Golan Heights’ resolution: Why did US change its tradition of abstention?

Alwaght – The US for the first time voted on Friday against a United Nations Assembly General’s resolution that condemned the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. The Golan-related resolution was drafted by the UNGA’s Fourth Committee, also known as Special Political and Colonization Committee, along with eight other resolutions blasting the Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights. Since 51 years ago, Washington had always opted to abstain from voting on UN’s Golan-related resolution and the Friday’s vote was the US first negative vote on the issue.

Despite the fact that the US opposition vote did not affect the condemnation of the Israeli regime, Americans unprecedented negative vote to a resolution on the occupation of Syrian territory triggered a set of questions: What is driving the US to vote negative? What did Tel Aviv do to win Washington’s opposition to such a resolution? Will this negative vote be of legal and political effects on the Syrian and the Israeli sides?

Tel Aviv’s political effort to continue Golan Heights occupation

Of 153 votes cast on the resolution condemning Israeli occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights, only two votes opposed the resolution: one by the US and one by the Israeli regime. 10 members states chose abstention, and the remaining overwhelmingly voted to condemn Tel Aviv occupation.

The US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley days before the voting day said she will vote against the anti-Israeli motion. Even this announcement did not manage to crack the world consensus against the Israeli occupation.

A key principle of the UN is the protection of the international borders and prevention of violations. Article 1 and 2 of the UN Charter recognize the equality of the member states and item 4 of the Article 2 expressively calls against the violation of the countries’ territorial integrity. This principle is so cherished that a set of the UN organs are set up to protect the internationally-recognized borders. Articles 39, 40, and 41 of the Charter set mechanisms to deter territorial violations. So, the Israeli regime cannot justify and legitimize its occupation using the international principles and organizations which recognize equally rights for the member states. As a last resort, Tel Aviv maneuvers with the US negative vote within a large-scale media propaganda to gradually win legitimacy to its occupation of Golan Heights.

Tel Aviv’s efforts toward legitimization of occupation

Since the assumption of power by Donald Trump two years ago, the Israelis saw the first opportunity to proceed with their projects as they found the new president providing huge support despite broad US public opposition. The first project is what they call the “deal of the century”, according to which Trump seeks to finally recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the permanent capital of an Israeli state, approve settlements in seized Palestinian lands, and reject the right of return of the displaced Palestinians. The second project is recognition of the occupied Golan Heights. Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz in late May said recognizing the Israeli 51-year hold on the Syrian territory is now “topping the agenda” and part of Trump’s policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying over the past few months to persuade the US for recognition. But in late August, the US National Security Advisor John Bolton maintained that Washington had no plans to consider Golan Heights an Israel territory. Still, Trump individually so far provided the strongest support to the Israeli wish. His views are close to AIPAC and the evangelists, both constituting pro-Israeli pressure circles in the US. The evangelists supported the invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush.

On the other side, Tel Aviv, to involve Washington in a game of interests, signed trade agreements with the Americans in Golan Heights.

The Israeli regime started lobbying for its agenda at the Congress from July. Toward recognition, joint Israeli-American projects were started in the occupied territory and products carrying “made in Israeli Golan” tags were exported. Then a Congress delegation, at Tel Aviv invitation, traveled to the Heights to prepare documents claiming the Israeli rule over the Syrian region.

People like Senator Ted Cruz pushed forward with the ties expansion. Senator DeSantis drafted a bill to help tighten the Israeli grip on Golan Heights. Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon hailed the US efforts towards recognition as showing strong cooperation between Tel Aviv and Washington.

Golan Heights strategic importance for Tel Aviv

The Israeli regime is a serious supporter for Balkanization (split) project in West Asia region. Since the beginning of Syria crisis, Tel Aviv launched more than 100 air raids in Syrian territories in a bid to aggravate the Syrian crisis and in support of separatists. The occupied region is only 70 kilometers away from the capital Damascus and using it, the Israelis press the Syrian government. Tel Aviv set up makeshift hospitals to treat the terrorists injured in the confrontation with the Syrian forces. In fact, Golan provides a platform for the Israeli regime to meddle in Syrian affairs.

On the other hand, King Abdullah of Jordan in late October said 25-year Israeli lease of Jordanian lands ended and he intended not to renew the contract. Al Ghumr and Al Baghoura areas are significant for their fertile soil. In response, Uri Ariel, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, threatened Jordan with cutting off water to Amman. Tel Aviv is worried that after lease end, it will come short of water sources and lands for farming. Golan is a very rich region with huge farms and water sources.

Moreover, Syria grows more determined to take back its land. Last week, Syria’s envoy to UN Bashar Jaafari, said Syria will reclaim Golan Heights either by force or by peace. Syrian determination and also the Golan-based Syrians’ call for returning under the rule of Syria send Tel Aviv in a hurry to persuade Washington to recognize the occupation of the border region.

The Israelis know they have this chance only under Trump. Former President Barack Obama in a meeting in Geneva with President Vladimir Putin of Russia supported Golan return to Syria. Former Secretary of State John Kerry also upheld the idea.

Outcomes of US negative vote and Israeli political efforts

Though unbinding, the resolution has many legal, political, and economic consequences for Tel Aviv. It will revive the notion that the Israeli regime is an occupying party and ignorant to the international law and other countries’ rights. It will mark unjustified the efforts by some puppet Arab regimes to politically normalize with the Israelis. Many global investors, to whom the UN resolutions work like a risk-assessment guide, will not enter in investment in Golan or other occupied regions.

Additionally, two negative votes in a 153-vote resolution indicate a political defeat and isolation at the UN for the Israeli regime and its staunch ally. Washington’s opposition to the resolution hits the US credibility and unleashes serious anti-Trump criticism. Especially that such policies are unacceptable to the Democrats who recently won back the House in midterm elections.