Rep. Eliot Engel reiterates support for Israeli control of the Golan
The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stops short of endorsing President Trump’s declaration
Responding to a public declaration by President Donald Trump pushing for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) stopped short of outright support but said “there is no circumstance under which Israel should give that strategic advantage to the murderous Assad regime,” in an email to Jewish Insider.
So far, Chairman Engel is the highest ranking Democrat to speak on the matter.
“Israel has controlled the Golan Heights for over 50 years. The Syrian civil war and the resultant presence of extremists on Israel’s northern border, including Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and ISIS, underscores the importance of Israeli control of this strategic area,” Chairman Engel said. “This is the reality of the situation, and there is no circumstance under which Israel should give that strategic advantage to the murderous Assad regime.”
What’s going on: President Trump announced on Thursday via Twitter that “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! [sic]”
Why it matters: The declaration is one step closer to a permanent U.S. policy shift that takes the Golan Heights off the table of any future peace negotiations with Syria. In February, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced bills calling for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and measures to jumpstart investment in joining U.S.-Israel projects in the region. Yet it’s unclear if any Democrats will sign on to the legislation.
Insider view: An aide to Sen. Cotton says the President’s declaration on Twitter signals a “pretty iminent policy change.” The Senator will still push for the bill to go forward, the aide said, as it outlines how U.S. appropriated funds can be spent on joint U.S.-Israel projects in the region.
What’s next: President Trump’s announcement stirred up passionate reactions, with Republican members supporting the move and more mixed reactions among left-leaning groups focused on Israel policy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Trump following his speech at AIPAC on Monday and ahead of the Israeli election on April 9.
Laura Kelly is the Capitol Hill reporter for Jewish Insider. Follow her @HelloLauraKelly