Congressman seeks US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights

Ron DeSantis, a strong supporter of embassy move to Jerusalem, says he has presented proposal to the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Following the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem last week, an American congressman is calling on Washington to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

In an interview published Sunday, Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) told the Walla news website he had brought the proposal before the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, on Thursday.

Israel captured the Golan in 1967 from Syria, which used its elevated position to routinely shell Israeli settlements in the Galilee. The Jewish state annexed the territory in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community — including by the United States — which still regards it as occupied.

DeSantis told Walla he had suggested that amendment to a chapter on Syria in the US military’s budget. Though the move would be largely symbolic, he noted, approval could encourage the administration to take a position on the matter.

An old Israeli tank with a flag overlooking the Syrian town of Quneitra in the Golan Heights on February 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The congressman said his action seemed to him a natural follow-up to the embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last Monday, particularly in light of the ongoing civil war in Syria, and Iran’s attempts to entrench itself across the border from Israel.

The congressman said that just as Washington’s relocation of its embassy would help take Jerusalem off the table in peace negotiations, American recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights would clarify it has no intention of forcing Jerusalem to relinquish the territory.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump unveil the inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

DeSantis attended the ceremony celebrating the opening of the Jerusalem embassy last Monday. He had long been a proponent of the move and last March led a Congressional fact-finding mission to Israel on a possible relocation.

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and to relocate the embassy there was highly controversial, and was rejected by most world leaders including the European Union. The long-standing international position has been that Jerusalem’s contested status should only be recognized as part of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

A Palestinian woman holding her national flag looks at clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The move led to widespread anger in the Arab world and to violent Palestinian protests.

A violent mass demonstration along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Monday, set to coincide with the embassy ceremony, led to the deaths of some 60 Palestinians by Israeli fire. Hamas has admitted that 50 of the dead were its members. Islamic Jihad said three others were its members. Israel said that some of those killed were involved in planting explosives or firing on soldiers and that Hamas was using the border protests as cover to stage attacks.

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