For the first time in 49 years, since Israel took the Golan Heights from Syria, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened the weekly meeting of his cabinet there. And took this opportunity to declare that the Golan will forever remaqin in Israeli hands. Obviously, the “international community” felt the need to respond to this.
Much has been made, in the course of the past 20-odd hours, of a statement made by State Department spokesman John Kirby, of the US not recognizing the Golan as a part of Israel. His remarks have been quoted as insisting that “”[e]very administration on both sides of the aisle since 1967 has maintained that those territories are not part of Israel” – which – technically – is true.
I would just like to point out two things: first, even an administration generally very sympathetic to Israel, voted for the adoption of UNSC Resolution 497, declaring the Golan Heights Law “null and void”. However, subsequent to this, the US has also effectively stopped any further measures that could otherwise have been taken by members of the UN, as hads been threatened with UNSCR 497 . Second, and this has not been generally recognized by those who protest Kirby’s declaration yesterday, he addressed the issue in the context of whether the US recognized any other force besides the government, of which Bashir al-Assad is still part of. And in this context, referring to the status of the Golan, Kirby acknowledged that “[t]he conditions under which those territories are ultimately returned should be decided through negotiations between the respective parties. And obviously, Said, the current situation in Syria makes it difficult to continue those efforts at this time.”
Which, in toto, I find remarkably “relaxed”, coming from this administration. But, in a broader context, this position is not at all different from what the administration is saying about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, or has been saying – looking at this historically now – in connection with Jordan annexing the West Bank and “East” Jerusalem, between 1950 – 1967.