Majdal Shams Local Council • מועצה מקומית מג'דל שמס • مجدل شمس
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin last week dismissed the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the feverish closing days of the 1967 war, astank land, not holy land.He is ready to give the land back for peace, but wants to withdraw over four years to test his new partner's good faith. President Hafez al-Assad of Syria thinks 18 months should be long enough.
The American secretary of state, Warren Christopher, has kick-started their stalled negotiations by persuading Damascus to give Israel's security concerns first priority. He will be back in the Middle East this month trying to narrow the differences.
The quickening diplomacy has revived the hopes and fears of the 15,000 Druze and 12,000 Jews who live on the Heights in four villages and 32 settlements, respectively. The Druze, a defiant mountain sect that broke away from Islam in the 11th century, are still Syrian citizens, even though Israel annexed the plateau in 1981.
A tiny minority have become Israeli citizens. Everyone knows somebody with an Israeli passport, but no one will admit to being one of them. Israeli officials estimate that 300 might leave the Golan villages and settle in Galilee for fear of being branded collaborators. The Druze put their number at no more than 50.