Donald Trump
Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, marking a major shift in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The proclamation said that it is “appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights” because of the security need of Israel. “This was a long time in the making,” Trump said before signing the decree at the White House with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing alongside. Netanyahu welcomed Trump’s move over the Golan Heights which Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and called the recognition “historic.” “In a day of history, we have never had a greater friend than President Trump,” he said.


In response, Syria’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

Trump’s move was widely believed a valuable and timely political asset for Netanyahu, who is seeking to be re-elected for a fifth term in the April elections but faces a tough fight from Israel’s former Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz and a series of allegations over fraud and bribery. Netanyahu wanted to secure re-election at this point, said Wayne White, former deputy director of the Middle East Intelligence Office of the State Department. “Trump’s help in the form of the warm, supportive Pompeo visit to Israel, Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, and the Golan recognition will sway some Israeli voters.”

Darrell West, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, also suggested that the recognition, which came right before the election, was designed to boost Netanyahu’s re-election prospects. “But the recognition makes peace tougher because it widens the gulf between countries in the Middle East,” he added.

The decision helped Netanyahu politically, but it could imperil the Trump administration’s Middle East Peace Plan, Dennis Ross, a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an interview with Al-Monitor. “It will make it harder for Arab leaders to respond favorably to it. They will not want to look like they are acquiescing in the surrender of what they see as Arab land,” the veteran U.S. Middle East peace negotiated noted.

Israel seized the Golan Heights in the third Middle East war in 1967 and annexed it in the 1980s, but the international community never recognized the move. U.N. Security Council Resolution 497, adopted unanimously in December 1981, decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is “null and void and without international legal effect.”

Trump’s decision on the Golan Heights immediately drew broad opposition from the international community. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric also said on Monday that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed.” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said in a statement on Monday that Trump’s proclamation is void and a blatant violation of the international law.

In his phone conversation with U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the recognition of Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights would lead to the violation of international law, impede the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and aggravate the situation throughout the Middle East. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Monday tweeted that the U.S. recognition would never legitimize Israeli occupation. On the contrary, the move would further increase tension in the region by preventing peace efforts in the Middle East.


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