Law Backs the Trump Golan Policy
By Michael R.
Pompeo and David Friedman
May 14, 2019
Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was met with
condemnation from the European Union and others. Leaders called the move
“invalid,” “illegitimate” and “absolutely worthless.” United Nations
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Israel’s 1981 annexation of the
Golan “null and void and without international legal effect.” These
assertions are baseless.
every nation cited U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which outlined a
framework for achieving peace in the Middle East. The preamble speaks of “the
inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Yet President
Trump’s Golan proclamation is entirely consistent with Resolution 242.
242 was heavily negotiated and agreed to in 1967 by all but one of the warring
parties in the Six-Day War—Syria, which controlled the Golan before the
conflict. Damascus stayed on the sidelines until 1973 when, with its Arab
allies, it launched and lost the Yom Kippur War. After that defeat, Syria signed
on to Resolution 338, which made 242 applicable to all—the only substantive
resolution to which all combatants have agreed.
242 calls on the parties to negotiate a just and lasting peace, one that
recognizes the right of all countries, including Israel, to live “within
secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” It
provides that Israel would withdraw from some—but not necessarily
all—territory captured in 1967 in keeping with that objective. Some of
Israel’s former enemies pursued peace in good faith, and Israel has withdrawn
from more than 88% of the territory it captured in 1967—most notably the Sinai
Peninsula, pursuant to the 1979 Camp David Accords with Egypt.
is a different story. In word and deed, Damascus has for 52 years rejected the
negotiating framework of Resolution 242. It has maintained a state of war with
Israel since Israel became independent in 1948. It is a client of Iran and one
of the most brutal regimes on earth. By affirming Israel’s sovereignty over
the Golan Heights, the president has afforded Israel the only secure and
recognized boundary that can exist under the circumstances—the objective of
preamble to Resolution 242 does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a broader
framework in which the parties work to establish a negotiated peace. If it were
absolute, there would be no purpose to the substantive compromises for which the
resolution calls. Critically, Resolutions 242 and 338 did not preclude Israeli
sovereignty over the Golan Heights as an outcome of the contemplated process.
Assad, one of the most cruel and brutal dictators of the last century, remains
in power. If Israel doesn’t maintain control of the Golan, Iran, the world’s
largest state sponsor of terror, or one of its proxies, will gain the strategic
high ground. The world, and especially the EU, faces an easy choice: a dictator
of a non-functioning state or a peaceful and democratic ally. They still have
time to choose the latter, and we urge them to do so.