Israel’s Vow to Keep Golan Brings ‘Deep Concern’ at Security Council
Israel’s assertion last week that it will never give up the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 war, drew a terse response on Tuesday from the United Nations Security Council, which said that a 35-year-old resolution rejecting Israeli sovereignty over the disputed land remains in effect.
The Security Council president for April, Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China, told reporters after a closed meeting that its 15 members had “expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan, and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged.”
He emphasized that Resolution 497 of December 1981, a response toIsrael’s annexation of the area that month, had not been rescinded. The resolution states that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”
Mr. Liu’s statement came a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel led a highly publicized cabinet meeting in one of the Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights and asserted that the territory had been an “integral part of the land of Israel since ancient times.”
Mr. Netanyahu also said that “the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”
The timing of Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration appeared partly to reflect Israeli concerns over the future of Syria when its civil war, now in its sixth year, is settled. Although no conclusion is yet in sight, diplomatic discussions on how to end the war recently resumed in Geneva with the backing of the United States and Russia.
Israeli news media reported earlier in the month that Mr. Netanyahu was worried that language in any negotiated settlement might specify that the Golan Heights belonged to Syria.
A day after Mr. Netanyahu spoke, the State Department rejected his assertion.
“The U.S. position on the status of the Golan Heights is longstanding and is unchanged,” the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters. “Every administration on both sides of the aisle since 1967 has maintained that those territories are not part of Israel.”
Mr. Kirby said the return of the Golan Heights “should be decided through negotiations between the respective parties,” but that “the current situation in Syria makes it difficult to continue those efforts at this time.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said after the Security Council’s meeting on Tuesday that it “completely ignores the reality in the Middle East.”
“While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel — the only true democracy in the Middle East,” he said in a statement.