“[T]he Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect,” according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 497, cited by the Syrian regime and others accusing Israel of illegally occupying the Golan Heights. The resolution claimed “that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the principles of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.”
President Trump’s critics who rely on such UN Security Council or General Assembly pronouncements and vaguely defined “international norms” to support their condemnation of the president’s decision are on very weak grounds.
Security Council Resolution 497 itself impermissibly ignored the provision of the United Nations Charter that permits member states to engage in self-defense. Article 51 of the UN Charter states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
Syria used the militarily advantageous strategic position afforded by the Golan Heights to constantly fire artillery shells on Israeli communities below.
After Israel sought action from the Security Council in October 1966 to condemn the Syrian attacks, the Soviet Union vetoed a proposed resolution drafted for that purpose. As a result, the Security Council failed to take “the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security” as mandated by the UN Charter.
Following further Syrian shelling of Israeli villages from the Golan Heights, Israel retaliated and then, during the course of the 1967 war, took military action to deprive the Syrians of the land from which they were launching their aggressive attacks against Israeli civilians. “Had we not been attacked from the Golan Heights we would never have gone up there,” the late Israeli President Shimon Peres was once quoted as saying.
Israel’s actions in assuming control over a land area used to attack it constituted the very essence of self-defense after the Security Council failed to fulfill its responsibility to deter further Syrian aggression.
To expect Israel to give back to Syria unconditionally a strategically positioned area of land located above the Israeli communities that Syria’s military had exploited to shell those communities is unrealistic beyond measure.
Israel’s decision in 1981 to officially incorporate the Golan Heights as part of Israel’s sovereign territory was the next logical step to ensure that Israeli civilians would be fully protected from a return to the perilous conditions facing them before Israel assumed control. Having forfeited its opportunity to intervene against unprovoked Syrian aggression when requested to do so by Israel, the Security Council’s subsequent condemnation of Israel’s actions taken in self-defense as being ” without international legal effect” is itself a nullity. It has no legitimacy under the UN Charter that created the Security Council in the first place with a mandate it failed to fulfill.
In short, the radically worsening situation in Syria, as it became engulfed in years of civil war and hosted a growing military presence by the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah, is a game changer. It increased the importance of the Golan Heights remaining in Israeli hands as a buffer zone for its own self-defense as Iranian and Hezbollah forces seek to entrench themselves closer and closer to the Syrian-Israeli border.
President Trump’s announcement reinforces recognition of the realities on the ground. Those who choose to criticize the president’s decision, relying on bogus UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions to bemoan a violation of so-called “international law,” can all go pound sand.