The Golan Heights is part of Israel and will remain under its sovereignty forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s comments came at the weekly cabinet meeting, where he thanked the US for voting for the first time against an annual UN resolution calling for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. In the past, the US abstained.
“We have for some time been speaking with our friends the Americans on the present administration’s policies at the UN,” he said. On Thursday, US Ambassador David Friedman updated me that the US decided to vote against the traditional resolution
that condemns us for our presence on the Golan Heights, and that is what happened.”
Netanyahu thanked Trump and outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for this “important and just” vote which is “completely in line with our policies -- Israel will remain forever on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will forever remain in our hands.”
Nevertheless, a US representative told the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee in New York on Friday, after the vote, that “the US position on the status of the Golan has not changed.”
The vote passed 151-2, with 14 abstentions. Last year the resolution passed 151-2, with 20 abstentions. The country that voted with Israel against the resolution last year was Paulu, which this year abstained.
Australia, which voted for the resolution in 2017, abstained this time around, as did Ivory Coast. On the other side of the equation, Kenya, and the Solomon Islands abstained on the resolution in 2017, but voted for it this year.
Cameroon, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Rwanda were among the states that abstained this year, as they did last year. A number of countries, including South Sudan, abstained last year, and just did not vote this year.
While US President Donald Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he has not recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Netanyahu asked the Trump administration to do so just weeks after Trump was sworn into office in January 2017. Netanyahu has not, however, actively lobbied on this issue, though he does frequently bring it up with visiting statesmen.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has actively been pushing the issue for months, calling publicly on a number of different occasions to the US and the international community to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Following the US vote he said that when he started this campaign he was told that it had no chance.
Lapid said the US vote was "another step in the right direction. We will continue to put the Golan Heights on the international agenda because it will always stay a part of the State of Israel."
US National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a visit to Israel in August that the Trump administration is not discussing possible US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic plateau.
“I’ve heard the idea being suggested but there’s no discussion of it, no decision within the US government,” he said. “Obviously we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights – we understand their position – but there’s no change in the US position for now.”
On Thursday night before the UN vote, Haley said that the US “will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights. If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today.”
The resolution, she said, “is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”
In other developments, during the cabinet meeting Netanyahu said he paid a condolence call last Thursday to the family of the IDF officer who was killed in Gaza last Sunday during an operation that went awry and triggered two days of intensive rocket fire from Hamas.
Netanyahu said that the fallen officer was one of Israel’s “finest sons,” and that he met a “noble and patriotic family that raises the spirit.” The country, he said, “needs to be proud of such heroes and such people.”
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