(May 6, 2019 / JNS) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee—the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States—has come out in support of companion congressional bills to enact into law U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition in March of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“We are supporting these measures on Golan sovereignty,” AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann told JNS.
The statement by AIPAC came after two sources had told JNS that AIPAC had been opposed to the congressional legislation.
Wittmann initially declined to answer JNS as to whether the pro-Israel lobbying group was against the bills, only to comment, “We appreciate the action taken by President Trump and all expressions of support by members of Congress.”
Because Trump’s recognition was done through an executive order, a future president could undo the action. A bill passed into law would make the policy official.
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced measures in February to establish U.S. policy to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.
The bill emphasizes the strategic importance of Israeli control over the area, which the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, in protecting civilians from threats such as from Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel annexed the region in 1981, a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
It also states that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria will be an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”
The bill adds that “it is in the United States national security interest to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights, [and that] the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for its killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Sunnis, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
AIPAC told one of the sources close to the situation that it could not support the legislation, claiming Israel has never gone out of its way to ask for America to recognize Israel’s control of the Golan.
After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in early March to ask Trump for the Golan recognition, when pressed by one of the sources if it would suddenly support the legislation, AIPAC avoided answering the question, said that source, who had met with AIPAC on numerous occasions where they expressed opposition to the bills.
Cotton and Cruz did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Gallagher spokesperson Jordan Dunn declined to comment on the matter and referred JNS to AIPAC.
“We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking the historic step of officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This important action sends a powerful message that America stands with Israel as it faces critical security challenges on its northern border,” tweeted AIPAC after the official move.
We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking the historic step of officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This important action sends a powerful message that America stands with Israel as it faces critical security challenges on its northern border.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 25, 2019