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At What Price the Golan Heights?

Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto
Policy Paper No. 5, 1997


The Golan Heights are considered by the Israeli military chiefs (incumbent [1997]) to be vital and irreplaceable in case of war. This option has been shared by US military missions, Russian GHQ Generals and practically everyone who evaluated the situation in situ. The loss of the Golan means a dangerous deficiency in deterrence, which, by definition, requires a capability to win a war, with Syria and her allies in this case.

However, the Israeli parliamentary factions and population are divided over the nature of peace that may, eventually, be achieved with Syria. Is peace with Syria to instantly become a "state of harmony", like that between the US and Canada or, will it be, if at all, a "state of no war", like to one between the US and the USSR in the past, in which case, the deterrence is the only one vital and sufficient safeguard of peace and has to be kept at the proper level, based upon the lessons of the past?

The division on the nature of peace became, in the case hereby discussed, a division on whether or not Israel should surrender the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement. Yet noth those favoring surrender and those who are against it insist on a strong Israeli deterrent. An Israeli paradox. This paper analyzes the nature and cost of a partial military substitute for the Golan, were those in favor of surrender to carry the day.

The military partial substitute's costs are assessed to be about US $20 billion plus another US $5 billion a year for maintaining the unit's readiness, and the civilian relocation costs are estimated to be US $10 billion. The Israeli economy may not be able to carry this burden and, if the US is going to foot the bill, the question to be asked is whether it is worthwhile to pay such a price in order to turn a US asset (see Sen. Helms' remarks) into a liability?

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