WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that the US would recognize Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, a strategic territory that fell to Israeli forces in the 1967 war.
“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!,” Trump told his 59 million Twitter followers.
Trump’s tweet came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Israel, on the second leg of a week-long Middle East tour.
“President Trump has just made history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed at a joint press conference with Pompeo on Thursday evening. “I called [Trump]” and “thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel,” he said.
Pompeo noted that as a cadet at West Point, he had studied the conflicts on the Golan Heights and recalled the Battle of the Valley of the Tears in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
“It was Israeli heroism at its most amazing, saving this great nation at a time of enormous challenge,” Pompeo said of the battle, in which a vastly outnumbered Israeli force succeeded in holding off the surprise Syrian attack.
Following the 1973 war, Egypt made peace with the Jewish state and regained the territory it had lost six years earlier. However, the Baathist regime in Damascus did not do so, and the territory it lost in 1967 has remained under Israel’s control ever since.
Speaking to Fox News, Trump defended his decision, explaining, “I’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time,” as he likened his latest move to his earlier decision to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I did it,” Trump said, “and it’s fine. The Golan Heights is the same thing.”
Indeed, when Pompeo arrived in Beirut on Friday, the next day, the response was “largely muted,” CNN reported, in a story whose headline affirmed that Trump’s announcement had been “met with a shrug in the Arab world.”
The New York Times, covering the story from Erbil, reported the same thing: Trump’s announcement “was met across much of the Arab world with a shrug.”
Yet at least some analysts from Washington’s Middle East establishment thundered about “Trump’s Golan Fiasco”—like the Brookings Institution’s Tamara Wittes and Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security.
“It damages Israeli security and undermines American interests in the Middle East and beyond,” they complained in a joint piece for Politico.
Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and currently a Senior Fellow at Soran University, however, saw it quite differently.
“It’s just a recognition of reality,” Davis told Kurdistan 24. He added that now was a better time than most to make such an announcement—while the Syrian regime remains weak and a pariah to most other Arab countries.
That view, indeed, resembles the Times’ reporting, which noted that the country’s civil war and the regime’s atrocities had left Syria “so weak and ostracized that few care what it wants.”
Damascus strongly protested Trump’s decision, of course. “The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means,” the official state news agency affirmed, citing an unnamed foreign ministry source.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed his opposition. “We cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” Erdogan said on Friday to an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, as he warned that the US president had brought the region “to the brink of a new crisis and new tensions.”
Syria’s close ally, Iran, also protested. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman asserted, “The Zionist regime, as an occupying regime, does not have sovereignty over any Arab or Islamic lands and its aggression and occupation should be immediately stopped.”
On Capitol Hill, however, Trump’s announcement has strong support. Bills have already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would formally include the Golan Heights as part of Israel in America’s trade, aid, and other relations with the Jewish state.
Editing by Nadia Riva