Israel’s Foreign Ministry hit back Tuesday night at a UN Security Council statement indicating Jerusalem should return the Golan Heights to Syria, saying it was unrealistic given the current situation in the war-torn country. Such a scenario, the ministry said, would entail the Jewish state having to choose between various brutal jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, with which to hold negotiations.
“Who is Israel expected to negotiate with on the future of the Golan Heights?” the ministry asked, striking a sarcastic tone. “Islamic State? Al-Qaeda? Hezbollah? The Iranian and Syrian forces who massacred hundreds of thousands of people?”
The ministry said the UN was was “ignoring the reality” in Syria when it rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent assertion that the Golan Heights would “forever” remain under Israeli control.
“In the face of the war raging in Syria and the security and stability that Israel has built in the Golan in the past 50 years, the suggestion that Israel withdraw from the Golan is unreasonable,” said the ministry.
Israeli focus has recently returned to the Golan amid reports that negotiations to end the Syrian civil war include conditions for returning the plateau, which commands a view over much of northern Israel, to Syrian control.
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, also denounced the Security Council for discussing an issue that “completely ignores the reality in the Middle East.”
“While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel – the only true democracy in the Middle East,” Danon said in a statement Tuesday evening.
“It’s unfortunate that interested parties are attempting to use the council for unfair criticism of Israel,” he added.
The 15-member Security Council agreed Tuesday that the status of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, “remains unchanged,” said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds this month’s council presidency.
Liu recalled a 1981 resolution which states that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was null and void and without any international legal effect.”
The row over the Golan intensified after Netanyahu held a cabinet at the site earlier this month — the first time that an Israeli government had done so.
“The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting. “Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”
But the Security Council “expressed deep concern” over the Israeli statements and “stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged,” said Liu.
Israel captured the Golan in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981. The international community never accepted the annexation, and Israeli leaders see in the turmoil in Syria a chance to convince the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty there.
According to a report on Israel’s Channel 2 earlier this month, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.
In November, Netanyahu reportedly asked US President Barack Obama to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area, given the civil war. Obama did not reply, according to Israeli media accounts.