Last Friday, while most pundits in Israel were placing their bets in favor or against early elections, a revolution took place at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. During the annual vote on a resolution calling on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria, the United States, for the first time ever, voted against it.
The reasoning of outgoing U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley for the vote showed that there is no denying that the Americans have taken a significant step towards adopting the Israeli position. The United States will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in pointless votes on the Golan Heights, she said. This stance obligates Israel to help the Americans take the next steps on this path until Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights is formally recognized.
From Israel’s perspective, the future of the Golan Heights is a matter of consensus. Ever since the Menachem Begin government first began applying Israeli sovereignty in 1981, it has been a foregone conclusion that the Golan is an inseparable part of Israel. That ensuing leftist governments toyed with the lunatic idea of giving the Golan back to the despotic Assad dynasty in Syria only served to solidify the deep understanding of most Israelis that such a withdrawal would be completely illogical.
Israel has every possible reason to object to concessions on the Golan. As a matter of justice (when Syria controlled the area it shelled and beleaguered the residents of the Jordan Valley); history (it is an ancient Jewish region); strategic considerations and even legal ones—all these factors assure Israel’s eternal presence on the Golan.
With that, the welcome change to the U.S. position will have tremendous influence in the international arena.
Over the decades, the United Nations’ annual resolution condemning Israel helped reinforce Syria’s image as a “victim,” and augmented the libelous discourse painting Israel as an aggressor and occupier. The reality, of course, is the opposite, and the atrocities perpetrated by the warring parties in Syria’s civil war have only illustrated the true nature of those who still wish to wipe the Zionist enemy from the map.
It would be wise to exploit the world’s increasingly sober view of Syria and the regime ruling it, and promote recognition of the Israeli annexation of the Golan. Israel will still be fine without this recognition from other countries, but American recognition could officially flip the narrative.
In essence, all the considerations that led the Trump administration to remove the Jerusalem question from the agenda in favor of Israel apply to the Golan as well. There are also other reasons, such as the absence of a large hostile population and the fact that the area is not holy for Muslims or Christians, that make it easier for America to do so.
To realize the goal, Israel must take steps to promote recognition on the diplomatic and practical levels.
On the diplomatic front, Israel should maintain its public relations course and continue forming alliances, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing successfully. On the practical front, the time is ripe for steps to establish facts on the ground. Application of sovereignty, for example, must be visible across the entire Golan Heights, including the Druze villages.
To this end, it is necessary to accelerate development and significantly augment the Jewish population in the area.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel.