President Trump Formally Recognizes that the Golan Heights is Part of Israel

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On March 25, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an historic Presidential Proclamation making official the United States' recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel. You may see the proclamation itself here: [PDF version]. You may watch a video of the signing ceremony, featuring remarks from President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, below:

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967 after Syria attacked. In 1981, Israel extended its laws to the Golan Heights. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations Security Council — unfortunately including the United States — unanimously voted to reject the Golan Heights Law, regardless of the fact that this rejection had no bearing on the actual facts on the ground. Now, nearly four decades later, President Trump has righted the United States' past wrong and recognized that Israel is sovereign over the Golan Heights, effectively reversing not only the position taken by the Reagan Administration in 1981, but also the positions of nine Administrations in the 52 years since Israel captured the Golan Heights in its self-defense.

The “Proclamation on Recognizing the Golan Heights as Part of the State of Israel” lists several reasons supporting President Trump's historic reversal of U.S. policy:

Israel captured the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard itself from external threats.
Today, Israel faces threats across the Golan Heights from Iran, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups in southern Syria.
Israel would retain the Golan Heights in any possible future peace agreement because any agreement must account for Israel's need to protect itself from Syria and other threats emanating from Syria.

All of the points cited to in the Proclamation are true. Israel captured the Golan Heights in a defensive war in 1967. The importance of the Golan Heights to Israel's security was shown in 1973 when Israel repelled an invasion by Syria and held the strategically important position. Syria has been mired in a civil war for nearly a decade and is infested by nefarious actors with ambitions on the elimination of the State of Israel, including Syria itself, Iran, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, and the Islamic State. Were Israel to come to some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians, it would not involve a Palestinian State in the Golan Heights. Israel could not agree to a deal where it would cede the Golan Heights to Syria, run by a brutal dictator who has worked with terror groups and used chemical weapons against his own civilians. Thus, Israel captured Golan Heights in a defensive war, continues to need the position for its defense, has administered the area far more justly than Syria had, and would not give up the region in any plausible peace accord. Israel is the United States' most steadfast ally in the Middle East in the fight against Islamist terror.

To be sure, Golan Heights has been a de facto part of Israel for over five decades and was going to remain so regardless of whether the United States or any other country recognized it as such. However, in light of the above points and that Israel's holding the Golan Heights is not only a fact, but also in the national interest of the United States, President Trump's decision to formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel is pragmatic, wise, and just.

President Trump's Proclamation is the second historic document that he has signed regarding Israel's territorial integrity. For those who are interested, please see my 2017 post on his decision to recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel [see article].

President Trump Formally Recognizes that the Golan Heights is Part of Israel