WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the Trump administration’s decision to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel will promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Pompeo made the remark during an appearance before the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee. He refused, however, to say whether the administration’s peace plan will include the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and said only that the administration will offer “new ideas.”
Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan as part of Israel was denounced over the past days by the European Union and leading Arab countries. Pompeo said during the briefing that the decision was “the right thing to do.”
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Last week, several former American officials warned against the recognition and said that it would make it harder for Arab states to accept the proposed American peace plan, set to be unveiled after the April 9 Israeli election, former American officials warned.
Dennis Ross, who served in various capacities under Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, told Haaretz: "I don’t think it will contribute to their desire to present their peace plan. I think it will make it harder for Arab leaders to be responsive. If they want the peace plan to have a chance of success, they also need to be thinking about how you create a context that makes it easier for Arab leaders to respond to them, not harder, and this will make it harder.”
Another former top American official has said he could understand the timing from Netanyahu’s point of view, given the upcoming election, but that it is "an own-goal for relations with the Arab states. And it could cause Trump’s successor to reverse the decision – a pattern we are seeing a lot these days."
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Last week, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who chairs the Palestine Liberation Organization, blasted the decision, which he said will further destabilize the Middle East. "Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, today he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan – what will lead to a lack of stability and bloodshed in the region tomorrow,” Erekat said.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "The Golan Heights is an occupied Arab territory, according to the international community and UN resolution 497, which was adopted in 1981 by the Security Council. The international community should honor its stance, preventing Israeli sovereignty over the area.
Arab Gulf states – including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait – also denounced the decision.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini released a statement earlier Wednesday on behalf of all 28 union states, saying the EU "does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights."