Raising questions

U.S. policy on Golan ‘has not changed’: State Dept.

Washington recently endorsed a U.N. resolution referring to part of the region as ‘occupied,’ contrary to a Trump-era policy

Marwan Naamani/picture alliance via Getty Images

A view of the disputed area of Shebaa farms, a small strip of land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights.

In an August United Nations Security Council resolution meant to extend the mandate of UNIFIL, the U.N.’s peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, one word stood out: The resolution referred to the Shab’a Farms, an area in the Golan Heights, as “occupied.”

If Washington agreed with the resolution’s characterization of the region as “occupied,” it would signal a major policy shift. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the region in 1981. The United States, during the Trump administration, was the first country to recognize Israeli control of the Golan, a policy that the Biden administration continued. 

“The Biden administration had effectively reversed the official American position recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, without having to make an official policy announcement,” Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued in a Tablet magazine article published last week.

But a State Department spokesperson told Jewish Insider on Sunday that no such policy change has occurred. In fact, the spokesperson said, Washington disagreed with the use of that language. 

“The United States repeatedly relayed our concerns over that characterization of Shab’a Farms during the UNIFIL mandate negotiations,” the spokesperson said. “As with many U.N. Resolutions, the final text represents difficult negotiations and compromises required to ensure passage. U.S. policy on the Golan Heights has not changed.”

The UNIFIL resolution earned praise from Israel’s Foreign Ministry and support from the United States. The resolution rejected demands from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to limit the movement of UNIFIL.

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