Trump-Israel Nexus

President of the US Donald Trump has signed a presidential proclamation on March 25, 2019 saying the US recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights. This is the third time in sixteen months when Trump has taken a controversial decision in the Middle East. The earlier two were the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decided to shift its Embassy to Jerusalem. This is the departure of 52 years old American policy based on the universally accepted principle, i.e., forcible acquisition of a territory during war is prohibited.

Israel occupied Golan Heights in 1967 during the Six-Day war. However, it legally annexed the area in Israel’s territory in 1981 through a parliamentary resolution. The world in general and the US in particular termed that resolution contrary to international norms. The Reagan administration had rejected and condemned the Israel’s act of annexation. Ronald Reagan, the then President of the US suspended strategic partnership with Israel for two years. However, Trump has reversed from the US’ principled stance.

Indeed, Trump’s decision has short, medium and long term repercussions for the entire Middle East and American political influence. This act has domestic, regional and legal dimensions.

Domestically, Trump has been facing serious electoral challenges. In midterm elections 2018, Trump had faced serious setback when Democrats seized control of the lower house of Congress. This act might be an effort to lure in support of religious and right wing groups of the US ahead of the Presidential election 2020. The timing of the Presidential proclamation has also been picked wisely. The Muller probe report has been made public recently, which does not clearly exonerate Trump. Criticism on Trump was highly expected, but the Presidential proclamation has deflected attention of the media and the opposition.

Regionally, Trump has stabbed to death the already ailing Arab Peace Initiative 2002, which offered recognition of Israel in exchange of its withdrawal from Arab occupied territories. This decision has provided a golden opportunity for the Arab countries to reunite under the Arab League. A glimpse of this unity can be witnessed in the recent Arab League Summit. Saudi Arabia – the arch rival of Assad’s Regime –has rejected Trump’s decision, while calls for unity among Arab countries and support for Syria’s right over Golan Heights was echoed. It seems that this decision has paved the way for resumption of Syrian membership in the Arab League, which was suspended in 2011 on the behest of Saudi Arabia.

The decision has also compelled regional countries to seek new allies in the region. Russia has become the most suitable choice for the Arab countries as it has proved itself a reliable partner during the Syrian civil war. Recent Arab League’s unanimous rejection of Trump’s decision is explicit denial of American influence in the region. Likewise, the US has lost its position of the mediator between Israel and Palestine due to Trump’s abrupt and controversial recent three decisions. This means that lesser American influence in the region is offing.

Legally, Trump’s act has set a dangerous precedent in the international arena. The International Law protects weak states from the belligerence of strong states. This is why; the US and the world had opposed Russian annexation of East Georgia 2008 and Crimea 2014 based on the widely recognized international norms. Annexation of Golan Heights by Israel was also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) 1949. This is why; nine predecessors of Donald Trump had refrained from recognizing the Israeli act. However, this recognition has put the world into a new abnormal normal, where the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 242 has been violated with a single Presidential proclamation.

It seems that Trump has chosen an easiest way of being remembered in books of history. Through his abrupt decisions he has added insecurity to the neighbours of Israel in particular and to the Middle East in general. Indeed, with such erratic and controversial decisions Trump has proven himself as most unpredictable President in American history.

Published in The Nation, April 11, 2019.

{Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not represent Institute’s policy}


About the Author

Mr. Khurram Abbas is Assistant Research Officer (ARO) at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He holds MPhil degree in International Relations from National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. He is doing his PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS) from Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), NUST, Islamabad and his thesis is “Role of Social Media in Radicalization Process: Analysis of Muslim World with Particular Reference to Pakistan". His area of interest includes, Perception Management, Role of Social Media, De-Radicalization Strategies, Counter Violent Extremism, Religious Extremism in South Asian region with particular emphasis on India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Abbas regularly participates in National and International Conferences. He undertakes extensive research and regularly contributes in academic research journals and national/international dailies. Email:

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