by: Joshua Spurlock
Tuesday, 12 March 2019 | In a significant diplomatic win for Israel, US Senator Lindsay Graham—a former candidate for president and a key member of US President Donald Trump’s Republican political party—on Monday openly endorsed Israeli sovereignty over the strategic Golan Heights that border Syria. “I’ve got a simple message. I will go back to the United States Senate. Working with Senator (Ted) Cruz, I will start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel now and forever,” said Graham during a visit to the Golan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments published by Netanyahu’s office.
Graham didn’t stop there, continuing by highlighting that the history behind the territory Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 war is further evidence that Israel should keep it. “Israel occupied this territory by fighting for its survival. This territory was taken by military force because it was used as a launching point to attack the State of Israel. This territory has a rich Jewish history,” said Graham.
Perhaps even more important than Graham’s endorsement, US Ambassador David Friedman—the American representative of President Trump to Israel—was not only present with Graham on the Golan, he sounded moved by the senator’s comments.
In a Twitter post, Friedman said, “With @LindseyGrahamSC and @IsraeliPM today on the #Golan Heights at the Syrian border. Compelling evidence presented of the critical strategic importance of Israeli control of this territory. Senator Graham spoke movingly and with great moral clarity on this subject.”
Graham’s argument for why Israel should matter to America was straightforward. “What’s best for America is for a safe, secure and prosperous Israel. Why? Common values, common enemies, and from a military point of view, the best friend the United States could possibly ever have in a troubled region,” Graham was quoted by an Israeli press release as saying.
Netanyahu believes Graham’s support for Israel represents the view of President Trump. “You heard very strong words here from Senator Graham that express American policy, President Trump’s policy, of support for Israel. They are taking this to a very concrete step—to keep the Golan as part of Israel,” said Netanyahu.
The Golan has become especially relevant lately as Iran has attempted to build military bases in Israel’s northern neighbor Syria. Netanyahu warned that if Israel were to lose the Golan, “our border will be with Iran on the shores of the Kinneret—and we are not prepared to accept that,” he said, referring to the Hebrew name for the Biblical Sea of Galilee.
The US has never formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, although the Trump Administration has already made history by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This support has apparently given Netanyahu encouragement that recognition of the Golan is possible as well.
Said Netanyahu of Graham’s comments, “I was very pleased to hear him make these remarks. I think that this is a very important direction and very, very promising for our national security.”
Graham wasn’t the only person waxing eloquent about the strategic importance of the Golan. Netanyahu made his own case for why the key mountain region bordering Syria needed to stay in Israeli hands.
“I think every time you come here, you can appreciate the strategic importance of Israel being on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu was quoted by the press release as telling Senator Graham. “And the fact that we’re creating here new life, green life, a future, which is very different obviously from what existed before. The Golan has always been part of Israel, from the earliest days of our history, and has certainly been part of the State of Israel since 1967, and more recently since 1981 (when it was annexed by Israel).”
Continued Netanyahu, “The Golan is part of Israel; the Golan must stay part of Israel forever. I think it’s very important that the international community recognize this fact and accept it, and most especially, our great friend the United States.”
If Senator Graham gets his way, the US will do just that.
Posted on March 12, 2019
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on March 11, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO
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