U.S. President recognises Golan Heights as Israeli, boosting Netanyahu and angering Syria

Vastavam web: U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday recognised Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights in an election boost for visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, prompting a sharp response from Syria, which once held the strategic land. With Netanyahu looking over his shoulder at the White House, Trump signed a proclamation officially granting U.S. recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory – a dramatic shift from decades of U.S. policy.

Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally. Netanyahu, who faces an election on April 9, earlier on Monday said he was cutting short his U.S. visit after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, blamed on Hamas, wounded seven people near Tel Aviv. Israel launched retaliatory air strikes in Gaza. Israel’s prime minister arrived in Washington on Sunday, originally for a four-day trip.

In signing the proclamation, Trump said “This was a long time in the making.” He handed the pen that he used for his signature to Netanyahu, and said: “Give this to the people of Israel.” The prime minister welcomed Trump’s action and said Israel had never had a better friend. He harked back to two previous Middle Eastern wars in justifying Israel’s need to hang on to the Golan.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “The U.N.’s policy on Golan is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and that policy has not changed,” Dujarric said. A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member body in 1981 declared that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” It also demanded Israel rescind its decision.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has refused to talk to the United States since Trump ordered the U.S. embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, expressed his “absolute rejection” of the Golan move in a statement issued by the Palestinian Authority news service Wafa. “The presidency reaffirmed that sovereignty is not decided by either the US or Israel no matter how long the occupation lasts,” the statement said.

The negative reactions reprised last week’s response to Trump’s tweet announcing the move. The announcement triggered direct or implied criticism from European as well as Middle Eastern countries and organizations, including Britain, Germany, France, the European Union, Turkey, Egypt, the Arab League and Russia. Pence also talked tough against Iran, saying that under Trump, “America will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.” Netanyahu challenger Gantz appeared before the gathering, and vowed to protect his country against threats from Iran and Syria. He called for unity in Israel.