The US has issued a new map showing the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory, just three weeks after US President Donald Trump announced he would recognise the region as belonging to Israel.
The US’ Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, yesterday tweeted a picture of the new map with the words “welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after [President Trump] issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights”.
The map shows the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria – which was imposed after Israel captured the Syrian Golan Heights in the Six Day War of 1967 and reaffirmed after the 1973 October War – as a permanent border, using a solid line as opposed to the dashes usually used to demarcate such armistice lines. In contrast, the other armistice lines separating Israel from Lebanon, the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip are still shown with dashed lines.
The move represents further entrenchment of Trump’s decision in March to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli. In a tweet, President Trump wrote: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” His decision reversed years of official US policy which, in line with international law, designated the Golan as “Israeli controlled”.
A week later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington DC to attend the signing of an official proclamation of the US’ new policy on Golan. Netanyahu praised the decision, saying “just as Israel stood tall in 1967, just as it stood tall in 1973, Israel stands tall today. We hold the high ground and we should never give it up.”
The announcement was seen as a gift to Netanyahu before Israel’s general election on 9 April. Throughout his re-election campaign, Netanyahu repeatedly emphasised his strong relationship with Trump, claiming to have “got things done” during his premiership and won a number of “successes” such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of the Holy City as Israel’s capital.Netanyahu has since been emboldened by the Golan recognition, vowing to annex the occupied West Bank to Israel during his new term as prime minister. Speaking in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News, Netanyahu said: “I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty [to the occupied West Bank] and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”
Facing criticism that the idea was simply an unfulfillable election promise, he then doubled down on his position, saying: “I prefer to do this [annex the West Bank] with agreement. I discussed this with representatives of President Trump and I told them, in my opinion, there is no way around it, and I think it is also the right thing to do. But it is going to happen. This isn’t something I cooked up for the elections.”
Commentators have seen both the US’ Golan recognition and Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation promise as evidence that these two issues will not be included in the long-awaited “deal of the century”. Repeatedly delayed, the so-called peace plan is widely expected to be biased in favour of Israel, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank will not harm the deal.