Saudi Arabia and several Gulf countries released short statements expressing regret over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. He signed a proclamation on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The tepid response is part of a trend in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to reduce criticism of Israel and to cultivate close relations with the Trump administration.
In a thirty-three word statement, Bahrain joined Riyadh in issuing a response to the US decision. “Bahrain’s foreign ministry reaffirms its position that the Golan Heights are an Arab and Syrian territories, occupied by Israel since June 1967, as it is confirmed by the resolutions of the UN Security Council.” Riyadh’s statement was slightly stronger, noting that the decision “will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region,” a statement on Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA said. These joined Kuwait and the UAE in similar short responses.
The Golan decision has gone largely unnoticed in the region. While Turkey and Syria have issued robust condemnations, other countries have been relatively silent. Jordan appears more concerned that Romania is moving its embassy to Jerusalem, according to a speech by Romania’s Prime Minister Viorica Dancila at AIPAC. In addition, Iran is dealing with massive floods.
The Arab League, unsurprisingly, condemned the US move, but this appears more a necessary need to say something than real anger. This may be due to the fact that Israel has controlled the Golan for more than fifty years, twice as long as an independent Syrian regime ever controlled the area that Damascus claims as its own.
It is also because many of these southern Arab states want close relations with the Trump administration. They also have been stressing that they fear Iran more than they are concerned with Israel in recent years. Their main interest is in keeping the Israel-Palestinian conflict quiet so that the region can focus on Iran and also on other issues of stability after the defeat of ISIS.