Back in February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN he supported Israel’s continued control over the Golan Heights, but would not go as far as embracing President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty there. Asked whether the Biden administration still sees the Golan Heights as part of Israel, Blinken answered, “Look, leaving aside the legalities of that question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security.”
Which was on a level with all past Democratic (and Republican) administrations since about 1967.
But on Thursday, the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon reported that “the Biden administration is walking back the United States’ historic recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region along Israel’s northern border.” The story was headlined appropriately, “Biden Admin Walks Back U.S. Recognition of Golan Heights as Israeli territory.”
Except that the WFB article has little to go on in asserting the admittedly scary headline, other than that same Blinken CNN interview, and, apparently, a statement from a State Department official who “said the territory belongs to no one and control could change depending on the region’s ever-shifting dynamics.”
The rest of the report is chock full of statements from Trump administration officials and Congressional Republicans who object in no uncertain terms to Biden’s designs for the Golan.
Back in February, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a response to the Blinken interview, saying, “The Golan Heights will remain forever a part of the State of Israel,” and, “The Israeli position is clear. In any possible scenario, the Golan Heights will remain Israeli.”
We should note, in this context, that US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Wednesday that the Biden administration has not changed the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights (US official says Trump recognition of Golan as Israeli territory remains unchanged).
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “This is an issue that the administration is still working on,” and added, “In terms of the Golan Heights, that’s something that is not yet on the agenda.” Presumably not yet means, until it is.
When Republican Lee Zeldin (R-NY) pressed her on the issue, asking directly about Trump’s 2019 recognition of the territory as part of Israel. Thomas-Greenfield said: “We have not changed any of the decisions of the prior administration.”
At this point we should ask ourselves, why would the friends of Israel on the right bring up this hot potato when nothing has changed officially on the part of the Biden administration? Because something could be changing, thanks to the left-wing of the Democratic party, which, in the midst of a gigantic presidential effort to revitalize the economy and rebuild America’s infrastructure to the tune of trillions of dollars, decided all that effort should be set aside in favor of some Israel shaming.
I kid you not. On Wednesday, 73 Congressional Democrats, which included include seven committee chairs and seven Jews, sent President Biden a letter demanding that he put everything aside and urgently do the following:
- Formally withdraw the previous administration’s “peace plan” which paved the way for possible unilateral annexation of territory and reaffirm as official United States policy the principles for resolving the conflict referenced by the House of Representatives in H. Res. 326 (116th Congress)
- Insist through all channels that Hamas stop further rocket attacks against Israel
- Quickly fulfill your welcome commitment to reopen a separate U.S. consulate in Jerusalem
- Make clear that the United States considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by reissuing relevant State Department and U.S. customs guidance to that effect
- Strongly oppose the forced expulsion via eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem and throughout Palestinian territory
- Ensure that all relevant official U.S. documents and communications once again consistently refer to the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied
- Ensure that all remaining congressionally appropriated aid to the Palestinians is disbursed without undue delay, following all applicable U.S. laws and vetting standards for recipients and implementing organizations, and
- Consistently and proactively issue firm public condemnations of specific actions that violate the rights of either party or undermine the prospects for peace
Because what Israel’s new government needs most right now is to go to war with a hostile US administration, when its bizarre, left-to-right coalition parties are desperate to conduct their own efforts to revitalize the economy and the infrastructure. So, instead, both administrations should start quarreling over all the issues on this list, each one of which has the potential not to usher in peace but start a new war.
The leftist Democrats’ letter, much like the livid Republican responses, are all about catering to the base on both sides. In both camps, we recognize the hectic preparations for the 2022 midterm elections, and few items work better to galvanize the more extreme bases than the messages of, “save Palestine from Israeli oppression” on the left, and “save Israel from hostile Democrats” on the right.
Once we recognize all of this as hopefully the street theater it is, we could start assessing whether it is in the best interest of the Biden administration to start up trouble in a region that’s barely keeping itself together. With the signing of a new, possibly revised Iran nuclear deal (unless Mossad takes out all of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the time Blinken gets to signing this thing) – Biden does not need a fight with Israel over the 1967 liberated territories and the extent to which it should be allowed to repel the truly horrible people who want her civilians dead.
And always, always remember Will Rogers’ immortal words: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
Update: On Friday afternoon the State Department tweeted, “U.S. policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false.”
U.S. policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false.
— U.S. State Dept – Near Eastern Affairs (@StateDept_NEA) June 25, 2021