Lebanon News

Lebanon condemns U.S. Golan policy

Protesters hold a Syrian flag and a placard in the town of Qunaitra, in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. AFP / Louai Beshara

BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday joined a wide array of Lebanese officials in condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Nasrallah’s comments came during a televised speech a day after Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and signed a proclamation making the U.S. move official, a dramatic shift from decades of American policy.

Israel seized the strategic territory from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Nasrallah said Trump’s decision amounted to a “disregard and disrespect for the Arab and Muslim worlds,” and one way of fighting it was through resistance.

“Trump didn’t take any of this into consideration,” he added.

Noting as well the U.S. decision to recognize occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there, Nasrallah said Monday’s move “was a blow to the peace process. All of this is for Israel’s sake.”

The Hezbollah chief called on the Arab League, which is set to meet in Tunis at the end of the month, to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative, which was adopted in Beirut in 2002 and called for Israel’s total withdrawal from occupied Arab territories in return for normalized ties with the Arab countries.

President Michel Aoun also condemned the decision Tuesday. Speaking from Moscow ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Aoun called Monday “a black day for the world,” saying Trump’s move was “an arbitrary decision that contradicts international legitimacy regarding state borders.”

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian said he deplored the U.S. decision and warned against any future attempts to recognize occupied Lebanese territories - the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills - as Israeli territory.

In a statement carried by the state-run National News Agency Tuesday, Derian said the American decision would have dangerous consequences for stability, peace and security in the Middle East.

“The [decision] is illegitimate and ... a violation of the rights of Arabs and Muslims,” the statement said.

The religious leader called on the United Nations to “put an end to Zionist criminality and make a decision to stop this aggression.”

The Future Movement bloc also blasted the decision, calling it “a step that lacks wisdom and diplomacy.”

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday also condemning the move, asserting that the Golan Heights is Syrian, Arab land. No decision could change this fact or “forge history” by transferring a land’s ownership from one country to another, the statement said.

“And if Israel thinks it can expand by taking over lands through violence and aggression, it will find itself isolated and facing another military defeat. Its power and racism will not benefit it, and it will not find security without a fair and comprehensive peace,” the statement added.

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had tweeted Monday that the American decision violated international law and destroyed all efforts to reach a just peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil likewise tweeted his condemnation of the decision. “The Golan Heights is a Syrian, Arab, occupied land, and all of Palestine is an Arab land [belonging to] the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

“This is an unchanging truth that is certified by international U.N. resolutions and recognized by regional and international organizations. Trump’s signature, and [the signature of] those who came before him and who will come after him, will not change this truth,” he added.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said the American decision would only further aggravate the situation in the Middle East and break down the peace process.

“We are not with this step. We are committed to international decisions regarding the Golan, Syria and others,” Geagea tweeted Monday.

Earlier Monday, Lebanese Druze Sheikh Nasreddine al-Gharib had denounced Trump’s decision, calling on Arabs to defend their land and “return the Golan to the bosom of the motherland, Syria and the leadership of President Bashar Assad.” The decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty, Gharib added, was “made by an arrogant egomaniac who holds the title of president of one of the greatest countries in the world.”

Outside Lebanon, international leaders also voiced their disapproval of the new U.S. policy. Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari Tuesday expressed in a tweet his country’s “complete rejection and condemnation of the American administration’s announcement.”

Syria has called the decision a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, saying it had a right to reclaim the territory.

“The liberation of the Golan by all available means and its return to the Syrian motherland is an inalienable right,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 27, 2019, on page 2.

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