First Steps toward US Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty for Golan

The day after the Helsinki summit, Israel’s former UN Ambassador Dore Gold appeared before the US House of Representatives Committee’s Oversight and Governance Reform Subcommittee. The subject of his appearance, which the White House was quietly instrumental in arranging, was: Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty on the Golan Heights. This was the first step, DEBKA Weekly reports, in a historic process initiated by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for US recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the Six-Day war. Gold, who often acts as Netanyahu’s overseas emissary for confidential missions, made the following arguments to the subcommittee:

  • US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would fulfil previous diplomatic assurances given to Israel by past administrations regarding this strategic plateau.
  • That Israeli prime ministers, including Netanyahu, were ready in secret diplomatic contacts with Syrian President Bashar Assad, to discuss ceding parts of the Golan – and even allowing Syria to exert its sovereignty over Israeli habitations – did not mean that, at the moment of truth, they would have actually agreed to withdraw from the Golan in full.
  • The 1975 Ford Letter was enormously significant because it conveyed a consistent American understanding at the highest level that Israel must remain on the Golan Heights. This raised the question of how an Israeli force can remain there without Israeli sovereignty.
  • The Golan is only only16 miles across at its widest point, but Israel’s presence there provides a vital strategic intelligence advantage. The IDF post atop Mount Hermon is known to Israelis as “the eyes of the nation.” The eventual recovery of the Syrian army as a military power must be anticipated, in light of Russia’s intervention to save the Assad regime and its massive arms transfers to this end.
  • Tehran has created Shiite proxy militias modeled on the Lebanese Hizballah, using manpower from such countries as Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, to take up positions in Syrian bases. As recently as July 11, it was reported that Hizballah and those militias were integrated in the Syrian army for its campaign to take control of southern Syria.
  • Any negotiations on the future of the Golan must be predicated on assurances that Israel’s interests would not be jeopardized by its withdrawl. But for Israel’s military strategists, a hypothetical Syrian army presence on the Golan raises concerns: (1) The loss of  intelligence outposts would deprive Israel of the capability to detect a Syrian aggressive intent in real time. (2) And even with timely warning, an Israeli government would think twice before going to war to recover its former line of defense after it was enclosed in Syrian territory.
  • Any agreed security arrangements on Syria soil could be extremely fragile and leave Israel deprived of both the Golan and security. And if a future regime in Damascus pledged to uphold such arrangements, would foreign militias feel bound by them?
  • Israel is currently under assault by Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” which has been operating under Russian protection. Various Middle Eastern countries are equally under threat from the Axis’ activities – from Morocco in the west to the Arab Gulf states and many riparian states of the Red Sea. None of these government would question the need for a permanent Israeli presence on the Golan.
  • As the Assad regime begins to recover from a long civil war, its allies are already making demands, including the return of the Golan Heights. The strongest rebuttal for these demands would be the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty. This would serve as a lesson for those wishing to use the Golan to threaten their neighbors that they will not benefit in the court of international diplomacy. Today, governments have a choice: They can back the demands of Iran and its supporters, or they can recognize Israel’s rights in the Golan Heights. US recognition of Israeli sovereignty would be an important example for others.
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