The US stood alone at the United Nations Security Council, as the 14 other member states condemned its recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights during an emergency meeting held late Wednesday night in New York.
Just as the debate began, Israel launched an aerial strike against an Iranian ammunitions depot near Aleppo in Syria.
“We have had an Israeli airstrike in Aleppo," Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the council. "[There was] material damage. The Syrian air defenses were able to intercept some of the missiles that were launched."
The UNSC held the debate to protest a Trump administration declaration earlier this week that it recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967.
All of the 15 UNSC members took the floor to speak, with 14 of those nations condemning the US and Israel. But no formal vote was taken. The US, which is one of five UNSC's permanent members with veto power, would have thwarted any such action.
“World public opinion is isolating the US and Israel, they are operating outside of international law and they are a direct threat to peace and security,” said Jaafari, who had asked the UNSC to hold the meeting.
Syria is not a UNSC member, but was asked, along with Israel, to join the meeting. Jaafari and the 14 UNSC members who spoke explained that the US action violated previous UNSC resolutions 242 and 497 against Israeli Golan sovereignty.
“The US administration is trying to protect its Israeli friends, but there is a real risk for international peace and security” Jaafari said.
He accused the US of manufacturing wars to sow chaos in Middle East and of acting now on the Golan by way of helping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win the April 9 election in Israel.
If the UNSC had taken the US to task much earlier, even if it is a permanent member of the council, then it would not be taking a step now that shows so much disdain for the UN international law, Jaafari said.
UN inaction coupled with US action “will leave people under occupation with just one choice, which is the principle of using force, it will be the only way to restore peace,” he said. “The Syrian Arab Golan is ours, it will come back to us."
“Don’t be misguided by thinking that one day this land will be yours," Jaafari said, addressing Israel. If the US wanted to be nice to Israel, why not give it one or two of its 50 states, he suggested. “Give Israel a couple of [US] states if this administration really wants Israeli support."
“No nation in the world would give up strategic land to its most dangerous enemy," said Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. For the first two decades of state’s history, the Syrian Army shot at Israeli civilians from the Golan Heights, he added. “Israel must ensure that this territory will never again be used to target our people. Without the Golan Heights, Israel will find Iranian soldiers on the tip of the Sea of Galilee. We will never let that happen."
Danon accused Jaafari of turning a blind eye to his government’s killing of hundreds of thousands of its citizens.
“Where were you when your government was gassing children, shame on you, for dropping barrel bombs on your people,” he said. The Assad regime has slaughtered its people, allowed Iran and Hezbollah to use the Syrian territory to harm Israel, Danon said. “I ask you today to whom does the UN want to give the Golan: to Iranian fighters, to Shi’ite militias, to jihadist forces?”
“The war crimes of the dictator from Damascus will some day be stopped," Danon added. "But Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights will continue forever."
The Belgian envoy said his country did not want the Golan to part of the State of Israel.
“The acquisition of territory by force is illegal under international law, any declaration to unilaterally modify any border goes against an international order based on UN rules and the UN charter,” he said. “We would reiterate our serious concerns regarding the broader consequences of the recognition of the an illegal annexation, in particular in this region." The council must oppose such unilateral acts, the Belgian envoy added.
The German envoy said Israel’s “security interests, as pressing as they are, do not justify annexation.” But he also pointed fingers at Syria, noting that the presence of Syrian regime troops and Iranian-backed militias close to the Israeli borders violates the disengagement agreement and constitutes a threat to Israel. “This presence should end,” he said.
Syria’s decision to call for a UNSC meeting was “deeply cynical,” given that its government had over the past eight years “grossly violated the international laws of war” and was responsible for “war crimes,” the Germany envoy said. “It has used chemical weapons against its own people, a flagrant violation of international law” and then has refused to provide information to the UNSC, the envoy said.
US political coordinator Rodney Hunter said that security interests did justify annexation.
He defended the US recognition of Israeli Golan sovereignty explaining that it “reflects a recognition of the unique circumstances that led us to deem it appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty at this time.”
The US supports peace between Israel and its neighbors through direct talks, Hunter said. He added, however, that “Israel does not currently have a partner for peace in Syria.”
It is the second time this week that the UNSC member states condemned the US actions. They also spoke out at UNSC meeting Tuesday, during which 11 of the council’s 15 member states condemned US support of Israeli sovereignty. Again no formal vote was taken.
Prior to Wednesday’s UNSC meeting, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted: “Syria requested a #UNSC meeting today to condemn the US decision to recognize #GolanHeights as part of Israel. A regime that gasses its own people and drops barrel bombs on woman and children is in no position to try to convince the international community of their right to the Golan.”