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International Relations

US Recognition to Golan Heights as Israel’s Territory

  • 23 Mar 2019
  • 4 min read

U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that the US may recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

  • The U.S. will be the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan and marks a dramatic shift in U.S. policy.
  • The Golan Heights were captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 conflict and annexed in 1981 — a move not recognized internationally.

US Stand & Israel's Response

  • The U.S. has said that Israel could not give up the Golan Heights as doing so would endanger Israel’s very existence.
  • Israel has welcomed the US stand.

Other countries Response

  • The Syrian government said the Golan was an “indivisible” part of Syrian territory and recovering it “via all means guaranteed by international law is still a priority”.
  • Russia, Iran, and Turkey have condemned the US statement as illegal and unacceptable and said that the decisions will lead to a crisis in the region.

Impact of Withdrawal

  • The formal recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan doesn't change anything on the ground. Israel already has a considerable military presence in the region.
  • It is not immediately clear how the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Golan might be affected by the U.S. move.

Golan Heights

  • The Golan Heights is a rocky plateau with an area of 1,800km² on the border between Israel and Syria in south-western Syria.

Dispute

  • Israel occupied the Golan Heights, West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. An armistice line was established and the region came under Israeli military control.
  • Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war. Syria was defeated in its attempt.
  • Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
  • In 1981, Israel permanently acquired the territory of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in moves never recognized by most countries.
  • The international community regards as disputed territory occupied by Israel whose status should be determined by negotiations between Israel and Syria.
  • Attempts by the international community to bring Israel and Syria for negotiations have failed.

International Recognition of Golan Heights

  • The European Union said its position on the status of the Golan Heights was unchanged and it did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area.
  • The Arab League, which suspended Syria in 2011 after the start of its civil war has said the move is “completely beyond international law”.
  • Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1979, said it still considers the Golan as occupied Syrian territory.
  • India has also not recognized Golan heights as Israel territory and has called for the return of Golan Heights to Syria.

Importance of Golan Heights

  • The Golan Heights give Israel an excellent point for monitoring Syrian movements. The topography provides a natural buffer against any military adventure from Syria.
  • The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan's catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel's water supply.
  • The land is fertile, and the volcanic soil is used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel's only ski resort.
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