Recent testimony by Central Intelligence Agency officials to Congress made the case that Syria, with apparent help from North Korea, had been preparing to join the nuclear club. On Sept. 6, 2007, Israel's correct grasp of anticipatory self-defense put an end to these activities.
If official "peace" talks were reopened, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be risking nothing. But Israel's risks would be substantial. Israeli control of the Golan Heights is still needed for deterrence against a coordinated attack. Continued control is also critical to secure Israel's supply of drinking water.
Prime Minister Olmert is confident that giving up the Golan could be the best way to induce Syria to make peace with Israel. This means that he must also believe that Syria, as a diplomatic quid pro quo, would be willing to relinquish its ties to Iran and assorted Islamist terror groups. But these beliefs would be based upon a naive legalism. More plausibly, perhaps, Olmert's position is based on certain domestic political motives.
Olmert's incorrect reasoning lies ultimately in the critical limits of guarantees in our anarchic world. International law is not a suicide pact. Still lacking a central authority with real power to keep recalcitrant states in line, our world legal order permits each country an inherent right of self-defense.