Washington’s Decision on Golan Heights: Reactions from Middle East

P 09.04.2019 U Yuriy Zinin

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Headlines, such as “Theft of Golan’s Oil and Water”, “Law of Jungle vs. Heights of Golan”, “Beyond Golan: Extent of Trump’s Support for Israel” and many others, have filled Middle Eastern media platforms in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s claims over Golan Heights.

Mass media outlets and political circles in the region view this move as a violation of international law and the UN Security Council Resolution on this issue, as well as dismantlement of legislation, established over decades, to resolve this conflict on the principle of “land in exchange for peace”.

Several news sources have also highlighted certain economic factors that benefit Americans. It is well known that the occupied Golan Heights territories are of paramount strategic importance to Israel. For instance, one third of the water, consumed by the Jewish state, comes from this enclave.

According to geological surveys, there are oil and gas deposits in the area. Genie Energy, a US company that views these survey results with optimism, has partnered with Israel’s Afek to carry out exploratory work.

The strategic advisory board of Genie Energy includes Dick Cheney, a former US Vice President; James Woolsey, a former CIA Director and Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and other prominent figures. Hence, Trump’s sudden move does align with US economic interests.

Commentators have pointed towards a potential agreement between the two leaders. Trump’s decision is an invaluable gift to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s legislative elections, aimed at consolidating his position in face of opposition. The White House inhabitant is counting on reciprocal support of the powerful US Jewish lobby in the future Presidential election in the United States.

In their condemnations of Washington’s latest move, other authors have expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that this decision, just as the previous one to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, has been met with merely anger and indignation. In such an environment Arab nations are being urged to act in concert and more decisively.

Commentators have been asking the question “Can today’s joint rejection of this decision by Arab nations promote a decline of tensions in the region, repair the rift among Arabs and push them towards joint actions?”

The final statement issued at the end of the Arab League Summit in Tunisia is quite illuminating. It describes Washington’s decision on Golan Heights as “invalid and illegitimate”. The statement also affirms that Golan Heights are part of Syria’s occupied territories.  It is expected that Arab countries will introduce a draft resolution at the UN Security Council and file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice on this issue.

Trump’s decision has been criticized by Arab leaders who ally with the United States as well as Iran, a nation that Washington obsesses about creating a local alliance against, comprising Arab nations (primarily those of the Persian Gulf).

Hence, according to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, the latest US move is a reprisal against Syria. It signals an advance from the American side, aimed at hindering complete liberation of Syria and its return back to normal; pressuring Damascus, and dismantling its cooperation with Russia and Iran.

It has also been noted that Iran is using this move in its interests. It has intensified its criticism of the collusion between the United States and Israel, and has attempted to consolidate the position of opponents of “Zionist enemies”.

Although most Arab reporters see that Trump’s statement did not receive any support from the world’s nations, excepting from the Israeli side, their concerns have intensified.

It is believed that unless the latest US provocation receives an appropriate response, it may serve as a precedent for the future. Not only will it increase tensions in the region but also serve as a weapon, which will grant the right to take other lands belonging to Arabs away.  The center on Arab research warns that Trump’s recognition of Golan Heights as Israel’s territory will pave the way for right-wing factions in this nation, who will insist on annexation of other occupied territories even more doggedly, i.e. the West Bank of river Jordan. Their ambitions may not stop there, and could focus further afield, on the south of Lebanon, under the premise that this area is controlled by Hezbollah, which threatens the Jewish state.

One way or the other, increasing criticism towards Washington’s policies is evident since the United States has chosen to side with brute force at various stages of events occurring in the Middle Eastern region. These powerful anti-American sentiments, felt for many decades, have been inflamed anew.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook


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