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U.S. State Department Report Does Not Refer To Golan Heights, West Bank & Gaza Strip As ‘Occupied’ Territories

The U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices expunged the word “occupied” in reference to the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip, which are now labeled as being under Israeli “control.” The new description follows another transition two years ago, when the State Department replaced the country designation of “Israel and the occupied territories” with “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.” The Jewish state captured during the 1967 war parts of the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Whereas Jerusalem formally annexed the Golan in 1981—a move unanimously rejected by the international community—the status of the West Bank and Gaza has remained in limbo given the inability to forge a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians, whose leadership claims the regions for a future state. Despite the State Department’s decision, an American official was quoted as saying that, “my understanding is that there is no change in our outlook or our policy vis-à-vis the territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there.” Right-wing Israeli politicians nevertheless quickly pounced on the perceived opening to press for the annexation of Jewish-majority areas of the West Bank, as well as to advance an ongoing diplomatic push for the White House to recognize Jerusalem’s sovereignty over the Golan. In this respect, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) this week vowed to lobby the Trump administration to do just that after touring the Jewish state’s northern frontier with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman.

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