Israel will keep the Golan Heights forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced remarks that stopped short of recognizing the claim.
In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump parted with other world powers by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli. Israel occupied the strategic plateau in a 1967 war with Syria and annexed it in 1981.
Blinken said on Monday he saw control of the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel and also borders Lebanon and Jordan, as being “of real important to Israel’s security” but was circumspect about recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the territory.
“Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at, but we are nowhere near that,” Blinken told CNN.
Briefing reporters, Netanyahu said in response: “Look, they said they are looking at it — but I have already looked at it. As far as I am concerned, the Golan Heights will remain forever part of the State of Israel, a sovereign part.”
“What, should we return it to Syria?” he added, noting the internal strife in Israel’s long-time enemy. “Should we return the Golan to a situation where mass-slaughter is a danger?”
Syria has long demanded the return of the Golan, and Israel’s unilateral annexation of the area was not recognized internationally.
Former US President Donald Trump signed a decree in March 2019 recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied part of the Syrian Golan, annexed in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Syria described Trump’s decision at the time as a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.
Israel and Syria, which are still technically at war, are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the end of the 1967 Six-Day War.
In related developments an Independent UN expert praised on Tuesday the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) of justice ruling that it had jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Palestinian Territories, and urged the international community to support the process.
Michael Lynk, who is the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, called for “international cooperation” to ensure “the enforcement of international justice.”
“Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East,” Lynk said.
The ICC’s ruling on Friday paved the way for a criminal investigation, despite Israeli objections.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.
Lynk said that the ruling offered “profound hope to those who that consequences, not condonation, must be the answer to the commission of grave crimes.”
The Independent UN expert claimed that leading political bodies of the United Nations had “repeatedly failed” to enforce their own body of resolutions on the Israeli occupation.
“This ruling opens the door for credible allegations of Rome Statute crimes to finally be investigated and potentially reach the trial stage at the ICC,” he said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also welcomed the decision and said it would bring justice to both Palestinian and Israeli victims.
“It’s high time that Israeli and Palestinian perpetrators of the gravest abuses – whether war crimes committed during hostilities or the expansion of unlawful settlements – face justice,” associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch Balkees Jarrah said.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, rejected the ruling, referring to it as a “scandalous decision.”
“The (Israeli) Cabinet states that the tribunal has no authority to make such a decision. Israel is not a member of the International Court of Justice and the Palestinian Authority has no state status,” he said.
The US, Germany and Hungary also denounced ruling due to Palestine’s no state status.
“The court has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted.
Source: Arab News