January 10, 2000
Seven days of peace talks between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara in Shepherdstown, West Virginia closed without any resolution.
The talks, in which President Clinton was often present, focused on the possibility that Israel would return some or all of the Golan Heights to Syria for a normal and lasting peace treaty between the two nations. Israel’s foreign Minister David Levy said the two sides “did not even get close” to reaching an agreement regarding the Golan or any of the other issues facing them.
In the June 1967 War (See: https://israeled.org/june-1967-war/), Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, later annexing the territory in 1981 (see: https://israeled.org/golan-heights-law/). This strategic piece of land, which both borders the Kinneret, Israel’s largest fresh Water source, and creates a buffer zone between Israel and Syria, is of great value to both parties. Clinton thus realized the sizeable challenges he faced in getting the two sides to even come close to a resolution.
As the talks were concluding, a rally of approximately 100,000 Israelis took place in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the possibility of Israel returning the Golan Heights. Israeli’s expressed that territory was far too important to give up, even if it meant a peace deal between the two historically warring countries.
Another round of talks was scheduled to begin on January 19, but were postponed and never resumed.
Photo Credit: From left to right: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Bill Clinton and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.