Israel and Syria once again Negotiating over Golan Heights

In intro to IR on Wednesday we addressed global environmental issues and we went over this chart outlining Thomas Homer-Dixon’s overview regarding the link between environmental scarcity and security. According to Homer-Dixon, environmental degradation is not only an important economic, social, and health issue, it is crucially an issue of importance for global security.

We see the important link between increased environmental scarcity and social effects (like ethnic conflicts, deprivation conflicts and coups d’etat), facilitated indirectly at times by the conditions of weakened states.

Homer-Dixon argues that these environmentally-driven conflicts will increase the more the environment degrades. Moreover, it is just those places in the world that have the least capacity to deal with the potentially negative effects of environmental degradation whose environments will be most likely to suffer.

In the far left column is “unequal resource access”. One of the most important resources to humankind is water. The conflict between Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights is crucially linked to water. As we learn from the New York Times:

JERUSALEM — Peace overtures between Israel and Syria moved up a gear on Wednesday when a Syrian cabinet minister said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel had sent a message to President Bashar al-Assad to the effect that Israel would be willing to withdraw from all the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria.

The Syrian expatriate affairs minister, Buthaina Shaaban, told Al Jazeera television, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria.” She said that Turkey had conveyed the message.

Israeli officials did not deny the statement from Damascus but would not confirm it either, offering a more general, positive reaction. “Israel wants peace with Syria; we are interested in a negotiated process,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Olmert. “The Syrians know well our expectations, and we know well their expectations…”

“…Withdrawal from the Golan Heights is a contentious issue in Israel. The territory is a strategic plateau that overlooks a large swath of northern Israel. Israel has objected to past Syrian demands for access to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water source for Israel.

Yehuda Raizner/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Indian member of the United Nations force in the Golan Heights, a strategic

plateau that overlooks a swath of northern Israel.

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2 thoughts on “Israel and Syria once again Negotiating over Golan Heights

  1. The given diagram implies that our resource use and distribution across our rapidly-growing population is causing political instability. It is clear that unequal resource access is a large problem- especially with water. Around the world, we can make an effort to slow population growth and strive to provide for more equal distribution of resources. We can also continue to develop new forms of renewable energy (to preserve our resources) and increasingly use these renewable forms instead of depleting our renewable and non-renewable resources. Still, these sources of scarcity, which are leading to the political instability experienced by many nations, cannot be changed to a great degree. We must find other ways to secure political stability, rather than relying on secure, equal resource access.

  2. Even as Israel has posed the possibility of moving out of the Golan Heights and returning them to Syria, I don’t believe that this undermines the possibility that Israel will not hesitate to fly over its airspace or challenge Syrian sovereignty in the name of protecting itself, such as the secret bombing of a supposed nuclear plant last year. So perhaps, this possibility of withdrawing is a method of testing the waters of Syrian strength/openness, but also a statement to Syria that Israel is powerful enough to give and taketh away as it pleases.

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