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Israeli soldier next to the Syrian border on May 10, 2018, in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Photo: Lior Mizrahi via Getty Images

Israeli officials are actively lobbying the Trump administration to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, according to reports from. Since Israel captured the Golan Heights plateau from Syria in the 1967 War, every subsequent attempt to negotiate peace between the two countries has revolved around the land's return.

Why it matters: While it is virtually unimaginable that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights, formal U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty would cement that reality, slaying another sacred cow of Middle East diplomacy while changing little on the ground. It would also be another political win for Prime Minister Netanyahu, already celebrating President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and the U.S. embassy's move to Jerusalem.

As recently as 2011, Netanyahu was engaged in backchannel land-for-peace discussions with Syria. But the disastrous Syrian Civil War has convinced nearly all Israelis that the Golan Heights will never be returned — and shouldn't be. They see Syria as permanently unstable, enabling groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda to take root. Even worse, Israel sees Iran and its proxies trying to use Syrian territory as a base from which to attack Israel. Were any of those groups to gain access to the strategic high ground overlooking northern Israel, Israeli communities would be at risk.

But, but, but: The U.S. and Israel might each have a reason to hold off on formal recognition. U.S. partners among the Syrian opposition generally ignore the Golan issue, but even those who detest Bashar al-Assad might feel forced to pledge fealty to the goal of recovering Syrian territory lost to Israel. And Israel’s highest strategic priority — gaining Russia’s assistance in pushing Iranian military elements out of Syria — could be threatened if Russia saw a U.S. Golan Heights declaration as unnecessarily humiliating to their client, Assad.

Daniel Shapiro is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.

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