Pompeo’s Middle East Visit and the Golan Heights 

For the first time, the US State Department on Wednesday referred to the disputed Golan Heights as ‘Israeli controlled’ instead of Israel ‘occupied’ after last year’s report already manifested a marked change by dropping the phrases ‘occupied territories’ and ‘under occupation’ from the sections of its annual global human rights report dealing with the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the case of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, the report classifies the mountainous region on the border between Israel and Syria as ‘Israeli-controlled’ instead of ‘Israeli-occupied,’ as it has read in past years. In a separate section on Gaza and the West Bank – areas that also came under Israeli control in 1967 – the report also does not characterize these territories as under ‘occupation’ or ‘occupied.’ Last year’s report kept one mention of the ‘1967 occupation’ in the West Bank and Gaza section, though the term ‘occupied territories’ was also expunged from the report, in a dramatic shift from previous years. Shortly after the release of the report a spokesperson for the US embassy in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel that ‘our policy on Golan has not changed.’ For seven consecutive years, the report’s section on Israel was titled ‘Israel and the Occupied Territories’ which included a section on Israel (including what it called the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights) and a section on the ‘occupied territories’: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Last year’s report title, however was changed to ‘Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza’, which included a section on Israel and the Golan Heights and a second on the West Bank and Gaza.

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