House scraps proposal for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights

Florida’s Ron DeSantis laments his measure blocked given the ‘plethora of malevolent forces’ that undermine security in the area

An Israeli flag flutters above the wreckage of a tank on a hill in the Golan Heights overlooking the border with Syria on October 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)
An Israeli flag flutters above the wreckage of a tank on a hill in the Golan Heights overlooking the border with Syria on October 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

The House of Representatives shelved a Republican lawmaker’s proposal for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights following reported opposition from party leaders and members of the White House.

Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida had introduced the non-binding proposal last week to the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, saying that although symbolic its approval could encourage the administration to take a position on the matter.

The proposal, however, was shelved and prevented from coming up for a vote this week as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed on Thursday.

“I don’t know why my Golan Heights amendment was not made in order and thus denied a vote,” DeSantis told the Washington Free Beacon news site. “It was a germane amendment that would have provided the House with a chance to add clarity to the broader US policy vis-a-vis Syria.”

“How could we even contemplate supporting anything other than the application of Israeli sovereignty to such a strategically significant area, especially given the plethora of malevolent forces that undermine security in the region,” DeSantis added.

US Congressman Ron DeSantis during a press conference in Jerusalem, March 5, 2017, following a 24-hour tour of congressional representatives studying the possibility of relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The news site quoted unnamed US officials as saying Republican leaders in the House prevented a vote on the proposal, with members of the Trump administration allegedly pressuring House Speaker Paul Ryan. White House officials denied involvement.

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.

Israel is hoping the Trump administration will recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz had said in an interview Wednesday, explaining that such a move would serve as a message of warning to Iran.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Katz said recognition of Israel’s hold over the territory was “topping the agenda” in talks with Washington.

“This is the perfect time to make such a move,” said Katz, who is also transportation minister and a member of the government’s security cabinet. “The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation.”

The Zionist Organization of America on Friday condemned the “internal effort” to prevent a vote on the proposal.

“The ZOA was strongly supportive of the DeSantis resolution, which we regarded as a vitally important development in achieving recognition of the Height’s strategic and security importance to Israel,” the group’s head Mort Klein said in a statement.

“The Golan Heights were always vitally important to Israel’s security, but have lately assumed even more strategic and security importance to Israel since Iran introduced its own forces into Syria,” added Klein. “It is for this reason that Congressman De Santis’s proposal assumes such long-term importance.”

Klein also called on other pro-Israel groups and US President Donald Trump to back the resolution.

DeSantis told the Walla news site last week that his action seemed to him a natural follow-up to the embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, particularly in light of the ongoing civil war in Syria, and Iran’s attempts to entrench itself across the border from Israel.

People watch as US President Donald Trump speaks on a video screen during the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

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

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