In a not surprising but very disappointing move on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stopped short of endorsing the Trump administration’s recognition of Golan Heights as part of Israel, instead noting that the “occupied” territory was important for Israel’s security.
Former President Donald Trump officially granted U.S. recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory in 2019 – a dramatic shift from decades of U.S. policy. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move that has not been recognized internationally.
“As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security,” Blinken told CNN. “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.”
He added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as the presence of militia groups backed by Iran pose a ‘significant security threat’ to Israel.
Biden’s advisers had said previously that he would not withdraw U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan but that seems to have shifted.
Blinken did reiterate the Biden administration’s commitment to keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, after the Trump administration recognized the city as the capital of Israel, reversing previous U.S. policy.
Trump was broadly in lockstep on Middle East policy with his closest ally in the region, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump took a hard stance against Iran and cooled relations with the Palestinians who have aligned themselves with Iran.
Trump also brokered the Abraham Accords bringing “normalization” of relations with arab nations United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and Israel. The “peace” agreements are historic in nature in that Israel gave up no land for normalization. In addition to these nations, relation with Saudi Arabia have been greatly improved. All of these nations have a common enemy in Iran.
Biden and his team have said they will restore ties with the Palestinians that were cut by Trump, resume aid and reject unilateral actions, such as construction of Israeli settlements on occupied territory.
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Among his many calls with foreign leaders, Biden has still not spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu raising eyebrows in Israel and among Middle East experts. Both Obama and Trump spoke to Netanyahu within days of taking office.
When asked why Biden has not spoken with Netanyahu, Blinken said: “I’m sure that they’ll have occasion to speak in the near future.”
Israel is surely not happy with the steps the Biden administration is taking and it is stunning that Biden has not made contact with America’s closest ally in the Middle East. Let’s hope he does not undo all the good Trump did there.
Reuters contributed to this report.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org