Issue Brief on “Syrian Golan Heights: A Politcal Chimera”


“President Trump has just made history…he did it again.”,[1] declared a buoyant Israeli Prime Minister on March 21 after the United States’ President, Donald Trump tweeted his recognition of the legitimacy of Israeli control of the Golan Heights.[2] President Trump’s recognition regarding the legitimacy of Israeli control was met with much reprobation, with world leaders calling the move “invalid”.[3] Even UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that Israel’s annexation of the Golan did not hold “international legal effect.”[4] In response, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo called these assertions baseless.[5]

Israel captured the Golan Heights in 1967, and then annexed it in 1981. Situated about 60 kilometers from Damascus, the Golan Heights cover an area of 1000 square kilometers.[6] Even though most nations do not recognize the Israeli occupation, the latter has continued to control the territory. The forgotten piece of occupied territory now is home to almost 23,000 Druze, an Arab Muslim minority[7], as well as an estimated 20,000 thriving Jewish population.[8] Syrians who are in opposition to Assad blame him for the continued occupation since he had done nothing to liberate the Heights even though during his campaign he bombed neighboring Queintera. Since there are no present negotiations taking place, it is unlikely that Israel will withdraw even in the distant future. Even if the issue were brought before the Security Council, the United States would veto any move. The tweet by President Trump is not the first time that he has paid homage to the US-Israel relations. In May 2018, Trump had announced that the US will be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem upending years of US policy and causing a series of protest worldwide.

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