Trump was right to recognize Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights – Washington Examiner

Amid all of the breathless commentary on a report from special counsel Robert Mueller that has yet to see the light of day, the real news today came at the joint press conference between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When the two leaders confirmed reports that the United States will recognize Israel’s right to the Golan Heights, they also struck a blow for real-world facts on the ground being superior to decades of diplomatic fiction.

[Related: Netanyahu to Trump: ‘Israel has never had a better friend than you’]

When Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., early this year urged Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over parts of the Golan Heights, I argued: “Control of the heights is tremendously important for the safety of people living in the northern part of Israel. If hostile powers control the heights, they can use the advantages of the elevation to rain attacks on the Israelis below. That’s exactly what Syrian artillery did to Israeli farmers in the 1950s and 1960s. Israel particularly fears Iranian presence on the heights through its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”

Israel has controlled key portions of the Golan Heights since capturing them during the Six-Day War in 1967. That war began after repeated attacks on Israel, including from the Golan Heights, by Palestinian terrorists, followed by Egypt’s blockade of an Israeli port and by a joint mobilization of most of Israel’s Arab or Islamic neighbors. Acting in defense, Israel crushed the joint militaries of those nations and kept captured territories so as to make new aggression against Israel far less likely to meet success.

Israel went from control to full annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, with no effective pushback from Syria since. In effect, therefore, all Trump did on Monday was recognize a territorial reality in effect for nearly 52 years and a political reality in effect for 38. Those are among the reasons why, as Ben Hubbard reported in the New York Times, the official recognition of Israeli sovereignty there “was met across much of the Arab world with a shrug.”

Some Islamic countries now are tacitly partnering with Israel against Iran. “As for Syria,” the Times reports, “its own war has left the country so weak and ostracized that few care what it wants. ‘The Golan was always seen as the carrot that Israel would cede for peace with Syria, and now peace doesn’t matter, Syria doesn’t matter and maybe Syria doesn’t exist at the table as the legitimate owner of the land,’ said Kareem Sakka, editor in chief of Raseef22, an Arabic news site.”

To his credit, President Trump has spent two years shoring up the crucial U.S. friendship with Israel after eight years of Barack Obama’s thinly veiled hostility toward the Jewish nation. By recognizing not just the reality but the ethical nature of Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, the president struck a blow not for destabilizing the Middle East, but for eliminating diplomatic detritus that gums up the works of peace talks.

Middle East peace should be based on the way things really are, not on the half-century-old fantasies of Islamists still angry that control of the Golan Heights back then did not enable them to push all Israeli Jews into the sea.

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