WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Friday voted for the first time against a United Nations resolution that condemned Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.
While the resolution passed easily through the UN General Assembly, with 151 “yes” votes and only 2 “no” votes, the American position represented a policy shift that could also have implications for the future. The U.S. has previously abstained from voting on the move.
The only other country other than the U.S. who voted against the resolution was Israel itself. Israel has been lobbying the Trump administration and Congress to recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. So far the administration has stated it is not considering such a move, but the UN vote on Friday could hint at a change on that front.
The administration stated that it is voting against the resolution because it is “extremely biased against Israel” and did not provide a position on the sovereignty issue in its statement.
The Israeli government thanked the Trump administration and specifically the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, for the vote.
In a press release announcing that the U.S. would vote no, Haley said that the U.S. "will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights."
The resolution is "biased against Israel" and in light of tensions on the Syrian border, there is no justification for supporting the move, the statement said.
The Syrian regime's "atrocities prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone," the statement read, adding that the Iranian presence inside Syria presents "major threats to international security" and that "ISIS and other terrorist groups remain in Syria."
"This resolution does nothing to bring any parties closer to a peace agreement. The United States will vote no," the statement said.
Following the announcement, Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon thanked Haley for her decision to vote "no on a despicable resolution."
"It is time the world distinguishes those who stabilize the region from those who sow terror," he wrote on Twitter.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan also responded. "The Golan is part of Israel and it will always be. There is no sane person who thinks that the Golan will return to the murderer Assad and the Iranian regime, which is trying to establish a 'Syrian Hezbollah' in the region," he tweeted.
Chairman of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, thanked Haley and reiterated that the Golan Heights is part of Israel. "It's time for the rest of the world to recognize that reality too," he tweeted.
In a separate tweet in Hebrew, Lapid praised the decision as "another step in the right direction."
In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Golan Heights remains under Israeli sovereignty otherwise "Iran and Hezbollah will sit on the shores of the Sea of Galilee."
"Israel in the Golan Heights is a guarantee for stability in the surrounding area," Netanyahu said in a speech in the Golan Heights. The event took place against the backdrop of the arrival of Russia's S-300 missiles to Syria.
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