All 28 EU member states have rejected the US recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria, the office of the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on Wednesday.
The European Union spoke out after US President Donald Trump signed a declaration in Washington supporting Israeli sovereignty on the Golan during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House this week.
Trump’s declaration overturned 52 years of United States policy that, until this week, had refused to accept Israeli rule over the Golan, which the IDF captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. It also flew in the face of international and United Nations opposition to the acquisition of the territory by force, even in a defensive war.
At the request of Syria, the UN Security Council planned to hold a special session on the US decision late Wednesday.
The Jerusalem Post obtained a copy of the letter sent to the French Mission to the UN, the country currently serving as president of the council. In the letter, the Syrian Mission asked for an “urgent formal meeting of the Security Council under the agenda item ‘the situation in the Middle East,’ in order to discuss the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan and the recent flagrant violation of the relevant Security Council resolution by a permanent member state.”
Earlier in the day, Mogherini’s office stated: “The position of the European Union as regards the status of the Golan Heights has not changed. In line with the international law and UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 497, the EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.”
Israel has long argued that the Golan Heights are essential for its security. It’s an argument that has been strengthened in recent years, as Iran has worked to gain a foothold in that area in order to attack Israel.
Israeli right-wing politicians lashed out at the EU for its rejection of Israeli Golan sovereignty.
“The EU does not recognize Jerusalem as our capital,” New Right Party head and Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a video message he posted on Twitter. “Shame on you,” he said to the EU.
“The Golan Heights and Jerusalem and the Land of Jewish people thousands of years before France was the home of the French, and the United Kingdom the home of the British,” Bennett said.
“So we will continue building our amazing country. We will continue defending the free world from radical Islam – even though you do not deserve it,” Bennett said.
Kulanu Party head and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said, “We will not allow those who keep the Iranian terrorist regime’s economy afloat to preach morality to us. Israel will not be held hostage by peace refuseniks and the policies of the Axis of Evil.
“The whole world knows that the Golan Heights is an inseparable part of the Land of Israel and the State of Israel,” Kahlon said.
Meretz Party head MK Tamar Zandberg said that, “Trump’s election gift to Bibi has started to cost us dearly. Now the EU is clarifying its position on the Golan Heights. Why did these demons have to be awakened on a subject that was not even on the table?” On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu met with Golan Regional Council head Haim Roach and Katzrin local council head Dimi Apartsev to show them a copy of the declaration, explaining that this is something Israel has long been waiting for.
“This is a tremendous declaration that strengthens our sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told them.
On Tuesday in New York, the five EU members of the Security Council – France, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany and Poland – held a small press conference to underscore their objection to Trump’s declaration.
“Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law.
Any declaration of a unilateral border change goes against the foundation of the rules-based international order and the UN Charter.
“We raise our strong concerns about the broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences,” they said.
They also spoke against Israeli sovereign over the Golan at Tuesday’s Security Council monthly meeting on the Middle East peace process, which is largely devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Acting US Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen defended his country’s support of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan, explaining that any peace agreement would have to address Israel’s security needs on the Golan Heights.
“To allow the Golan Heights to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian and Iranian regimes would turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the Assad regime and malign and destabilizing presence of Iran in the region,” Cohen said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters that if Israel withdrew from the Golan, it would be used as a launching ground for attacks against Israel.
Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan enhances Israel’s security, “which strengthens, frankly, our ability to partner with Israel to fight the common threats that we face,” Palladino said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US decision was not an attempt to make a statement with regard to the acquisition of territory during times of war.
Rather, he explained, it is an assessment of Israel’s unique security situation. Israel should not be asked to commit suicide to be in compliance with a UN resolution, he said.
“This is an incredibly unique situation. Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a UN resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be – and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday,” Pompeo said.
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Post that: “The Golan Heights will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty, and the time has come for the international community to recognize this. Instead, the Security Council should demand answers from Syria about [President Bashar] Assad slaughtering his people and, at the same time, allowing Iran to establish a military presence to operate against the State of Israel.”
Russia and the Arab League have also rejected the declaration.
“Such decisions undoubtedly have negative consequences – from the point of view of a settlement in the Middle East and the general atmosphere of a political settlement in Syria,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.