Three weeks before Israelis go to the polls, US President Donald J. Trump took to Twitter to announce his intention to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.
“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!,” Trump Tweeted on Thursday.
In its annual human rights report published last week, the US State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, calling it “Israeli-controlled.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the announcement a “Purim miracle” and is certainly a political gift for the Israeli prime minister that is campaigning amid corruption charges.
“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!” Netanyahu posted on Twitter.
The Golan Heights were captured from Syria during the Six-Day War in June 1967. The Israeli Armed Forces routed the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan during the conflict and subsequently found itself in control of territory that more than doubled the administrative authority of the government in Tel Aviv.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was returned to Cairo following the Campy David accords in September 1979 when Israel and Egypt signed a peace deal that also included the full recognition of the State of Israel by the Arab World’s most populous nation.
Much of the West Bank, which had been a part of Jordan until 1967, was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Peace Accords between the Israelis and the recognised leadership from the Palestinian liberation movement.
The Golan Heights is a fertile, mountainous, 1,200 square-kilometre plateau that also overlooks Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Only 60 kilometres from Damascus, the heights give Israel an excellent vantage point for monitoring the movements of Syria’s military across the border, as well as the ability to look down on key position held by Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel officially annexed the Golan 1981, but this move was widely condemned by the international community and the United Nations refused to recognise Israel’s claim to the land.
Syria, which under the brutal dictatorship of the Assad family has vowed to destroy the Israeli state has tried and failed to retake the Golan on several separate occasions since its capture five decades years ago.