The Trump Administration has delivered yet another concession to Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of parliamentary elections: the Israeli military occupation of much of the Palestinian West Bank and of the Golan Heights will no longer be referred to in official U.S. government documents as an occupation. America’s so-called Ambassador to Israel is a former Trump lawyer named David Friedman who is more involved in serving Israel than the United States. He personally supports the view that the illegal Jewish settlements are legitimately part of Israel, choosing to ignore their growth even though it has long been U.S. policy to oppose them. He has also long sought to change the State Department’s language on the Israeli control of the West Bank and Golan Heights, being particularly concerned about the expression “occupied,” which has legal implications. Now he appears to have won that fight, to the delight of the Netanyahu government.
And the expunging of “occupied” might be only the first of many gifts intended to bolster Netanyahu’s chances. Senator Lindsey Graham, who also boasts of his close ties to the Israeli Prime Minister, intends to initiate legislative action to go one step further and compel the United States to actually recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory that was annexed after fighting in 1967, but which has not been recognized as part of Israel by any other country or international body. If a vote on the bill is pushed forward and goes as expected virtually unanimously as the subject before congress is Israel, it would hugely benefit Bibi. Some sources are also predicting that recognition of the Golan Heights could easily lead to U.S. government recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over much of the West Bank.
Israel’s election is scheduled for April 9th, so there is still plenty of time for additional mischief. There have even been suggestions in the Israeli media that Netanyahu just might escalate fighting with any one or more of a number of its neighbors to enhance his wartime leader credentials. That Gaza will be pummeled is a certainty and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria is probably also in the gun-sights. An uncorroborated report last week out of Israel claimed that Hezbollah is operating a “terror cell” in Syria close to the border with Israel.