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US president cedes Syrian territory to Israel

Apr 02,2019 - Last updated at Apr 02,2019

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian occupied Golan Heights has been widely condemned and rejected: by the UN Secretary General, Europeans, Russians, individual Arab states, the Arab League’s Tunis summit, Turkey, Iran and many others. Except for the US, all the other 14 Security Council member states have rejected the Trump Golan decision during a council meeting on the issue last week. Even the American media, notably The New York Times and The Washington Post, were critical of the decision too.

“Trump’s Golan Heights reversal will damage US diplomacy in the Middle East and beyond” was the title of a Washington Post editorial board analysis on March 23.

A day earlier, on March 22, Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote: “Trump is subverting one of the most fundamental pillars of the post-1945 world order: the principle that no nation can change international boundaries by force.” He referred to Article 2 of the 1945 UN Charter, affirming the territorial integrity of all nations which states: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

A second principle of territorial integrity, as mentioned by Boot, is UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted with US and Israeli support in 1967 that called for: “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” and “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries, free from threats or acts of force”.

Nothing here is novel or unknown. I just needed to mention it to prove that even major American newspapers that are often on Israel’s side, in addition to traditional US allies, could not tolerate this act.

Of course, this Trump Golan decision, and the similar decision earlier on Jerusalem, constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, as well as a glaring annulment of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions which were passed with US approval.

Obviously, the Syrian Golan Heights were awarded to Israel upon the direct and persistent insistence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to boost his desperate quest to win the upcoming Israeli general elections.

Max Boot confirms that in his Washington Post article that says: “Trump took this momentous step as a pre-election present to his pal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who shares with him many of the same campaign donors [e.g., Sheldon Adelson], the same political supporters [US evangelical Christians], the same disdain for the rule of law [Netanyahu is on the verge of being indicted] and the same affection for right-wing extremists [Netanyahu has made common cause with far-right parties in Israeli politics and with the far-right leaders of Central Europe].”

The Golan decision was also criticised in The New York Times.

Practically, both Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are of no legal value. They represent the position of one single state out of 193 UN member states, the majority of which reject and oppose both decisions. Trump has no authority to illegally, and in flagrant violation of international law, grant the land of a sovereign country to an aggressor and an occupier state.

This does not mean, however, that the said decisions do not constitute serious harm to regional peace and stability. Consequences would also harm Israel’s long-term interests, as such American endorsements of Israel’s persistence on destroying all and every peace project so far, insisting instead on maintaining its aggression, defying international law and denying the rights of its Palestinian and other victims, would further isolate Israel and deepen the rift with its Arab environment.

There is no question that the US is trailing behind Israeli intransigence mindless of such lethal consequences.

It is Israel that needs to be accepted in the region in order to secure normal and peaceful future relations with its neighbours. What Israel is doing, sadly with US encouragement, is leading to the exact opposite results.

I am not going to repeat here the prevailing concern expressed by most analysts that the Trump unilateral Golan action will likely destroy the so-called peace process. There is no peace process. The peace process was no more than a smokescreen to shield Israel’s colonisation scheme in the West Bank and the Golan Heights and to grant Israel the time needed to finish its irreversible actions on the ground.

Both Jerusalem and the Golan Heights have been occupied and later officially annexed by Israel since 1967. Israel was not going to evacuate such lands as a result of UN resolutions demanding that. Neither did the UN ever try to enforce its rulings as it did with respect to other occupied lands. The Trump decisions do not bestow any legitimacy on Israel’s illegal occupation of others’ lands either.

The reality on the ground remains the same; with or without Trump's recognition.

The status quo will only be changed once the rightful owners of those occupied lands decide to liberate them. The law will be on their side. When people decide to exercise their right to defend their land and their national dignity nothing stands in their way.

The only effective action will be a worldwide sustained collective Arab diplomatic offensive that begins with the UN and spreads to all other regional organisations and influential capitals, Washington included, to demand that the Israeli occupation should end in accordance with dozens of UN resolutions awaiting enforcement. Once Palestinian and Arab political will is mustered, the Arab states have all the peaceful means to pressure Israel to comply.

For decades, Israel’s continued occupation has barely been challenged. As a matter of fact, unreserved US support for Israel’s lawlessness, coupled with the submissive behaviour of the so-called international community, including some Arab states, towards Israel’s aggression, has only been encouraging Israel’s intransigence; hence pushing the region into deeper crisis and uncertainty. This has to change. All the futile peace clichés and empty slogans can be summarised in a few words: End the occupation.

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