The United States yesterday deplored Israel's effective annexation of the Golan Heights as a blow to all the Middle East peace efforts since the 1967 war.
White House and State Department spokesmen expressed "deep concern" and "opposition" to Israel's unilateral effort to change the status of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war.
State Department spokesman Alan Romberg said the United States made its concern clear to Israel yesterday. The message was delivered in Tel Aviv. It has been longstanding U.S. policy to oppose any Israeli move to tighten its control over the Golan Heights.
Although the U.S. spokesmen said they were not exactly sure of the extent of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's decision to extend Israeli law and jurisdiction to the Golan Heights, they declared:
"Our view has been and remains that any unilateral change of the Golan Heights or any of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war would be contrary to the U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, on which the Camp David accords and all Middle East peace negotiations since 1967 have been based."
Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., landing at Andrews Air Force Base on his return from Brussels, noted that Israel had acted without consulting the United States. "We regret this surprising action," the secretary said.
Haig had been scheduled to be in Israel Sunday, which could have put him in an acutely embarrassing situation. Haig changed his schedule and did not go to Israel in order to keep in close touch with events in Poland following Saturday night's crackdown by authorities there.
Resolution 242 calls for the lands occupied by Israel in 1967 to be returned, and the first sentence of the Camp David Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty says the treaty parties are "convinced of the urgent necessity of the establishment of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338."
Romberg said that annexation "would violate international law as regarding belligerent occupation." The United States considers that the Golan Heights are occupied territory.
The Golan Heights rise 1,500 feet above the Sea of Galilee. They overlook Israel and when they were held by Syria provided Syrian gunners with excellent positions from which to shell several Israeli communities.
Begin has been under pressure from the right in Israel to annex the Golan because of Syria's refusal to enter peace talks with Israel, but held off until now because of U.S. pressure.
About a year ago, Begin's cabinet rejected two bills calling for annexation of the Golan. Last March, the Knesset, Israel's parliament, killed the two bills.
The Israeli government has expected strong U.S. reaction to any annexation of occupied territory, and Israeli officials here were braced for strong protests.
The U.S. statement read to reporters at the White House and State Department said:
"We have made known to the Israeli government our deep concern over, and opposition to, any effort to change the status of the Golan unilaterally."
A White House spokesman added that "we feel our views are well-known to the Israeli government."