Trump Has No Right to Give the Syrian Golan Heights to Israel

Columnist Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


Ever since Trump became President of the United States he has ignored both U.S. and international laws.

A few months ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton surprisingly announced that if the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigated any wrongdoing by American soldiers in Afghanistan, the U.S. government would ban ICC Judges from entering the United States and would sanction their assets in U.S. banks.

This represents the height of arrogance and flouting of international law. Instead of serving as a model of a civilized democratic country to the rest of the world, the Trump administration is ignoring and violating several international treaties.

While it is common knowledge that “might is right” in international relations, no previous U.S. President has such flagrantly disregarded the rule of law.

Trump’s recent actions in foreign policy are even more alarming. He has never taken seriously the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict. On the contrary, he has ignorantly announced that it is easy to solve the Middle East problem and has irresponsibly appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has no experience in diplomacy and knows nothing about the Middle East, to be in charge of the Arab-Israeli peace plan.

Last year, in another unwise and dangerous decision, Pres. Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which is “tantamount to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over land that is captured in the Six-Day War in 1967,” according to Professor of Law Eugene Kontorovich. In other words, the move to Jerusalem is a violation of international law.

Last week, Pres. Trump shocked the world when he tweeted that the Syrian territory of Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, is Israeli territory: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.” Pres. Trump signed a proclamation on March 25, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing next to him in the White House, recognizing the Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Can anyone be so flippant as to make such a grave announcement in a tweet? Just about every nation, except for Israel, condemned Pres. Trump’s unwise announcement. European Union countries, including Germany and France, criticized Pres. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Iran, Turkey and Egypt also sharply criticized the U.S. President. As expected, Syria declared that it will recover the Golan Heights with “all available means.”

The Golan Heights is one of the contentious territories that has been subject to serious negotiations between Syria and Israel, as part of the overall peace plan between Israel and Arab states. Announcing that Golan Heights belongs to Israel destroys what little remains of the United States claim that it is an impartial mediator. Rather than help the parties move towards peace, the United States has once again taken an unwise initiative that has aggravated the situation.

A German government spokesperson was quoted in The Independent newspaper saying, Berlin “rejected unilateral steps” to redraw national boundaries, adding: “If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved.”

The French foreign ministry stated that it did not recognize the Israeli annexation [in 1981] of the Golan Heights and that Mr. Trump’s statement is “contrary to international law.”

Palestinians quickly blasted Pres. Trump’s decision, saying it undermined the chance for peace in the region. Palestinian spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said any action taken on the decision would be “a violation of the UN resolutions, have no value whatsoever and would remain mere ink on paper.” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Executive Committee, called it an “assault on international law.”

Pres. Trump has foolishly undermined Israel’s safety by provoking all Arabs and Muslims against Israel and the United States rather than taking measures to calm the situation and find a peaceful solution.

To complicate matters further, Pres. Trump’s controversial announcement came shortly before the April 9 Israeli elections which will determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his post. The U.S. action is not only misguided but also an interference in the elections of a foreign country, boosting the chances of victory for Netanyahu, who faces indictment for corruption. At a time when the U.S. is accusing Russia for interfering in the 2016 American presidential elections, the U.S. itself is blatantly interfering in Israel’s elections!

And for those Armenians who naively expect Pres. Trump to recognize Artsakh as Armenian territory, just like he recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, I hate to disappoint them by stating that Armenia does not have Israel’s political clout in Washington. Secondly, Armenians should not validate the unjust handover of the occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights to Israel by comparing it to Artsakh — an historical Armenian land given to Azerbaijan by Stalin.

Armenians should also be concerned that Pres. Trump’s flawed argument jeopardizes the recovery of Western Armenian lands occupied by Turkey. Saying that after 52 years of occupation, Golan Heights belongs to Israel, Pres. Trump is undermining the Armenian claim to Western Armenia since it has been occupied by Turkey much longer than that! No matter how long those territories remain occupied, they will always belong to Armenians just as the Golan Heights belongs to Syria!

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  1. State of Emergency said:

    Armenians are rather waiting for Russia to recognize Artsakh as Armenian territory, just like Trump recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

    • Hye said:

      Smarter Armenians demand Artsakh to be part of Armenia the way Tavush or Syuniq is.

      • State of Emergency said:

        First things first. Don’t let Russia off the hook so easily. Baby steps in all things big.

    • GB said:

      Recognizing means nothing anymore. people living in Artsakh are Armenians, people living in Golan Heights are Arabs!

  2. ardachece barseghian said:

    It is always with great interest that I read your analysis of international politics, which witnesses, in particular, your knowledge and experience of international law. You have been active for many years in the United Nations in Geneva in a team composed of eminent Armenian experts and others for having obtained the recognition of the Armenian genocide from the Human Rights Division of geneve. Thank you for your unwavering commitment, with my gratitude

  3. Edward Demiraiakian said:

    And yet, such impulsive acts tend to solve old problems. Let us hope that this or a future president does something impulsive for the Armenians; i.e. declare Eastern Turkey’s Wilsonian grant as Western Armenia under American protection; Or Cilicia, Armenian again. I’m sure all those acts would be illegal in someones book.

  4. berj said:

    Excellent article; nothing more to add. It epitomizes the judeo-American attitude and supercilious arroganc in disregarding international law and . As for Artsakh recognition, it does not behoove to Russia to recognize Artsakh, but it is incumbent on Armenia to declare the unification of Artsakh to Armenia . If you like Armenia needs to declare an “anschluss”. What is Armenia waiting ? The waiting does not favor Armenia in the geopolitical stakes. The enemy is getting stronger and stronger. A war is looming on the horizon, no one knows when , but it is inevitable. Anschluss now. What could the consequences be ? Sanctions by the Judeo americans; closure of borders. Russia-Iran will not move, Turkey may bark and bark, but it will not trigger a unilateral military attack. Azerbaijan might respond militarily, but that action will be in the context of the inevitablitly of the unfolding scenario of a war to settle the so called ” conflict” .On the diplomatic front Armeia is a a standstill. The dilemma of the contending concepts on geography and statehood are at opposite ends and are irreconcilable points of view; namely the self determination of peoples in their living space, versus the inviolability of sovereign borders. Who established those sovereign borders ? In the Stalin era, arbitrary delineation of borders ( when there should not have been borders according to the Soviet concept of nationhood,statehood and other bolchevik nonsense) and arbitrary land distribution with the aim of mixing the races, incompatible with one another, in interpolation of demarcated borders in order to have weak and impotent so called “republics” . The Soviet union is no more and their laws are no more, their fictional borders in the Caucasus Republics are defunct. The instauration of the concept of the self determination of peoples overtakes, cancels out, that of the inviolability of national borders of an epoch and era which is no longer extant.

    • State of Emergency said:

      Impossible without Russian military and political cover. Just like the Golan recognition, it requires superpower might to pull it off.

      • GB said:

        This will be impossible that Artsakh with predominantly Armenian Population goes back under uncivilized Turkic herds again …there is no comparison between Jews and Muslim Turks! Superpowers mean nothing anymore, for Armenians!

  5. ardachece barseghian said:

    We must rely on the diplomacy of “our” country with its 6 million Armenians in diaspora, well introduced into politics by competent activists, who today, in a unit of interests and justice in terms of international law, in order to work on the political restitution of our lands offered to each other by the Russians, the Soviet, the Americans, the Europeans and others in order to avoid the mourning of the mothers. A French proverb says “badly acquired never benefits”