Morocco postponed the visit of a Romanian politician following the Romanian prime minister’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Rabat – After a flurry of controversies regarding the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the legitimacy of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, world leaders are reacting with outcry, condemnation, and anger.
On Monday, March 25, US President Donald Trump officially recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Sunday, at an event in Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Viorica Dancila of Romania recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C., Dancila stated that Romania would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I am pleased to announce today to the AIPAC audience that after the conclusion of the analysis by all the constitutional actors involved in the decision-making process in my country and, in full consensus, I as the Prime Minister of Romania and the Government that I lead, to move the Romanian Embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Dancila announced.
Morocco reacts to the Romanian PM’s comments
If Romania moves its embassy, it would make Romania the first European country to do so and would contradict the EU’s consensus that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Romanian Senate President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu was previously invited by the Moroccan Speaker of the House of Councillors Hakim Benchamach to Morocco from March 27 to 31.
However, after the comments made by the Romanian prime minister regarding Jerusalem, Moroccan officials transmitted via diplomatic channels that they would no longer be available for meetings.
According to the Romanian Senate, Popescu-Tariceanu’s official visit to Morocco was postponed at the request of the Moroccan side of the arrangement. Popescu-Tariceanu was set to meet with leaders in the Moroccan Parliament, Moroccan Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, and foreign minister Nasser Bourita.
Facing further backlash
Shortly after the prime minister’s comments, Jordan’s King Abdullah II canceled a visit scheduled for Monday to Romania. The Royal Hashemite Court attributed the decision to “solidarity with Jerusalem.” Jordan is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.
In reaction to the criticism, Dancila backtracked her statement, calling it “a personal opinion.”
Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romania, criticized Dancila’s comment, stating it was “ruining relations with the region.” He said Romania’s ties with Arab countries were one of “few constants of Romania’s foreign policy.”
US recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory
On Monday, US President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The US is the first country to do so, and it reverses a US policy which has been in place for more than a half-century.
Trump said the decision would allow Israel to defend itself from regional threats. The decision also boosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly before the upcoming Israeli elections on April 9.
Israel captured the land from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel later annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, a move the United Nations condemned. Israel argues the strategic plateau is necessary to protect itself from Iran and Iranian allies in Syria.
In a December 1981 resolution, the United Nations Security Council recognized Israel as “the occupying power”of the controversial region and said Israel’s desire to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”
This week, the UN reaffirmed the resolution, stating that the current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to adhere to the council’s resolutions.
ידידי הנשיא טראמפ חתם על צו המכיר בריבונות ישראל ברמת הגולן. יום היסטורי למדינת ישראל!
My friend President Trump signed an order recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. A historic day for Israel! pic.twitter.com/dVAadIDxTH
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 25, 2019
Outcry from the Middle East
Shortly after President Trump’s announcement, leaders around the Middle East condemned and criticized the decision.
The Syrian government called the decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty a “slap” to the international community and said it makes Washington “the main enemy” of Arabs. The Syrian foreign ministry also called the move a “blatant aggression” on its own sovereignty and said it represents the “highest level of contempt for international legitimacy.”
On Tuesday, after calls from the leader of Hezbollah for “resistance,” thousands of Syrians protested in various cities around Syria against Trump’s decision.
Saudi state news agency SPA stated that Trump’s recognition “will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.” The statement also called the decision a violation of the United Nations Charter and of international law.
Lebanon’s foreign ministry recognizes the Golan Heights as “Syrian Arab” territory and said “no country can falsify history by transferring” land from one country to another. In accordance, Lebanese President Michel Aoun also stated the decision “causes particular concern in the countries neighboring Israel.”
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the US to have “ignored international law.”
The US has once again ignored international law. However, this decision will never legitimize Israeli occupation. On the contrary, it will further increase tensions in the region by preventing peace efforts in the Middle East.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) March 25, 2019
Reactions from outside the region
The Canadian foreign ministry reacted to the decision by releasing a condemning statement. “In accordance with international law, Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the Golan Heights. Canada’s long-standing position remains unchanged.”
Five ambassadors to the UN Security Council, from France, Germany, the UK, Poland, and Belgium, released a joint statement on the matter. “Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law,” and any unilateral border changes go against “the rules-based international order and the U.N. Charter,” read the statement published by the close US allies.
“We raise our strong concerns about broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences.”
The international human rights organization Amnesty International called the move “irresponsible, reckless and yet another example of the Trump administration violating international law and consensus by condoning Israel’s illegal annexation.”
With Israeli elections approaching, the decision is likely to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election on April 9. However, the decision also sets a precedent that a country such as the US can ignore a UN Security Council resolution.