“It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria will be an Israeli withdrawal,” says the legislation.
By Jackson Richman, JNS
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States, has come out in support of companion congressional bills to enact into law U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition in March of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“We are supporting these measures on Golan sovereignty,” AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittman told JNS.
The statement by AIPAC came after two sources had told JNS that AIPAC had been opposed to the congressional legislation.
Mr. Wittmann initially declined to reply to JNS on whether the pro-Israel lobbying group is against the bills, only to comment, “We appreciate the action taken by President Trump and all expressions of support by members of Congress.”
Because President Trump’s recognition was done through an executive order, a future president could undo the action. A bill passed into law would set the policy in stone until legislation to undo it would pass and become law.
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced measures in February to establish that it shall be the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The bill emphasizes the strategic importance of Israeli control over the area, which the Jewish State captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, in protecting civilians from threats such as Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel extended its law to the region in 1981, a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
The congressional legislation also states that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria will be an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”
It adds that “it is in the United States national security interest to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights, [and that] the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for its killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Sunnis, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Senate version currently has 23 co-sponsors, all Republican, while the House edition has 51 co-sponsors, also all Republican.
Sens. Cotton and Cruz have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Rep. Gallagher spokesperson Jordan Dunn declined to comment on the matter and referred JNS to AIPAC.
“We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking the historic step of officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This important action sends a powerful message that America stands with Israel as it faces critical security challenges on its northern border,” tweeted AIPAC after the official move.
Israeli officials have reportedly opposed the legislative initiative.
Prior to President Trump officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Israel Hayom reported “that representatives of Israel’s defense establishment have told senior senators that passing the bill into law, at least at the present time, was not ideal.”
But Prime Minister Netanyahu and the overwhelming majority of the Israeli government supported the move, and the prime minister was at the White House at the president’s side as Trump signed the executive order to make the recognition official policy, calling it “historic justice” and a “diplomatic victory.”