Majdal Shams First Plan

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Name of a plan for withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Golan Heights proposed in 1994 by Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as a prelude to a potential Syrian-Israeli peace treaty.

Based on a partial withdrawal spread over three years, this plan provided for the return of all five of the Druze villages occupied by Israel since 1967, including the important Druze locality of Majdal Shams—thereby testing the security accords that would have been signed with Syria. This plan also provided for setting up a military early-warning system, which would have involved the participation of the United States.

Negotiations began later that year in Washington and continued through early 1996. The Syrians took the consistent position that only a complete withdrawal was acceptable, although they appeared to be flexible about the timing. In February and March of 1996 there was a series of suicide bombings in Israel carried out by Islamist fanatics; and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who had taken office after Rabin was assassinated in November 1995 by a Jewish fanatic, broke off negotiations with Syria. Peres faced a strong challenge in the upcoming Israeli elections from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud opposed any Israeli withdrawal from occupied land. There were no further negotiations while Netanyahu was in office.

SEE ALSO Golan Heights;Israeli-Syrian Negotiations, 1994–2000;Likud;Netanyahu, Benjamin;Peres, Shimon;Rabin, Yitzhak.