Golan Heights: America Is Getting Better at Undermining International Law

The U.S. president Donald Trump has recently signed a proclamation to officially recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory, an area measuring seven hundred square miles. The move can be seen as another big blow by America to international law which sees the territory as part of Syria while rejecting Israel’s occupation and control of the Golan Heights. However, Trump seems to be in no mood to cooperate with the international community that the land does not belong to the Jewish nation. He continues to support Israel even at the cost of peace and stability in the Middle East, further fanning the flames of the unending war between Palestine and Israel.

Trump’s pro- Israel policy got exposed fully in 2018 when he recognized the entire Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. There was international uproar, and strong protests were held in Palestine against the unilateral measure, but Trump remained unmoved. The president’s reputation and goodwill among the Jewish community, at the domestic and the global level, reached heights. Although his decision shuttered the hopes of freedom and restoration of rights of the Palestinian people, Trump has continued to support and strengthen Israel.

What has encouraged the US president is the lack of opposition against the move within America though the country projects itself as the defender of international norms. A reasonable percentage of American people seem to be happy with Trump’s way of handling the Middle Eastern situation, in particular, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Even the Democratic Party, which is otherwise a severe critic of Trump’s decisions, has preferred silence this time around, signaling that it and the ruling party are on the same page when it comes to helping Israel.

Ever since Trump took office, US administration has been following a foreign policy of supporting those countries in the Middle East which toe its line and strongly taking on those which do not. That is why, Iran and Syria ( both do not align with the US Interests) are seen as key adversaries by America while Israel and some other countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seen as key allies. Supporting Israel also acts as a tool against the adversaries. In pursuance to that policy, Golan Heights, otherwise recognized by the UN as Syria’s territory, has been gifted to Israel.

The Golan Heights had been an Ottoman territory before Britain and France shared the Middle Eastern region between them during World War I. Israel captured the Heights during the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed it in 1981. Though the United Nations as well as the international community has never recognized the annexation, Trump has overstepped the UN resolutions to recognize the territory as part of Israel.

In accordance with the Security Council Resolution 497, ‘the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect’. The annexation also breaks Resolution 242 under which there is ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.’

Meanwhile, gifting Golan Heights to Israel can be seen as a blessing to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. The rightwing politician had smelt a loss of reputation following corruption charges against him, before the general elections this month. However, Trump’s proclamation has brightened his chances of gaining public sympathy and support. That is why, he was seen alongside Trump when the latter signed the proclamation. Now Mr. Netanyahu is likely to gain overt or covert electoral support  by propagating the issue of Golan Heights and projecting himself as the guardian of Israeli national security.

Back home, Trump will also win support and vote of the pro-Israel lobby and the electorate at the presidential elections due in 2020. From the perspective of electoral gains, it seems that Trump may declare the whole West bank as Israeli territory in near future. That will not only satisfy the hawkish Israelis but will project Trump as the most pro-Israel president in American history. All this will raise his winning prospectus at the next presidential race.

A question arises: how will Golan Heights help Israel? The question is easy to answer: the region will enable it to keep a close watch on the low lying areas of Syria and Israel. This military and strategic advantage can strengthen Israel and give it an edge over its regional rivals.

Besides, the region is a source of oil and water. Now Israel can sell this oil to the US market as there will be no legal boundaries following Trump’s recognition of the region as Israeli territory. One-third of Israel’s  need of water is fulfilled by the rich water resources of the Golan Heights.

Though the Trump declaration met international criticism, there has been no change in the US unilateral decision. Russia, Iran, Turkey, the other Arab countries and the European countries- all have rejected the move. But to no avail on the ground level, making their statements against the declaration a mere academic exercise. America’s blank check to Israel is allowing it to showcase its strength in the region through diplomatic and military prowess.

In return, Israel is getting gifts from the US. First Jerusalem and now Golan Heights have easily fallen into its fold, global condemnation and the aspirations of the Arabs notwithstanding.

As long as America continues to employ its policy of double standard to deal with the Middle Eastern countries, peacelessness and destabilization will overtake the region. Israel will be more assertive and aggressive against its rivals: Iran and Syria while freedom and hopes of the Palestinian people are likely to remain elusive.

Image: Ingfbruno [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Geopolitics.

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