Sputnik discussed the US envoy's statements with Professor Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria and Lebanon, vice-rector of Tel Aviv University and former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
Sputnik: In your opinion, how realistic is David Friedman's statement about the Golan Heights remaining under Israeli control forever?
Eyal Zisser: First of all, we have to understand that we are not speaking about an American official. David Friedman is a close friend of [Donald] Trump and Trump supported him as an ambassador to Israel. In general, David Friedman is known to be very connected to the Israeli right-wing.
So, it's a statement by an ambassador who feels very connected to some views and parts of the political picture in Israel, but I don't think that we need to take this statement too seriously. I think that eventually the future of the Golan Heights will be dictated in negotiations held between Israel and Syria in the coming years.
Sputnik: Do you think that the US could recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in the future? If so, why?
Eyal Zisser: Well, you know, President Trump is [unpredictable]. For example, the move of the Israeli American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was against the views held by all administrations until the administration of President Trump. I wouldn't exclude the possibility that Trump will wake up one day and will decide that he recognizes the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, but I doubt it is the case, because the American position was very clear for so many years.
It was Syrian territory that it was occupied in the 1967 war and its future should be discussed between Israel and Syria. It should be determined in the framework of the peace agreement between the two countries.This was the policy of the Americans for the last 50 years and I doubt very much whether they will change it. But, it's President Trump; God knows what he might do.
Sputnik: What's the situation in regards to contradiction of international law? What measures can Syria as a country do in terms of taking or returning this land?
Eyal Zisser: Well, the territory was captured by Israel as a result of a war that was caused by Syrian aggression. So, according to international law, Israel has the right to hold this territory, not to annex it, but hold it till there is peace between the two countries. Even the UN didn't call for the Israelis to withdraw; it called for peace in Resolution 242 that was adopted by the UN Security Council after the 1967 war.
It had to do with signing peace and then withdrawing from territories; that happened with Egypt, when Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement. It might happen also in the case of Syria, and this is one of the two countries we are engaging in peace negotiations with along the years. Now, the peace negotiations are not on the table, but my guess is that in several years Syria will come back to what it was and the two countries will be able to resume peace negotiations, because both countries are interested in resolving the conflict between them and reaching a peace solution to the conflict. It's clearly in their best interests.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.