Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday welcomed a US decision to vote for the first time against an annual UN resolution condemning Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights.
“I would like to thank President [Donald] Trump and Ambassador [Nikki] Haley on this important and just vote that is completely in keeping with my policy,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Israel will always remain on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will always remain in our hands,” he said.
The United States voted against the United Nations resolution on Friday, dropping its practice of abstaining and signaling a dramatic shift in policy toward the territory.
Despite the US move, the non-binding text was adopted in a General Assembly committee by a vote of 151 to 2, with the US and Israel the only two countries opposing the measure. Fourteen countries abstained.
Haley called the resolution “useless” and “plainly biased against Israel,” citing concerns about Iran’s military role in Syria to oppose the measure.
Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon also thanked the US for the shift in policy, and said the world body should “deal with Syria’s civil war, not meaningless decisions that won’t affect Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights.”
Danon said “the time had come for the world to recognize we will not retreat.”
The US announced its change in policy last week, ahead of Friday’s vote on “The Occupied Syrian Golan” resolution.
“If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today. The resolution is plainly biased against Israel,” Haley said in the statement. “The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security.”
The non-binding resolution, which is voted on by a UN General Assembly committee each year, takes issue with the “illegality of the decision” taken by Israel “to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan,” which it says is illegal under international law.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the territory in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community — including by the United States — which still regards it as Syrian territory under Israeli control.
In recent months, Israel has reportedly pressed the White House to recognize the Golan annexation, arguing that the bloody civil war in Syria undergirded Israeli claims that the plateau is critical to maintaining security.
While Haley’s statement was not official change in US policy, the outgoing ambassador said the “the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”
In September, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said he expects the Golan Heights to remain under Israeli control “forever.”
But during a visit to Israel a month earlier, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there were no discussions on such recognition.
During the debate after Friday’s vote, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari vowed that Damascus would recapture the heights “by peace or by war.”