By Aaron Klein
The Obama administration has quietly asked the United Nations team probing the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister to put its inquiry on hold so it doesn't disrupt the start of possible Israeli-Syrian negotiations, according to senior Egyptian security sources.
That probe was reportedly set to indict members of the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah organization for the murder of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri.
Just yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced his country's willingness to enter immediate negotiations with Syria.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has stated repeatedly he wants the entire strategic Golan Heights in any deal.
The Golan looks down on Israeli population centers and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into Israel. Syria is in an open military and strategic alliance with Iran.
"Israel is the product of pioneering human spirit," stated Peres yesterday, speaking at the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals summit in New York.
"In spite of wars, we made peace with Egypt and Jordan," said Peres. "[And now] we are ready to enter direct negotiations with Syria. Right away," said Peres.
In the same speech, the Israeli president slammed Syria's partner, Iran, for its leadership's declarations to "annihilate Israel."
Peres held a press conference following his speech in which he called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "living declaration against the U.N. charter." He called on the U.N. to reassess whether Iran should be allowed to be a member.
The U.N. tribunal investigating Hariri's assassination has been asked by the White House to hold off for now, according to Egyptian security officials. The officials said the Obama administration does not want the probe to interfere with the start of any Israeli-Syrian talks.
In July, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said he had been informed the tribunal was set to implicate a number of his group's members.
But with the U.S. and international community seemingly unengaged with the tribunal and with U.S. support for the pro-Democratic forces in Lebanon nearly nonexistent, the country's traditional pro-Western leaders have been switching allegiances to the Iranian and Syrian axis.
Last Month, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri, announced to the public he had been wrong to blame Syria for his father's death. Hariri is set to visit Damascus for a second time this month.
"At some point, we made a mistake," Hariri declared. "At one stage, we accused Syria of assassinating the martyred premier. That was a political accusation, and that political accusation is over."
Also, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, previously one of the most vocal critics of Hezbollah and Syria, has also publicly changed his tune, visiting Syria and declaring the country an ally.
The Jewish Golan
Any Israeli negotiations with Syria would aim to give some or all of the Golan Heights to Damascus.
News media accounts routinely billed the Golan as "undisputed Syrian territory" until Israel "captured the region" in 1967. The Golan, however, has been out of Damascus' control for far longer than the 19 years it was within its rule, from 1948 to 1967.
Even when Syria shortly held the Golan, some of it was stolen from Jews. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland on the Golan were purchased by Jews as far back as the late 19th century. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire kicked out some Jews around the turn of the 20th century.
But some of the Golan was still farmed by Jews until 1947, when Syria first became an independent state. Just before that, the territory was transferred back and forth between France, Britain and even Turkey, before it became a part of the French Mandate of Syria.
When the French Mandate ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria, which quickly seized land that was being worked by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Jewish Colonization Association. A year later, in 1948, Syria, along with other Arab countries, used the Golan to attack Israel in a war to destroy the newly formed Jewish state.
The Golan, steeped in Jewish history, is connected to the Torah and to the periods of the First and Second Jewish Temples. The Golan Heights was referred to in the Torah as "Bashan." The word "Golan" apparently was derived from the biblical city of "Golan in Bashan."
The book of Joshua relates how the Golan was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh. Later, during the time of the First Temple, King Solomon appointed three ministers in the region, and the area became contested between the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus.
The book of Kings relates how King Ahab of Israel defeated Ben-Hadad I of Damascus near the present-day site of Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan, and the prophet Elisha foretold that King Jehoash of Israel would defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik.
The online Jewish Virtual Library has an account of how in the late sixth and fifth centuries B.C., the Golan was settled by Jewish exiles returning from Babylonia, or modern day Iraq. In the mid-second century B.C., Judah Maccabee's grandnephew, the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannai, added the Golan Heights to his kingdom.
The Golan hosted some of the most important houses of Torah study in the years following the Second Temple's destruction and subsequent Jewish exile; some of Judaism's most revered ancient rabbis are buried in the territory. The remains of some 25 synagogues from the period between the Jewish revolt and the Islamic conquest in 636 have been excavated. The Golan is also dotted with ancient Jewish villages.
The Golan Heights - Jewish Virtual Library
Peres to UN: Israel wants immediate peace talks with Syria - Jerusalem Post
Saad Hariri's Cautionary Tale - INT (Caroline Glick)
Iran, Lebanon Walk Out on Peres Friendship Speech - Arutz Sheva
The Manchurian President: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists - Aaron Klein (Book)