1967”. The US attempt to make peace in 2010 between Syria and Israel, based on the Israeli withdrawal of Golan in exchange with a peace treaty with Syria including the normalization of relations between the two states. That attempt was faced with Damascus discretion, and ceased in spring of 2011 with the beginning of crisis.
Many things have changed in Syria in those eight years, including opposition taking control over south and south western of the country including “Disengagement Zone” that was established with an agreement encouraged by the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger by the end of May 1974 following the war of October 1973.
In the meantime, there were continuous clashes between Iran and Hezbollah militants and opposition militant in the north. The last year Russian- American negotiation focused on the exclusion Iran of the south especially Golan.
Many attempts to launch negotiations between Syria and Israel had taken place since its occupation in June 1967. And late president George Bush initiated them after Gulf war. The main point of discussion in “principles and goals” paper was about demanding a full Israeli withdrawal of Golan heights, but Damascus ambitions have changed to 4 June territories in exchange of peace with Israel.
During Netanyahu’s governess between the years 1996 and 1999, European efforts were made by former UN envoy Miguel Moratinos and Jewish businessman Ron Lowder, Which resulted in establishing strong relationships with an important group of American Jews who are considered close to Israel. Then negotiations were continued after confidential negotiations made by legal councilor in foreign affairs in September 1999.
With the beginning of 2000, negotiations were made between Syrian foreign minister Faruq Asharaa and Israeli former prime minister Ehud Barack, where late Syrian President Hafiz Assad insisted on “marking Syrian boarders to east of Sea of Galilee, or there will no peace.” Hence these negotiations were hindered.
After that Israel withdrew out of south Lebanon in May 2000, the same year President Hafiz Assad passed away, and through a decade of Bashar Assad rule, Turkey played as a medium to sign a peace paper between Syria and Israel. In the meantime, America returned to take part in this peace process and make a “draft agreement” under former American president Barack Obama. This agreement didn’t see the light.
In their last gathering in Helsinki, both American and Russian president’s made “Israel preservation” a top priority. Along with activating disengagement agreement, and spreading UN forces in Golan, and the returning of government forces to the south and south western of the country.
On Monday, Trump signed a document recognising Israel sovereignty over Golan. This statement was met with condemnation in Syria, Which interpreted it as a blatant attack on its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
*Areej Zaher is a Syrian journalist based in Lattakia.