Syrians Protest Trump’s Declaration of Israeli Sovereignty over Golan Heights
On March 26, people across Syria protested US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Israeli control of the Golan Heights. On the same day, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned Trump’s decision; five EU members from the UN Security Council also issued a joint statement that raises concerns about recognizing illegal annexation, and states that they don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights is strategically important both militarily and as a source of water—the area provides a third of Israel’s water supply. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967 after many Syrian Arabs had fled the region because of the conflict. The region came under Israeli military control and Israelis soon began settling in the region. After another war in 1973 in which Syria tried to retake the land, Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. There are currently more than 20,000 settlers living in 30 Jewish settlements on the Golan.
Syrians and the international community reject Israeli control over the Golan Heights. The US is now the first country to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, while the international community continues to regard it as occupied territory. One protester in Aleppo, Mohammad Shaaban, said that they are protesting to “condemn Trump’s Golan decision. The Golan is Arab and Syrian whether they like it or not.”
Syria is now calling on the United Nations Security Council to hold a meeting on Trump’s declaration. The Syrian mission to the UN asked the council presidency for a meeting to “discuss the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan and the recent flagrant violation of the relevant Security Council's resolution by a permanent member-state.”
Hezbollah, a Syrian ally, has called for resistance against the US decision. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah claims that the only option left to Syrians is to take back their land, and for Palestinians to achieve their “legitimate rights,” was “resistance, resistance, and resistance.” Nasrallah called the move a “crucial turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that “We cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” claiming also that the US decision has brought the region to the edge of a new crisis. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi similarly said that “This illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria.”
The protests across Syria and statements from dozens of governments and organizations condemning the US declaration indicate that there may be more effort to oppose this measure than there was when the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv. The US is again prioritizing Israeli interests over other nations, further calling into question their ability to mediate a peace agreement, and increasing the possibility of conflict within the region.