Two months ago today, the world changed.
Let me explain.
As Jonathan Kuttab says, the Golan Heights are going to be a template for future acquisition of territory by war. He’s right. It’s also to be expected that Mr Kuttab would say that. He’s a co-founder of the independent Palestinian human-rights organization Al-Haq in Ramallah, Palestine. It’s to be expected that Mr Kuttab is not going to be partial to most of what the Trump administration says or does with respect to Israel. The Palestinians know Trump’s America is unashamedly partisan and unafraid to act unfairly and be condemned as such.
That said, Mr Kuttab does make a very valid point and one that has received less attention than it should.
He argues that for all the Trump’s administration’s many bad foreign policy decisions – withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement; pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and intimidating the International Criminal Court – the very worst and most consequential is recognition of Israel’s illegal 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights.
Mr Trump’s March 25 decision, writes Mr Kuttab, abandoned a principle that “has underpinned international stability since World War II”.
The principle, of course, is the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force (whether in a defensive or an offensive war). Countries lived by this principle after 1945 in order “to discourage states from invading and occupying their weaker neighbours,” Mr Kuttab notes, pointing out the strong condemnation of any attempt to violate this principle – Iraq in Kuwait, Russia in Ukraine, and Israel in East Jerusalem and the Golan. “It has been a fundamental principle of international law since the mid-1990s,” he adds.
All of that changed on March 25, 2019 and the world may not ever be the same again. Now, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank. And many countries might want to try their luck at resolving territorial disputes with neighbours by force. Russia in Crimea is hardly likely to be objectionable in the world after March 25? And what about Iraq’s claim to Kuwait as its 19th district?
What of Kashmir?