Ex-Israeli PM Adviser on Golan Heights: Move to Help Netanyahu Win Elections

© AP Photo / Manuel Balce CenetaU.S. President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights as Netanyahu exits the White House from the West Wing in Washington, U.S. March 25, 2019
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights as Netanyahu exits the White House from the West Wing in Washington, U.S. March 25, 2019 - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday to sign a presidential proclamation officially recognising the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, thus formalising a move announced with a tweet earlier on Thursday.

Syria has called the move "a blatant attack on its sovereignty". Damascus earlier promised it would recover the area via all available means.

A spokesman for United Nations, meanwhile, reaffirmed on Monday that the status of the Golan Heights has not changed. Observers said the decision by Mr Trump was more symbolic in nature as Benjamin Netanyahu faces an election next month. However, media reports on Sunday suggested that the Israel Defence Forces and police were bracing themselves for possible violent protests near the Israeli-Syrian border.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights as he is applauded by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others during a ceremony in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019 - Sputnik International
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Sputnik has discussed the reaction to Donald Trump's decision to officially recognise Israeli ownership of the occupied Golan Heights with Moshe Maoz, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who served as an adviser to prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and who is one of the world's foremost experts on Syrian history and politics.

Sputnik: How significant is Trump's recognition of the Golan Heights on the background of the failure of most other countries to do so?

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Moshe Maoz: I think it is significant because in the Security Council Trump or the United States can cast a veto. There is a decision against this act because the international community — at least a majority — is against this move by Trump, not to speak the Arab world, the Muslim world, which is very, very vehemently opposed to this act. And also the Druze in the Golan [Heights] and other things. So, I think it has more than symbolic value. It is very, very important. Of course, most Israeli Jews rejoice but they are not aware of the repercussions.

Sputnik: Do you think that this was timed and intended to help boost Benjamin Netanyahu's stance prior to the elections?

Moshe Maoz: No doubt. Yes, I mean not only this [but] also the invitation yesterday to do it publicly and just two weeks before the election. So, I think it is very well-intended by Trump to help Netanyahu to win the election.

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And yes, you can see it also in the country, in Israel that the popularity of Netanyahu, despite all his indictments and involvement in the corruption, it doesn't help him much. The majority still or a great deal of Israelis support him.

Sputnik: To what extent do you think that this will actually help Netanyahu do well in the elections? Is this going to boost his ratings?

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Moshe Maoz: No doubt. It is not only this step. It follows another perhaps more important move by Trump to back organise East Jerusalem as part of Israel and capital of Israel, which is again against international law. So, the combination of these two would help Netanyahu in the election, no doubt about it. And the major opposition of the Blue and White are trying to imitate Netanyahu and to show also that they are so militant against Syria, against the Palestinians. So, why vote for a substitute? Israelis always vote for the original, which is Netanyahu.

Sputnik: Can you tell us about the significance of this piece of land, this swathe of land, what is so important about this historically to Syria and perhaps to Israel if there is such interest?

Moshe Maoz: As far as Syria is concerned, unlike what many Israelis say that Syria has controlled this area only 19 years since its independence in 1946 — [that is not true]. Because this was part of Syria even under the Ottoman Empire and since World War I. So it is part of Syria. Now, number two: Israel has stationed Israeli troops about 60 kilometres from Damascus, the capital of Syria, which is a threat to Syria. So, Syria would not tolerate. Also, another thing is that there is a precedent already: Israel returned the entire Sinai to Egypt for peace.

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In Syria, they say: "Oh, there is a precedent, we want too". And incidentally, people don't mention it, the Arab peace initiative, which was supported by most Muslim states. This is not only about the Palestinians, but also about the Golan Heights.

Now from the Israeli point of view, it is a beautiful area for sightseeing and what have you but also strategically because it defends the north of Israel. As you know from '48 on there has been many bombings and strikes and attacks from the Golan Heights on Israel.

READ MORE: Trump's Decision on Golan to Negate US Mideast Mediation Ability — Syrian Envoy

So, it has been seen as a very, very major strategic asset. But if there is peace and there is demilitarisation of this region and incidentally Israel almost got into a deal with the Syrians in Shepherdstown and in Washington in 1999 and in 2000. Demilitarisation and peace is also important but also the new area of missiles, the land is less important than it used to be.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Moshe Maoz and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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