President Donald Trump announced via Twitter his move to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. He made the decision official at a signing ceremony on March 26 during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit.
The decision comes amid the Attorney General Avichai Mandelbit’s decision to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges and Israel’s early elections scheduled for April 9.
What is the Golan Heights?
The Golan Heights is a disputed territory located between Israel and Syria and bordering Lebanon and Jordan. It is one of four territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. The 1967 war was a decisive victory for Israel, which in addition to the Golan Heights, captured the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Since the end of the war, both Syria and Israel have claimed the region as part of their country. In 1981, the Golan Heights was officially annexed by Israel.
However, Israel was supposed to return the occupied territories it had acquired in the conflict, as stipulated in the 1967 UN Resolution 242 issued on Nov. 22, about five months after the war. Out of the four territories captured, only the Sinai Peninsula was ever returned. This resolution also stipulated “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” thus making the continued occupations and Trump’s decision illegal under international law.
After 52 years of Israeli occupation and eight years since the situation in Syria devolved into civil war, Trump made the recent change in United States policy due to the Golan being of “critical strategic and security importance” to Israel, as stated on his Twitter.
However, the decision comes at a critical time for Netanyahu, who is embroiled in corruption charges and is vying to continue as prime minister for a fifth term. Aluf Benn of Haaretz commented in his analysis of the decision, stating “today was Netanyahu’s day, with no partners. Trump’s friend Bibi [Netanyahu’s nickname] is standing for reelection, dogged by investigations and submarines.”
Additionally, in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, human rights attorney Noura Erakat denounced the claim Trump’s decision was tied to security due to the presence of some 20,000 Israeli settlers. Whether Israeli sovereignty over the Golan will provide increased security remains to be seen.