Oct 23, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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An ambiguous statement by a state department representative leaves open the possibility that the Biden administration could call for Israel to turn over the Golan to Syria at the same time that 73 Democrats in the US House of Representatives sent a letter to the president calling for the state department to declare it illegal for Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday that an unnamed State Department official was asked to comment on the current administration’s policy regarding the status of the Golan heights. The official reportedly answered, “the territory belongs to no one and control could change depending on the region’s ever-shifting dynamics.”

“The secretary [Anthony Blinken] was clear that, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” the State Department official told the Free Beacon. “As long as [Bashar al-Assad] is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself—all of these pose a significant security threat to Israel, and as a practical matter, the control of the Golan remains of real importance to Israel’s security.”

It became clear that the Biden administration had a different policy when, one month after Biden took office, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken refused to acknowledge that US recognition of the Golan would stay in place. 

“Look, leaving aside the legalities of that question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” Blinken said to the media in February. “As long as [dictator Bashar] Assad is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself – all of these pose a significant security threat to Israel, and as a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security.”

He concluded by saying that the possibility of using legal means to force Israel to relinquish the Golan was a definite possibility.

“Legal questions are something else. And over time, if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we’d look at. But we are nowhere near as that,” Blinken said

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disagreed with the new State Department’s [olicy change.

“The Golan Heights are not occupied by Israel, they are a part of it. The Israelis have a right to it as sovereign land,” Pompeo told the Free Beacon. “To suggest that these lands should be returned to Syria, even if conditioned on changes in the Syrian regime, is inconsistent with both Israeli security and the international law.”

The State Department’s “suggestion that if Assad falls and the Iranians leave Syria, the Golan Heights should be given to Syria misreads history and misreads the eternal security needs of the state of Israel,” Pompeo said.

The United States became the first country to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel through a presidential proclamation signed by President Trump in March 2019. The proclamation cited “aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, in southern Syria” as justification for Israel to maintain sovereignty over the Golan Heights as Israel has a “need to protect itself from Syria and other regional threats.”

The issue of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan has become partisan and last month, a group of GOP Representatives led by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) today introduced the Israeli Sovereignty Reassurance Act of 2021 (ISRA), legislation to prohibit the State Department from reversing the U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. This was in response to Secretary Blinken’s statements indicating an imminent change in policy.

“These comments [from the State Department] should serve as a call to action,” Rep. Gallagher told the Free Beacon in response to the recent remarks by the State Department. “It’s time to pass legislation I’ve introduced with Senator [Ted] Cruz [(R., Texas)] that ensures that the U.S. will continue to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, regardless of who is in the White House.”

Biden’s intention to change this policy regarding the Golan was also hinted at on June 16  during a congressional hearing when Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), pressed United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the issue. 

“I pressed UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the administration’s position on recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and she acknowledged that the Trump administration policy recognizing Israeli sovereignty is unchanged as of now,” Zeldin said to the Free Beacon. “However, Secretary Blinken and the Biden Administration need to stop beating around the bush, and unambiguously commit to maintain recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights permanently.”

73 Democrats call on Biden to declare Jews to be illegally living in Judea and Samaria

73 Democrats in the US House of Representatives sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to rescind the policy of the previous administration which maintained that it was legal for Jews to live in Judea and Samaria. The letter also called for the Biden administration to adopt a policy declaring Judea and Samaria to be illegally occupied by Israel. 

The letter called for the White House to “make clear that the United States considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by reissuing relevant State Department and U.S. customs guidance to that effect.”

The letter opened by praising the White House for its efforts that led to a ceasefire after Hamas fired over 4,600 rockets at Israeli civilian centers. The ceasefire benefitted Hams, forcing the IDF to cease operations that would have neutralized Hamas’ ability to launch terrorist operations and rockets and Israel. Hamas violated the ceasefire last week by launching incendiary balloons at southern Israel.

The letter also praised Biden for providing Hamas and the Palestinian Authority with hundreds of millions of dollars in “humanitarian aid.” The State Department admitted that there could be no assurances that the aid would not be used for terrorism against Israel and last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intent to continue paying terrorists.

The letter went on to call for removing any policies that might open a pathway for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria. 

Another request in the letter was for the US State Department to open a separate US Consulate in Jerusalem. This is generally considered to be a precursor to opening an embassy to the Palestinian Authority, establishing its capital in Jerusalem. 

The letter concluded by calling for the “two state solution.”

“Make clear that the United States considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by reissuing relevant State Department and U.S. customs guidance to that effect.”

The two state solution is a plan that would ethnically cleanse Judea and Samaria of Jews, creating an unprecedented “Palestinian State” similar to Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem which would prohibit Jews from accessing their holiest sites. 

Among the signatures was that of Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.