On Thursday, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced that it was time for the U.S. to officially grant full recognition to Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel acquired control over that area in a war which Syria waged against the Jewish State in 1967.
Trump made his announcement using his preferred method of retaining full control over his message, that is, in a tweet from his @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account.
“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!”
U.S. CONSTITUTION GIVES PRESIDENT EXCLUSIVE CONTROL OVER RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS
Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants to the President the power to recognize foreign governments. The Supreme Court, in a long series of decisions beginning in the 1930’s, has construed this grant of power to give the president exclusive control over which governments to recognize in a given country.
As a very current example, it is the U.S. President who decides whether this nation will recognize as Venezuela’s president either Nicolas Maduro or Juan Guaido. This presidential power extends to which countries to recognize at all, for example, Taiwan or Mainland China. And so also does it belong to the president alone to decide what are the borders of other countries for purposes of U.S. recognition and U.S. law.
HOW ISRAEL ATTAINED CONTROL OVER THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
Israel acquired control over the Golan Heights, a dramatically elevated plateau in the area abutting Syria and Israel’s Golan valley, in the 1967 war. It was the third of three fronts waged against Israel by its neighboring Arab countries: first by Egypt from Israel’s south, then by Jordan, along Israel’s southwestern border, and then Syria, to the northwest of Israel. Lebanon also attacked Israel during this six-day long war. But Lebanon played a limited role and, like the other Arab armies, was swiftly and soundly defeated.
In 1981, Israel declared its sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The United Nations refuses to recognize this change in status. One of the largest voting blocs at the U.N. is the virulently anti-Israel Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Trump’s announcement regarding Israeli sovereignty was foreshadowed by two other U.S. government initiatives, one legislative, the other from the State Department.
OTHER U.S. GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES TO RECOGNIZE ISRAELI SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
On Feb. 26, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced into the Senate, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) introduced into the House, bills which, for purposes of legislation by the U.S. Congress, would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The congressional initiatives made clear that the objective was not only to strengthen Israel’s defensive capabilities, but also to bolster U.S. national security .
On March 13, the State Department released its annual Human Rights Reports which discusses the status of human rights throughout the world. In years past, the document referred to the Golan Heights as “occupied” by Israel. That reference was dropped from this year’s report.
The head of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was a U.S. Army Officer, a congressman, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo is an ardent U.S. national security advocate and is widely considered positively disposed towards Israel.
In addition to the official changes in position signaled by the bills introduced into Congress and the Human Rights Report from the State Department, still another message was recently sent from a U.S. official regarding the Golan Heights.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was in Israel earlier this month. While there, he took a trip to the Golan Heights with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israelis know that without witnessing firsthand the strategic advantage presented by the Golan Heights, it is impossible to understand why it is critical to keep it out of the control of hostile nations, such as Syria and her puppeteers, Iran and Russia.
During his visit, Graham vowed to push for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. “The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel,” Graham said. “My goal is to try to explain this to the administration.”
Now that the President has spoken on this point over which he has exclusive control, the matter should be put to rest. But no doubt, as with every other major foreign policy initiative undertaken by Trump, especially those seen as supportive of Israel, the hysteria will be swift and vicious. Just as it was with the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and as it was with the decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Iran Deal, this latest act will likely be met with intense criticism.