US-Israel Relations: Changing Geo-Politics
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Repercussion of the proclamation:
- 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.
- 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?
Recently, USA recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.In this context, critically examine the possibility of peaceful resolution of Arab- Israel problem.