While Washington boasts about an unprecedented level of relations with Tel Aviv, Israel is reportedly seeking to seize upon the moment to secure recognition for its sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
“We now have the best US-Israeli relationship in our history,” US National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a joint press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also said that Washington is “determined” to keep it that way because the two nations need a “strong bond” and “strong leadership” in increasingly tumultuous times for security.
With @AmbJohnBolton this eve. Tomorrow, if weather permits, we’ll go up to the Golan Heights, an area that is tremendously important for Israel’s security. Israel will never leave the Golan Heights. It is important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. pic.twitter.com/dbioDAzI7c
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 6, 2019
Washington would do its best to provide security to Israel and its other “friends in the region,” Bolton told Netanyahu. “I would just say to any nation whether in this region or not in this region that has any doubt about America’s support for Israel’s self-defense: you’d better think about it again,” he said.
The US has recently indeed gone to some extraordinary lengths to assure Tel Aviv of its continuous support. Less than a week ago, the US State Secretary Mike Pompeo also reaffirmed to Netanyahu that the US would still stand by Israel’s side and its commitment to the “protection” of the Jewish State remains unchanged despite its planned pullout from the neighboring Syria.
Notably, the first bill to be rolled out by the US Senate in 2019 aims at protecting Israel from boycotts. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv apparently sees the present situation as a good moment to further its interests and particularly to solidify its grip over the Golan Heights it seized from Syria back in 1967.
“The Golan Heights are tremendously important for our security,” Netanyahu said during the press conference, adding that Israel “will never leave” the area. He then went even further and said that “it is important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” and that he had already discussed the matter with Trump.
Some media reports suggested that the Israeli prime minister indeed openly asked the US president to recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and not just once. However, Washington seemed to be reluctant to address this issue as of yet.
While the Golan Heights have been internationally seen as occupied ever since Israel seized this territory, it is not unrealistic to expect recognition from the current US administration. In November 2018, the US already rejected a symbolic UN resolution calling on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights for the first time ever.
Even though the resolution still passed with 151 votes in favor, 14 abstentions and only two votes against it – from the US and Israel itself – the move still was met with thunderous applause in Tel Aviv. “Israel will remain forever on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will forever remain in our hands,” Netanyahu said at that time.
In December 2018, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton introduced a draft resolution to the Senate, which encouraged the US to officially recognize the status-quo in the area. “Israel gained possession over the Golan Heights in a defensive war over 50 years ago, and has responsibly controlled the area ever since. It’s past time for the United States to recognize reality by affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the text of the resolution said.
The Trump administration is no stranger to controversy when it comes to Israel. In one of its most contentious moves, Washington recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, provoking a wave of indignation, particularly in the Middle East.
Months following the move, US ambassador David Friedman actually hinted that Washington might recognize Israel’s claims over the Golans as well.
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