Graham to push for US to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel

Graham to push for US to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel
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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report Graham expects 'thorough' briefing on Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he will push for the United States to formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Graham, Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman together toured the Golan Heights, a slice of territory taken by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel passed a law annexing the area in 1981, but that annexation failed to get international recognition and was shot down by the United Nations General Assembly.

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The United States has not formally recognized Israel's annexation, but has maintained since 1975 a policy of only supporting regional peace agreements that protect Israel from attacks emanating from Golan Heights.

Last month, Republican Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge Michael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid MORE (Texas) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects border declaration in major rebuke of Trump Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (Ark.), along with Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Graham to push for US to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel Koch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority MORE (R-Wis.), introduced a resolution "to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights."

The Golan Heights is a key strategic position in northern Israel, bordering Syria and Lebanon, that Israel sees as crucial to any defense efforts against potential incursions from its neighbors.

Israel has kept control of the territory since 1967, but its leaders have at times floated the possibility of a territorial cession in exchange for Syrian recognition of the country.

Netanyahu, who faces a tough parliamentary election in April, said the Golan Heights "has always been part of Israel."

"It's certainly been part of the state of Israel since 1967, and more recently, since 1981," said Netanyahu.

Israel's relationship with the United States is a key campaign issue for Netanyahu as he fights to keep his broad right-wing coalition together amid corruption accusations and a stronger-than-usual opposition challenge.

The prime minister is playing up his closeness to the Trump administration as part of his reelection campaign, even using President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE and American service members in campaign posters.

The trip to Golan Heights was planned as part of a media blitz to show American support for Netanyahu's administration, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu is due to visit Washington later this month to meet with Trump and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has accused Netanyahu of bribery and other charges, and set a pre-indictment hearing for July 10 at the latest.

And Netanyahu has come under attack for saying Israel is "the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people."

Although Israel's non-Jewish citizens technically have equal rights under the law, many complain of less-than-equal treatment in many areas, from receiving government services to passing on Israeli citizenship to their children.

Netanyahu's comments drew rebuke from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who said "there are no, and there will be no, second-class citizens, and there are no second-class voters.”

“We are all equal in the voting booth. Jews and Arabs, citizens of the state of Israel," Rivlin said Sunday at an Egyptian-Israeli peace conference in Jerusalem.