Netanyahu stresses on Golan heights

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed the United States to recognize Israeli governance of most of the Golan Heights during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His efforts underscored the growing possibility that the Trump administration may change the American stance on the territory.

Background

Golan Heights is a region in the Levant, spanning about 1,800 square kilometres (690 sq mi). Since the 1967 Six-day War, the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel, whereas the eastern third had remained under control of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Following the onset of the Syrian Civil War split between the government and opposition forces, with the UNDOF maintaining a 266 km2 buffer zone in between, to implement the ceasefire of the Purple Line.

Analysis

Mr. Netanyahu has pushed repeatedly for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the western Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967 and later annexed.

There are recent signs that the Trump administration could be moving in Mr. Netanyahu’s direction. An annual human rights report released by the State Department used the phrase “Israeli-controlled” rather than “Israeli-occupied” to describe the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza, counter to the tradition. The Trump administration has also pushed back against United Nations condemnations of Israel’s occupation.

Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Pompeo appeared together to offer remarks to reporters following a one-on-one meeting in the prime minister’s compound in Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu said Israeli intelligence officials had discovered that Hezbollah, the Lebanese military and political group with ties to Iran, was trying to set up a network in the Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights, posing a threat to Israel.

Mr. Pompeo did not mention the Golan Heights, but he talked expansively about the need for the United States and Israel to work together to counter Iran and about the Trump administration’s backing for Israel’s security.

Assessment

Our assessment is that PM Netanyahu is attempting to leverage Syria’s greatly weakened position in the region to reclaim the remaining area of the Golan Height which was left contested after the 1967 war. We believe that the US will not make any firm announcements recognising Golan Heights to be Israeli anytime soon.