Top Democrats voice support for Israeli sovereignty on Golan

“Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights,” says House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, hinting support for congressional measure • Campaign to get U.S. recognition of sovereignty now has bipartisan support from key lawmakers in House and Senate.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Credit: Ralph Alswang/Ralph Photo.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Credit: Ralph Alswang/Ralph Photo.

U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights got a significant boost over the weekend after a senior Democrat joined prominent Republicans in this effort.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, told Jewish Insider over the weekend that “Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights.” In response to a question from Jewish Insider on whether he would support a resolution on the matter, his office did not respond.

Israel captured parts of the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. The area, which was officially annexed by Israel, includes the strategically important Mount Hermon.

In December a draft resolution calling on the U.S. government to recognize Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights was unveiled in the Senate. The draft resolution was introduced by pro-Israel Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton.

Hoyer is the latest Democratic representative in the House to voice support for Israel’s continued presence in the Golan Heights. Last week, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) sent a letter to President Trump, saying the U.S. should show its support for Israel’s security by considering this gesture.

“The United States must make clear that we are committed to rolling back Iran’s presence in Syria and consider a range of measures, including recognition of the Golan [as sovereign Israeli territory], to protect our ally Israel from serious threats on its borders,” wrote Gottheimer.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) has also expressed support for recognition.

Any resolution passed by the House or Senate will only have a symbolic meaning. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that only the executive branch can decide on U.S. policy when it comes to recognizing the sovereignty of other countries.

The Coalition for the Israeli Golan, an Israeli nongovernmental organization that has been lobbying for U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty, said it “welcomed the fact that senior Democrats are now insisting that the U.S. government announce this recognition as a complementary step to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.”

The Chairman of the Coalition, Zvi Hauser, called on the Israeli government “to make this a top priority and to end its perceptual stalemate by dramatically increasing the Jewish settlement in the area.”

The Israeli effort to get U.S. recognition began toward the end of President Barack Obama’s presidency. It recently picked up pace in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Officials in the Trump administration have indicated in recent months that they were open to an official U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israel Hayom in September that he “can’t imagine a circumstance where the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria,” adding “I can’t think of a less deserving person to receive this kind of reward than [Syrian President] Bashar Assad.”

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