The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States, has apparently opposed companion congressional bills to enact into law U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition in March of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, two sources close to the situation told JNS.
Because Trump’s recognition was done through an executive order, a future president could undo the action. A bill passed into law would set the policy in stone until legislation to undo it passes and becomes law.
U.S. senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced measures in February to establish that it shall be the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The bill emphasizes the strategic importance of Israeli control over the area, which the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, in protecting civilians from threats such as from Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel annexed the region in 1981, a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
It also states that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria will be an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”
The bill adds that “it is in the United States national security interest to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights, [and that] the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for its killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Sunnis, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
AIPAC told one of the sources close to the situation that it could not support the legislation, claiming Israel has never gone out of its way to ask for America to recognize Israel’s control of the Golan.
After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in early March to ask Trump for the Golan recognition, when pressed by one of the sources if it would suddenly support the legislation, AIPAC avoided answering the question, said the source.
Cotton and Cruz did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Gallagher spokesperson Jordan Dunn declined to comment on the matter and referred JNS to AIPAC.
AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann declined to answer whether the pro-Israel lobbying group is against the bills, only to comment, “We appreciate the action taken by President Trump and all expressions of support by members of Congress.”
“We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking the historic step of officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This important action sends a powerful message that America stands with Israel as it faces critical security challenges on its northern border,” tweeted AIPAC after the official move.
We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking the historic step of officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This important action sends a powerful message that America stands with Israel as it faces critical security challenges on its northern border.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 25, 2019
Even Israeli officials have reportedly opposed the legislative initiative.
Prior to Trump officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Israel Hayom reported “that representatives of Israel’s defense establishment have told senior senators that passing the bill into law, at least at the present time, was not ideal.”
But Netanyahu and the overwhelming majority of the Israeli government supported the move with the prime minister at the White House as the president signed the executive order to make the recognition official policy, calling it a “historic justice” and a “diplomatic victory.”