The US acceptance of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights was as unwarranted as it was rash, preposterous. It amounted to finding a solution to a problem that did not exist. Having occupied the heights in 1967, Israel formally extended its control and ownership of the area in 1981. This was despite the UN Security Council resolution that held the occupation null and void.
No other country in the world has accepted Israel’s control of Golan. But there are fears some would now follow the US lead and extend recognition to Israel’s annexation of Golan just as some approved of the establishment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital following the US decision of 2017.
The motive for such a major concession to Israel was to help Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, win another term. The move came as a big boost to embattled Netanyahu who is allegedly involved in mega corruption cases.
Not surprisingly the Arab countries denounced the decision and emphasised the position they have maintained since the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967 — that Golan Heights rightly and legally belong to Syria. The geo-strategic importance of Golan Heights has increased substantially since oil has been discovered which, according to experts, can meet the entire Israeli demand. Water is another natural resource that has been of great help to Israel. But the Golan has other strategic importance. It is at a vantage point and provides a commanding view of Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. Damascus is only 60 kilometers away and that gives Israel tremendous advantage in case of any conflict.
For President Trump to fire a salvo like recognising Israel’s control over Golan, there could not have been a better time. Arab nations bruised, weakened, disunited are in no position to present a challenge to the West. The civil wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Tunis and the destruction of these economies, including those of Iraq and Egypt, have sucked the vitality of the Arab Middle East. The net gainer of this wholesale destruction of resources and countries is the state of Israel. No wonder there would be a palpable inclination for many western countries to come closer to the Zionist state in terms of political support that would further consolidate its hold and occupation of the territories it annexed in 1967.
The decision, however, strictly from a diplomatic and legal angle was wholly unwarranted. The Golan area was not under discussion anywhere. The world and the region had been overtaken by other issues demanding urgent attention. Such a declaration by a US president amounted to seeking a solution for a problem that did not exist. But it was designed to deliver a gift to Mr Netanyahu on the one hand and to seek support of the powerful Jewish lobby in America, on the other. And since no backlash was expected in view of the colossal dissentions in the Arab Middle East, it was perhaps an opportune moment for Mr Trump to take the initiative.
But beyond the Israeli and American elections, such decisions would certainly, in times to come, provoke reactions that could take many forms. It is decisions like these, which are taken mostly for seeking gains for parties or individuals, which will subsequently engender sustained anger, acrimony and hostility that play into the psyche of people desperate for revenge. More often than not, short-term gains are sought at the expense of long-term instability. This is just one more example of such a woeful tale of seeking to create potentially-explosive issues for the benefit of some, at the cost of many.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2019.