GOP senators pitch resolution to recognize Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights
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GOP senators pitch resolution to recognize Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

Motion says Israel’s national security depends on its permanent control of the strategic plateau

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

An Israeli flag is seen placed on Mount Bental in the  Golan Heights on May 10, 2018.( AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY)
An Israeli flag is seen placed on Mount Bental in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018.( AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY)

WASHINGTON — Two Republican senators introduced a resolution on Tuesday calling for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton drafted the motion, which claims that Israel’s national security depends upon its permanent control of the territory. Otherwise, the text says, Israel will be vulnerable to attacks from Syria and Lebanon.

“Israel’s northern border is threatened by Iranian forces and their proxies in Lebanon and Syria, including Hezbollah’s 150,000 rockets, armed drones, newly discovered terror tunnels, and more,” said Senators Cruz and Cotton in a statement. “Meanwhile, with the ayatollahs’ help, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is on the verge of securing victory in Syria’s civil war. He may soon turn his attention back to threatening the Jewish state.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the territory in the early 1980s. But the United States and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation.

In recent years, Israel has tried to convince Washington to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Israel will control the territory “forever.”

In June, Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid met with high-level American lawmakers, urging them to advance the issue.

“Israel has declared sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Lapid said at the time. “There were all kinds of discussions throughout the years, but this is over, because it is so obvious that nobody in their right mind is going to give the Golan Heights to a mass murderer who just killed half a million of his own people.”

Referring to Assad’s reign of power in Syria, in which he is accused of brutalizing his own people and carrying out war crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, Lapid insisted that any Israeli handover of territory to the regime was off the table. “Now that the risks are so obvious, we will never renegotiate the Golan Heights,” he said. “It’s ours and always has been. It’s not like the West Bank or anything.”

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a campaign rally at Central Baptist Church in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Tuesday, March 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Netanyahu also made the same pitch to former president Barack Obama during a 2015 meeting, telling him that the situation in Syria required “different thinking” on the matter.

Obama never moved forward on the Israeli premier’s request. Cruz, however, immediately endorsed the proposal after Netanyahu’s comments.

It not yet clear how much bipartisan support the resolution will gain. As of now, it is being pushed exclusively by two of the most hawkish Republican senators.

“Israel gained possession over the Golan Heights in a defensive war over 50 years ago, and has responsibly controlled the area ever since,” Cruz and Cotton said. “It’s past time for the United States to recognize reality by affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

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