Trump’s Golan Heights tweet in context
Israel, on June 5, 1967, initiated a war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, describing it as a “preemptive” strike against an impending attack by Egypt — which US intelligence determined was in fact non-existing at the time.
On June 6 UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 233 (1967) calling for a ceasefire. Egypt and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire on June 8, and at 3 a.m. on June 9 Syria announced its acceptance of the ceasefire. Despite this announcement, Israeli commander Dayan, taking no account of the UN ceasefire resolution, gave the order to go into action against Syria. On the next day, June 10, Israeli units stopped after completing the final offensive in the Golan Heights. Israel signed the ceasefire the day after, on June 11.
In a related maneuver, on June 8 Israel also attacked the USS Liberty, which was parked nearby in international waters. This attack killed 34 American servicemen and wounded 174.
This delay by Israel in accepting the UN brokered ceasefire underlines the importance of the Golan Heights to Israel.
Israel expelled 130,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights in 1967 and then, in violation of international law, annexed it on Dec. 14, 1980 and immediately moved Jewish settlers and businesses there. There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers.
In December1981, a Security Council resolution called the annexation null and void, “without international legal effect.”
Ignoring all this, on March 21of this year, Trump tweeted that it was time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He mentioned “critical strategic and security importance” of Golan Heights to Israel. On Monday, March 25, he signed a decree to that effect.
What is overlooked is that acquiring by force any territory, even one that is of strategic and security importance, is unlawful under international law.
Also, not mentioned is the fact that the area is a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply. Golan Heights is the source of the River Jordan.
Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights is meaningless. It obviously has only two purposes: to help Israeli PM Netanyahu who, under cloud of being indicted for criminal offenses, is fighting a tough election battle to be re-elected prime minister; and to strengthen his own base, supporters of Israel, particularly American Jews and Christian Evangelicals, in preparation for his own bid to get reelected in 2020.
His decision has had no effect on how the rest of the world thinks about it.
The 15 members of UN Security Council met openly a few days after Trump’s declaration to discuss the situation and the view of the council remains unchanged by US recognition.
The French representative to the UN, Francois Delattre, told an emergency session of the UN Security Council that peace in the Middle East can only succeed within parameters agreed to by the international community.
“It is true on every key issue and for the situation in the Golan in particular,” Delattre said. He cautioned against the temptation to turn one’s back on “the agreed framework” and warned the temptation to pursue a unilateral path is fraught with danger.
Russia’s deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov took up the refrain. “If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law.”
British ambassador Karen Pierce said, “It is our position that the Golan Heights is territory occupied by Israel. Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter. We emphasize the importance of adhering to a rules-based international system and abiding by UN resolutions, which are designed to protect that system.”
Concerns were voiced by France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland about “consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences.”
And so it went. Support for Syria’s sovereignty was solid. It once again left the US isolated on its Israel policy.
Outside the UN, Arab states condemned US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights
Worse, the danger warned by the French representative already looms. Trump’s declaration is the latest US step to fuel anger in the region, both in states that are hostile to Israel and others that have relations with it. And Syria has vowed to recover Golan Heights in light of Trump’s words.
Gulamhusein A. Abba is a retired journalist and a resident of Danbury.