US may recognize Israeli control over Golan next week

The U.S. may recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights next week, Israeli and U.S. officials say.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The U.S. may recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights next week, Israeli and U.S. officials say, speaking on condition of anonymity. The announcement would coincide with next week’s scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump.

In yesterday’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, Netanyahu brought up the issue of the Golan in the context of the recent efforts by Iran-proxy Hezbollah to set up a terrorist network on the eastern third of the Heights still controlled by Syria.

“You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” the prime minister said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.”

“I think, for this reason, and many more, it is time that the international community recognizes Israel’s stay on the Golan, and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel,” he said.

Pompeo remained silent on the issue during the meeting.

However, last week, signaling a shift in American thinking, the State Department in its annual human rights report dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from references to the Golan Heights, changing it to the more mild “Israeli-controlled.”

Further evidence that U.S. recognition of Israeli control of the Golan is in the offing was a March 11 visit to the Golan by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Graham toured the area and said, “The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel. My goal is to try to explain this to the [Trump] administration.”

Graham called the prospect of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan “a strategic nightmare” and political “suicide,” citing shared Israeli and American concern over Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria.

Congressional bills

On February 26, following up on an earlier December effort to push for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced companion resolutions in the House and Senate urging the United States to officially recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The companion bills emphasized the strategic importance of Israeli control over the area from threats such as Iran and Hezbollah.

The bills also argued that Israeli control of the Golan is an American interest 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.”

Israel won the Golan Heights in a war with Syria in 1967 and annexed the region in 1981. However, the move has not been recognized by the international community.