Expert: US decision to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel leads to escalation of tensions
Added: (Thu Apr 11 2019)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
The decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights leads to escalation of tension in the Middle East and casts doubt on any prospects for normalizing Arab-Israeli relations. This opinion was expressed by Binoy Kampmark from RMIT University, Melbourne, in his article “The logic of annexation: Israel and the Golan Heights” published in several foreign media.
“The status of the Golan Heights has been a disputed business since the 1949 armistice line hammered out between Syria and Israel. The seven-hundred-square-mile stretch features all gazing vantage points: Jordan to the south, Syria to the east, Lebanon to the north, and Israel to its west,” the article says.
According to the author, the Golan Heights is a unique strategic base, which, in addition to its military advantage, can ensure water security, since the edge of the Golan Heights features the freshwater Sea of Galilee; and the problem of its status has particularly exacerbated with the seizure of the territory by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967.
“The UN Security Council proceeded to pass Resolution 242, calling for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from territories occupied during the conflict and ‘acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries.’ The international lawyers duly fussed over the wording and quibbled over niceties: the issue of ‘secure […] boundaries’ kept plaguing the issue, as Israel refused to budge; translation matters between the French and English versions of the resolution were also seized upon,” Binoy Kampmark says.
However, in his opinion, no international body was going to stop the Israeli push to incorporate the heights and do what it has become so adept at doing: colonising it into new reality.
“The Knesset showed its disdain in 1981 by adopting the Golan Heights Law, passed by 63 votes to 21, which effectively acknowledged that the law, jurisdiction and administration of Israel would be duly extended into the territory. Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s views on Syrian hostility, reflected in the deployment of missiles on Lebanese soil, was also cited as an excuse,” the expert says.
According to him, the recent turn of events centred on the Syrian Civil War renewed interest in the Golan.
“Syria seemed to be collapsing, the Assad regime in dire straits. Iran and Hezbollah came into play. Given the assisting presence of Teheran’s Quds Force, Israel’s strategists have seen a further need to maintain a forward presence, mindful of militants of all persuasion moving through the territory,” Binoy Kampmark says.
Meanwhile, he notes that the position of Israel’s unqualified and foremost ally was, at least notionally, with international reservation on the status of the Golan.
“But that contested state offered another overturned convention for the Trump administration and US foreign policy. On March 21, President Donald Trump decided, via his own chosen, special medium, to claim that, ‘After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s [s]overeignty over the Golan Heights,” the analyst quotes US President.
However, in his opinion, it was not initially clear whether Trump had merely cyber-aired an opinion in an act of spontaneous release or announced a genuine policy shift.
“The US State Department preferred to direct press concerns to the White House; certainty was, for a period, suspended in the scramble for elusive facts,” Binoy Kampmark says.
Meanwhile, according to him, the decision provoked a series of approving comments from the representatives of the American political elite. Thus, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jerusalem, welcomed this step as historic and brave, while National Security adviser John Bolton expressed confidence that the sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights will allow countries to “fight common threats together.”
“Unsurprisingly, for Bolton, there was no reference to the body of international norms he has come to regard as absent,” the expert says.
In his opinion, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convinced by Trump’s meditations, revealing that the White House had been most accommodating towards a shift.
“Trump had ‘made history.’ Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights had been recognized, and there was no better time than now, ‘when Iran is trying to use the Golan Heights as a platform for the destruction of Israel.’ But in addition to the security justification came the old sinister and stretched notions of exclusive, lengthy habitation. ‘Jews lived there for thousands of years and the people of Israel have come back to the Golan’,” Binoy Kampmark says.
In his opinion, it all comes as a measure of grades. However, over time, the attrition might convince; international opposition would melt away.
“The Golan-based human rights group Al-Marsad is gloomy about Syrians in the area, seeing the existential demise of its residents. “Syrians in the occupied Golan face calculated Israeli efforts to restrict their building and land use, destroy their enterprise, cleanse their Arab culture, manipulate their Syrian identity, and suffocate their freedom of movement,” the analyst says.
“The Trump decision, similarly to its stance on East Jerusalem, tilts the head of US foreign policy away from the basic principles of peace and security embedded in the UN Charter, as weak a document as it has proven to be over the years. It will also further muddy the waters with the Assad regime, ever keen to restore order as the bloody civil war painstakingly comes to a close. And as for the issue of Arab-Israeli peace? Forget it. Boots, construction and missiles are proving far more effective than diplomatic advances,” Binoy Kampmark concludes.