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The Logic of Annexation: Israel and the Golan Heights

Any measure of annexation is based on the extension of a military’s boots. Diplomats tend to be silenced before the noise of tanks, weaponry and garrisons. Countries may claim to possess territory but can only dream in the absence of military weight. When it came to the issue of negotiating the post-World War II agreements, Generalissimo Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union had a clear sense of this in charting out Soviet influence in East European states. Israel also bullied its way into recognition, making sure that it acquired, at various stages, the Sinai (since relinquished), the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

The status of the Golan Heights has been a disputed business since the 1949 armistice line hammered out between Syria and Israel. The seven-hundred-square-mile stretch features all gazing vantage points: Jordan to the south, Syria to the east, Lebanon to the north, and Israel to its west. To military advantage could also be added water security: the edge of the Golan Heights features the freshwater Sea of Galilee.

Israel remained convinced that the mandate lines of Palestine and Syria should have finalised the issue but rendered much of that moot with the seizure of the territory in the Six Day War of 1967. (Syrian forces made use of their elevation during that war by shelling Israeli farms in the Hula Valley.) The UN Security Council proceeded to pass Resolution 242, calling for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from territories occupied during the conflict and “acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries.” The international lawyers duly fussed over the wording and quibbled over niceties: the issue of “secure… boundaries” kept plaguing the issue, as Israel refused to budge; translation matters between the French and English versions of the resolution were also seized upon.

No international body was going to stop the Israeli push to incorporate the heights and do what it has become so adept at doing: colonising it into a new reality. The Knesset showed its disdain in 1981 by adopting the Golan Heights Law, passed by 63 votes to 21, which effectively acknowledged that the law, jurisdiction and administration of Israel would be duly extended into the territory. Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s views on Syrian hostility, reflected in the deployment of missiles on Lebanese soil, was also cited as an excuse.

The recent turn of events centred on the Syrian Civil War renewed interest in the Golan.  Syria seemed to be collapsing, the Assad regime in dire straits. Iran and Hezbollah came into play. Given the assisting presence of Teheran’s Quds Force, Israel’s strategists have seen a further need to maintain a forward presence, mindful of militants of all persuasion moving through the territory.

The position of Israel’s unqualified and foremost ally was, at least notionally, with an international reservation on the status of the Golan.  But that contested state offered another overturned convention for the Trump administration and US foreign policy. On March 21, President Donald Trump decided, via his own chosen, special medium, to claim that, “After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s [s]overeignty over the Golan Heights.” As is operating protocol in the administration, it was not initially clear whether Trump had merely cyber-aired an opinion in an act of spontaneous release or announced a genuine policy shift. The US State Department preferred to direct press concerns to the White House; certainty was, for a period, suspended in the scramble for elusive facts.

Those scrounging for some hook to hang their questions on did have an additional statement from National Security adviser John Bolton, also made on Twitter: “To allow Golan Heights to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian or Iranian regimes would turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Assad and the destabilizing presence of Iran in the region. Strengthening Israel’s security enhances our ability to fight common threats together.” Unsurprisingly, for Bolton, there was no reference to the body of international norms he has come to regard as absent.

In Israel, clarity had cooled, and the mould set. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convinced by Trump’s meditations, revealing that the White House had been most accommodating towards a shift.  Trump had “made history.” Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights had been recognized, and there was no better time than now, “when Iran is trying to use the Golan Heights as a platform for the destruction of Israel.”  But in addition to the security justification came the old sinister and stretched notions of exclusive, lengthy habitation.  “Jews lived there for thousands of years and the people of Israel have come back to the Golan.”

Next to Netanyahu was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made the stumbling affirmation of the position: the Golan Heights were to be considered an appropriate “sovereign part of the State of Israel.” Israelis should also “know the battles they fought, the lives that they lost on that very ground, were worthy and meaningful.”

It all comes as a measure of grades. Start gradually, then push the issue with force and settlements. Over time, the attrition might convince; international opposition would melt away.  The Golan-based human rights group Al-Marsad is gloomy about Syrians in the area, seeing the existential demise of its residents. “Syrians in the occupied Golan face calculated Israeli efforts to restrict their building and land use, destroy their enterprise, cleanse their Arab culture, manipulate their Syrian identity, and suffocate their freedom of movement.”

The Trump decision, similarly to its stance on East Jerusalem, tilts the head of US foreign policy away from the basic principles of peace and security embedded in the UN Charter, as weak a document as it has proven to be over the years. It will also further muddy the waters with the Assad regime, ever keen to restore order as the bloody civil war painstakingly comes to a close. And as for the issue of Arab-Israeli peace? Forget it. Boots, construction and missiles are proving far more effective than diplomatic advances.

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14 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    I do NOT support what Israel does with the settlements. But I completely understand it’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Israel is surrounded by countries who hate Israel, and have tried to crush it. If Israel buckled under international pressure, and gave the Heights back to Syria, it would be annihilated shortly afterward. It might look to the US to save it, But US ineptitude has been on display – everywhere it has tried to bully countries – since its might was not enough to beat Vietnam. Israel already believes that EVERYBODY (bar the US) hates it, and I believe would use any means possible to save itself.
    That is not, by the way, an anti-Semitic rant: or even an anti-Zionist rant (although I take George Galloway’s view on it). Just my considered view on what I believe is actually an insoluble situation.
    Including nuclear weapons.

  2. Lambert Simpleton

    Wow!

    Naughty Binoy, for this.

    He mentions the P-word and the I word. Palestine and Israel….

    I’m stunned to a deep state of SHOCK.

    Mightn’t this be ANTISEMITIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Phil

    “That is not, by the way, an anti-Semitic rant: or even an anti-Zionist rant (although I take George Galloway’s view on it). Just my considered view on what I believe is actually an insoluble situation.
    Including nuclear weapons.:

    Israel is on borrowed time if As Golda Meir stated in her biography, she would see the world in a ‘ Nuclear Armageddon ‘ rather than give any part of Palestine or if you like, Israel to the Arabs. Their fate is sealed. Either they turn the best part of the ME into a dust bowl or, create a two state solution. For mine the latter is inevitable. If they make the Golan Heights permanent, I will scrub around the new car this year and buy a shelter.

  4. Lambert Simpleton

    Phil, the media has fallen into line…NO reportage, no criticism of Israel’s designed brutality.

  5. Phil

    Lambert Simpleton.

    Indeed. Our media follows the line of the US and British media. Their silence of the truth is deafening, plenty of lies to go round however.. For mine, the US is trying to gin up another war, they are fully cognizant of what their actions will cause. People are oblivious to what is actually going on. I am with Pilger, his analysis is, it well may all start in Venezuela

  6. Lambert Simpleton

    Definitely Venezuela, following the rest of South America. Most of Africa, the Chinese are quarantined within the borders of China and Russia and Europe don’t count yet.

    NO-one is getting their hands on all that oil and other resources, or changing international exchange practices and the war machine continues on with its built-in planned obsolescence.

  7. Phil

    :NO-one is getting their hands on all that oil and other resources, or changing international exchange practices and the war machine continues on with its built-in planned obsolescence.:

    Yep agree with all that. The latest threat from that gibbering idiot Trump is to shut their border with Mexico. For mine, a lot of this rhetoric is, for his home grown base. That’s “Mr & Mrs Dumb Fcuck “. You cant miss them, they run around the country side armed to their one tooth in their cake hole, with a dead squirrel on their heads.

    Anything to take their minds off the fact the US has elected a gibbering idiot and a crook, to lead the supposed free world. Btw for mine, Pence makes Trump look like a member of MENSA. We are heading for unchartered waters, with a Captain and Crew as dumb as a bag of hammers. Being a ‘ Baby Boomer ‘ I only remember WW2 from doco’s and books. I haven’t seen war up close. I fear that is going to change and not to far away.

  8. Lambert Simpleton

    Yes, friend. The Americans grow their own homegrown Hansonists, They even copy us with that (yes, I know.. smiles). The people hanging on to power will happily cut throats by the trainload if it keeps them where they are without batting an eyelid.

    Welcome to the Dark Ages.

  9. Zathras

    Despite all their self-righteousness, Israel continues to enjoy some sort of ongoing immunity from Human Rights abuses and war crimes as defined under the Geneva Convention which are now further bolstered by the Trump administration.

    They claim to believe in the Peace Process but not the peace itself because as long as “the process” continues, so does the increasing dispossession and occupation.

    The notion of Greater Israel has always been their objective and the only solution to the Jerusalem matter is probably a Biblical one – evacuate the city and nuke it so nobody can claim it as their own.

  10. Phil

    Welcome to the Dark Ages.

    Indeed Bud Indeed. Most of the people I know are oblivious to the fact we are getting flushed down the shitter. As an aside my old mum is ninety, the wife and I had lunch in the nursing home she lives in. This couple of old people sitting across from us, only about five years older than us, he looking like a badly dressed American Golfer and she with enough pearls around her neck to sink a Pommy battle ship. Were, waxing lyrically about what a splendid job Trump was doing. Having mellowed in my own old age, instead of asking them would they like a slap around the head? (Joking) I calmly asked them, could I recommend a good psychiatrist. Instant end of conversation. This is how I treat all cretins now. I have one foot in the grave, I don’t have to be nice anymore.

  11. Lambert Simpleton

    That’s the go, Phil.

  12. New England Cocky

    It appears that the message of this article is that Zionist Israel continues to be the biggest and boldest fascist state, not only in the Middle East, but in the world today. The presumptions of imminent war in South America (those naughty Venezuelans wanting to ‘sell’ oil to the USA (United States of Apartheid) multinational oil corporations just undermines the American economy) and the recent pseudo-religious mutterings of Pompeo could indicate that the US NE military industrial complex is flexing its political influence to increase profits for those super-rich shareholders at the expense of everybody else regardless.

  13. margcal

    Quite a number of years ago there was a TV series about Israel’s Generals.
    What has stayed with me is Moshe Dayan saying that Israel was seized at the end of a gun and will only ever be held the same way, or very similar.
    https://m.imdb.com/title/tt2647110/
    It might be found on YouTube … can’t check, I won’t give YT as many personal details as they want to have YT work on my tablet.

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