Legitimizing Israeli aggression in the Golan Heights
US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a move that is in clear violation of international law, was received in Pakistan with complete dismay. For all intents and purposes, the US accepted the consequences of an act of aggression as unequivocally legal. The precedent this sets holds dangerous potential of turning an established international order upside down, with real consequences for many conflicts but especially for the occupied territories of Palestine and Kashmir.
A statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry reads that Pakistan shares in the world’s outrage and expresses legitimate concerns over the possible repercussions of this decision for the region and beyond.
This response remains in line with Pakistan’s traditional Pro-Arab stances. In 1958, Pakistan recognized the Algerian provisional government in exile. It not only allowed this government to open its diplomatic mission in Pakistan but also issued a diplomatic Pakistani passport to its leader Ahmad Bin Bella to allow him to explain the cause of Algerian liberation to other governments.
As a nation whose entire ethos is built on Muslim identity, Pakistan has been at the forefront as a member state of the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in sponsoring various resolutions on Palestine. It is worth noting that no other international issue has as many UN resolutions passed in its name as the Palestinian issue does. The unanimously adopted security council resolution 242 passed in 1967 in the aftermath of the six day war, is perhaps the most comprehensive affirmation in the Arab-Israeli conflict and in its preamble refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
Therefore, the recent US decision in support of Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights is contradictory to its own position of 1967.
With Israel’s brazen overtures in the Golan Heights effectively legitimized by the US, peace and security protocols in the region have been turned on their head.
In 1981, Crown Prince Fahad bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia authored an eight point plan as an outline for Arab-Israeli peace which focused on a two-state solution. This still remains the most practical solution to a seemingly intractable problem and Israel’s unwillingness to implement a two-state solution has been the main hurdle to peace in the region. With its brazen overtures in the Golan Heights effectively legitimized by the US, peace and security protocols in the region have been turned on their head.
The nation-states of today are rooted in the Westphalian principles of sovereignty and equality. A state’s sovereignty over its territory is an inviolable fact and cannot be overturned through aggression. All nation states, big or small, are equal before international law.
After World War II, it was in fact the US which emerged as a world leader and raised the slogans of liberty and democracy. It was the US that preached international cooperation instead of nationalistic competition and took the moral high ground, winning the respect of people around the world.
It was back in 1981 that Israel first declared the Golan Heights its territory and asked successive US governments to formally recognize its position. But the US firmly refused to do so every time. President Trump’s decision to finally accept an unlawful Israeli position is therefore a big U-turn in US policy.
It is no wonder that during the subsequent debate in the emergency session of the UN Security Council called by Syria, the US was totally isolated. Fourteen out of fifteen members rejected the US position. The UN has always unequivocally supported the principle of state sovereignty being inviolable and the council president Anne Gueguen, who spoke as the French representative said, “Any unilateral action that would turn its back on the resolutions of the Council is doomed to failure.” Russian ambassador to the UN called it the “aggressive revision of international law.”
For its part, America should remember the ethos on which it was once built and for the values which brought it the greatest glory in the world. Before that trust and faith crumbles, before more dangerous precedents are set, the US must rethink its position on Israeli aggression.
– Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst. Twitter: @hafiz_javed