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US-Israel Relations: Changing Geo-Politics

  • Category
    World Affairs
  • Published
    4th Apr, 2019

The United States of America came under sharp criticism from 14 other United Nations Security Council nations for its decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of international law.

Issue

Context-

The United States of America came under sharp criticism from 14 other United Nations Security Council nations for its decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of international law.

About

  • President Donald Trump signed a proclamation which recognized Israel's annexation of the strategic plateau.
  • Three Security Council resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed - a move not recognized internationally.
  • This US move appears to be normalizing "occupation", without attempting to leverage its authority and striving for collective consensus based peace solutions.

Background

  • Israel captured Golan, a strategically important plateau beside the Sea of Galilee, from Syria in the 1967 war.
  • Among the territories it captured in the war, Israel has returned only the Sinai Peninsula, to Egypt.
  • Unlike Egypt in the 1970s, Syria had neither the military ability nor the international clout to launch a campaign to get its territory back.
  • The Syrian government, after fighting eight years of a civil war, is debilitated and isolated, and the U.S. move is unlikely to trigger any strong response, even from the Arab world.

Analysis

Repercussion of the proclamation:

  1. Trump's proclamation that the Golan Heights was part of Israel, raises questions about the future of a UN peacekeeping force after its mandate expires on June 30, 2019.
  2. The 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was dispatched to a buffer zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan in 1974, tasked with monitoring a ceasefire.

What are the geo-political considerations behind this move?

  • After Syria disintegrated during its civil war and its reemergence in the last year, the importance of the Golan Heights has become even more important because of the deep involvement of Iran and Hezbollah.
  • Secondly, in the American declaration, there is a form of compensation for the crack created in the inter-regional equation of the area, in consequence to the US declaration of its intention to end its military presence on the Syrian front.
  • Russia, who took “ownership” in the area, has low interest to keep Israel's national security interests.
  • USA's declaration on the Golan Heights signals to the Russians to not push Israel into corner.
  • Israel will be required to conduct a complicated legitimization battle, while increasing its effort to prevent an Iranian establishment on the other side of the Golan Heights.

What has been the response of UNSC and other UN members?

  • Speaker after speaker at the council session supported Syria's sovereignty over the Golan Heights and opposed Israel's annexation after Trump's proclamation.
  • South Africa: This unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
  • Syria's closest ally, Russia, urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory.
  • France warned any attempt to turn from international law was "doomed to fail".
  • China recalled that UN resolutions had declared the Golan as a territory occupied by Israel.

Is the recent move a categorical flip or a well calculated action?

  • It may sound ironic that a President who promised to facilitate a deal between Israelis and Palestinians has turned out to be the most pro-Israel President in U.S. history.
  • Trump has already recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a city which was captured in parts in the 1948 and 1967 wars and which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Of late, US State Department report had dropped the word ‘occupied’ in references to Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, hinting at where the US administration stood on the issue.
  • Creation of Israel

    • USA supported the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
    • President Franklin D. Roosevelt assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region.
    • The British, who held a colonial mandate for Palestine until May 1948, opposed both the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region.
    • On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end.
    • Although the United States backed Resolution 181, the U.S. Department of State recommended the creation of a United Nations trusteeship.
    • This Trusteeship was mandated to place limit on Jewish immigration and create a division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab provinces but not states.
    • On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel.
    • U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.

    Six-Day War (1967)

    • The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors was not about one particular concern or dispute. The war occurred, rather, after a series of events escalated tensions.
    • The Six-Day War ended with Israel capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
    • Of these, only the Sinai Peninsula was returned, per the Israel-Egypt Camp David Accords peace treaty, while the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem were formally annexed by Israel.
    • Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were placed under Israeli military occupation, while the Palestinians sought to establish an independent Palestinian state in those territories.
    • The Six-Day War also marked the start of a new phase in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, since the conflict created hundreds of thousands of refugees and brought more than one million Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule.

    Camp David Accords (Egyptian-Israeli History)

    • It was signed on September 17, 1978 between Israel and Egypt that led to a peace treaty,the first such treaty between Israel and any of its Arab neighbors.
    • It was brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat.Whatever be the paradigm, US President's decision flouts international norms and consensus in the similar fashion as of China's (UNCLOS and maritime islands/South China Sea 9 dash line claims), and sets a dangerous precedent for nations involved in conflicts.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:
Recently, USA recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.In this context, critically examine the possibility of peaceful resolution of Arab- Israel problem.

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