Secretary of State dodges question when asked if Biden administration recognizes Israeli sovereignty, calling it a “legal question.”
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that while the Golan Heights “is very important to Israel’s security,” the Biden administration considered the issue a “legal question” that was not currently on their agenda.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Blinken dodged a direct answer as to whether the Biden administration would continue to see the strategic plateau as part of Israel after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the area that was captured from Syria in 1967.
The vague response by the secretary of state which could be perceived as a retreat from the Trump administration’s clear-cut recognition of Israel sovereignty drew a swift response from the Israeli prime minister’s office.
“Israel’s position is clear. In any future possible scenario the Golan will remain Israeli,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Blinken admitted that the Golan was critical to Israel’s strategic position. “Look, leaving aside the legalities of that question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” he said.
“As long as Assad is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself – all of these pose a significant security threat to Israel, and as a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security.”
However, Blinken suggested the legal issue of Israeli sovereignty was still open for debate despite Trump’s recognition. “Legal questions are something else. And over time, if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we’d look at. But we are nowhere near as that,” Blinken said.
About 50,000 people live on the Golan Heights, split roughly evenly between Jews and Druze. Captured from Syria during the Six Day War, the Heights were the scene of fierce battles during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. By an act of parliament, Israel applied its laws to the area in 1981, effectively annexing the territory.
With Syria collapsing in the face of the decade-long civil war there, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the territory in March 2019.
While that decision was quickly condemned by Arab states, the promised opposition in the ‘Arab street’ never materialized, just as it hadn’t when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
A year later, Trump presided over the signing of the Abraham Accords that by the end of his administration had led to four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.