U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday declined to support the Trump administration’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, citing instead the region’s importance to Israel’s security.
Former President Donald Trump granted formal US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan in 2019, in a major shift from a policy that the United States has followed for decades.
Israel occupied the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.
Blinken told CNN, “In practice, I think that controlling the Golan in this situation remains of real importance for Israel’s security… Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation in Syria changes, this is something we are looking at, but we are not close than that in any way”.
He added that the government of Syrian President Assad, in addition to the presence of the Iranian-backed armed factions, constituted a “major security threat” to Israel.
Biden’s advisors have previously said that he will not withdraw the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.
Blinken also stressed the Biden administration’s commitment to maintaining the US embassy in Jerusalem, after the Trump administration recognized the city as the capital of Israel, in a reversal of previous US policy.
Trump has been moving in a broad way regarding US policy towards the Middle East with his closest ally in the region, which is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Biden and his team said they would restore ties with the Palestinians after Trump cut them off, resume aid, and reject unilateral measures such as building Israeli settlements on occupied lands.
Biden’s failure to speak with Netanyahu so far in his conversations with foreign leaders raised eyebrows in Israel and also among Middle East experts.
Both Obama and Trump spoke to him within days of taking office.
Asked why Biden had not spoken to Netanyahu, Blinken said, “I’m sure they will have a chance to speak in the near future”.