US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Monday while visiting the area that the Golan Heights “will always remain in the hands of Israel”.
His visit followed last month’s bill introduced by Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) which calls for the US to recognise Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and an identical bill that was introduced in the House by Rep Mike Gallagher (R-WI).
Graham (R-SC) visited the Golan Heights with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. During his visit, Graham promised to push for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying: “The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel.” Graham added that his “goal is to try to explain this to the administration”.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1981, Israel passed a law formally annexing the area, but Israeli sovereignty was not recognised by the international community and was rejected by the UN. The UN refers to the area as “occupied” but the US, since the Reagan administration, has maintained that the final status of the area would be decided in negotiations with Syria. The draft bill changes long-standing US policy that any decision about the Golan Heights would be made in a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.
The bill states that it is in the US national security interest to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights, and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for its killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Sunnis, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.
While some analysts have speculated that US recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights could be a major boost for Netanyahu in the 9 April election, the proposed US bill is unlikely to pass by then. Netanyahu will travel to Washington, DC at the end of the month to meet with US President Donald Trump and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during their annual conference. Yesterday it was also announced that Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz will also address the conference.