Security, water and oil: Hidden reasons why Golan matters to Israel

By Ameen Izzadeen
In yet another blow to international law, the United States President Donald Trump, with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side, on Monday signed a proclamation, officially recognising Syria’s Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
There is hardly a whimper of protest from any US politician; after all they brag about their country as a promoter of human rights, democracy and justice.
The majority of the American politicians apparently see no wrong in Trump’s disdain for international law. Even in the Democratic Party, which is quick to pounce on him after almost every tweet he writes, most politicians make no criticism of Trump’s policy on Israel.
In May last year, when Trump binned international consensus and recognised the whole of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, there was little opposition within the US, though the move dashed the freedom hope of millions of Palestinian people and earned international censure. No wonder, Trump had to fear none when he signed the Golan Heights declaration.
The Golan Heights region belongs to Syria. It had been an Ottoman territory before Britain and France, just as two thieves would split their loot, shared the Middle-Eastern region between them in terms of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement during World War I. This criminal deal, along with the Arab tribal sheikhs’ betrayal of their Ottoman Sultan, is the root cause of almost every problem besetting the region today.
Israel captured the Golan Heights during the 1967 war and has since built settlements for its Jewish people. Israel annexed the territory in 1981, but neither the United Nations, nor any country, had recognized the annexation until Trump on Monday did so. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 497 condemned the annexation, stating “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”.
The annexation also violates Resolution 242, which emphasises “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”.
Emboldened by the endorsement of the majority of Americans through their silence and enthusiasm to mollify the Israeli lobby, Trump displays no qualms over his disrespect for UN resolutions and international law. Sadly, only a few realise that such disdain is a feature of Fascism.
Trump, the most pro-Zionist president in US history, would not mind being a Fascist to placate Israel, for it will win him the pro-Israeli white evangelical votes at the 2020 presidential election. Monday’s proclamation is seen by most political analysts as a gift from Trump to Netanyahu to bolster his chances at next month’s general elections, when he is facing corruption charges at home.
Electoral prospects apart, the question now is: What will Trump do next to serve Israel? After Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, will he declare the entire West Bank as part of Israel – as demanded by the hardcore Zionists? Is this Trump’s much-touted Middle East peace plan?
It appears that Trump’s action on Monday was part of Israel’s Plan B after its Plan A came a cropper. Plan A was to create a civil war in Syria, help the insurgents through overt or covert measures, overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, balkanize the country and install puppet rulers who will cede Golan Heights to Israel.
The entry of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia to the Syrian war to prop up President Assad scuttled the plan, forcing Israel to set in motion its Plan B.
Why is the Golan Heights, Syria’s western territory, so important to Israel? Israel has built more than 30 Jewish settlements in the occupied Golan Heights. Some 25,000 Israelis live there, in addition to the original inhabitants, the Syrian Druze people. The security of the Jewish settlers is one reason.
Another reason is water. The Golan Heights is fertile and rich in water resources such as the Jordan River basin, the Yarmuk River and underground aquifers. One third of Israel’s water requirement is met by Golan water sources.
The Golan Heights also has military and strategic value, as it is a high altitude plateau that overlooks low lying areas in Syria and Israel.
Besides, security and water, the Golan Heights has another important asset – OIL. Israeli and US companies have plans to commercially exploit this oil discovered only a few years ago. But Israel is prohibited from selling the Golan oil in the international market because under international law, an occupying nation cannot profit from resources of an occupied area. With the US now recognising the Golan Heights as part of Israel, US companies such as Genie Energy which is connected with the George W. Bush era Vice President Dick Cheney and media mogul Rupert Murdock will now face no legal obstacles to extract Golan oil and ship it to the US market.
Trump’s outlandish declaration has been renounced by the United Nations, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Arab world. At the United Nations, European countries refused to endorse Trump’s proclamation, which came at a time when US politicians in a bipartisan show of support paraded to the AIPAC — America Israel Public Affairs Committee a.k.a the Jewish Lobby — conference in Washington DC to give their oath of allegiance to the state of Israel.
Trump’s fascist action came also at a time when the Gaza Strip was bracing for an Israeli attack after a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory hit an Israeli village, injuring seven people, including two infants. But there was little mention in the mainstream US media that the rocket attack came after Israel during the past 12 months killed nearly 300 Palestinians, including children, disabled people and medics. The protesters were taking part in the Great March to demand that they be allowed to go to their villages in the occupied West Bank.
In the pro-Israeli US media, including the CNN, the fact that Trump violated international law was hardly discussed. Their argument seems to be if Russia could annex the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, Israel could annex Syria’s Golan Heights. A helluva argument! If this is the line the US media are taking, shouldn’t they keep their mouths shut when China proclaims the nine-dash line or the so-called cow tongue in the South China Sea as Chinese sovereign territory?
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirrror, Sri Lanka)

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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