The decision last week by the U.S. State Department to change its designation of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled” in its annual human-rights report comes amid a push for the United States to officially recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Additionally, the report’s section on the West Bank and Gaza did not label those areas as being “occupied” or under “occupation.”
The current U.S. policy on who controls the West Bank and Gaza is that the final status is to be decided in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But the description changes from Israel occupying the aforementioned areas to controlling them demonstrates a significant shift in semantics by U.S. officials.
However, Michael Kozak, head of the State Department’s human-rights and democracy bureau, noted that the language in the report does not reflect any policy changes.
“The policy on the status of the territories has not changed,” he told reporters last week.
Nevertheless, the Middle East Forum’s Gregg Roman told JNS that “the U.S. omission of the term ‘occupied’ from both the West Bank and Golan Heights reflects regional reality on the ground. The U.S. recognizes Israel maintaining a hold on the Golan Heights, and the argument over the West Bank should be treated as disputed territories, not occupied.”
The softening of the language comes as the Trump administration has taken a harder line against the Palestinians, largely cutting off aid due to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate with the United States, as well as its financial support for terrorists and their families.
At the same time, the administration is preparing to release its proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reports indicate that the Trump administration will likely release its Mideast peace plan following Israel’s elections on April 9.
By Jackson Richman/JNS.org