Last October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on the strategic importance of the Syrian Golan Heights to Israeli security and the need to end its legal status as an occupied territory and annex it to Israel.
In December 2018, a draft-resolution was submitted to the US Senate, scheduled for early 2019, to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. The draft-bill was put forward by Senator Ted Cruz (who tried to obtain the Republican Party’s approval to be its presidential candidate but lost to candidate Donald Trump in 2016. But he is still on the list of the party’s potential candidates for the 2020 election, if President Trump’s popularity fell, which is possible).
Another senator signed the draft-resolution, while work is underway to secure more signatories from the Republican and Democrat camps, to make it a national draft-bill, with a view to issuing it by broad consensus or overwhelming majority, since guaranteeing Israel’s security will only be achieved by enabling it to assume sovereignty over the Golan Heights and considering that “Israel’s security is part of the national security of the United States,” as stated in the text of the draft-resolution.
Calling on Iran and Turkey to withdraw from Syria and respect its sovereignty while remaining silent over plans and steps to separate the Golan Heights is not only a political mistake that affects or hinders the credibility of any solution, but also a cause for great political chaos in SyriaAmr Moussa
It should also be noted that US government officials have already indicated, following the statement by the Israeli prime minister, that US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights is “possible.”
We are therefore facing a dangerous development in the Syrian case.
Any talk about the importance of preserving Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in any future solution should be comprehensive and facing all sides.
A grave challenge
Calling on Iran and Turkey to withdraw from Syria and respect its sovereignty while remaining silent over plans and steps to separate the Golan Heights is not only a political mistake that affects or hinders the credibility of any solution, but also a cause for great political chaos in Syria, in the region and in the Arab world in particular, regardless of the attitude of the Arab “Jacobins”, who have different ideas about the future of the Arab world and its entity and sovereignty over its territory. Those, in my opinion, are a minority; and it is not politically wise to take them into consideration.
Therefore, I expect that part of the arguments presented by the sponsors of the draft-resolution would be based on affirmations that no one would be disturbed because “the Arab world is inert” and that they have received assurances from here and there that there would be no protests or diplomatic counter-moves, but mere face-saving statements.
In my opinion, it is high time to say something or at least take a stand. We are actually very late in doing so and unduly retreated.
I call upon the Syrian Government, with its difficult circumstances, first: to fear nothing in its effort to preserve its territory and sovereignty in the face of this grave challenge, and to immediately resort to the Security Council requesting its support regarding the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied territory (note that the demand is not Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan, but only to maintain the current legal status of the Golan as an occupied territory, which is stipulated in the previous resolutions of the Council itself).
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I call on Arab states to support Syria, and even to encourage it, through a unified Arab stance before the Security Council. A step taken by Syria in this regard is more important than its return to the Arab League but will be a strong introduction to this return. I call upon the Arab countries, all of which have high level embassies in Washington, to sharpen their collective responsibility and communicate with the members of the Senate and its experts, and to form an active lobby in defense of Syria’s territorial integrity that would restore the credibility of their political stance among their hosting countries. The American step is completely illegal and has no convincing justification that makes us remain silent.
I also demand Arab countries, especially those with lobbying agencies in Washington that protect their interests, to help the Arab embassies in their hoped-for mission.
Maintaining the Golan Heights is also an Arab strategic interest. If we succeed in it, it will give a big deal of credibility that everyone will benefit from. We are facing a bold injustice and in the face of a wrong attitude; we must stand to correct it before it becomes a reality that we will regret and pay its price. A mere “post-condemnation” or a resolution by the General Assembly is no longer regarded as a credible position in the eyes of the Arab public opinion and political community but became a source of irony.
Finally, I call on Russia and President Vladimir Putin, who is widely respected in the corners of the Arab world, to adopt a firm position towards this dangerous development. Changing the legal status of the Golan Heights and separating it from Syria, in light of the current Russian presence in this Arab country, undermines the credibility of Russian policies in the Middle East and the country’s reputation in the Arab world. I call upon Russia to take a positive position on Syria’s right to resort to the Security Council, and to deal with this issue from its high position as a superpower, directly with the United States.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Amr Moussa is a veteran Egyptian politician and diplomat and former Secretary-General of the Arab League. He tweets @amremoussa.