Golan Heights, Israel
Golan Heights, IsraeliStock

A report in the Washington Free Beacon quoting a US State Department official saying that the Golan Heights does not belong to Israel and control of the territory could change hands depending on the region’s “ever-shifting dynamics,” is inaccurate, said the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

“U.S. policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false,” the Department tweeted Friday morning.

On Thursday, the Free Beacon reported that the Biden administration was walking back American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The 2019 recognition of the territory on Israel’s border with Syria as being part of Israel was one of the major foreign policy moves of the Trump administration.

In 2020, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to the Jewish State where he reiterated that the US was leaving behind a longstanding policy of considering the Golan Heights to be an “occupied territory.”

Reversing recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan would likely be seen as a setback in relations between Israel and the United States.

The issue was first raised in February when current Secretary of State Antony Blinken would not give a clear answer when asked if the new State Department would carry on with the previous administration’s position on the Golan.

Blinken would not elaborate, except to say that the Golan Heights “remains of real importance to Israel’s security” but added that the territory’s formal status remains undetermined.

Republicans were alarmed by the Biden administration’s shift in position.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, described the Biden administration’s position on the Golan Heights as being intentionally unclear in an interview with the Free Beacon.

“I pressed UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the administration’s position on recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and she acknowledged that the Trump administration policy recognizing Israeli sovereignty is unchanged as of now," he said.

"However, Secretary Blinken and the Biden Administration need to stop beating around the bush, and unambiguously commit to maintain recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights permanently."

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid responded to reports about possible changes in the status of the Golan Heights, saying "The Golan Heights is a strategic asset and an integral part of the sovereign State of Israel. The United States has recognized our sovereignty over the Golan Heights and its strategic importance to Israel's security."

He added, "Anyone who spreads rumors about the revocation of this recognition harms Israel's security, sovereignty and is willing (not for the first time) to cause real damage to the State of Israel, and endanger its security and relations with the United States, just to damage the new government of Israel."