On Thursday, President Donald Trump pecked out a tweet that thumbed its nose at more than five decades of established international conventions and accepted diplomatic policy, declaring that the United States should recognise Israel’s authority over the long-disputed Golan Heights. The message undermined some 45 years of pivotal US interventions and influence in the entire Middle East peace process while at the same time offering a significant boost to the re-election efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is facing a difficult campaign on foot of corruption and influence-peddling charges domestically.
In the narrowest view in Washington, this outburst of adjusting US foreign policy on the fly and within the 250-character limitations of Twitter can be viewed as a boost to Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival in an April 9 election. It’s not the first time the US president has boosted the Zionists, and the US administration’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem and recognise it as Israel’s capital also flew in the face of international agreements, convention and wisdom.
Trump has shown no reticence in actively confronting the expansionist policies and hegemonistic attitudes of the regime in Tehran, Hezbollah’s role in propping up the presidency of Bashar Al Assad in Syria and confronting militias in Iraq while ending the threat posed by Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), but this unbridled support for his political friend in Israel runs counter to his actions and support to the region. This sudden volte face of international agreements, however, seriously undermines US credibility in the region and contradicts the conventional thinking and accepted wisdom of given credence to territory that had been seized during the 1967 war.
The Golan Heights are held under the force of the considerable arms of Israeli’s forces of occupation, and land whose legitimate sovereignty has never been ceded by Syria — nor accepted by the Arab or wider global community as being a de facto piece of property wholly under the occupier’s control. Indeed, the positioning of a long-standing United Nations deployment to the Golan Heights underlines the highly disputed nature of the Israeli occupation there. This reckless tweet cannot solve the political woes facing the Israeli prime minister. It undermines the realities of the Arab-Israeli peace process. It fails to understand the complexities and inexorably intertwined nature of the situation on the disputed ground. There is another key principle here that is being trampled underfoot — the illegitimacy of land suddenly seized and claimed as sovereign territory: There are too many examples of this to allow this tweet to resonate.