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Crime should not pay - that is a maxim of all civilized societies. This is why the law provides punishment for criminals, which should also serve as a deterrent to others who may be contemplating criminal acts. A world in which crime goes unpunished leads directly to the jungle and anarchy. This is equally true for individuals who have committed crimes, as it is for nations that have committed crimes against their neighbors or other nations. Aggression should not be rewarded, it should be punished. It is to be hoped that Saddam Hussein and his admirers have by now learned that lesson.

The accepted rule of international behavior is that a nation committing aggression not be "rewarded" after being defeated, by the return of territories it lost as a result of the war it had started. Violation of this rule is nothing less than an invitation to further aggression.

Nor is it acceptable for the defeated aggressor to make return of the territories it lost a condition for putting an end to the war it started, in other words, demanding "territories for peace." Today's Germany is not demanding the return of territories it lost to Poland in the last world war. Nor is Japan demanding the return of Korea or Manchuria to Japanese control.

Only the case of Israel and its Arab neighbors seems to be different. Egypt attacked Israel four times - in 1948, 1957, 1967 and 1973 - and was defeated four times. Yet it insisted that the Sinai peninsula it lost during these wars of aggression be returned to Egypt. That was Egypt's condition for ending a war Egypt had started. And Israel accepted that condition! No heed was paid to the moral implications of letting the aggressor go unpunished, of rewarding the aggressor. The future implications of setting such a precedent were disregarded.

If Prime Minister Begin hoped that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty would remain in the history books as "the exception that proves the rule" that an aggressor should receive the well-deserved punishment for his crimes, he was mistaken. The mantra of "territories for peace" and "return to the 1967 borders" was born at Camp David in 1977, and has haunted Israel ever since.

Now along comes Syria, which attacked Israel three times: in 1948, 1967 and again in 1973. It was unsuccessful in 1948, and was defeated in 1967 and 1973, losing control of the Golan Heights. For many years now, Syria has been encouraging the Hezbollah terrorists to attack Israel and has harbored Palestinian terrorists in Damascus.

Nevertheless, following in Egypt's footsteps, Syria demands control of territories it lost in wars of aggression, and demands that Israel "return to the 1967 borders." The doctrine of "territories for peace" has by now embedded itself so deeply in the thoughts of people around the world, including many Israelis, that this outrageous demand seems almost reasonable and natural.

People tend to forget that this nonsensical formula has in the past been used by Hitler in 1939, when he declared that he would leave Europe in peace if territories in Poland that Germany lost in World War I were ceded to Germany.

The Syrians make no such demands of the Turks, who in a "land grab" in 1937 annexed the Syrian port of Alexandretta, now Iskanderun, to Turkey. They know only too well what the Turkish response would be. But Israel is known to be a "soft touch." Having given in to Egypt, why should it not also give in to Syria?

In the Golan Heights, just as was the case in the Sinai peninsula, there are no "demographic considerations" to be thrown in our faces. Common sense and the accepted rules of international behavior should determine Israel's response to Bashar Assad's overtures. Sure, we are prepared to negotiate a peace treaty with Syria. But forget about the Golan Heights, and consider yourself lucky if you are not presented with a bill for economic reparations for the damage your aggressive behavior has caused Israel and its citizens over the past 56 years. If you understand that, we shall be happy to sit down and talk. And don't forget, crime does not pay!