U.S. cannot aid Israel’s expansionism

Two months ago, I stood at the northwestern-most tip of Jordan in the historic town of Umm Qais. From our vantage point at the top of a hill, we looked down to see Israeli occupied territory to our left, the Golan Heights of Syria directly in front of us and the mountains of Lebanon in the distance across the Sea of Galilee.

 However, just over a month later, President Trump has decided that the Golan Heights no longer belong to Syria.

 Looking at the geography of the Golan Heights, it’s easy to see why the Israeli government would want to possess the land. A large stretch of land elevated high above the territories of their regional opponents, it is unarguably of great strategic value.  

 For those unfamiliar with the tangled mess that is Middle Eastern politics, you might ask yourself: why would Trump recognize this land — which has traditionally been considered Syrian — as Israeli? There must be some justification for his decision, some historical precedent, some logic … right? That depends on whose logic you’re using.

Trump himself has described the move as a spontaneous decision made while on the phone with his top advisors and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Moving suddenly from an unrelated topic, Trump reportedly asked for a history lesson on the region. After the quick crash-course in Middle Eastern history, it seems that Trump deemed himself enough of an expert to ask Friedman how he would feel about the U.S. recognizing the Golan as Israeli territory. Friedman was apparently shocked — even he didn’t think Trump could possibly be serious.

 Here’s what was probably included in Trump’s history lesson: Israeli forces captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in 1981. Unfortunately, it seems that he failed to grasp or chose to ignore a key point here: the move was never internationally recognized. That means that Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan as Israeli — just like his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — flies in the face of international law.

 While his decision about the Golan is perhaps the most overt action that Trump has taken to back Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and promotes his most recent election campaign, it is not out of line with his other actions and rhetoric. The problem is that aside from the blatant disregard for international law and U.S. precedent, Trump’s unquestioning support of Netanyahu should be troubling for those who care about America’s role in the world community.

 The Israeli government is an expansionist regime: it can be seen in their continued building of settlements in the West Bank, it can be seen in the Golan Heights decision and it can be felt in the fear expressed by citizens of Jordan and Lebanon that they will be next if Israeli expansionism goes unchecked. Moreover, the current Israeli government has consistently hindered the peace process, been a force for destabilization in the region, fueled humanitarian crises and appears to be adopting an apartheid system that would permanently suppress Palestinian citizens living under its occupation.

 The U.S. — in theory supposed to be a force for good in the world — has not only failed to restrict Israel’s expansionist agenda, but is now actively supporting it. And as I sit here writing this, all I can think is: is this really the legacy the U.S. wants to leave in this region?

Maggie Dougherty a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at  MDougherty21@wooster.edu.