(March 13, 2019 / JNS) The U.S. State Department changed its designation of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled” in its annual human-rights report, released on Wednesday.
This development comes as the Trump administration has been pressured recently by U.S. lawmakers to officially recognize Israeli sovereignty over the northern territory.
Additionally, the report’s section on the West Bank and Gaza did not label those areas as being “occupied” or under “occupation.”
Michael Kozak, head of the State Department’s human rights and democracy bureau, noted that the lingo in the report does not reflect any policy changes.
“The policy on the status of the territories has not changed,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The United States uses the term “territories” in referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Kohelet Policy Forum applauded these changes.
“This is a massive change in how America relates to the conflict,” said the group’s director of international law, Eugene Kontorovich. “It is coming to understand that while Israel and the Palestinians have a dispute, international law does not provide the answers to that dispute. The report also for the first time expresses [skepticism] at the claims and submissions of anti-Israel groups, whose poorly documented allegations had previously been accepted as gospel.”