The UN Security Council on Tuesday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the annexed Golan Heights would “forever” remain under Israeli control and expressed concern over his statements.
The 15-member council agreed that the status of the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, “remains unchanged,” said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds this month’s council presidency.
Liu recalled a 1981 resolution which states that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was null and void and without any international legal effect.”
The council statement followed remarks made by Netanyahu earlier this month when his cabinet held a meeting in the territory, a first for an Israeli government.
“The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting, held amid fears that Israel could come under pressure to return the Golan as part of a future peace deal for Syria.
“Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights,” he said.
Council members “expressed deep concern” over the Israeli statements and “stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged,” said Liu.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, denounced the Security Council for discussing an issue that “completely ignores the reality in the Middle East.”
“While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel – the only true democracy in the Middle East,” Danon said in a statement Tuesday evening
According to a report on Israel’s Channel 2 earlier this month, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.
In November, Netanyahu reportedly asked US President Barack Obama to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area, given the civil war. Obama refused to even reply, according to Israeli media accounts.
Netanyahu’s statement on holding the Golan drew alarm and condemnation internationally, including from Israel’s allies and from Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of his “red lines” regarding the security of Israel’s northern borders, and stressed that the Jewish state was determined to maintain its control of the Golan Heights.
“I have come to Russia to step up coordination on security matters, to prevent mistakes, misunderstandings,” Netanyahu said during the two leaders’ meeting in Moscow. “We are not going back to the days when rockets were fired at our communities and our children from the top of the Golan… and so, with an agreement or without, the Golan Heights will remain part of [Israel’s] sovereign territory.”
The prime minister also stressed that Israel would do “everything” in its power to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons, and was working to assure that no new “terror front” appeared on the Golan Heights.
Israeli airstrikes in Syria have also been the topic of previous high-level meetings between Moscow and Jerusalem. A number of airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah.
Netanyahu was also expected to address Russian-backed peace efforts in Syria, which have reportedly become entangled with the status of the Golan Heights, an area effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 in a move not recognized by the rest of the world.
The prime minister has previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks needed to take Israel’s position into account.
The prime minister has drawn fire internationally in the past few days, after holding a cabinet meeting on the Golan, in which he declared the plateau would remain in Israel’s hands forever. Netanyahu has also previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks, brokered between Moscow and Washington, needed to take Israel’s position into account.
During the meeting, Netanyahu was also likely to lobby for Russia to cancel the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, which has already begun to be implemented. Netanyahu has asked Putin to nix the sale on several previous occasions, to no avail.
On Tuesday the head of Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate said Moscow would complete its delivery of the S-300 system to Iran by the end of the year, after months of speculation over whether it would be transferred to Tehran at all.
The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles.
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