Talking about the Golan Heights

The World

This man moved to the Golan Heights forty years ago as a cowboy. The Israeli government soon encouraged Israelis such as him to stay and occupy land that was evacuated by thousands of Syrians. He was about 30 at the time and he’s now in his 70s. He says he’s not worried that anyone will make him leave the Golan. Indeed public opinion polls show 7 out of 10 Israelis are against returning the Golan to Syria even for fully normalized relations. Tellingly many believe the peace talks are nothing but an attempt to distract the public from his legal problems. But not all believe that. This man is worried. When President Clinton sponsored talks between Israel and Syria, the talks over the border were a deal breaker: the Syrians wanted to be close to the Sea of Galilee. But the man says giving up the Golan is madness because the Galilee and Golan provide a third of Israel’s water. But some residents are pleased: about 20,000 Syrians still live in the region and they would be able to be united with their families. They’ve felt never fully accepted in Israel. This man says he’s been jailed many times for non-violent political activity. He points out houses and schools on the edges of minefields that have never been cleared. He doubts the mines will be removed until there’s a peace treaty but he also doubts the talks are going anywhere.

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