The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday rejected the Israeli government’s claim over the Golan Heights — a territory that the country has been in control of since the end of the Six-Day War in 1967.
“Council members expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan, and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged,” Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China, the Security Council’s president for the month of April, reportedly said after a closed-door meeting, adding that Israel’s claims over the region was “null and void and without international legal effect.”
The statement was issued in response to comments made last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, during a cabinet meeting in a Jewish settlement in the Golan Heights, said that the region has been “an integral part of the land of Israel since ancient times” and would remain so.
“The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts,” Netanyahu said. “One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”
Israel seized the Golan Heights in 1967 and unilaterally annexed it in 1981, extending its laws over the territory in a move that was not internationally recognized. In December 1981, the Security Council passed a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from the region.
However, Israel has consistently refused to do so, despite pressure from the United States — its closest ally.
“It’s unfortunate that interested parties are attempting to use the council for unfair criticism of Israel. Holding a meeting on this topic completely ignores the reality in the Middle East,” Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., said Tuesday. “While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.”
There are an estimated 20,000 Jewish settlers living in over 30 settlements in the Golan Heights. About 22,000 Syrians, most of them belonging to the Druze sect, also live in the territory.