Highway in Golan Heights
Highway in Golan HeightsIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The United States says the new Golan-Jerusalem referndum law is an Israeli issue, and it declined to comment on it despite criticism from the Arab world . The law blocks any surrender of United Jerusalem or the strategic Golan Heights without approval by the public in a referendum.

Asked if the Obama administration is “concerned" by the new law, the U.S. State Department replied, “This is an internal Israeli issue, and the Israeli government is in the best position to address inquiries related to its process.”

The United States does not officially recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall, thtee Temple Mount, all of the Old City and all other areas of the capital that were restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. However, the U.S. Congress has voted to do so overwhelmingly.

The current and previous American governments also have encouraged a peace treaty with Syria based on Israel's surrendering the strategic Golan Heights and its rich water resources.

The State Department’s “no comment” stands in stark contrast to statements by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has labeled as “settlements” all Jewish presence in areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority.

The new law makes it extremely unlikely that any government can surrender any of the land covered by the law, barring a drastic shift in political leanings against the growing nationalist mood.

While the United States said the referendum law is an “internal issue,” Syria's foreign ministry lambasted Israel for what it called “a disregard of international law and the will of the international community. The Golan Heights, which were occupied by Israel in 1967, are not negotiable and a peace process is out of question until Syria gets these territories back.”

Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat also condemned Israel for what he called making "a mockery of international law, which is not subject to the whims of Israeli public opinion.”

Leaning on the international community’s refusal to recognize Israeli sovereignty over all of the capital, he added, "Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum. Under international law there is a clear and absolute obligation on Israel to withdraw not only from east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, but from all of the territories that it has occupied since 1967."

Erekat said the proper international response to the bill should be recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a country with borders based on the 1949 Armistice Line. The borders fell in 1967 when seven Arab countries engaged Israel in a war that they assumed would annihilate the Jewish state in a matter of days.

Instead, Egypt fled from Gaza, which it controlled, and Jordan left Judea and Samaria, most of which it occupied without an international mandate.