Israeli control of the Golan wins growing bipartisan congressional support

Democratic House leader’s backing for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan follows a Republican-sponsored bill supporting the move.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Amid ongoing clashes across the Israeli-Syrian border, U.S. Congressional support for Israel’s control over the Golan Heights crossed the political aisle with the backing of  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland.

In December, Republican Senators Ted Cruz (Texas) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas) introduced a bill urging U.S. recognition of  Israeli sovereignty over the Heights.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 war. In 1981, the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law, extending Israel’s “laws, jurisdiction, and administration” to the territory.  However, the law was not recognized internationally and, in fact, was immediately determined ″null and void and without international legal effect″ by U.N. Security Council Resolution 497, which was adopted a few days after the Knesset’s passage of the new law.

Israeli-Syrian negotiations over the years have produced Israeli offers to withdraw from the Heights. In the 1990s, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government coined a formula that stated that the depth of the withdrawal would be determined by the depth of the diplomatic relations which Damascus would be willing to establish with the Jewish state. The presumed conclusion of such a formula was that Israel would hand over the entire area if Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad agreed to full diplomatic relations.

Even the exact boundary is a point of contention as the international border is not located at the same spot as the boundary that existed immediately prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

Before that war, Israelis living below the Golan were the targets of Syrian sniper fire.

With the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, many Israeli observers breathed a sigh of relief that Israel had never handed over the Heights.

In recent years, Iran has increased its military presence in Syria, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop Tehran’s entrenchment there.

Over the past week, Iranian-Israeli tensions have risen even further with air strikes across the Syrian-Israeli border.

At a U.N. Security Council debate last Tuesday, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari declared that “restoring the occupied Syrian Golan by all means possible… is a principled right for the Syrian Arab Republic,” adding that “it is not subject to negotiation.”

Jewish Insider, which covers “U.S. politics and business news with a Jewish angle,” says that in response to an inquiry about the status of the Golan Heights, Hoyer’s spokesperson said that the congressman believes that “Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights.”

The resolution presented by Cruz and Cotton states that “the United States should recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

In light of the serious divisions prevalent in the U.S. Congress, even on various issues concerning Israel, the support of the Democratic Majority Leader in the House of Representatives on the matter of the Golan is considered significant.