, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
1. Israel is making a major push for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. Yesterday, PM Netanyahu called for it directly in his press conference with NSA John Bolton yesterday. It's worth considering the pros, cons, and implications of such a move.
2. One has to assume the Trump Admin is giving this step serious consideration. Maybe the decision is already made, & it is just a question of announcing it. It could be presented as compensation to Israel for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which Israel advised against.
3. Israel argues that the Golan is important strategic high ground, from which Syria attacked Israeli communities pre-1967, &had it been returned in previous negotiations, Hezbollah, Iran, ISIS or other enemies could have attacked Israel from there & done great damage. All true.
4. Those risks are more obvious since the collapse of the Syrian state. But in earlier talks, Israel seriously considered a land-for-peace agreement. Netanyahu was engaged in such discussions through US intermediaries as late as spring 2011, right up until the Syrian revolution.
5. In any case, such land-for-peace negotiations on that territory are no longer in the cards, at least not in my lifetime. No Israeli leader, nor the Israeli public, would agree to return territory to the murderous Assad regime, which remains deeply aligned with Iran &Hezbollah.
6. So the status quo very much serves Israel's interest of maintaining its hold on that strategic ground. Apart from occasional pro forma mentions in UN resolutions, hardly anyone raises the issue or calls on Israel to do anything at all with respect to the territory.
7. That might be an argument to leave well enough alone. Whatever would be gained by US recognition (few other countries would join), could be countered by renewed international attention to the issue. Russia, Euros, & Arab states could decide they need to protest a US decision.
8. Even Syrian oppo groups, including the Kurds, who Israel has supported &who have utterly ignored the Golan, might feel -- under pressure from Assad or to prove their Syrian patriotic credentials in post-war negotiations -- might join calls to protest Israeli sovereign claims.
9. Then there's the question of Israel's relations with the Sunni Arab states. They have no sympathy for Assad. Honestly they probably couldn't care less about the Golan, or are glad Israel controls it. But they might find it hard to ignore such a public change in the status quo.
10. After all, the Arab Peace Initiative, which the Saudis and others still claim governs their view, calls on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights (as well as a Palestinian state in the WB&G) as a precondition for normalization with Israel.
11. During all the years of Assad's butchery, they have never once raised it. John Kerry operated on the (uncertain) assumption that Arab states would normalize with Israel solely on the basis of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
12. But it could be that, faced with a US recognition declaration, Arab states would recommit to the API principle on the Golan. That could create a new obstacle to Arab states warming up their ties with Israel, despite the obvious strategic alignment they enjoy because of Iran.
13. Lots of good things are happening in Israel's ties with Arab states: public meetings &visits, sports delegations, limited trade, etc. Rumors of a Bibi-MBS meeting. Would US recognition of the Golan help continue that trend or could it present an obstacle to its advancement?
14. Again, Israel is keeping the Golan, certainly for many more decades at least. No imaginable Syrian government will emerge to change that calculus.
15. In a fantasy world, where Syria evolves one day into Switzerland, maybe some future Israeli leaders would consider it. But that's all futuristic mumbo jumbo, not a basis for policy.
16. The real question is, what would Israel gain from a US recognition, and how would US interests be served? It would have some symbolic value (and maybe political value for Netanyahu), but would not change the status quo one iota.
17. Meanwhile, it could put an issue that has been largely forgotten about -- to Israel's benefit -- back on the international agenda, with implications for Israel's and the US's relationships with Russia, Europe, Arab states, and the Syrian regime and opposition.
18. If all that has been thought through carefully, it is not yet in evidence. End.
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