Breaking with decades of international consensus, US President Donald Trump has formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a border area the Tel Aviv regime seized from Syria in 1967.
Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian territory on Monday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner were standing at his side in the White House in Washington, DC.
“This was a long time in the making. Should have taken place decades ago,” Trump said.
Trump handed the pen that he used for his signature to Netanyahu, and said, “Give this to the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu has been pressing for Washington to recognize Israel’s claim to the occupied Golan Heights.
Some analysts see Trump’s Golan Heights announcement as a campaign gift to Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s legislative elections on April 9.
Netanyahu faces an increasingly tough time ahead as his biggest political opponent overtakes him in popularity and as calls mount for him to resign over looming corruption charges that could effectively end his political career.
Netanyahu called the recognition “historic” and told Trump after he signed the document, “Israel has never had a better friend than you.”
He told the US president “it was so important for me to come here to the White House and thank you.”
Trump on Thursday declared his bid to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian territory, marking a dramatic shift in US policy.
Earlier this month, the US State Department changed its usual description of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled” in an annual global human rights report.
Washington’s recognition of the Israeli-occupied area marks a major shift in US policy. The United Nations emphasizes Syria’s sovereignty over the territory.
“Today for the first time in 52 years, with Prime Minister Netanyahu at his side, the president of the US will formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” US Vice President Mike Pence announced earlier on Monday as he addressed the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC.
Earlier on Monday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani denounced Trump’s his decision to recognize Israel’s illegal occupation and annexation of the Golan Heights.
Larijani said that the US president’s announcement about the Israeli-occupied territory is a violation of humanitarian principles and international law.
US move ‘unacceptable’ for Turkey
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to take the issue to the United Nations. He said Trump’s announcement on Golan Heights was a “gift” to Netanyahu ahead of elections there.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is unacceptable for Turkey and will take action against the decision, including at the United Nations.
In December 2017, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s so-called capital touched off a wave of protests which continue to this day.
In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large swathe of Golan and annexed it four years later, a move never recognized by the international community.
In 1973, another war broke out and a year later, a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force, according to which Tel Aviv and Damascus agreed to separate their troops and create a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.
Syria said last month that it is ready to go to another war with Israel in order to free its occupied territories.
Israel has over the past decades built dozens of settlements in the Golan Heights in defiance of international calls for the regime to stop its illegal construction activities.
Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.
‘US move blatant attack on Syria’s sovereignty’
The Syrian government said on Monday that Washington’s recognition of Israeli claims over the Golan Heights was a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“In a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, the president of the US has recognized the annexation of the Syrian Golan,” Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
The Syrian government said it had a right to reclaim the territory from the Israeli regime.
“The liberation of the Golan by all available means and its return to the Syrian motherland is an inalienable right,” the foreign ministry said.
“The decision…makes the United States the main enemy of the Arabs,” it stated, adding that nothing could change the “eternal historical fact that the Golan was and will remain Syrian Arab.”
Golan status has not changed: UN
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday cleared that “the status of Golan has not changed.”
“The UN’s policy on Golan is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and that policy has not changed,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Trump’s announcement.
A UN Security Council resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member body in 1981 declared that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”