The Golan Heights Law

Underground Messages
posted on:
14 In dec 1981
Ideologies - Communists. Foreign Policy - Diplomacy, UN. Security - Fundamentals of Israeli Security. Greater Land of Israel - Golan Heights, Greater Israel, Jerusalem. Government , Knesset , States - Syria, USA
Begin's statement at a government meeting proposing the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel. Israeli law and sovereignty is to be fully applied to the Golan Heights. There is a law from 1967 relating to the territories of Eretz Israel, but that law does not apply to the Golan because it was part of the French Mandate for Syria. When Syria controlled the Golan it used the position to attack Israeli civilians. Israel has invited the rulers of Syria to negotiate peace, but Syria has refused to discuss peace. Syria's Foreign Minister stated that the Arabs must wait until they are stronger than Israel. Assad stated that he would not recognize Israel even if the PLO were to do so. Syria's actions mean that Israel's response is not a breach of the Camp David Accords. Israel will face severe international protests over the annexation, but it is a matter of life and security, and so Israel must act in spite of those protests.
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(Government Meeting December 14,1981)


The process of legislation that includes three readings and votes on a new law on one day arouses vigorous argument in Israel. But Menachem Begin had the decisiveness to realize his political Zionist vision, and in particular in this period. One must remember the tremendous enterprise of 600,000 signatures that were obtained by settler/activists from the Golan who garnered support to include the Golan Heights as state of Israel territory. In the following statement, Begin explains the principle of his approach toward national sovereignty over the land of Israel.

I propose that the government today will accept the following resolution:

The government authorizes the prime minister to bring before the Knesset today at 4:00 PM the Law of the Golan Heights, as stated:

(a) the law, the judging and the administration of the state will include the territory of the Golan Heights, which will be described in an addition to this law.

(b) The beginning of this law will be upon its acceptance by the Knesset

(c) The minister of the interior is appointed to undertake the performance of this law and he is authorized to amend statutes for its performance.

I want to explain now what are the justifications for this – the reasons I am bringing this resolution now. In relation to the Golan Heights there is in fact a national consensus, meaning that even if at some time negotiations are started on a peace contract between Israel and Syria, Israel will not leave the Golan Heights. We also have partners in this approach – including the Labor "Ma'arach" (Alignment) and the small factions in the Knesset, except for the Rakah (Communist) party. Of course the question has always been when to take this action and to extend over the Golan Heights the state's "law, judgment and administration" –  words that are taken from the framework law of 1967 relating to the territories of the land of Israel. But we cannot depend on this law, in connection with the Golan Heights, because the land of Israel, from a legal perspective, not from a historical perspective, is the land of Israel in the borders of the British Mandate. And according to the agreement between France and England, the border between Syria and the land of Israel is fixed 10 meters east of the coast of the Sea of Galilee and not on the Golan Heights.

It is understood in and of itself, that all of us know that the land of Israel includes the Golan Heights. But – and this I also propose to say in public – there were days in which the colonial power, in an arbitrary way, determined the borders. Today, there is no apprehension to say this. Two colonial powers, in an arbitrary way, decided that the northern border of the land of Israel will not pass over the Golan Heights, but below the Golan Heights; and the fact that they did that, only proves that they did this arbitrarily. That is the historic perspective.

But there is of course also a security perspective, the meaning of which is the existence of life, without bloodshed for tens of thousands of Israeli citizens who have lived in the valleys for almost twenty years. When the Syrians were above in Golan Heights, they proved to us what they were adapted to do. They were adapted to committing constant bloodshed against our civilian populations in the Kibbutz, in the Moshav and in the city. From the Golan Heights they could attack – and they attacked – with rifles, and not only that but with artillery too. They attacked our civilian populations, until days passed, as I remember, we created for ourselves "children of the shelters" in the north of the country, under the Golan Heights. Which is to say, children who were in shelters not for days, but for entire months.

Now there is a third justification – political. The question is if out of hope that negotiations will be conducted according to the conditions that have been determined in the government's basic guidelines – and with regard to their contents the opposition is also a partner – whether to wait without a border for the day, or hour, when the rulers of Syria will say that they are prepared to conduct negotiations with us regarding peace. We have had no illusions about this matter. Nonetheless, we have fulfilled our obligation and I have called on the president of Syria a number of times, from the Knesset podium, to come to Jerusalem, or agree that I come to Damascus to conduct negotiations on a peace contract. He has constantly refused for nearly 15 entire years. But the main point is his last refusal, because there is in it definitions and justifications, which must warn us against an additional postponement.

I want, as members of the government knew, that we know what happened in Fez. There the foreign minister of Syria said approximately the following things: "We are opposed to the peace plan of Fahd. The Arabs must not present any peace plan. We must be prepared to wait even a hundred years and more, until the military power of the state of Israel weakens and then we will act". These are his exact words and believe me, we received them from a source about whose reliability there is no doubt. It is understood in and of itself that the Syrian foreign minister spoke in Assad's name. It is understood in and of itself that indeed this was in intimate company – this was not a conference of foreign ministers, but a summit conference, which ended as it ended – with an open statement. At such a conference one may assume that no word will slip out, as I, in general, assume will not happen in the government. But the fact is that is what he said.

Assad comes yesterday and confirms, in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, that Shahadam spoke from his throat and he goes even further and says: even if the PLO will recognize Israel, because of its tactical interests – this is an interesting sentence - Syria will never recognize Israel and the Arabs must not make peace with Israel. The Arabs need to wait – not until the military power of Israel will weaken, but until the Arabs will get stronger and will be able to dictate peace terms to the state of Israel.

I want to ask whether after these statements the state of Israel needs to wait five generations and more, so that the rulers of Syria will agree to speak with us about peace? Do we need to wait until our military power will weaken? Do we need to wait until the Arabs get stronger and can dictate conditions to us? These statements were made not only in Fez, but in public, for the record.

And therefore, no one can come to us claiming that we are breaking some agreement, in this case the Camp David agreement. True, in the Camp David agreement, Syria is included in the category of countries with whom one conducts peace negotiations. But Syria has broken this agreement. And in a persistent way, not only by refusing to make peace, but by saying when it will be prepared to conduct negotiations – when it will be possible to dictate conditions to us, or when our military power will weaken. Of course our military power will not be weakened by any government.

Every government in Israel – every government that preceded us and every government to come – will take pains that the military power of Israel will not be weakened, not relatively speaking and not definitively. But this is the position of Syria. Therefore it tosses the Camp David agreement into the sea. No one can say that we have broken the Camp David agreement in light of things done in the past and in light of the public announcements of the rulers of Syria The peace contract with Egypt, we are definitely not breaking, because this is a peace contract between two countries and it has no connection to Syria. For now the justifications, which with the permission of the members I wish to bring today before the Knesset, to open the debate. Now I must bring the political analysis that I have made for myself. If we will accept the resolution, we will go today to the Knesset with this law and we will try hard to pass it in the Knesset, even this evening.

Therefore, what is my political analysis? Gentlemen, of course this is a daring step and we will have problems after this step. I am certain that the United States will send a protest to us. It will state that it is a unilateral step – it does not recognize unilateral steps – and it thinks that this step is not valid. Approximately so will I receive a letter from Secretary Haig or from President Reagan. We will answer with what is in our mouths, out of full recognition of our just cause. I do not think that the government of the United States has been impressed by our very important justifications regarding supply of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. I think that this is an expression of sovereignty. We are making a sovereign act, with all due respect to the United States, our great friend, with whom, just now, we have signed a very important agreement, in the area of strategic cooperation. But it is a matter of our lives and our future and who can dictate such things to us after fifteen complete years since the conclusion of the Six Day War, and after all the refusals to talk with us? But we will see and we will answer as needed.

I think that we will receive serious protests, which should not be disparaged. I think that the Security Council will be summoned and it will pass the harshest resolution of condemnation. In their resolution it will state that the action Israel has taken is not valid and is an aggressive action. It is possible that the United States will join this resolution and will not exercise a veto. It is possible that it will abstain. But it is definitely possible that the resolution will be accepted unanimously. This is a daring step.  We need to expect all kinds of political results. The nation, in my opinion, will be united regarding this matter.