‘Null and void’: UNSC dismisses Netanyahu’s claim of ‘forever Israeli Golan’

A view from the western section of the Golan Heights. © Reuters
The UN Security Council has expressed deep concern, dismissing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim earlier this month that the annexed Syrian Golan Heights would “forever” remain under Israel’s control.

Amid fears that Israel could fall under pressure to return the Golan as part of a possible peace settlement in Syria, Netanyahu said earlier that Tel Aviv will never withdraw from the Golan Heights, a strategic area captured from Syria in 1967.

“It is time that the international community recognized reality,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying on April 17. “Whatever happens on the other side of the [Syrian] border, the border itself will not move.”

“And secondly,” Netanyahu added, “the time has come after 40 years for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty forever.”

Reviewing Israel claim to the disputed territory, the UN Security Council members “expressed deep concern” over Netanyahu’s stand and “stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged.”

Speaking to reporters following the UNSC meeting, its rotating president and China’s UN envoy, Liu Jieyi, stressed that Tel Aviv’s move to impose its laws in the Golan is against Council resolution 497, and are “null and void and without international legal effect.”

Following UNSC comment on the issue, Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon rejected the complaint, accusing the 15-member body of “unfair criticism of Israel.”

“Holding a meeting on this topic completely ignores the reality in the Middle East,” he said. “While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.”

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War, which created an armistice line under Israeli military control. Syria unsuccessfully tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 War. An armistice was concluded in 1974 resulting in a UN observer force being deployed along the ceasefire line.

In 1981 Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights, a move that is not recognized internationally. UNSC resolution 497, adopted unanimously in December 1981, declared that the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which de facto annexed the Golan Heights, is “null and void and without international legal effect” and further calls on Israel to rescind its action.

Over the last three and a half decades, Israel has built more than 30 Jewish settlements in the area. Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Israel has carried out a number of military operations as fighting reached the Golan ceasefire lines. As the armed struggle in Syria continues, the Israeli leadership has been voicing the need to gain full international recognition of Israel’s claims to the Golan Heights.

Coinciding with concern voiced by the UNSC, Israeli news outlets are reporting that Israeli intelligence is hunting down an Islamic State cell in the Golan Heights that has allegedly acquired chemical weapons.

According to reports, Israel is not being targeted by the cell believed to be operating on the Syrian side of the border, as jihadists are reportedly preparing to use chemical weapons against targets in Syria.