Visits to the Golan Heights this week by Israel’s two top leaders were of little comfort to Jewish settlers there, who are worried their homes will be sacrificed to attain peace with Syria.
During a visit to the region Tuesday, President Chaim Herzog said only that he “understood” the concern of the settlers “as we stand at an historic crossroads.”
Stopping just short of making an all-out political statement, the president said he prayed that God would “guide us to the destinations of peace” and assured the settlers that Israeli policy-makers were considering not only the prospects of peace but the dangers involved.
Herzog’s visit came after Golan settlers met Sunday with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to discuss the future of the territory. They left that meeting as worried as when they arrived.
Rabin too made no comforting promises at the meeting. The settlers’ concern has been intensified by Rabin’s public assessment that Israel does not necessarily need to hold on to “every kilometer” of the area.
During Tuesday’s visit by the president, Noa Weinberger, an elementary school pupil at the settlement of Hispin, handed Herzog a scroll reading: “Your visit here is a sign that your heart is with us. Please help us persuade our government that the Golan is our home.”
Under a 1974 interim accord, Israel withdrew from part of the Golan, gaining a quiet border with its most menacing enemy for the past 18 years. Prior to the Six-Day War, settlements in the Jordan Valley were the targets of repeated Syrian shelling.
Golan settlers were rolling up their sleeves this week for an intensive and protracted campaign against additional Israeli concessions on the plateau.
Settlements within the pre-1967 borders of Israel that had been within easy range of gunsights from the Golan also registered concern.
Taking part in Sunday’s meeting with the prime minister was a representative of Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, situated at the foot of the Golan Heights.
He said the fate of the settlements in the upper Jordan Valley was linked with the future of the Golan Heights.
The only positive sign recorded by the settlers was the fact that “no one has drawn up any maps” for a possible border settlement between Syria and Israel.
In an official communique, Rabin said he had outlined to the settlers the Israeli position, as it was presented in the negotiations with Syria in Washington.
“Israel wants a full peace with Syria. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 are valid and applicable, in the framework of negotiations with Syria, while each party has its own interpretation regarding those resolutions,” the statement said.
The settlers said they would continue their campaign against territorial concessions on the plateau. “For us, every hill, every rock in the Golan is important,” said Yehuda Wohlman, chairman of the Golan settlements committee.