Congress is set to consider a new measure to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region that separates Israel from Syria, a key piece of territory that has become all the more important since the civil war in Syria brought scores of jihadist fighters, including those backed by Iran, into the region.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced on Thursday a resolution that could lead to an historic recognition by the United States that the contested area fully belongs to Israel, according to a copy of the amendment obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 following the Six Day War in the late 60s with Arab nations in the region. The United States has declined for decades to take a position on the status of this territory, but following President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, DeSantis and others see an opportunity for the United States to recognize another territorial reality—that the Golan Heights will not be given back to Syria, particularly in light of the strife gripping the country.
The amendment puts the United States on Israel's side in the land dispute and describes the Golan Heights as a key piece of territory that cannot fall into the hands of Iran, which has staked claims in Syria and continues to threaten Israel's northern border.
"It is the sense of the Congress that the Golan Heights represent an integral part of the state of Israel and are crucial to the ability of Israel to safeguard its borders and maintain its existence," the measure states.
"Given the civil war in Syria and the expansion of Iranian influence in Syria, the United States should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights," the amendment adds.
The House Rules Committee is in possession of the measure, but have yet to take a stance.
DeSantis told the Free Beacon the Golan Heights territory is key to thwarting Iranian influence across the region and that the United States' recognition that Israel owns the territory could send a powerful message across the region.
"The continuing turmoil in Syria and the steady expansion of Iranian influence illustrate why the Golan Heights are so important to the state of Israel and the anti-terror alliance," DeSantis said. "The Golan provides Israel with a necessary buffer against the malevolent actors that are wreaking havoc in Syria."
If Israel was forced to give back the territory it would leave itself vulnerable to an increase in terror attacks from Iranian controlled forces and other malevolent actors who would use the Golan region to stage strikes, DeSantis said.
"Indeed, Israel would be hard-pressed to ward off such threats without the Golan," the lawmaker explained. "Given the interest of the U.S. in rolling back Iranian influence and combating terrorism, it is time for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
As with the United States' recent recognition that Jerusalem is Israel's capital city, the recognition that the Golan Heights cannot be given back to Syria represents a factual reality on the ground, DeSantis said.
"There is no conceivable scenario in which it makes sense for Israel to abandon such a strategically significant location so that terrorists can fill the vacuum left behind," he said.