TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Syria’s Golan Heights as Israeli territory is against international law.
“International law does not allow for forcible change of international borders, which is what the Golan annexation amounts to. President Trump’s unilateral decision, like other decisions his administration has taken, puts into question the depth of current US support for international law…,” Dan Smith told Press Shia.
Dan Smith has a long record of research and publication on a wide range of conflict and peace issues such as nationalism, identity politics, armed conflicts, ethics of intervention, gender aspects of conflict and peace building. In recent years, his work has broadened to encompass other contemporary issues such as the relationship between climate change and insecurity, peace and security issues in the Middle East and global conflict trends. Smith has served four years in the UN Peacebuilding Fund Advisory group, two of which (2010–2011) were as Chair. He has lived most of his adult life in the UK with a 10-year spell in Norway. He has traveled professionally to more than 60 countries.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Press Shia: US President Donald Trump last week formally recognized the occupied Golan Heights as Israel’s territory. What’s your take on this?
Smith: International law does not allow for forcible change of international borders, which is what the Golan annexation amounts to. President Trump’s unilateral decision, like other decisions his administration has taken, puts into question the depth of current US support for international law. It will be difficult for the US to stand by the law against other annexation, such as Russia taking control of Crimea in 2014, without being charged with inconsistency and hypocrisy.
Press Shia: How should the international community particularly the UN react to this?
Smith: The international community should react through the UN General Assembly and Security Council to insist that international law is respected. It is necessary to make the statement even though the chances of it having practical effect are low in this case.
Press Shia: Reports suggest that Trump will recognize West Bank as Israeli territory in his next move. Do you believe so?
Smith: In Israeli eyes, the West Bank is occupied whereas Golan was annexed – a significant difference. I am not aware of an Israeli appeal to the US to recognize a sovereignty it has not yet claimed. In addition, if Israel absorbs the West Bank, Israel will have a majority Arab population. In that event, either Israel allows Arabs equal citizenship and an Arab government of Israel will ultimately be elected, or Israel formalizes Arabs’ status as second class citizens and becomes an openly apartheid state, forfeiting its legitimacy in Western eyes. For these reasons, I think the reports about recognizing the West Bank as part of Israel are unlikely to be proven true. On the other hand, my views are also mere speculation and politics today is teaching us to expect the unexpected.
Press Shia: How do you think the decision by Trump could scuttle other ongoing peace-making efforts in the region?
Smith: I think the decision adds to the probability that, if and when the promised Kushner peace plan for Israel-Palestine is launched, it will not have much chance of success. I do not think the decision will have any impact on peace efforts for Yemen, Iraq or Syria.