U.S. Plans to Change Vote to ‘No’ on UN’s Golan Heights Measure

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans for the first time to vote against a United Nations resolution that calls on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights, highlighting a shifting American perspective on the strategic plateau.

A draft of an annual resolution expected to be voted on Friday by the UN General Assembly calls attention to the “illegality of the decision” taken by Israel “to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan,” adding that “acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible under international law.”

Though the resolution is non-binding and will likely pass, the U.S. has previously abstained from voting against it. In a statement Thursday, Ambassador Nikki Haley cited the resolution’s “anti-Israel bias” -- a key focus of her tenure at the UN -- as one reason to oppose it. Another, she said, was the ongoing conflict in Syria.

“The resolution is plainly biased against Israel,” Haley said in her statement. “Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone. The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security.”

Iran as well as Russia have provided crucial military support for the government of Syrian President Bashar a-Assad in the seven-year civil war that has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more.

American support for Israel has strengthened under President Donald Trump, who moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and backed out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, a cherished goal of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The shift in its UN vote doesn’t mean the U.S. is getting ready to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, but it does underscore the changing reality on the ground, as the chances of Israel returning the northern territory to a Syria wracked by more than seven years of war diminishes.

Israel captured the southern part of the Golan -- a region containing important water sources -- in the 1967 Middle East war and extended its law to the area in 1981, a move that was not recognized internationally.

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