Critics on Thursday swiftly condemned an announcement by President Donald Trump that he believes the U.S. should recognize Israel's claim over the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory Israel has illegally occupied for over half a century.
"After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights," the president said on Twitter, "which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!"
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
The announcement was met with praise by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump! @realDonaldTrump— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 21, 2019
If implemented as official U.S. policy, Trump's plan could have long lasting effects on the Middle East.
The territory was captured by Israel from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967 and officially annexed by Israel in 1981. While the annexation is effectively recognized as illegal under international law, Israel has never seriously entertained giving the territory back to Syria.
UN Security Council resolution 497, adopted unanimously in 1981, declared Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights "null and void and without international legal effect." https://t.co/e17CCuw7uv— John Glaser (@jwcglaser) March 21, 2019
The right thing to do, said women led peace group CODEPINK, would be for Israel to give the land back to Syria.
After 52 years of illegal Israeli occupation, it is time for the Golan Heights to be given back to Syria, as it is occupied Syrian land. https://t.co/EyXFGxZFyv— CODEPINK (@codepink) March 21, 2019
"This is foolish, counter-productive and contrary to decades-old [international] law barring the acquisition of territory through force," said Jamil Dakwar, the director of the ACLU Human Rights Program.
This is foolish, counter-productive and contrary to decades-old int’l law barring the acquisition of territory through force. As the Armenian proverb goes: If a fool drops a stone into a well, even forty wise people can’t get it out again. https://t.co/M193gVCeef— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) March 21, 2019
The announcement was flatly rejected by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
No unilateral "declarations"—whether about Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, or Palestinian refugees—can erase the Palestinian and Syrian identities of those places or the ongoing resistance of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples against oppression. pic.twitter.com/my0o4NblJL— US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (@USCPR_) March 21, 2019
Trump's decision was met with wry cynicism from The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan.
"I still remember some people telling me during the last election that Trump would be tougher on Israel than Clinton," Hasan tweeted. "Lol."
I still remember some people telling me during the last election that Trump would be tougher on Israel than Clinton. Lol. https://t.co/r425mxhIaG— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) March 21, 2019
The ramifications of the decision may reach beyond the Middle East, as international affairs writer Derek Davidson observed.
"I'm guessing it's not a big concern of Trump's but if the US is going to recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan then it really has no basis on which to continue rejecting Russia's annexation of Crimea," Davidson said. "Just one of the many side effects of this decision."
I’m guessing it’s not a big concern of Trump’s but if the US is going to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan then it really has no basis on which to continue rejecting Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Just one of the many side effects of this decision. https://t.co/eIYmcKqq49— derek “beto” davison (@dwdavison9318) March 21, 2019