New US decision on Golan Heights threatens to push Middle East into contradictions

Wednesday, 2019-03-27 16:03:28
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US President Donald Trump gestures next to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony to sign a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, US, March 25, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – US President Donald Trump signing a decree recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights shortly before his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows the White House boss’s support for the ally. However, the international community fears that President Trump’s new decision will trigger strong reaction from many countries in the region.

The US President’s statement that it was time for the US “to fully recognise” Israeli sovereignty over Golan is said to be aimed at creating advantages for PM Netanyahu ahead of the Israeli elections on April 9. The support given by President Trump to the leader of the US’s important ally in the Middle East has been strongly demonstrated since he came to power. The White House boss said that the Golan Heights plays a crucial security and strategic role to the State of Israel and regional stability. However, after the controversial decision concerning the movement of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the “election gift” presented by President Trump to the Israeli PM has faced a strong reaction from the international community. Secretary-General of the Arab League (AL) Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed that the US move will not change the legal status of the Golan Heights, the territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

After the move from the US side, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, confirmed that its policy on the Golan Heights has not changed yet. Syria asked the UN Security Council to maintain resolutions asking Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights. The European Union (EU) also affirmed its position of not recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Russia and Turkey warned that the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan will cause a new wave of tensions in the Middle East. Even Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the region, also issued a statement opposing the decision of President Trump.

One of the reasons for President Trump’s constant commitment to ensuring security for Israel is to help him fulfil his promise with Jewish voters in the US during his election campaign, while maintaining Washington’s interests and influence in the Middle East region which holds a strategic geo-political position. Since taking office, President Trump has issued a number of policies that are contrary to his predecessors in approaching and handling the Middle East crises. The fact that the US President is tilted to Israel in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has prompted Palestinians to reject Washington’s intermediary role in the peace process. Meanwhile, the tough policies of the Trump administration towards Iran have also abolished the “diplomatic imprints” of the Barack Obama administration in handling the “Iran nuclear record”. Furthermore, these decisions by President Trump have caused mixed reactions in domestic and international public opinion.

While Israeli PM Netanyahu travelled to the US to seek support from their ally ahead of the elections, the security situation in Israel became unstable. Israeli soldiers had to continuously carry out attacks in retaliation to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip by the Hamas movement. The clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters in the Gaza border area continued, escalating tensions.

Despite having to cut short his visit to the US, the Israeli leader still received firm commitments on a “security umbrella” that Washington gives to Tel Aviv. However, the bottlenecks in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the new US decision on the Golan Heights, have triggered concerns about pushing the Middle East into contradictions, while creating a “jumble” that will be difficult to be removed.