The Trump Administration Recognizes Israel's Sovereignty Over Golan Heights While Gaza Bombed Ruthlessly

March 26, 2019

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 03/26/2019) —  While Israeli bombs pounded Gaza, the Trump administration officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, yesterday, reversing more than a half-century of official bipartisan US policy. Israel occupied the Golan Heights, along with the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1967. Trump reiterated a common White House talking point that “the US recognizes Israel’s absolute right to defend itself” while bombs rained down on apartment and office buildings in Gaza, home to two million people.  The Trump administration continues to believe that it can give tacit approval of Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank, recognize its sovereignty over lands it illegally occupied in expansionist wars decades ago and still achieve the “Deal of the Century.” 

Israel began to illegally colonize the Golan Heights in 1967 and in 1981 de facto annexed this Syrian territory, a move which violated UN Security Council Resolution 242, emphasizing the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” In response to Israel’s de facto annexation, the Reagan administration helped unanimously pass UN Security Council Resolution 497, declaring 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.”

The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, DC to address the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and just two weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections in which the beleaguered Netanyahu, who faces possible indictment on corruption charges, is fighting for his political life.

The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights at this time is widely perceived by analysts as attempt by Washington to intervene in the Israeli elections on Netanyahu’s behalf.

Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington, DC after an exchange of fire between Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli military left seven people injured on each side. Israel is mobilizing its forces for a potential large-scale attack on the Gaza Strip, which comes against the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing repression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip demonstrating weekly in the Great March of Return.

This Friday marks the one year anniversary of the Great March of Return, in which tens of thousands of Palestinians have braved Israeli sniper fire to protest for the end to Israel’s more than decade-long illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip which has made the territory uninhabitable for its two million residents, an end to Israeli military occupation, and for Palestinian refugees’ right of return to the homes from which they were expelled by Israel since 1948.

Israel has met these protestors with brutal violence, killing at least 250 Palestinians and injuring thousands more. A UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry found that during the Great March of Return “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

With the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, its decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, its cut off of humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees, and now its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, it has never been clearer that the US-Israel alliance is predicated on crushing the rights of the Palestinian and Arab peoples.