US Declares West Bank and Golan No Longer "Occupied Territories"

Clay Curtis
March 15, 2019

The West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights are no longer "occupied" by Israel but "controlled" by Israel, according to the US State Department's latest annual report on human rights.

"This section includes Israel, including Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights", the preface to the report's Israel chapter reads.

With regard to whether a policy shift had occurred within the State Department, an official commented, "The policy on the status of the territories has not changed", adding that the the report focuses on human rights matters, not terms related to worldwide law.

"This, by the way, is not a human rights issue, it's a legal status issue", said Michael Kozak of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

In a report by the State Department meant to detail data regarding human rights around the globe in 2018, the U.S. has made a decision to alter the words it uses to describe the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, opting for what seems to be more neutral language.

He added: "Those American descriptions won't change the reality that the Palestinian territory that has been occupied since 1967".

Two years ago, the State Department renamed the report to "Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza", from "Israel and the Occupied Territories".

He said that the USA designation does not change the fact that the Golan Heights remains an Israeli-occupied, Arab territory under global law and UN Security Council resolutions, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday.

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Nabil Abu Rudeineh called it "a continuation of the hostile approach of the American administration toward our Palestinian people and ... contrary to all United Nations resolutions".

Netanyahu travels to Washington later this month to address the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, and Israeli media reports said he also plans to hold talks with Trump, with the Golan recognition issue on the agenda.

President Donald Trump, who has shown robust support for close USA ally Israel, recognised Jerusalem as the country's capital in 2017, defying worldwide consensus much to the chagrin of Palestinian leaders, who view Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied Syria's Golan as well as the Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

Israel and Syria remain technically at war after the 1973 War, though a demilitarised border zone established through an armistice had always been relatively calm until the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Further, U-S Senator, Lindsey Graham, has said he will make efforts to make the government recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. It later annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, as well as East Jerusalem, in moves not recognised internationally.

The Republican companion bills have seven co-sponsors in the Senate and 23 co-sponsors in the House.

Months later, the USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said Israel will hold on to the Syrian territory indefinitely.

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