Fifty-two years ago, Israeli soldiers, under heavy fire from a fortified enemy, fought their way uphill Normandy-style the seize control of the Golan Heights - putting an end to 19 years of artillery, tank and sniper attacks on Israeli citizens living in the valleys below. A few years after that, 177 Israeli tanks were able to hold off 1,400 Syrian tanks during and after the surprise Arab invasion of Israel on the holy day of Yom Kippur.
This history gives considerable context to a comment by Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term as Prime Minister in the 1990s. Speaking with the newspaper Ha'aretz in 1996, he explained:
The problem in the case of the Golan Heights is essentially one of security. While we do have strong links to the Golan as you can see, I have here an aerial photograph of Gamla and despite the warm emotional ties that exist, that is not the main point. The main point is the security question. People say to me, look you gave all of Sinai to the Egyptians. This is true, of course. But along the Egyptian border we have strategic depth of 200 kilometers. I imagine that if we had strategic depth of 200 kilometers on the Golan Heights, we could easily reach a similar arrangement with the Syrians. In reality, though, we do not. Here the strategic value is not in depth, but in height, height which we will lose if we abandon the Golan Heights and the crest of Mt. Hermon.
People tell me that in the modern world there are missiles, so territory is no longer important. Missiles are certainly a problem, but so are tanks, particularly tanks moving down towards you from higher ground. In some respects, territory has actually become more important in the age of missiles, since the other side's ground forces now also enjoy the support of surface-to-surface missiles which can disrupt our reserve system and make it harder to defend our borders. So it should be clear that ground defense requirements do not disappear in an age of missiles, but actually become even more important. And for intelligence purposes, high ground assumes an especial importance. All this goes to explain why the problem on the Golan is mainly one of security.
Then, as now, Syria - unlike Egypt and Jordan - has never made peace with Israel. Today, however, the even more radical enemy regime in Iran is establishing bases for its intelligence and terrorist proxies along the Syrian border with Israel.
There is no reason for the United States to be neutral on this issue. Syria helps Iran and other jihadists to commit terrorism and kill American soldiers and civilians, whereas Israel kills those terrorists who kill Americans.
On the issues of human rights, as the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem observed before his passing: “The only Syrians who can get a full 8 hours sleep every night are the ones living in the Golan Heights. Is any other Syrian citizen safe from the bombs and the killings?”