Occupied Jerusalem - US Senator Lindsey Graham on Monday vowed to push for US recognition of Israeli “sovereignty” over the occupied Golan Heights, in what would represent a new contentious political gift to the Israeli regime from the Trump administration.
The South Carolina Republican said he aimed to change the current US-designation of the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, as disputed territory. He spoke during a tour of the frontier with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel,” Graham said from a cliff overlooking Syria, where Syrian flags could be seen fluttering in the distance on buildings damaged in the country’s civil war. “My goal is to try to explain this to the administration,” he said.
In past negotiations, Syria has demanded a withdrawal from the Golan as part of any peace deal. With Syria ravaged by a nearly eight-year-old civil war, peace talks with Israel seem unlikely anytime soon.
Graham called the prospect of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan “a strategic nightmare” and political “suicide,” citing shared Israeli and American concern over Iranian entrenchment in neighbouring Syria. The Israeli regime has admitted to carrying out scores of air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets in recent years.
A beaming Netanyahu applauded Graham’s remarks and asserted that Israel would never give up the land.
“I think it’s very important that the international community recognise this fact, and accept it, and most especially our great friend, the United States of America,” Netanyahu said, thanking Graham for his “unbelievable support.”
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, a move not recognised by most of the international community.
Republican senators introduced a bill last month that would recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. Graham, one of the co-sponsors, said he expected the legislation to galvanise bipartisan support.
Such a move would upend decades of US policy but fall in line with the Trump administration’s pattern of lavishing Israel with symbolic gifts and political support.
The Trump administration has moved the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem, slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian National Authority and shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.
Last week the US also shuttered its consulate, which served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians, and handed diplomatic reigns to ambassador David Friedman, a staunch supporter of the Israeli West Bank colony movement.
These steps have sidelined the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the administration’s ability to be a neutral arbiter.
The Israeli regime has welcomed this string of supportive moves in anticipation of “Deal of the Century,” the administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Palestinians have preemptively rejected.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has said he will unveil the plan after Israeli elections on April 9.