The Israeli government is full of fear. Everyone knows what it would take to sign a peace treaty with Syria or the Palestinians. Since peace has become an idol, and the peace treaty its representative on earth, mostly everyone accepts that peace will require sacrifices. This time they are sacrificing Jewish meat—the victims of the peace process—and Jewish land.

Without a doubt, Israel will give away the Golan Heights. Despite the brouhaha over their annexation, no prime minister has ever seriously believed that Syria would sign peace with Israel without the Golans. It is not that the heights are that important for Syria—it only possessed them from 1929 to 1967. Rather, peace is unimportant for it. Unlike Israel, Syria does not regard a peace treaty as a stand-alone prize. For a major concession—diplomatic recognition of a Jewish state in what it sees as Greater Syria’s land—the Syrians want a tangible payoff, at least the Golan Heights and Lake Kineret. The Syrians won’t budge on their demands for a simple reason: they don’t need a peace treaty. Unlike the odd Jews who keep imploring for peace after winning three major wars and scores of proxy confrontations, the Syrians are in no rush for peace. Israel is full of crazies who keep pushing the government to sign peace with Syria, but no politician in Syria pushes for peace. When the balance of want is on the Israeli side, it is not surprising that Israel pays the price.

Molokh of Peace

Just how high is the price? Not critical, by any rational measure. Of course, we cannot trust Syrian promises to demilitarize the Golan Heights. Nothing precludes Syria from changing its mind after signing the peace treaty, and Israel won’t be able to do anything about it. The world would not support Israel in breaking the peace treaty if we attacked Syria over re-militarizing the heights, just like the world stood idle over the re-militarization of Rhineland, or Sinai in 1967. Rationalist thought is primitive: it looks at the final act rather than the complex chain of actions that led to it. By attacking Syria over the re-militarization of the Golans, Israel will be branded an enemy of peace, just as the world branded us when we preempted in 1967. Syria, like Egypt in 1967, would be scolded at most for violating a treaty.

On the other hand, the Syrian militarization of the Golan Heights is not a significant threat to Israel. We would know all the installations there and would be able to destroy them in the opening minutes of a war. Terrorist shootings would be unlikely: Syria has no history of staging terrorist attacks against Israel from its own territory, but only through intermediaries. The loss of the early warning stations would be painful, but something like the American X-band radar in the Negev would compensate for the loss.

The only reason to object to returning the Golan Heights and giving away half of Lake Kineret is irrational, though irrationality makes it no less real. The loss would be extremely painful to Israeli morale. Sinai has been ours for only twelve years, and very few Israelis have ventured there. Gaza, Judea, and Samaria are important only to a right-wing minority. The Golan Heights’ case is entirely different: the land has been with us for more than four decades. It is a perfectly “leftist” place, where even peace junkies from Tel Aviv go to ski and trek. It is a towering landmark, not like the jerkwater sand dunes of Gaza. Three generations of Israelis have grown up with a firm understanding that the Golan Heights are “ours.” Abandoning the heights would deal an across-the-board blow to Israeli nationalism, tearing at the conscience of the right and left alike. And for nothing. Begin, at least, gave up Sinai to stop major wars. That was a crime, a strategic stupidity, an act of treason—but sensible nonetheless. No comparable excuse exists in the case of Syria, which cannot fight Israel even with Iranian support.

A similar situation holds for the Palestinians. Their leaders have climbed a high tree by demanding Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and 100 percent of Judea and Samaria. Unless an exceptionally popular wise leader or an exceptionally strong authoritarian ruler arises, no Palestinian politician can climb down from that tree. Israeli politicians have known the terms since the Oslo negotiations, and only keep postponing the discussion. Unless we plan to annex the territories and expel the natives, there is no basis for a peace treaty with the Palestinians, short of giving in to their demands. Like Syrians, they enjoy the status quo. Palestinians have sovereign rights without sovereign obligations. They do not have to feed themselves, but thrive on international aid and massive theft from Israel. They do not need to guard their borders or crack down on their militants—their Israeli enemy does it for them. They enjoy unhindered control over most of Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem, and practically possess the Temple Mount. At the same time, they remain at the forefront of international attention through their conflict with their Jewish occupiers. Life is good for them. If they are to sign peace treaty and fall into obscurity, it must offer them improvements over their current situation.

First, the West Bank Palestinians want to avoid being swarmed by refugees. Jewish distaste for the Palestinian residents of refugee camps is nothing like the hatred other Palestinians feel toward them. When Sharon tried to dissolve the Gazan criminal enterprise by resettling some refugees in the West Bank, local villagers drove them out. A million and a half refugees cannot be absorbed into West Bank society. Even if UNRWA builds them new camps there, there still would not be enough jobs—nor could they take any jobs after having lived on foreign aid for four generations. So the Palestinians insist on resettling their refugees elsewhere.

Nor can the Palestinians accept any compromise on Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Why would they give up their control over those places? If we Jews want a peace treaty with a defeated terrorist no-nation, then paying for it with our holiest place is the only option. The move is not unthinkable. Far from it, it is silently accepted by every Israeli politician of note. The demagogs procrastinate because they do not want to go down in history as having abandoned Jerusalem to Palestinian Arabs. Is giving away places so important to Jews impossible? Not at all. Israel gave away Hebron with its Cave of the Patriarchs—a site holier than the Western Wall, a mere support structure. Schem with its Joseph Tomb, and Bethlehem, with the Tomb of Rachel—they are in Palestinian hands. Sinai, with its Mount Horev, where Jews received the law, was returned to Egypt. In practical terms, Sinai’s oil wells and Gaza’s gas field are no less important than any district of Jerusalem—yet they were given away. And what is so important for Jews about Jerusalem’s Arab districts? There is no question that short of expelling the Arabs, we’re better off divesting from their villages and refugee camps, which are foolishly attached to Jerusalem municipality. It is better to have them behind the wall than in our capital; cheaper, too.

Qualms about partitioning the Old City smell of missed history classes in secondary school. The Old City is not old—it is an Ottoman structure. Its walls are laid out arbitrarily, with no connection to the city’s ancient borders. If antiquity is of any importance, then yes, Israel must uproot the entire Arab quarters—Jewish, too—and dig for the First Temple’s layer. Unfortunately, only the layer is to be found there, not the Temple.

As for the Temple Mount, we’re better off giving it away. That seems counter-intuitive, yes, but it is true. It is a lesser sin for Jews to give it away than to refuse to build the Third Temple there. The rabbis who wait for the supernaturally built temple and ban Jews from ascending the mount will also sigh with relief once the place is out of our reach.

Israel does not need peace treaties with Syria or the Palestinians. Such treaties harm the Jews greatly while offering no corresponding advantage. If, however, the decision to sign them is made, the government should not kill the nation with the death of a thousand cuts. Do it quickly.