Trump's recognition of Israel's claim to the Golan Heights sends a message to Russia, Syria, Iran
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                  Trump's recognition of Israel's claim to the Golan Heights sends a message to Russia, Syria, Iran

                  Trump's recognition of Israel's claim to the Golan Heights sends a message to Russia, Syria, Iran


                  With President Trump’s proclamation on March 25, the United States recognized what has been the reality on the ground in the Golan Heights for over 50 years: Israeli sovereignty over the strategically critical plateau.

                  Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, and Bashar Assad are all taking actions to secure their interests in the Levant, which only further imperil regional stability. By moving forward with the recognition, the Trump administration is sending an important message to Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus: the United States stands with Israel in ensuring our most important regional ally has defensible borders against a broad spectrum of threats.

                  What critics fail to appreciate is the way in which the territory changed hands. Between Israel’s War of Independence and the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli civilians living below the Golan Heights faced artillery shelling and terrorist raids, including the placement of landmines which resulted in multiple civilian fatalities in the areas north of the Sea of Galilee. With the start of the Six-Day War on June 5, 1967, the targeting of Israeli civilians below the Golan Heights intensified. Syria and Jordan joined Egypt in the fight, and, in order to repel the Syrian attack from the north, Israeli forces captured the Golan Heights.

                  This was followed by the 1973 Yom Kippur War in which the Egyptian and Syrian military forces launched a surprise attack against Israel. Syrian forces where able to gain control over a large portion of the Golan Heights before being pushed back by an Israeli counterattack.

                  In both instances, Israel was fighting a clearly defensive war of survival on multiple fronts against numerically superior forces. This is why in part, comparisons to a situation like Russia’s unabashed war of aggression against Ukraine and its occupation of Crimea are wholly inaccurate. Russia was never under threat from Ukraine.

                  Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the threat to Israeli security has only increased. Iranian military forces have moved into Syria and have brought along with them a slew of proxy forces. Iran has continued to transfer weapons to Hezbollah and worked relentlessly to build up their own weapons arsenal across Syria – often resulting in Israeli military strikes aimed at denying Hezbollah access to increasingly sophisticated munitions.

                  Russia’s 2015 intervention into Syria has also complicated the security situation. Moscow has introduced a set of advanced air defenses, such as the S-400, to the conflict to protect their own forces and have also transferred S-300 air defense systems to the Syrian military. Also troubling is Russia’s growing cooperation with Hezbollah, which it does not consider to be a terrorist group and whose leadership has been hosted in Moscow.

                  The Assad regime, meanwhile, has spent the past eight years dropping barrel bombs and deploying chemical weapons against its own people. This is also not to mention the numerous radical jihadist groups operating in Syria, who at the moment may be more focused on local matters but can also threaten Israel and U.S. interests in the region and beyond.

                  What country would think such a situation is sustainable on their border? What country would ever consider handing over the literal high ground to such a regime as the one in Damascus?

                  The Trump administration also has a clear legal case in its recognition. As one legal scholar testified before Congress, “The ILC [International Legal Commission] repeatedly recognized that not all territorial changes in war are illegitimate … Israel’s use of force in 1967 was defensive — certainly the U.S. is entitled to view it as such — and thus explicitly lawful under the [UN] Charter. Thus there is no obligation to refrain from recognizing it.”

                  To anyone who has ever stood on the Golan Heights, it is perfectly clear why the area would be vital to any successful attack on Israel, and why Israel, once in control of the strategic plateau, could never relinquish the Golan Heights and keep itself secure.

                  by Boris Zilberman

                  Boris Zilberman is the Director of Public Policy and Strategy at the Christians United for Israel Action Fund.

                  The Washington Examiner