The Golan Heights, a rocky highland located in south-western Syria, wedged between Israel, Syria, and Jordan. Mount Hermon, highest elevation in Israeli-controlled territory, offers vast view all the way to Damascus in the east, while the Golan’s eastern hills are considered a formidable military buffer zone. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel occupied around 1,200 sq km of the Golan Heights from Syria.
Last Thursday, United States President Donald Trump said that it is the time for American recognition of Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in a move that ended decades of American policy.
During the 1973 October War, Syria, under the rule of late President Hafez Al-Assad, tried to reclaim the Golan but failed. Following the armistice in 1974 between the two countries, a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force was established by the Security Council resolution. Then in 1981, Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights, a move that was never internationally recognised.
Additionally, to claim sovereignty over the Syrian heights, the Israeli government invited the Druze community in the occupied region to participate in the local elections in October 2018, for the first time since the Israeli occupation of the region. The move raised controversy among the 23,000 Druze population in the Golan Heights.
While in January, Israel renewed its demand for US President Trump to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a request that is expected to irk Syria and Iran.
During a visit by US National Security Advisor John Bolton to Israel nearly at the time ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that it is time for Trump’s administration to accept Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic plateau, emphasising its importance to Israel’s security.
“The Golan Heights is tremendously important for our security,” Netanyahu said, urging all countries to recognise their sovereignty over the territory.
Trump’s statements spark global outrage
Trump statements caused a wave of outrage across the globe. On Friday, Egypt reaffirmed its stance that the Golan Heights is an occupied Syrian territory, citing the UN Security Council Resolution 497 of 1981, which declared an Israeli law of that year which formalised its annexation of the territory to be null and void.
Syrian state media said on Friday that the country was now “more determined to liberate it by all possible means no matter what,” citing Egypt’s Foreign Ministry source.
Moreover, the European Council President Donald Tusk affirmed the European Union’s position, in not recognising Israel’s sovereign over the area, which also was echoed by the Arab League Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
While the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Trump statements can destabilise the already fragile situation in the Middle East.
Al-Azhar condemned on Friday the US administration’s statement on recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.