By recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, President Trump struck a blow against the idiotic principle of “land for peace,” when he tweeted,
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!
Restoring land to the previous owner, in this case, would work against the possibility of peace, he implied. And of course he’s right.
But doesn’t annexation violate international law? Opinions differ. It’s true that it is illegal under the UN charter to obtain land by attacking or threatening to attack another country. Art. 2, Sect. 4, says,
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
At the same time, the right of all nations, even Jewish ones, to defend themselves is also clear (Art. 51):
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. …
Although the first shots in the 1967 war were fired by Israel, even the US State Department considered it a “clear-cut case of military preemption” [of an imminent attack], which is tantamount to self-defense. Hence Israel’s occupation of the Golan was legal.
In 1981, Israel went a step further and passed a law to applying Israeli law and jurisdiction to the Golan. In response, the UN Security Council passed its Resolution 497, calling the decision “null and void” and “demanding” that Israel continue to treat the area as occupied territory. This resolution was not explicitly passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and so is not considered binding. Israel ignored it.
So what is the status today? The 1981 Golan Law deliberately did not use the word “sovereignty” or its equivalent, and the Foreign Ministry stressed that fact at the time, perhaps worried that the UN would act more strongly against Israel if it did. No other countries recognized a change in the status of the area. In 2016, PM Netanyahu announced that “Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.”
Although as we’ve seen, the right of self-defense is enshrined in international law, it comes from the most fundamental concept of human rights, what traditionally has been called natural law. No one or no nation is obliged to sit quietly while being attacked. And I think that this principle overrides any other rules or laws. The geostrategic significance of the Golan makes it essential. We are not obligated to voluntarily give up our lives or our nation, and we are not obligated to leave the Golan.
Nevertheless, Israel hasn’t yet officially claimed sovereignty, and probably few if any nations other than the US would recognize it if she did. On the other hand, Israel will not give it up, so it makes no sense to continue pretending that it is not an integral part of the country. Formal annexation, followed by official recognition from the US and maybe a few other countries will have little practical significance today, but it will set the stage for the future.
And one of the future events that we should be trying very hard to make a reality is the demise of the “land for peace” concept. Possibly we are so used to it that we don’t find it exceptional, but consider the history: several aggressor nations attempt to destroy another country, but are soundly defeated. In times past – you don’t have to go farther back than 1945 – their military capabilities would have been destroyed, their assets stripped, and their capitals ravaged. Instead, after 1967 (and again after the Arabs had their second go at Israel in 1973), the international community stepped in, saved the losers from total defeat, forced the winner to retreat, and began a “peace process” to return the situation to the status quo ante that is still going on, 52 years later. And the slogan of that process is “land for peace,” or, in other words, the territory gained by the blood of the victims of aggression is to be given back to the aggressors, in return for an easily broken promise that is impossible to guarantee!
The international community took the side of the aggressors for several reasons. One of them was their possession of much of the world’s energy supply and the efficacy of the Arab oil weapon. Today the situation has changed, with much more oil available in North America, and even natural gas in the hands of Israel. Another important factor was the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and the US lining up behind the Arabs and Israel, respectively. The Cold War has ended, although the rivalry between the US and Russia still exists, albeit in a much more complicated reality.
So why is the “process” still going on? It has to do with the identity of the small state that defeated the aggressors. The small Jewish state. There is a confluence of interests, based on a combination of Muslim opposition to a corner of Dar-al-Islam being ruled by non-Muslims, and European antipathy to their oldest enemy, the Jewish people. Both of these themes – Muslim and European antisemitism – were carefully nurtured by Soviet psychological warfare experts. The concept of the oppressed “Palestinian people” was invented, which worked in both the eastern and western theaters. In the West, Palestinian human rights were stressed, and in the East, Arab/Muslim honor.
The Western Left, still animated by the ancient strings put in place by Stalin’s experts, didn’t disappoint. European Jew-hatred, undercover since the Holocaust, came out again in the form of anti-Zionism. In America (and even Israel), academics pointlessly employed in scam fake-academic disciplines like Gender Studies found a cause that they could sink their teeth into. A whole religion of anti-Israelism emerged, with every university establishing its church of Palestine solidarity and observing Apartheid Week, passing BDS resolutions, and other manifestations of zeal.
In larger society, governments, politicians, religious and cultural organizations, and of course media, relentlessly pushed ideas like the “two-state solution,” “land for peace,” “disengagement,” and “separation,” concepts which sugar-coated their actual content: forcing Israel – the victorious party, remember – to concede land to her enemies so that the result of the 1967 war could be reversed, and ultimately the state destroyed.
In the US, the most anti-Israel administration ever, headed by Muslim Brotherhood fan Barack Obama came into power, and worked relentlessly to weaken the Jewish state in practical terms and to damage her image throughout the world. For the first time, the US purposely abstained on a significant anti-Israel resolution in the UN, and did its best to enable Israel’s greatest enemy, Iran, to ultimately achieve nuclear weapons. At the same time, it acted to restrain Israel from preemptively destroying Iran’s nuclear project, and provided an influx of cash, which Iran used to bolster its effective conquest of Iraq and Syria.
With the election of Donald Trump, and (ultimately) Trump’s appointment of pro-Israel officials to important positions in his administration, the situation has changed radically. While Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world continue to be hostile – although some of her traditional enemies have dialed back their hostility for pragmatic reasons – the US is finally firmly in Israel’s corner. Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan is just the most recent of a series of actions to recognize the reality in the region: that Israel is here to stay, her capital is Jerusalem, and – most importantly – the paradigm of “land for peace” will no longer be pursued.