Israel’s history of deceit and provocation in the Golan

The Israeli conquest of the Heights in the final hours of the Six-Day War was the result of an afterthought by Moshe Dayan, then defence minister.
Sunday 08/07/2018
Old tactics. An Israeli soldier attends a planned military drill next to a Merkava Mark IV tank in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, last May. (AFP)
Old tactics. An Israeli soldier attends a planned military drill next to a Merkava Mark IV tank in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, last May. (AFP)

BEIRUT - The Golan Heights covers more than 1,800 sq.km. The Israeli sector totals 1,200 sq.km, leaving Syria with one-third of the area in the east.

The plateau was the first piece of occupied Arab land that Israel colonised in defiance of international law after the Six-Day War, in which it also seized the West Bank from Jordan along with the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

The first settlers moved in just one month after the conflict. The pace of settlement has been slower than in the West Bank, which hard-line religious Jews claim was bequeathed to them by God. There are only about 22,000 Israelis living in settlements in the Golan.

Even 51 years after the Six-Day War, there are no cities there and the largest population centre is the town of Katzrin, with about 7,000 residents — compared to the estimated 380,000 settlers colonising the West Bank.

Since 1967, the Israelis have taken the line that the Golan is vital to the Jewish state’s security.

Their propaganda line has been that, until the Six-Day War, Syrian artillery routinely shelled helpless Israeli farming settlements in the lush Hula Valley from their vantage point along the rocky escarpment.

It’s ironic that the Israeli conquest of the Heights in the final hours of the Six-Day War was the result of an afterthought by Moshe Dayan, then defence minister. He initially opposed fighting Syria but, at the last minute before a ceasefire took hold, he ordered the Israeli Army to occupy the plateau on the grounds that Israel was vulnerable to shelling from there.

That doesn’t mean much now in the age of missiles but Dayan, one of Israel’s historic war figures, admitted that far from being threatened by the Syrians on the Golan, Israel usually provoked them into shelling to create the myth that Israel, ringed by hostile Arab states, was in a state of constant danger — securing the world’s sympathy.

Dayan told journalist Rami Tal in an off-the-record conversation in 1976, publicly disclosed 21 years later, how “at least 80% of the clashes there (the Golan) started… It went this way: We would send a tractor to plough some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarised area, and knew in advance the Syrians would start to shoot.

“If they didn’t shoot, we’d tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was.”

Tal kept Dayan’s secret until the general died in 1981 when Dayan’s daughter and others convinced him to go public and set the record straight.

Dayan’s admission prompted

F. William Engdahl, a strategic risk consultant and lecturer, to write in the New Eastern Outlook on March 20, 2017: “Today a similar provocation is clearly in motion with provocative, illegal Israeli jet strikes near Damascus and drone attacks in the Golan Heights.

“The new element this time is the decidedly more Israel-friendly stance of the Trump administration compared to that of (Barack) Obama.”

14