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Very Foggy Bottom

State Dept. Not Sure Who Owns the Golan Heights

What does the State Dept. say when a US-based company, one of whose shareholders is former VP Cheney, explores for oil in the Golan Heights? It says, “Uh, y’know what? that’s a good question.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surveying the Israeli Golan Heights, January 13, 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surveying the Israeli Golan Heights, January 13, 2013.
Photo Credit: Gideon/GPO/FLASH90

The Golan Heights generally is not under the US government’s microscope when it comes to the “peace process,” but Israel’s go-ahead last week for exploring oil there left the State Dept. looking like dummies for not being able to explain how it views the area.

The United States never has recognized Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights and previously has tied it with a peace treaty with Syria, which not even the most dreamy-eyed State Dept. official mentions anymore.

When a reporter brought up the matter of the oil license at the daily media briefing in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland last week, she said Foggy Bottom would discuss the issue with the Israeli government. The license concerns the United States even more because the company is listed as being based in the United States, and one of its investors is former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The journalist nudged deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell for an answer on Wednesday, and his muddy response left the question unanswered.

He asked, “Is there any red tape they [American companies] have to go through with the State Department, with others in the U.S. Government?” concerning who has jurisdiction over the Golan Heights.

“The United States doesn’t recognize Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, does it?” asked the reporter.

An uninformed Ventrell kept trying to say that security for the company is the issue, and when pressed to relate to the matter of who has sovereignty, he lamely answered, “Look, it’s a very complicated legal scenario we have here. I’d have to get the lawyers to give me a full readout on where we stand on the Golan Heights. Suffice it to say there’s a major security issue right now because we have violence spilling over the border as well.”

He added he would be “happy” to look into it.”

It now is 2013, 32 years after Israel annexed the Golan Heights. By the way, at a Cabinet meeting a week after the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel officially offered Israel officially offered to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement.

The Arab world’s Khartoum Resolution two months later rejected the offer, stating there will be “ no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel [and] no negotiations with it.”

The State Dept.’s fuzziness is rooted in tradition. President Gerald Ford in 1975 wrote Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin that the United States has not finalized its position on the Golan Heights but, don’t worry, it will one day and will consider the Israeli position that the Golan Heights is not to be surrendered.

In 1991, United Nations Security Council, of State James Baker is presumed to have told Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Basher’s father, that the United States did not recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan.

Now, Ventral is “happy” to find out where the United States stands, with Syria on the edge of self-destruction, let alone Lebanon.

We can expect the State Dept. to come back with a foggy answer, suitable for Foggy Bottom, that the United States does not recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory but that its future will be determined in the peace process.

Next question for Ventrell and Nuland: “What is a peace process?”

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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4 Responses to “State Dept. Not Sure Who Owns the Golan Heights”

  1. Lloyd Bergner says:

    Does the State Dept recognize the Statehood of Texas, Californian New Mexico, Arizona and U.S.Annexation or is it still sovereign Mexican territory? These States were conquered in a waras was the Ramat Ha Golan and therefore Sovereign Israeli Land..or…is Israel held to a different standard?

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    Silly boy, the US and Mexico signed and ratified a peace treaty in 1848, and another treaty in 1854, setting the permanent boundary. Israel is often held to a double standard, but your example is not one of them.

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    Actually, the Golan Heights "annexation" law was deliberately left vague, not using the term "annexation" at all:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_Heights_Law

    As a result, it is indeed unclear what country has *de jure* sovereignty over the region.

  4. Coming from a department that can't even answer what is Israel's capital can anybody really expect anything else?

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