Golan – the Heights of a Dispute

On Thursday afternoon, US President Donald Trump made another dramatic change to US foreign policy by announcing on Twitter that:

Donald Trump tweet

Opposition to that announcement appeared quickly, with a former US state department official, Richard Haass, saying that the decision would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution “which rules out acquiring territory by war.”

But the validity of Haass’ argument is highly questionable in light of the fact that the territory was captured in 1967 after the Syrians had attacked Israel and were using their artillery positioned on the Golan Heights to shell Israeli communities below.

That situation raises some interesting questions:

(1)    If an aggressor loses territory, whose fault is it?

(2)    Does the international community have the right to tell defenders to return captured territory to aggressors so that those aggressors can renew their attack from the same vantage point in the future?

Despite these important questions, it came as no surprise on Friday when Syria, along with its allies Russia and Iran, condemned Donald Trump’s announcement. Syria’s official SANA news agency described the decision as “irresponsible” and said that it confirms “the blind bias of the United States to the Zionist entity.”

But it is difficult to take seriously an accusation of irresponsibility from a government that has fought a war against its own people, resulting in the deaths of more than 500,000 of those people – an estimated 85 percent of those killed being civilians.

And the Russians’ Foreign Ministry spokeswoman is quoted as saying that changing the status of the Golan Heights is a violation of UN resolutions concerning the territory’s status.

But then again, the Russian government chooses to ignore international opinion when it suits them, content to change the status of Crimea in the face of international condemnation.

The European Union’s spokeswoman has also said that they will not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights because of ‘international law.’

So once again we have a situation in which international agreement looks impossible to achieve.

Yet for those who consider the Holy Bible to be important, there is strong evidence of historic Israeli possession of the territory and more besides. It may be something that few Christians would even remember, but Golan is one of the cities of refuge named in the Book of Deuteronomy (see chapter 4 and verse 43).

And archaeologists have identified the biblical city of Golan with modern-day Saham el-Golan in Syria, in an area that is not yet under Israeli control.

Given the accuracy of biblical prophecies, and the particular prophecies that predict the restoration of the Jewish people to the land which God promised them, we can watch with interest for future developments in this dispute.