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Golan Heights

GOLAN HEIGHTS

A mountainous plateau important militarily as well as for its water resources.

Situated between south Lebanon, south Syria, and northern Israel, the Golan Heights (in Arabic, al Jawlan ) have an average altitude of 3,300 feet (1,000 m) and they cover an area of approximately 700 square miles (1,800 sq km). Their north-south length is 40 miles (65 km) and their east-west dimension varies between 7 to 15 miles (12 to 25 km). Elevations range from 6,500 feet (2,000 m) in the north, to below sea level along the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and the Yarmuk River in the south.

The word Golan seems to be related to the Arabic verb jala (to circulate or wander about) and to the word ajwal, meaning an area that is exposed to dusty winds. After the death of Herod the Great in 4 b.c.e., the Golan must have been given to his son Herod Antipas (died after 39 c.e.), governor of Galilee and Peraea (land east of the Jordan River). The Golan flourished during this period. A large number of towns emerged, including Seleucia, Sogane, and Gamla.

After the defeat of the Byzantine Empire, at the Yarmuk River, all of Syria, including the Golan, ultimately fell into the hands of Muslim Arabs (633640). After the Umayyads (661750), the area fell to the Seljuk Turks, Saladin, the Mongols, the Mamluks, and the Crusaders. It was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until the end of World War I, and, in 1920, France received a League of Nations mandate over modern Syria including the Golan.

Between 1948 and 1967, the struggle between Israel and Syria over their demilitarized border zone

was a principal reason behind the ArabIsrael (SixDay) War of 1967, which ended in Israel capturing the Golan Heights. At the end of the war, the Israeli army was stationed about 22 miles (35 km) from Damascus, while the Syrian army was stationed about 150 miles (250 km) from Tel Aviv. As a result of the IsraelSyria disengagement agreement of the following year, Israel returned to Syria about 40 square miles (100 sq km) of the Golan.

In December 1981, the Likud-led government of Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to the Golan, an action criticized by the Reagan administration and considered "null and void" by resolution 497, unanimously adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 17 December 1981.

Prior to its seizure by Israel, the Golan had a population of approximately 130,000 Syrians living in 139 villages and on 61 farms. By 2003 about 16,000 people remained in five Arab villages. The

Druze constitute the overwhelming majority of the remaining Syrian population. According to some observers, one reason that the Druze community was allowed to remain was the initial assumption by the Israeli government that the Syrian Druze would cooperate with Israel, along with their coreligionists in the Galilee. Efforts were made to encourage the Golanis to acquire Israeli-citizenship identification cards. By 2003 there were more than thirty-five Jewish settlements, with an estimated population of 15,000, in the Golan. Many of these settlements are on the southern approaches above the Sea of Galilee.

In terms of military significance, the Mount Hermon massif (7,300 ft; 2,224 m) in the north is of exceptional geostrategic value because it offers a commanding position overlooking southern Lebanon, the Golan plateau, and much of southern Syria and northern Israel. To the east, a range of volcanic hills offers downhill access to Galilee in the west and to Damascus in the east. To the west, the Golan plateau overlooks Israeli metropolitan centers.

The Golan is also important for its regional water sources. This is particularly true of the area of Mount Hermon, where the headwaters of the Jordan River lie. Additionally, the Baniyas spring, a major Jordan River source, is located on the lower slopes of the Golan, thus enhancing the latter's importance. To the south, the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River constitute two more important regional water sources.

Peace-negotiations, in which the Golan Heights were a crucial component, have been ongoing intermittently between Israel and the regime of the late Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad beginning in 1991 (with representatives of the Likud government in Israel) and later, in 1992, when the late Yitzhak Rabin assumed the Israeli premiership. In 1994 negotiations were held between the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Itamar Rabinovitch, and Walid Mualem, his Syrian counterpart in Washington. In 1994 and in 1995 meetings took place in the United States between General Ehud Barak, the Israeli chief of staff and General Hikmat Shihabi, his Syrian counterpart. The assassination of Prime Minister Rabin created a vacuum, which interrupted any further discussions for some time. Subsequent attempts at renewing the negotiations remained futile.


Bibliography

Cobban, Helena. The IsraeliSyrian Peace Talks, 19911996 and Beyond. Washington, DC: Institute of Peace Press, 1999.

Rabinovich, Itamar. The Brink of Peace: Israel and Syria, 1992 1996. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Schumacher, Gottlieb. The Golan: Survey, Description and Mapping. Jerusalem, 1998.

muhammad muslih
updated by yehuda gradus

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"Golan Heights." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Golan Heights." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/golan-heights

"Golan Heights." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved July 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/golan-heights

Golan Heights

Golan Heights, strategic upland region (2003 est. pop. 10,500), c.500 sq mi (1,250 sq km), SW Syria. It borders S Lebanon, NE Israel, and NW Jordan. It takes its name from the ancient city of Golan and was known as Gaulanitis in New Testament times. It is a rocky plateau overlooking Israel where elevations range from c.6,500 ft (2,000 m) in the north to below sea level along the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and the Yarmuk River in the south. The Golan Heights were fortified and used for artillery attacks on Israel after 1948. The region was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 (see Arab-Israeli Wars) and formally annexed by Israel in 1981, an act that was not recognized internationally. A number of Israeli settlements have been established in the area; the region has become an important source of water for Israel. Ultimate control of the Golan Heights has been a stumbling block to Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

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"Golan Heights." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Golan Heights." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/golan-heights

Golan Heights

Golan Heights (Ramat Ha Golan) Range of hills in sw Syria on the border with Israel. Israel occupied the area in the Six-Day War (1967), and later annexed it. Of great strategic importance to Israel, it remains a source of conflict between the two countries. Area: 1150sq km (444sq mi). Pop. (2000 est.) 14,000.

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Golan Heights

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