April 7, 2019

The World's Reaction to D. Trump's Declaration on the Status of the Golan Heights


Oleksiy Volovych

On March 25, 2019, US President D. Trump signed the Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel.

The position of Ukraine. March 26, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kateryna Zelenko, said that Ukraine was complying with the UN Security Council's resolutions on the status of the Golan Heights, in particular Resolutions No. 242 of 1967, No. 465 of 1980, and also No. 497 of 1981, which states that “the Israeli decision to establish its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”. The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine also pointed out that Ukraine “continues to consistently advocate the achievement of a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East and taking into account Israel's security interests”. She also stressed that Ukraine is concerned about the escalation of the situation around the Gaza Strip as a result of the shelling of a civilian object in the territory of Israel on March 25. The Foreign Ministry's Spokesperson said that Ukraine calls on both, Israel and Palestine to maximum restraint in order to avoid a major armed conflict.

On March 25, 2019, US President D. Trump signed the Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel

Russia's reaction and the parallels between the annexation of the Golan Heights and the Crimea. Moscow's position on the issue of the status of Golan Heights was voiced in Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov's telephone conversation with US Secretary of State M. Pompeo: “The intention of the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights leads to gross violation of international law, creates an obstacle to the settlement of the Syrian crisis and worsens the situation all over Middle East”.

Because of US President D. Trump's decision, Russian and international media are drawing parallels between the annexation of the Golan and that of the Crimea. Representatives of D. Trump's administration are asked the question — why does Washington recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights and does not recognize the annexation of the Crimea, and is it not a double standards policy? It was this question, that journalist Hiba Nasr of Sky News asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US Embassy in Beirut as part of M. Pompeo's visit to Lebanon. M. Pompeo replied to this question that the spread of Israel's sovereignty at the Golan Heights was “a recognition of the reality on the ground and the security situation necessary for the protection of the Israeli state”. At this, M. Pompeo emphasized that the intentions of the United States “are noble and the decision the President made will increase the opportunity for there to be stability throughout the region”, which, in our opinion, sounded not too convincing.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interview with Hiba Nasr of Sky News

Especially actively this question is discussed by Russian political scientists and experts. They say unanimously: “If the United States recognizes Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, then why the questions to us about the Crimea, where a referendum on the self-determination of the population was held?” Editor-in Chief of the “Russia in Global Politics” journal F. Lukyanov, accusing Washington of the policy of double standards, believes that “despite Russia's official condemnation of D. Trump's decision on the Golan, it is beneficial for Russia in a sense, since it allows to mitigate the situation around the Crimea's reunification with Russia”. Moscow concludes that the administration of D. Trump, who has repeatedly violated international law in the Middle East for the past two years (recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, transfer of the US Embassy to the city, unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the unjustified renewal of sanctions against that country), has lost the moral right to demand from Russia to abide by international law. As a result, Moscow political scientists believe that “constant violations of international law by the United States is becoming a universally accepted norm, while the rule of law becomes a rule of force and ultimately into chaos in the international arena…”


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D. Trump's signing of the Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel was meant to provide moral support to B. Netanyahu and his Likud Party

US President D. Trump's signing the Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel de facto does not change anything. Firstly, D. Trump's Proclamation, as a normative legal document, has the character of a statement of his position at best. And if this document does oblige to do something, this regards only to the United States and Israel. Secondly, for all other countries, the legal basis for the status of the Golan were and are relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly. Thirdly, D. Trump's Proclamation practically does not change anything. Proclamation or no proclamation, the situation in the Golan would remain as it is. It's been 52 years since Israel occupied the Golan, and the occupation will continue as long as the Jewish state exists. With such a powerful partner and ally as the United States, nobody and nothing will force Israel to return the Golan to the Syrians.

D. Trump's signing of the Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel took place three weeks before the parliamentary elections in Israel — April 9 — to provide moral support to B. Netanyahu and his Likud Party. However, this favour can significantly complicate the USA's Middle East policy, since virtually no self-sufficient country has supported and is unlikely to ever support these actions of D. Trump's administration. Regardless of what representatives of the American administration say, proving that there was no policy of double standards in the case of the annexation of the Golan and the annexation of the Crimea, this policy is to some extent observed and indirectly complicates the struggle of Ukraine for the return of the Crimea, because it gives the Russian occupying forces a trump card. However, inspiring is the fact that in the policy of most of our European partners there are no signs of double standards on Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territories.

The article is available in Ukrainian