US Changes Golan Heights from Israeli ‘Occupied’ to ‘Controlled’

The move signalled US approval towards Israel’s claim over the disputed territory that it captured from Syria.

2 min read
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, left, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, visit the border between Israel and Syria at the Israeli-held Golan Heights, Monday, 11 March, 2019

The US published its annual human rights report on Wednesday, 13 March, where it no longer referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” but “Israeli-occupied.

The move signalled US approval towards Israel’s claim over the disputed territory that it captured from Syria.

The State Department, however, insists that the wording change doesn't necessarily translate into a policy change, according to a report in Al Jazeera.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, a senior US official said, “there's no change in our outlook or our policy vis-a-vis these territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there".

Israeli leaders have not yet addressed the change, reported Reuters.

A spokesperson for Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to Reuters, saying, “the new labels will not change the fact that this is occupied territory, in accordance with UN resolutions and international law”.


Despite US Acceptance, Internationally The Golan is still ‘Occupied’

The change in terminology comes amidst pressure from Israel on the Trump administration to recognise its sovereign claim to the area, reported The Guardian.

Israel effectively annexed the volcanic plateau in 1981, after it occupied the area from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Internationally, this step was not recognised and the Golan is regarded as occupied under a UN Security Council resolution passed in 1967 in the aftermath of the war.

On Monday, 11 March, Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Golan.

Graham pledged to lobby the US administration to recognise Israel sovereignty of the area, according to an AP News report.

Hours before the US report was out, Israel accused a suspected Lebanese Hezbollah operative of setting up a guerilla network on the Syrian side of the Golan. Incidentally, this operative was previously held in Iraq over the killing of five US military personnel, reported Reuters.

West Bank, Gaza Strip Terminology Not Changed

Like the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were also occupied by Israel in the 1967 war but the US State Department report did not use the term “occupied” in relation to those territories.

Meanwhile, Palestinians wait for a pledge from the US to help create their own state in the West Bank and Gaza after committing post interim peace deals with Israel signed in the 1990s.

The Guardian reported that despite Israeli forces left Gaza in 2005 but continue to maintain an air, land and sea blockade. The West Bank remains under Israeli military control.

Netanyahu to Visit the US in End March

Washington is set to present a peace plan for Israel and Palestine after Israel’s elections on 9 April said US officials according to Reuters.

Netanyahu will travel to Washington later in March to address the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Media reports from Israel have said that he plans to discuss the Golan issue, among other things, with Trump.

(With inputs from The Guardian, Reuters and Al Jazeera)

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