Critics question timing of US President tweet recognising Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MAY 23: (ISRAEL OUT) In this handout photo provided by the Israel Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with US President Donald Trump prior to the President's departure from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. Trump arrived for a 28-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas on his first foreign trip since taking office in January. (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

Vastavam web: Critics have questioned the timing of US President Donald Trump’s tweet recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic Golan Heights, describing it as America’s effort to intervene in Israeli elections to help a beleaguered friend at the cost of opening a “Pandora’s box.” Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to state that it was time the US recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a territory the Jewish state occupied in the 1967 war.

Trump’s declaration comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a closely fought general election on April 9, as well as a series of possible corruption charges. “After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel’s Sovereignty [sic] over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability [sic]!’ the US President tweeted.

Trump’s tweet was hailed by Netanyahu, stating that the former had “just made history” and thanking him on behalf of the people of Israel. The Israeli leader also noted that Trump is trying to send the message that Iran is trying to destroy Israel. Pfeffer said that the reason why Trump did not wait for Netanyahu’s visit was because of the latter’s worried and pale features at a press conference Wednesday where he stated that Iran has obtained embarrassing material from the phone of Benny Gantz, his main rival in the April 9 elections, that could be used to discredit him.

Former US Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller too argued that like so many actions taken by the Trump administration on Israel, US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over [the] Golan would be a political gimmick driven by domestic politics. It’s unnecessary and ill-advised, he said. Netanyahu, 69, faces the toughest political challenge after a decade at the helm of affairs, complicated also by recent revelations in graft related investigations against him that has strengthened the opposition’s campaign.

The Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near-East Policy, Robert Satloff, was also quoted by the TOI as saying that he did not see any “wisdom” in the move. As someone who advocated and endorsed the long-overdue move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, it is difficult to see urgency or wisdom in US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over [the] Golan, Satloff said. Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the Middle East Security Programme at the Center for a New American Security argued that the recent development stirs a Hornet’s nest that didn’t need stirring.

Nobody cares about the Golan Heights right now or (neither is anyone) actively contesting Israel’s position in the Golan. So why create this headache?” he said. The announcement follows a surprise move by the State Department last week when it opted to scrap the use of word “occupied” in reference to the Golan Heights in its annual human rights report for 2018. The change, which now reads, “Israeli-controlled territory,” is in stark contrast to the language used by previous US administrations.

Second, US recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan could lay the ground for US recognition of future Israeli annexation of the West Bank or parts of it, Zalzberg added. Trump’s announcement in December 2017 recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had a huge backlash with the UN General Assembly voting to dismiss the move “null and void” as 128 countries voted against Washington’s move and only nine supporting it. The US President’s announcement on Golan did not evoke any earth shattering media coverage in the Arab world with most media houses focusing on other issues and this passing as just another development.