In a move being praised by Israel but virtually nowhere else, President Trump on Monday signed a formal decree recognizing the Golan Heights as a part of Israel. Israel occupied Golan militarily in 1967, and annexed it in 1981.
No country had previously recognized the Golan Heights annexation, and the UN still considers the territory a part of Syria, occupied militarily by Israel. This was the US stance as well until last week, when President Trump tweeted the change.
It is not seen that this move is likely to have any practical impact on Golan’s status, and many countries have criticized Trump’s move for running contrary to decades of UN rulings on the status of the heights.
Trump’s announcement was seen as mainly intended to support Netanyahu’s reelection campaign. It came within 24 hours of Netanyahu asking for such a move during a Mike Pompeo visit, and Netanyahu was quick to confirm he’d attend the decree signing. This was followed on with Pompeo suggesting Trump was sent by God as a “savior” of some sort for Israel.
Whether the decree will actually shift a very close election in Israel in Netanyahu’s favor remains to be seen. So far, polls suggest that there has yet to be a substantial shift. Indeed, that Netanyahu left the signing ceremony early to return to Israel and attack the Gaza Strip suggests the decree was not seen as enough of a pre-election boost for him, and that he’s going to the old stand-by of a war against the Palestinians instead.
Trump made little attempt to justify the move, beyond claiming a
“powerful” relationship with Israel and that letting Israel keep Golan
would help stability. Netanyahu claimed Israel had “won the Golan
Heights in a just war.”
If Netanyahu’s comment is the standard, it bodes ill for the two-state solution and the fate of other territory occupied by Israel. Materially all of Palestine is under Israeli occupation, and was seized in the same 1967 Israeli war. Already, Trump’s acquiescence has shown polls supporting the idea of just annexing the West Bank outright as well.
The possibility of such a move was almost certainly a big reason why the US had always rejected the annexation before. Golan is considered particularly valuable to Israel because of the discovery of oil there.