Trump Heights A Place to Call Home

A rather fascinating recent announcement by the Israeli government shows just how tight the relationship is between Washington and Tel Aviv and the Trump and Netanyahu Adminstrations in particular.

Here is the announcement from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office:

With the Trump Administration proclaiming that Israel had the right to exercise sovereignty over the Golan Heights back in March 2019, land which was a part of Syria until the 1967 Six-Day War, this is not a terribly surprising development.  This announcement made the United States stand out as the only nation in the world (outside of Israel) to publicly recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan.  

In case that wasn't enough to make you gag, here is a video showing the ceremony:

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Let's take a quick look at some background.  Here is a map showing the evolution of the Golan and its ownership:

Ownership of the Golan gives Israel a strategic military advantage; they now hold the high ground, preventing Syrian forces from shelling Israeli settlements in the Hula Valley, a strategy that Syria used to its advantage in the 1967 Six-Day War.  As the map also shows, the Golan borders on the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Kinneret), a freshwater lake that is a key water resource for Israel.  Prior to its annexation, the 1949 border left Syria in control of the east bank of the Sea of Galilee as well as all tributaries that fed into the body of water.  

In 1981, the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin annexed the Golan Heights, installing Israeli civil administration.  This was in direct transgression of the United Nations Security council Resolution 242 passed in November 1967 clearly stated that Israel was to withdraw from the territories that it occupied following the Six-Day War as shown on this map:

In 1981, the United Nations Security Council also passed Resolution 497 which states the following:

"The Security Council, having considered the letter of 14 December 1981 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic contained in document S/14791,

Reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law, and relevant Security Council resolutions,

1. Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;

2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;

3. Determines that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since June 1967;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution within two weeks and decides that in the event of non-compliance by Israel, the Security Council would meet urgently, and not later than 5 January 1982, to consider taking appropriate measures in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. (my bolds)

Interestingly, in 2010, it was revealed that the Netanyahu government (among other Israeli governments in the past) was in the process of negotiating a U.S.-brokered withdrawal from the Golan Heights.  Netanyahu was willing to withdraw to the 1949 line in exchange for Bashar-al Assad's pledge to break his ties with both Iran and Hezbollah.  Once March 2011 rolled around and the Arab Spring hit Syria, all talks between Israel and Syria were halted, particularly when it became apparent that Assad had no intention of breaking off relations with Iran.

Now that the United States has agreed to the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel (not to mention the ego-boosting presidential name attached to a settlement) without any referendum of any type for the fifty thousand people about half of whom are Syrian Druze who still remain after the forcible displacement in 1967, it is interesting to see how this situation is somehow viewed as different than the "annexation" of Crimea by Russia after a referendum that overwhelmingly approved its separation from Ukraine.  Somehow, if Israel does it, it's always acceptable in the eyes of Washington.

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