PLAYING POLITICS OVER GOLAN HEIGHTS
09, Apr 2019
Prelims level : International Relations Mains level : GS-II Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations
Why in news?
- U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty is a challenge to the rules-based international order.
- The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size. Whoever controls this area has a major strategic advantage. Golan Heights is the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six- Day War, territory which Israel annexed in 1981.
- Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognised internationally.
Why Golan heights important?
- Having control of the Golan gives Israel a vantage point from which to monitor any Syrian military movements towards Israel. The area is a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply. The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel’s only ski resort.
Population in Golan heights;
- According to some estimates, there are around 50,000 people, with Israeli Jewish settlers making up nearly half.
- The rest are mostly people of Syrian ancestry who are Druze, a religion that has been described as an offshoot of Islam.
- Druze residents of the Golan Heights have largely resisted obtaining Israeli citizenship and have maintained a strong connection to Syria for decades.
- Trump had walked out of the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with Iran, negotiated by the Obama administration with provisions for sanctions relief in response for Iranian restrictions on its nuclear programme. In Dec 2017, Mr. Trump had declared: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” He also proceeded to close the Palestinian office in Washington DC, as well as U.S. consulate in Jerusalem dealing with the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Trump cited Israeli security interests and regional threats. The U.S. wants to draw down its military presence, Russia and Iran have significantly enhanced their presence and influence.
Tepid global response
- The new U.S. position has not received support from any other country, including its European allies. While Iran, Russia, Turkey, among others, have been critical, the Arab response has been assessed as insufficiently strident. India’s interests are not directly involved immediately. It has a strong and growing relationship with Israel, and has maintained its relations with Syria. Indian troops have been a part of UN peacekeeping presence on the Golan Heights.
- Mr. Trump’s move, however, is indicative of shifting geopolitics in the West Asian region, with longer-term implications for India. It also asserts unilateralism, is a challenge to a rules-based international order, and is contrary to positions U.S. has taken elsewhere, as for instance in its response to Russia and Crimea.