The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the Golan Heights will remain permanently under Israeli control, a statement that has been criticized by President Barack Obama’s Administration. In a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu cited the millennia-long Jewish connection the Golan Heights and said that “Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”
The Golan Heights were captured buy Israel the 1967 Six Day War, following Syrian attack. Israel has not annexed the Golan Heights, but extended Israeli jurisdiction to the territory in 1981.
State Department spokesman John Kirby has said that the U.S. does not recognize Israeli claims to the strategic plateau and that its position is unchanged, “This position was maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations.”
Conversely, Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) has supported the Israeli government, saying that “it would be “foolhardy and dangerous” for the world to press Israel to relinquish the territory amid the ongoing Syrian civil war and that “given the presence of hostile terrorist organizations ranging from ISIS to Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We support the Israeli Prime Minister’s statement.
“The Obama Administration’s response that it is long-standing U.S. policy not to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights is factually correct, but irrelevant.
“While we understand that international law generally prohibits annexation by one state of the recognized sovereign territory of another state, we are not discussing this here.
“Israel has never annexed Golan Heights, although it has extended its jurisdiction to the territory. In this way, it continued to offer negotiations with Syria over the future of the territory for much of the 1990s.
“Indeed, Mr. Netanyahu, during his first stint as Israeli premier (1996 – 99) (and apparently again in 2010) tried hard to negotiate with Syria and was willing to return virtually the entire Golan Heights.
In fact, had the Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad, been willing at the time to conclude a peace agreement with the state of Israel, Syria would actually possess the Golan Heights overlooking northern Israel today –– and one can just imagine the terrible ramifications for peace and security, especially Israeli security, in light of events today, had that occurred.
“With the subsequent implosion of Syria; the Syrian civil war; the mass murder and carnage of the Islamic State; the massacres and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime; the presence of the al–Nusra Front terrorists and also Iranian Revolutionary Guards right up against the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights –– with all these things, where would Israel be now if it had, in return for a piece of paper, returned the Golan Heights to Syria from which Israeli farms and villages were shelled by Syrian forces before 1967?
“It is mercy that the Syrian dictatorship was not interested in peace with Israel, or unwilling to lie about wishing to live in peace with Israel because, had it been willing to do so, Israel may have accepted its word and signed away the Golan. In that case, Islamic State terrorists or Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or perhaps both would be launching strikes into Israel from the strategically vital plateau today.
“The Golan has a long Jewish history, predating the Arab invasion of the region in the seventh century. It was not conquered through initial Israeli aggression, but in a war of self-defense imposed on it by Syria and other Arab neighbors. The Syrian regime has proved for decades its unwillingness to live in peace with Israel, even should Israel return the Golan, as it offered. Syria today is a mass killing field and a source of terrible insecurity and danger for the region. In the circumstances, Prime Minister Netanyahu is correct to say that returning the Golan Heights to Syria is not realistic and that Israel will retain it as the best guarantee of its own security.”