The region was taken by Israel from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. Neither the UN nor the US recognizes the territory as belonging to Israel.
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Monday that he will push the Trump administration to formally recognize the disputed region of the Golan Heights as part of Israel, according to a report by The Hill.
Graham made the announcement after a joint tour of the territory by him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Envoy to Israel David Friedman.
Last month, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), together with Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), introduced a resolution “to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights.”
With @LindseyGrahamSC and @IsraeliPM today on the #Golan Heights at the Syrian border. Compelling evidence presented of the critical strategic importance of Israeli control of this territory. Senator Graham spoke movingly and with great moral clarity on this subject. pic.twitter.com/2CPS6OmnCt
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) March 11, 2019
Netanyahu, who is currently facing criminal indictment in Israel on bribery charges, has used the US’ support as a trump card for his re-election campaign, even using photos of President Donald Trump and American politicians in his campaign posters, The Hill reports. The trip to the disputed territories in company of Graham and Friedman was supposed to demonstrate American support to the media once again, The Jerusalem Post says.
A tough stance on the status of the Golan Heights has been a part of Netanyahu’s campaign leading up to the April elections.
“It’s certainly been part of the state of Israel since 1967, and more recently, since 1981,” the prime minister said during the visit.
On Thursday, Syria reportedly warned the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) that Damascus “will attack Israel if it does not leave the Golan Heights.”
“We will not hesitate to confront Israel,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said in the official note to UNTSO General Kristin Lund, according to World Israel News. “We are also not scared away by its [Israel’s] supporters who are helping to perpetuate the occupation of the Golan.”
The Golan Heights, which neighboring Syria considers a part of its own territory, were occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. It was not until 1981 that Tel Aviv passed legislation formally annexing the territories. Neither the US nor the UN has recognized the annexation.
Tel Aviv has reportedly mulled the return of the disputed territories to Damascus, in exchange for Syria’s recognition of Israel, The Hill says. Syria, along with a number of Middle Eastern, North African and Pacific nations, still does not recognize Israel as a state.