For first time U.S. opposes UNGA call to return Golan to Syria

Nine anti-Israel resolutions given preliminary approval in New York.

HIGH-ALTITUDE, cool with volcanic, basalt-rich soil: The Golan vineyards. (photo credit: KFIR HARBI)
HIGH-ALTITUDE, cool with volcanic, basalt-rich soil: The Golan vineyards.
(photo credit: KFIR HARBI)
For the first time the United States on Friday opposed the UN General Assembly’s annual call on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria even though it has not accepted Israel’s annexation of the strategic area.
“The US position on the status of the Golan has not changed,” a US representative told the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee in New York, dousing any thoughts that the US stance reflected a policy change by the Trump administration.
In past years, the US has abstained on this resolution, which has largely been opposed only by Israel.
Prior to the preliminary vote, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “Given the resolution’s anti-Israel bias, as well as the militarization of the Syrian Golan border and a worsening humanitarian crisis, this year the United States has decided to vote no on the resolution.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and has since annexed it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the Trump administration to recognize that the Golan Heights is part of sovereign Israel.
President Donald Trump has not publicly responded to that request, but US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has told the media he expects that the Golan Heights will remain in Israeli hands forever.
Two months ago, US National Security Adviser John Bolton told Reuters that the US had not changed its position on the Golan.
In further explaining the change in the US voting pattern at the UN on the Golan, Haley said, “The US will no longer abstain when the UN engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights. If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today.”
She added, “The resolution is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.
“The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security. ISIS and other terrorist groups remain in Syria. And this resolution does nothing to bring any parties closer to a peace agreement. The United States will vote no,” Haley said.
Haley did not represent the US at the Fourth Committee. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the committee: “The Golan Heights is critical for Israel’s security. It is also our rightful territory. So, let me be clear: Israel will not withdraw from the Golan Heights, and it is time the international community accept it.”
He thanked the US for its brave stance, explaining that, once again, it had stood on the side of truth.
“The world cannot ignore the elephant in the room. Thousands of people are being slaughtered every day by the evil [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime. Assad is hooked up to an Iranian IV, with money and weapons as its life support.
“But when given the opportunity to slander Israel, suddenly the world forgets about Assad’s atrocities. The world should remember that in our region, there are those who stabilize it and those who terrorize it,” Danon said.
Bashar Ja’afari, the Syrian Arab Republic’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said the 151-2 vote, with 14 abstentions showed that the UN member states had clearly rejected the Israeli “occupation” of the Golan. “We were not surprised by the American vote against the draft resolution since the US is a partner and ally of Israel militarily and politically. It has protected it from being held accountable for its crimes over many decades. It also reiterates the occupation is providing protection to the terrorists of ISIS,” he said.
“This sends a clear message to the world that the role claimed by the US as a sponsor of peace in the Middle East has ended,” Ja’afari said.
The Golan resolution was one of nine preliminary resolutions the UNGA Fourth Committee approved on Friday. The other eight pro-Palestinian resolutions censured Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
The nine resolutions are among 20 that the UNGA will affirm before the end of 2018.
At least four of the resolutions, some of which are quite lengthy, seek to shore up the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency that services over 5.2 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
The resolutions call on Israel to compensate the refugees and for the protection of Palestinian and Arab property rights.
The texts also demand that Israel halt settlement activity and call on Israel to recognize the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Many of the points are repeated multiple times within the text of the resolutions. One of the texts contains a line condemning Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets against Israel.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said, “The UN’s planned assault on Israel with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal.
“Days after the Hamas terrorist group assaulted Israeli civilians with a barrage of 460 rockets – while the UN’s General Assembly and Human Rights Council stayed silent – the world body now adds insult to injury by adopting nine lopsided condemnations, whose only purpose is to demonize the Jewish state.”
Earlier in the week the Palestinians had unsuccessfully attempted to sway the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza. The UN Security Council held a session on Gaza, but did not reach any conclusions.