President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) at the White House this Monday and Tuesday, which just happens to be on the 40th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signing of a historic peace agreement in a ceremony at the White House under then-president Jimmy Carter. But unlike Carter, our current president is not sheepish about showing his pro-Israeli passion in standing by our greatest Middle East ally.
President Trump ended half a century of U.S. foreign policy by breaking from United Nations consensus that prohibits territorial conquest during war when he tweeted on Thursday that it’s high time for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, just as he ordered a year ago for the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump tweeted on Thursday, “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!”
Within 24 hours, CBS and other media outlets reported that Trump’s tweet “sparked worldwide controversy and condemnation.” But the majority of that worldwide rebuttal seems to be coming from Syria, Iran, Turkey and Russia, most of which are not exactly known for being on best of terms with the U.S.
(Why is it the left is so quick to condemn any association Trump has with Russia, but then highlights Russia in cases like this one with the Golan Heights when they think Trump should be in agreement with the Kremlin? Similarly, the global community normally condemns Basher al-Assad’s brutal Syrian regime until Israel rises up against it, then they defend Syria!)
Since the Israeli Parliament annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, Washington D.C., along with the rest of the international community, declined to recognize Israel’s sovereignty and considers the land among “occupied territories.”
But remember, too, for over two decades the U.S. had done nothing with its embassy in Tel Aviv, though Congress passed a bilateral majority vote via the “Jerusalem Embassy Act” to move it to Jerusalem way back in 1999. It took president Trump to make it happen. Golan Heights is no different.
Critics often point out that the roughly 444 square miles of disputed area called “The Golan Heights” (also sometimes referred to as “The thumb of Israel”) was captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. But what they fail in explaining is that it was technically a “recapture,” at least from Israel’s point of view, because the land had been theirs, too, in history past.
As Briticanna.com documents from the earliest point of Hebrew history: “The area’s name is from the biblical city of refuge Golan in Bashan (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8).”
Wikipedia elaborated: “According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was ‘the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus.’ The Itureans, an Arab or Aramaic people, settled there in the 2nd century BC and remained until the end of the Byzantine period. Organized Jewish settlement in the region came to an end in 636 [A.D.] when it was conquered by Arabs under Umar ibn al-Khattāb. In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Republic.”
But Syrian control at this point only complicates the issue and compounds the problem, especially with so much instability and so many international powers at work and war in and outside that worn-torn country.
Zena Agha, U.S. Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, accurately explained the complicated mess and why Israel needs control of the Golan Heights for international and geographical stability: “In recent years, the Golan has made international headlines largely in the context of the bloody, seven-year-long civil war in Syria. The war has periodically spilled over into the Golan, where Israeli forces shot down a Syrian plane in July and, allegedly, a Russian one in September [in addition to firing back rockets from Iranian attacks]. Those who would like to see the Golan remain in Israeli hands, such as Ambassador Friedman and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, argue that the warring parties, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State (or ISIS), all in different ways pose an existential threat to Israel, which needs the Golan Heights as a buffer zone for its self-defense. Michael Doran, a member of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, has expressed the same concerns, asking, ‘What is the Syria that will best contribute to international peace and stability? Anyone truly concerned with this question must conclude that the Golan Heights should remain in Israeli hands.'”
Many Trump critics, which include most of mainstream media, said the president’s pro-Israeli tweet on Thursday did little for the Golan Heights but gave a big boost to Bibi in the middle of his re-election campaign. I think it does both, not to mention it’s the right thing to do.
I’ve endorsed Bibi in all of his elections as I did in 2013. He will always have my support, including in his re-election for a fifth term in a couple weeks on April 9. I encourage all Israelis, especially Millennials, to get out and vote for Bibi for what he continues to offer to Israel from Eliat to the Golan Heights.
When my wife, Gena, and I were visiting with him and the Holy Land in 2017, the Prime Minister joked around that since I was in the Holy Land, “Israel is strong but it’s indestructible now.” (That’s funny!)
The truth is, Israel doesn’t need my presence to be strong or indestructible. It has been the dominant force in the Middle East since the dawn of recorded history, and especially over these past 70 years since being reinstituted as a nation.
As the world approaches Passover and Easter, I’d encourage everyone to do what the Hebrew Scripture calls us to do: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.'” (Psalm 122:6).