Secretary of State Tony Blinken declined Monday to confirm that the U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, when asked directly by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) about the issue at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Israel captured the area in the Six Day War in 1967, after the Syrian military had used it to shell Israeli civilians in the Galilee. Israel was prepared to give most of it back to Syria in peace talks in the 1990s, but was rejected by the regime.
The rise of the so-called “Islamic State,” or ISIS, a decade ago, and the subsequent intervention of Iran in the Syrian Civil War, cemented the importance of Israeli control over the Golan Heights as a strategic buffer against invasion.
President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019. In gratitude, Israel named a town in the Golan after him, “Trump Heights.” Blinken appeared to walk back that commitment, however, in February.
Zeldin asked Blinken directly about the issue, and the two had the following exchange during Monday’s testimony:
Zeldin: To clarify one other point: does the Biden administration recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights?
Blinken: With regard to that, as a practical matter, Israel has control of the Golan Heights, irrespective of its legal status, and that will have to remain unless and until things get to a point where Syria and everything operating out from Syria no longer poses a threat to Israel, and we are not anywhere near that.
Blinken’s response echoes the rhetoric of Arab states and radical Islamist movements that refuse to recognize Israel in a formal sense: they recognize that it is physically there, though they do not recognize its legitimacy and permanence. He implied that the territory could, one day, be ceded.
Blinken’s reluctance to affirm Trump’s commitment reinforces concerns that the Biden Administration does not support much of what the Trump administration achieved in the Middle East, despite the fact that it led to new peace agreements.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it). His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.