President Donald Trump officially recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. (AP)
Updated 26 March 2019

President Donald Trump officially recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

  • Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 war
  • Gulf Cooperation Council last week expressed regret at Donald Trump's plan

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump officially recognized Israel's sovereignty of the Golan Heights in Washington on Monday.

The document reverses more than a half-century of US policy as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.

Trump had previewed the move in a tweet last week, in which he said the US would take the step after 52 years of Israeli occupation of the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.

Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 but its sovereignty over the territory is not recognized by the international community.

Reaction across the Middle East widely denouced Trump's decision, with the Syrian government calling Washington's recognition of Israeli claims over the territory an attack on its sovereignty.

“In a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, the president of the US has recognised the annexation of the Syrian Golan,” a foreign ministry source said, according to state news agency SANA.

“Trump does not have the right and the legal authority to legitimise the occupation,” the unnamed source said.

The president of the Arab Parliament, Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, categorically rejected Trump's decision, condemning it and saying it was “null and void” with “no legal effect,” according to Saudi Press Agency.

He pointed out that the American decision threatened the international order and “shook its foundations” and that it would increase tension and instability, as well as the peace and security of the region.

Lebanon also slammed the decision and Jordan rejected Trump's recognition of “occupied Syrian territory.”

Last Friday, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed regret at Donald Trump's plan to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the territory.

Trump's statement “will not change the reality that (...) the Arab Golan Heights is Syrian land occupied by Israel by military force in 1967,” said Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he condemned the move by the US.

After Trump's decision, Russia warned it would prompt a “new wave” of tensions in the Middle East region. Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the move “ignores all international procedures” and would “only aggravate the situation.”

“Unfortunately, this could drive a new wave of tensions in the Middle East region,” Zakharova said in a radio broadcast, according to Russian news agencies. 

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov said the US decision leads to “a gross violation of international law, blocks the resolution of the Syrian crisis and aggravates the situation in all the Middle East,” he said during a telephone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to his ministry.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “impossible” for his country to accept Trump’s decision, and added his country would take action, including at the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “clear that the status of the Golan has not changed,” according to a UN spokesman.

The move came on the same day that Israel’s military launched strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis.

Witnesses and a security source in Gaza told AFP there had been at least two strikes on a site belonging to Hamas’s military wing in the west of the Gaza Strip. Details were not yet clear on the strikes.

(With Agencies)


Catholic bishops call on West to recognize Palestine

Updated 18 January 2020

Catholic bishops call on West to recognize Palestine

  • The plea by 34 bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, followed their five-day visit to the region this week

AMMAN: A group of Catholic bishops from throughout Europe, North America and South Africa have called on their governments to insist on the application of international law in Israel and Palestine.

The plea by 34 bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, followed their five-day visit to the region this week. Based in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, the religious leaders toured key locations in Jerusalem and expressed support for the local church in promoting dialogue and peace.

They added that they had also been inspired by the enduring resilience of the people they met in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Ramallah despite the worsening situation.

Jamal Khader, pastor of the host Latin Church in Ramallah, told Arab News that the choice of Ramallah for their residency was excellent because they had the chance to meet the local community.

“The bishops were extremely moved by their visit to the Comboni Missionary Sisters outside of Jerusalem. The convent was divided in half as the Israeli-built wall divided their community and made it impossible for many to reach the school and nursery that is part of their mission.”

The bishops also met with PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amer in addition to the visit to Jerusalem with the leader of the Catholic church.

Fr. Ibrahim Shomali, secretary of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Arab News that the visit and the final communique had been well received. “We welcome the visit of the Catholic bishops and we applaud their statement that calls on their governments to follow the position of the Holy See and recognize Palestine.”

However, Shomali feared many governments would not listen. “While the visit is very positive and we hope that the church’s voice will be heard, we are not sure that this will happen because many of the Western governments are not listening to the voice of peace and justice.”

Kamal Shamshoom, a member of the Ramallah Latin, said the bishops, many of whom had visited the area before, had “a good idea of the situation” and made a strong communique. “While we welcome such visits, it is important to note that we don’t want just sympathy, we need action that is effective.”

Shamshoom, who is also an elected member of the Ramallah city council, added that the church leaders must use their moral authority with their political leaders. “They are bishops and it means something if they decide to do something concrete. What I would like is for them to talk to their leaders like bishops and make a strong intervention for peace and justice.”

The final communique of the bishops spoke about the importance “of the application of international law” and the need to “follow the Holy See’s lead in recognizing the state of Palestine; addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety; rejecting political or economic support for settlements and resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.”

The local bishops also warned that people were facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution. We have witnessed this reality first

hand, particularly how the construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.”

In the same message, the local bishops sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable. This is painfully clear in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement.”

In Gaza, the bishops noted that the “political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses, and a profound humanitarian crisis.”

They said they were welcomed by families “whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water.”

The bishops added that they “encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities.”

In their conclusion, the bishops said that they would continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.