Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has condemned Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory.
Answering questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning, Hunt did not shy in criticising the Trump White House for breaking the post-war international consensus for not recognising sovereignty over land seized during war.
Hunt made British policy clear in response to a question from Conservative grandee Sir Nicholas Soames, who said it was “a matter of the greatest regret that our allies, the United States, are in clear contravention of UN Resolution 497”.
Soames said Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan was illegal because “annexation of territory is prohibited under international law” and asked Hunt to “condemn unreservedly this breach of the rules-based order”.
Hunt said he was “absolutely happy to do that,” adding: “We should never recognise the annexation of territory by force… that has been one of the great achievements since the founding of the United Nations.”
The foreign secretary said he condemned Trump’s actions “with a heavy heart” because Israel was also “an ally and a shining example of democracy in a part of the world where that is not common… We want Israel is to a success and we consider them to be a great friend but on this we do not agree.”
Israel seized control of the strategic plateau in the Six Day War of 1967. Ever since, the majority of Israelis have opposed its return to Syria in polls and surveys, even if it came with a full peace treaty including diplomatic relations, demilitarisation and international security guarantees.
Analysts said Trump’s announcement on Monday last week was timed to support his friend Benjamin Netanyahu in next week’s Israeli election, and to reassure Israel supporters in the US at the start of the annual AIPAC conference.
In 1981 Israel tried to annex the territory but the move was not recognised internationally. This led to UN Security Council Resolution 497, which said “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”.
However in 2016 Netanyahu said Israel would “never” give up the Golan Heights, and has since made great play of the Iranian threat on Israel’s northern border.