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Israeli election behind the US’s Golan Heights move

The military balance in the region already favours Israel and the US proclamation was not needed

editorials Updated: Apr 01, 2019 17:46 IST
Hindustan Times
US President Donald Trump holds a proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights as he is applauded by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others during a ceremony in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019(REUTERS)

In a statement issued from Tunis on Sunday, Arab League leaders decided to push a resolution in the United Nations Security Council against the United States’ move to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. On March 25, US President Donald Trump had signed a proclamation reversing a longstanding international norm against recognition of territory seized by force. Mr Trump’s move, however, did not surprise many. After all, he is unambiguously the most pro-Israeli American president one has seen. He has already recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifted the US embassy to the contested city. The decision to unilaterally pull the US out of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal was also partly motivated by a desire to appease the pro-Israel lobby.

Israel had annexed the Golan in 1981 after first seizing the plateau from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967. The annexation was never endorsed by the international community. So what has changed now except for the fact that Mr Trump is the incumbent US President? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a tough election as he has been accused of multiple corruption charges. Compared to his predecessors, Mr Netanyahu is more hawkish on territorial disputes. Ceding away the Golan may give Syria the control over the eastern shore of Sea of Galilee — Israel’s primary fresh water source. The height of the plateau can also offer military advantage to Israel’s enemies in Syria. The White House proclamation actually mentions the threat of Iran and its terrorist proxies from the Golan front as a rationale for recognising Israeli sovereignty over the plateau. However, Israel already occupies the Golan and the US proclamation does in no way alter the military balance in the region. The upcoming election, hence, seems to be the main factor behind the move.

These developments have put India in a tough spot. New Delhi has tried hard to maintain good relationships with both Israel and its rivals in the region. In 2017, it voted against the US move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in the United Nations. If forced to take a stand again, Israel may yet again be disappointed with the outcome.

First Published: Apr 01, 2019 17:38 IST