US to oppose UN Golan resolution, wins Israeli praise

JALAA MAREY

The United States on Friday for the first time voted against an annual UN resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, signifying a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward the territory.

The resolution passed 151-2 (with 14 abstentions) and came as part of a broader package of anti-Israel resolutions that passed a marathon General Assembly committee hearing on Friday morning. However, David Friedman, Trump's former personal lawyer and ambassador to Israel, said the next month that he expected Israel to keep the Golan Heights "forever".

Haley, however, said on Friday that "the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone". Much the same argument has been made for maintaining Israeli security control, if not sovereignty, over the so-called "Palestinian occupied territories".

Israel captured around 1,200 sq km (460 sq miles) of the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, and later annexed it to internationally condemnation. The decision by the United States to change its stance on the resolution, after previously voting for years to abstain, may be part of a broader shift in American policy towards the Golan Heights.

Washington had previously abstained from the "occupied Syrian Golan" resolution, which says Israel's jurisdiction of the area is "null and void" and constitutes "a flagrant violation of worldwide law".

UN Watch applauded U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for announcing Thursday that the United States will vote "No" on the Assad-backed Golan resolution, instead of abstaining as has been done in the past. He had lost control of most of Syria's territory until regaining much of it thanks to Russian military intervention and Iranian support. Yet as the regime run by Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Iranian and Russian Federation help, has beaten back most rebel groups operating in southern Syria and re-established control of the region, Israel has grown increasingly concerned with Iran establishing a permanent presence on the Syrian side of the border.

According to Schanzer, a number of justifications have been put out there regarding altering US policy on the Golan.


Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called it "extremely important", saying on Twitter that "no sane person can believe that it (the Golan) should be given to Assad & Iran".

"It is time for the world to distinguish between those who stabilize the region and those who sow terror", he added.

It was formally brought under Israeli law in 1981 under then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a move that has never been recognized by the global community, and was criticized at the time by Washington.

"I can not honestly imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights is not part of Israel forever", Friedman told the Israel Hayom daily.

However, Israel has also been pressing USA diplomats on other issues.

However, in a late August visit to Israel, National Security Advisor John Bolton said "there's no discussion of it, no decision within the USA government".

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