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   FEBRUARY 2000 -  Issue #122    


Congress & the Golan

Herbert Zweibon

More than one hundred AFSI activists from around the country took part in our recent mission to Washington to alert Congress about the dangers of the impending American commitment of troops and funds as part of an Israeli retreat from the Golan Heights.

In our visits to more than 350 Congressional offices, including meetings with numerous members of Congress or their senior foreign policy advisers, we discussed the dangers of stationing American troops on the Golan Heights, as well as our opposition to any American aid that would facilitate surrender of the Golan.

We brought to the attention of the Congressmen the results of two new polls on the subject. One, sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, found 72% of U.S. voters oppose any Israeli-Syrian agreement that would require American funding, and 42% say they are less likely to re-elect Congressmen who support such an agreement. The other poll, carried out by the journal Middle East Quarterly, found that 64% of Americans oppose U.S. economic aid to Syria and 66% oppose U.S. military aid to Damascus

In virtually every office we visited, we found Congressmen and their aides puzzled, sometimes even amazed, at the Israeli government's willingness to surrender the Golan Heights. What country would voluntarily surrender strategic territory captured in self-defense, to the very regime that had attacked it in the first place? A good question, indeed.

We found overwhelming Congressional opposition to sending any U.S. personnel to the Golan. The problem, of course, is that the president may deploy troops without explicit Congressional approval, as has been done in the recent past in Bosnia and Kosovo. In view of this danger, our message was: Congress must keep this issue alive, and make it clear to the Clinton administration that there can be no deployment of GIs on the Golan Heights without permission from Congress.

Many of those with whom we met said that if the Golan Heights aid package is in the range of $5-$6 billion annually (as Ze'ev Schiff recently estimated in Ha'aretz), it is very doubtful Cogresss would approve it. But since there has not yet been any formal aid pro- posal from the administration, some Congressmen were reluctant to discuss the whole issue--which is undoubtedly one of the administration's aims in delaying a specific aid request until the last possible moment.

In one Congressman's office, a foreign policy aide expressed concern that in the days to come, there will be visits from "the 800 pound gorilla," that is, AIPAC. Lobbyists for AIPAC have already begun rattling off slogans that sound as if they came straight out of a Peace Now leaflet, especially "War costs more than peace." What they really mean is "Peace at any price is better than war." The reality, of course, is that AIPAC will actually be facilitating three catastrophic developments: it will contribute to the dismemberment of Israel since Syria will inevitably use the Golan Heights as a launching pad for its next invasion of Israel; it will destroy the American-Israel relationship, because Israel will be reduced to the status of vassal-state, utterly dependent on the United States to protect it; and it will undermine the well-being of the American Jewish community, because the American public will naturally resent those who diverted into the Mideast billions of dollars that could have been used for urgent domestic concerns.

Focusing on those Congressmen who are members of the committees on appropriations, foreign relations, and armed service, we asked each of them to consider holding formal hearings on the role of the U.S. in a Golan deal.

The most important lesson from our mission was that if the Israeli people make their decision in an upcoming referendum based on the expectation of American troops or money, they may find themselves without U.S. troops, money, or the Golan Heights.

Herbert Zweibon is Chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.


Two Letters on the Golan ...3

Families of Marines Killed by the Syrian-Backed Hezbollah Speak Out ...4

The Syrian Foreign Minister's View ...5

February 2000               - 1 -               Outpost


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