Concordant with his impetuous, even inexplicable, foreign policy, Donald Trump has made the Middle East waters murkier still. The US President’s recognition of Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights has almost immediately ignited global anger. He has verily caused a flutter in the international roost with Russia, Iran and Turkey almost immediately condemning the move. The plot thickens with Syria ~ a storm-centre for the past several years ~ pledging to recover territory lost in the 1967 war. Israeli troops had taken control of the volcanic plateau from Syria in the six-day war in 1967 and subsequently it was annexed by the regime in Damascus. These developments were condemned by the Security Council and never internationally recognised. Fifty-two years after, Trump has in effect drawn the line on US foreign policy that had been pursued for the past half a century; he has deviated from the post-World War II international consensus that forbids territorial conquest during war. His tweet has made his redefined parameters pretty obvious though suitably trashed by a large swathe of the world ~ “It is time to fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The territory is of critical strategic and security importance to the state of Israel and regional stability.” Following the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ~ in place of Tel-Aviv ~ this is the second attempt by Trump to play to the Jewish gallery. And thus provoke the ire of Palestinians, and stout condemnation further afield. While geostrategic considerations may be a matter of academic interest, the US President will have to accept that his decision can only exacerbate the already fragile situation in the Middle East.
Syria is now ever so determined to liberate the Golan Heights. Trump’s statement is suggestive of what Syria calls “the blind bias of the United States”, underlining the fact that “Golan was and will always be a Syrian Arab territory”. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, the geopolitical alignments are suitably stark. Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran, have debunked the diplomacy of Washington. Iran has binned the announcement as “illegal and unacceptable”, and Russia asserts that a change of the status of the Golan Heights would be a direct violation of UN resolutions. Ergo, the potential damage to international order is dangerously real. The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognise what France has called an “illegal situation.” The Sea of Galilee, at the base of the Golan Heights, is simmering and figuratively so.
In the net, a concert of leading powers has emerged against the United States of America, and President Donald Trump will arguably now have to plough a lonely furrow in the Middle East. He may have lent the spark to a conflagration. Silence, neutrality and calls to cease hostilities ought to be accorded precedence over a direly reckless travesty of international law.