Israel petitions UN Security Council to act on uncovered Hezbollah cell

Evarado Alatorre
Marcha 14, 2019

The US State Department has dropped references to the Israeli occupation in its 2018 human rights report on Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza.

The move came amid intensified efforts by Israel to win USA recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and effectively annexed in 1981, a step not recognized internationally.

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".

The language of the previous administration referred to the areas as "occupied territory".

Last month, Republican lawmakers in both chambers of Congress introduced bills "to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights".

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.

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"What we're trying to do is report on the human rights situation in those territories; you're just trying to find a way of describing the place that you're reporting on", he told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

But a State Department official, commenting on the absence of those words, said: "The policy on the status of the territories has not changed" and the report was focused on human rights issues, not legal terminology.

The report appears to reflect the sentiments of a meeting between Senator Lindsey Graham, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, where the three discussed plans to work towards US recognition of the Golan Heights as a part of Israel. Additionally, a year ago the USA opposed the latest United Nations motion calling on Israel to end its occupation of the disputed area.

While the USA has been a staunch defender of Israel for decades, President Donald Trump's administration has pursued aggressively pro-Israel policies since coming into office. The announcement also comes amid a new push by Netanyahu to have Israel's sovereignty over the part of the Golan it has occupied since 1967 recognised internationally. He moved the U.S. Embassy to the contested holy city from Tel Aviv past year.

"The Security Council still does not recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, despite the accumulation of evidence of clear, and cross-border, terrorist activity", he said.

"I personally can not imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria".

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