The Biden administration is walking back the United States’ historic recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Washington Free Beacon reported, a significant blow to Israel and one of the Trump administration’s signature foreign policy decisions.
The Trump administration declared the territory to be wholly part of Israel, in 2019. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the area in 2020 and reaffirmed that America formally abandoned a decades-long policy of considering the area “occupied.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken first raised questions about the Biden administration’s view on the matter in February, when he would not say if his State Department continues to abide by the former administration’s decision. At the time, Blinken would only say the Golan Heights “remains of real importance to Israel’s security,” but that its formal status remains unclear. Pressed on the issue by the Washington Free Beacon, a State Department official said the territory belongs to no one and control could change depending on the region’s ever-shifting dynamics.
The shift in policy is already causing outrage among Republican lawmakers who backed the Trump administration’s decision and hoped to see it continue. It is also likely to rankle Israeli leaders of all political stripes, the plurality of whom say the Golan Heights is absolutely vital to Israel’s security in light of persistent threats from the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon and other terror groups stationed in Syria.
“The secretary was clear that, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon. “As long as [Bashar al-Assad] is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself — all of these pose a significant security threat to Israel…”
Recognizing Israel’s control as a “practical matter,” however, falls far short of the formal policy change ordered by the Trump administration, which became the first government to recognize Israel’s complete control over the territory.
As it stands now, U.S. policy on the matter is unclear.