Emotions run high on issue of Golan Heights
December 16, 1999
From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel
ON THE ISRAEL-SYRIA BORDER -- The Golan Heights are not only an area of enormous strategic importance. For both Israel and Syria, the Golan is a place of deep emotion.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War. Syria has wanted the land back ever since.
Many Israelis travel to the Golan to pay homage to soldiers killed there in another conflict, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. That sacrifice is on the mind of many Israelis as peace talks pick up steam, with the future of the Golan at the center of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
Clear view afforded of Damascus
Giving up the Golan will not be easy for Israel.
The plateau towers over the Sea of Galilee and northern Israel. The Golan gives the Israeli army a clear view of the Syrian capital of Damascus, just 40 miles (65 km) to the northeast.
Syria considers the Golan and the villages it lost not just as territory. To Syria, the Golan is a symbol of nationhood.
Future of listening posts a key issue
Israel has established elaborate listening posts on the Golan to provide early warning in the event of attack. The future of those outposts will be crucial to any lasting peace agreement.
The peace process has long been recognized -- especially in the Middle East -- as a risky undertaking. And the current talks are no exception.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has come under harsh criticism since agreeing to resume talks with Syria.
But Barak has said the time has come for his country to make peace, so there will be no more battlefields -- or pilgrimages to them.
With both nations apparently willing to reach agreement, the riskiest move might be doing nothing at all.
Expectations high on day of Syrian, Israeli talks
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