Netanyahu visits IDF drill in Golan Heights.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Washington issued a simple response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statement that the Golan Heights are an integral part of Israel and will remain so forever: “No, they are not.”
A day after the Israeli cabinet held its first-ever meeting Sunday on the Golan Heights and Netanyahu said the world needs to get used to the idea that the region would remain in Israel’s hands forever, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the US position on the Golan Heights is “longstanding and is unchanged. Every administration on both sides of the aisle since 1967 has maintained that those territories are not part of Israel.”
Kirby was asked about the issue by Al Quds‘s Washington correspondent, Said Arikat, who on a regular basis uses the daily State Department press briefing as a platform to ask provocative questions about Israel.
The State Department spokesman said, “The conditions under which those territories are ultimately returned should be decided through negotiations between the respective parties. And obviously, Said, the current situation in Syria makes it difficult to continue those efforts at this time.”
A few hours before Kirby’s response, Netanyahu told Israeli diplomatic reporters in a briefing on Monday that when he went to the Golan on Sunday he asked himself to whom Israel was expected to return the strategic plateau.
“To Islamic State?” he asked. “When the Syrians were there it was a platform for attacks against Israel. The time has come for the international community to internalize that the whole Golan will remain in Israeli hands.”
But it seems the international community will need a lot of convincing, because Netanyahu’s comments also elicited negative responses from other key actors on the world scene, such as the German Foreign Ministry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Asked about the issue at the German Foreign Ministry briefing, spokesman Martin Schaefer said it is “a basic principle of international law and the UN charter that no state can claim the right to annex another state’s territory just like that.”
Ban, in a briefing at the UN Security Council on the Mideast, said he noted the statements made by Netanyahu.
“This is a longstanding issue that all parties have a responsibility to help resolve,” he said. “I remind Israel of its obligation to implement Security Council Resolutions 242 and 497 in all of their parts.”
UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed some six months after the Six Day War in 1967, called for a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
And Security Council Resolution 497, adopted after Israel extended Israeli law to the Golan Height in 1981, declared that Jerusalem’s de facto annexation of the region “is null and void and without international legal effect.”