Israel-Syria Strife: Key Moments in Their Troubled Relationship

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 07:40 PM

By Angela Deines

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The relationship between Israel and neighboring Syria is a contentious one, with the two countries in a state of war since 1948.

The turmoil between them dates back even farther, to the 1920s, and largely exists because of territorial disputes over water rights in Jordan Valley.

A treaty signed in 1926 kept the turmoil between Israel and Syria at bay until 1948, when the two were at odds in the Arab-Israeli War, but an agreement put in place in 1949 created a demilitarized zone between them.

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In 1967, war broke out between the two countries over control of the Golan Heights area. In the end, "Israeli forces secured the demilitarized zone in its entirety and drove Syrian forces off the high ground of the Golan plateau," said a United States Institute of Peace special report.

The negotiations to achieve peace between the two countries have centered on this region east of Israel and the Sea of Galilee and west of Syria.

“Through much of 2008, Israeli and Syrian diplomats discussed — with the assistance of Turkey — terms for ending the state of war that has existed between them since 1948. Although the talks have been suspended due to fighting in the Gaza Strip, the parties indirectly discussed how, in the context of a formal peace treaty, the Israeli conquest of June 1967 might be undone in ways that satisfy the core interests of each side,” the 2009 report said.

Since then, there have been a number of key events that continue to shape the relationship that Israel and Syria have today.

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• Israel first captured the Golan Heights in 1967 from Syria. Six years later, Syria attempted to get back the territory Druse Arabs and Israelis are calling home. A year later, the two countries signed a peace agreement that established a demilitarized zone on the eastern edge of the Golan Heights that is patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers.

• In 1981, the Golan Heights territory was annexed by Israel, but the move wasn’t recognized by the international community. Ten years passed until Middle East peace negotiations begin in Madrid with talks continuing for another five years between Israel and Syria. Those talks yielded little progress.

• To make matters worse, in 1996, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres initiated negotiations breaking down after Palestinian suicide bombers attacked Israel. The U.S. stepped in, attempting to mediate talks between Israel and Syria three years later, but those negotiations weren’t successful, either.

• In 2007, Turkey was brought into the negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convinced Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to help with the talks between Syria and Israel. Later that year, airstrikes by Israel were made on Syria, specifically in an area where there was an unfinished nuclear reactor believed to have been built with the assistance of the North Koreans. That is an accusation that Syria denied.

• The following year, Prime Minister Olmert let Syrian President Bashar al-Assad know that as part of a peace treaty, Israel would be willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights.

• In 2000, Syria and Israel attempted peace talks again in West Virginia. However, those negotiations broke down when Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he didn’t have the support from his country to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the extent that Syria wanted.

• In June of this year, 10 Syrian military troops were killed an army command center was struck by Israeli air strikes in Golan Heights.

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