President Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights is a presidential twofer. It represents a long-overdue step toward adjusting our policy to the strategic realities. Plus, too, it spotlights here at home a political tragedy — namely that the Democratic Party is decamping from Israel’s cause in an effort to appease its own left-wing factions. Mr. Trump wins on both counts.
It would be a mistake to make too much of this. The Golan question is not in the same league as, say, the Jerusalem embassy. Moving the embassy had been enacted into law by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress (the vote was 374 to 37 in the House and 93 to five in the Senate). In moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Mr. Trump was bowing to an American law others shrank from enforcing.
Yet it would also be a mistake to make too little of Mr. Trump’s move on the Golan. The smell of cordite was still over the Heights when, shortly after they were liberated in June 1967, we toured them. Everyone who has done so instantly came to appreciate their military significance. So long as any war is being levied against the Jewish state, it would be folly to even think of abandoning them.
Israel, led by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, moved to impose its civil law on the Golan in 1981. President Reagan was widely reported to be furious, though we have our doubts. Our own estimate is that if America had swung robustly behind Begin’s move, Syria might exist as a country today and conceivably — a long shot, but conceivably — could have been at peace with Israel.
That hope may yet be spurred by Mr. Trump’s move. This was marked in a particularly shrewd cable from Israel by Shmuel Rosner in the New York Times. “Trump Has Liberated Israel,” is the headline. “The president’s announcement on the Golan Heights will finally free us from the ‘land for peace’ formula that none of us believe in anyway.” He sketches the hope that a future Syria leader will join in finding a new peace formula.
Mr. Trump, in any event, has moved this question in the right direction in strategic terms. In domestic political terms, his démarche will illuminate the tragedy of the Democrats since the accession of President Obama. On Israel, the party leadership — Speaker Pelosi, Senator Schumer, the Clintons, Vice President Biden — have become trapped like deer in the headlights of the rising left-wing factions.
There is already legislation perking in Congress to do for the Golan something akin to what the Congress did for the Jerusalem embassy in 1995. The measure — sponsored in the Senate by Ted Cruz and in the House by Michael Gallagher of Wisconsin — would put Congress behind Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan and give statutory support for Mr. Trump’s move.
Yet we are told that not a single Democrat in either the Senate or the House has gotten behind this legislation. What a shocking contrast to the Jerusalem Embassy legislation. It’s not, in our estimation, that Senator Schumer, say, lacks for an appreciation of Israel. It’s that he and others are scared of the party’s rising left wing and how Israel will play with the Party’s emerging base.
They’re even shrinking from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some Democratic lawmakers will speak at Aipac’s annual parley starting Sunday. Yet Politico reports that “not one top-tier Democratic presidential candidate” will attend and that Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders “had no problem confirming” that they “would be skipping the gathering.”
What a cowardly lot. It’s of a piece with the Democratic House’s unwillingness to back an undiluted bill opposing anti-Semitism. There was a time — 1948 — when one gutsy Democrat could stand up in the face of the whole world and recognize the Jewish State. That legacy will be lost to the Democrats unless they find a leader who is prepared to show that kind of courage in our time.