USA report drops references to ‘occupation’ of Palestine, now it’s ‘Israeli-controlled’

Sergio Conner
March 14, 2019

He said that the U.S. designation does not change the fact that the Golan Heights remains an Israeli-occupied, Arab territory under worldwide law and UN Security Council resolutions, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday.

The move came amid intensified efforts by Israel to win USA recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and effectively annexed in 1981, a step not recognized internationally.

In the latest annual global human rights report, the United States has stopped using the term "occupied" when talking about areas of Palestine controlled by Israel, including the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza.

The document also suggests that the entire city of Jerusalem is a part of Israel.

A separate section in the State Department report, on the West Bank and Gaza, did not include the terms "occupied" or under "occupation" in referring to the Palestinian territories. What we've uncovered today is just the tip of the iceberg.

An IDF spokesperson said on Wednesday, "We're not going to allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan capable of striking Israeli civilians".

Still, the fact that the state department failed to describe the Syrian and Palestinian territories as occupied by Israel is worrisome, observers say.

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Palestinians have been concerned about the strength of a long-standing USA commitment to the creation of a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza, a pledge stemming from interim peace deals with Israel signed in the 1990s.

Israel also occupied Syria's Golan Heights in the same war and annexed the territory in 1981.

President Donald Trump, who has shown robust support for close USA ally Israel, recognised Jerusalem as the country's capital in 2017, defying global consensus much to the chagrin of Palestinian leaders, who view Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to Iran and Hezbollah on Wednesday, following the publication of new information on their activities on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. He moved the U.S. Embassy to the contested holy city from Tel Aviv past year.

It comes as yet another sign of Washington's growing support of Israel: earlier this week, US Senator Lindsey Graham said, after a tour of the disputed region, that he would push the Trump administration to formally recognise it as part of Israel.

"I personally can not imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria".

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