In a significant first, the U.S. State Department’s 2018 annual human rights report released on Wednesday referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled and not “Israeli-occupied”. Not surprisingly, the United Nations Human Rights Council is getting ready to respond with a resolution
A separate section of the 2018 report focused on the West Bank and Gaza Strip but did not refer to those territories as being “occupied” or under “occupation” as it did in the previous report released every year since 2011.
The Golan Heights were captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981.
When asked about the change on such a sensitive Middle East subject, a senior US official told reporters in Washington: “There’s no change in our outlook or our policy vis-a-vis these territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there.”
Last Monday, Senator Lindsey Graham toured the Golan Heights with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and declared that the region was a hsitorical part of Israel.
With my good friend, Senator @LindseyGrahamSC, today in the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights will always be part of Israel. It is important that the international community, especially our great friend the United States, recognizes this fact and accepts it. pic.twitter.com/joXEB9URX7
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 11, 2019
“I have a simple message – I’ll return to the Senate in the United States and work with Senator Cruz to start a move to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel now and forever,” Senator Graham said. “Israel took control of this territory in a war for its existence. This area was taken by military force because it served as a launching pad to attack the State of Israel. There is rich Jewish history in this region.”
At the same time, Pakistan submitted a resolution to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation calling to reject Israel’s annexation of the Golan. It is one of five anti-Israel resolutions the UNHRC is set to debate on Monday and will vote on toward the end of the week.