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US Planning to Update Map to Include Golan Heights as Part of Israel Territory

The map changes will reflect facts on the ground and a "need for Israel to have secure and defensible borders," Hook added

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US, golan heights, israeli
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, left, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, visit the border between Israel and Syria at the Israeli-held Golan Heights, March 11, 2019. VOA

The Trump administration says it will update U.S. government maps to reflect President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In a Wednesday email responding to questions from VOA Persian, a State Department spokesperson said the map changes would be “consistent” with a March 25 proclamation signed by Trump, saying the U.S. “recognizes that the Golan Heights are part of the State of Israel.”

In a separate interview with VOA later Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said the State Department would “redraw” its official maps and release them “as soon as they are ready.” The map changes will reflect facts on the ground and a “need for Israel to have secure and defensible borders,” Hook added.
US, israeli, golan heights
FILE – U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook speaks to VOA Persian, Dec. 18, 2018. VOA

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and annexed it in 1981 in a move no other nation recognized until the U.S. officially changed its policy this week. Syria has long demanded the return of the disputed territory, which the rest of the international community considers to be Israeli-occupied.

In the earlier email to VOA, the State Department spokesperson declined to say whether the U.S. recognizes the Israeli border in the Golan Heights as being located along a 1974 cease-fire line on the western edge of a demilitarized zone patrolled by a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Israel considers the western line of the UNDOF zone, also known as line “Alpha,” to be its border with Syria.

Responding to a question about the Alpha line, the State Department spokesperson said: “The United States supports the goal of a secure and lasting peace between Israel and all its neighbors, including Syria. Such a peace should be achieved through direct discussions. Israel does not currently have a partner for peace in Syria.”

In a Monday interview with VOA Persian in Washington, Deputy Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Benjamin Krasna said the Syrian civil war that began in 2011 and occasionally has spilled over into the Israeli-controlled Golan has highlighted the plateau’s importance in providing Israel with what he called “strategic depth.”

israeli, US, golan heights
Deputy Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Benjamin Krasna speaks to VOA Persian on the sidelines of Washington’s annual AIPAC conference of American pro-Israel activists, March 25, 2019. VOA

“With the terrible atrocities committed by (Syria’s) Assad regime, with its loss of control allowing terrorist elements (to seize Syrian territory), and with Iran and its proxies then moving in, this presents a threat to Israel,” Krasna said. “Therefore, establishing strategic depth (on the Golan) is key to our security … and that is reaffirmed by the U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty.”

Syria has condemned the U.S. declaration on the Golan Heights. Responding to Trump’s March 21 tweet announcing his intention to make the move, Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari told reporters the next day that it was a “flagrant violation of international law, the charter of the United Nations, and the … values and ethics of international relations.”

US, golan heights, israeli
The U.S. State Department’s map of Israel already showing Jerusalem as the capital but the Golan Heights still as Israeli-occupied territory (screenshot of State Department map, taken March 27, 2019). VOA

The State Department’s official map of Israel had yet to be changed as of Wednesday, still referring to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-occupied.” It was not clear how long it would take for this and other maps to be updated.

Official U.S. government maps of Israel also are displayed publicly on the CIA’s World Factbook website and are available for download from the Library of Congress.

The CIA World Factbook map of Israel is older than the State Department’s online map, as it does not display Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while the State Department’s map does. Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in December 2017 and moved the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv in May 2018.

Palestinians’ claim

Palestinians claim the eastern sector of Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967, as the capital of a future state. Several other countries also have recognized Jerusalem or its predominantly Jewish western sector as the capital of Israel since the U.S. move. But most nations have declined to do so.

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FILE – An Israeli flag flies near the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Oct. 11, 2018. VOA

Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced companion bills last month that would seek to codify a U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a move they say would prevent a future U.S. president from undoing Trump’s declaration.

As of Tuesday, U.S. news site Al-Monitor said no Democrats had agreed to support the bills, with only Republican lawmakers sponsoring the legislation in the House and Senate. There was no word on whether or when the bills would be put to a vote.

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In its email to VOA, the State Department spokesperson said the Trump administration had not taken a position on any Golan Heights legislation “at this time.”

“Legislation is not required to give effect to the president’s decision,” the spokesperson said. (VOA)

 

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Nancy Pelosi Calls on Trump to Take Down Omar Video Tweet

Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Omar, and called on Trump to discourage such behavior

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FILE - Rep. Ilhan Omar arrives before NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. VOA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she has taken steps to ensure the safety of Rep. Ilhan Omar after President Donald Trump’s retweet of a video that purports to show the Minnesota Democrat being dismissive of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The California Democrat also called on Trump to take down the video. Soon after her public request, the video was no longer pinned atop Trump’s Twitter feed, but it was not deleted.

Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker. An upstate New York man recently was charged with making death threats against her.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump earlier Sunday, saying the president has a duty to highlight Omar’s history of making comments that others deem anti-Semitic or otherwise offensive and that he wished no “ill will” upon the first-term lawmaker.

Pelosi issued a statement while traveling in London saying she had spoken with congressional authorities “to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff.”

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Omar, and called on Trump to discourage such behavior.

Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker. An upstate New York man recently was charged with making death threats against her.

“The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”

The video in Trump’s tweet on Friday included a snippet from a recent speech Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in which she described the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as “some people did something,” along with news footage of the hijacked airplanes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump captioned his tweet with: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”

Critics accuse Omar of being flippant in describing the perpetrators of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from President George W. Bush, in which the Republican president referred to the attackers as “people” just days after 9/11.

Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included Omar’s full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks. The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled.

Sanders questioned why Democrats weren’t following Trump’s example and calling out Omar, too. Democrats who criticized the president over the tweet defended Omar, with some noting their past disagreements with her.

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The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled. VOA

“Certainly the president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone, but the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her — not only one time — but history of anti-Semitic comments,” Sanders said. “The bigger question is why aren’t Democrats doing the same thing? It’s absolutely abhorrent the comments that she continues to make and has made and they look the other way.”

Omar repeatedly has pushed fellow Democrats into uncomfortable territory with comments about Israel and the strength of the Jewish state’s influence in Washington. She apologized for suggesting that lawmakers support Israel for pay and said she isn’t criticizing Jews. But she refused to take back a tweet in which she suggested American supporters of Israel “pledge allegiance” to a foreign country.

ALSO READ: Trump Sends Undocumented Migrants to Sanctuary Cities

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who represents Manhattan’s financial district, which was targeted on 9/11, said he had no issues with Omar’s characterization of the attack.

“I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not — but not with that one,” he said. Sanders commented on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.” Nadler appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union. (VOA)