In the crucible of the ''Holy Land,'' with religious, cultural, and political struggles one atop the other, any alteration of the status quo is of enormous importance.
This is why Israel's move this week to annex the Golan Heights is causing a worldwide uproar. Aside from its considerable international ramifications, the move:
* Decrees Israel's first outright consolidation of captured territory since 1967. That was when Israel annexed east Jerusalem.
* Gives the 10,000 Jewish settlers in the Golan coverage by Israeli civil law , thus tossing out Syrian law, the last vestige of Syrian government in territory once belonging to it.
* Sets a precedent for what is believed to be the more-slowly-building - but much more important - annexation of the West Bank.
Under the new law rushed through the Knesset (parliament) this week, a dispute between an Israeli settler, for example, and an Arab Druze inhabitant of the Golan would be heard in an Israeli civilian court under Israeli law. Previously such a dispute would have come under Syrian law, although it would still have been under the ultimate control of an Israeli military tribunal if ''security'' were at stake.
International law holds that the military occupier (Israel) allow the extant government agencies and courts (Syrian) to continue their functions on civil matters. By extending Israeli civil law over the Golan, Israel in effect advances from military occupation of the territories to annexation.
International law, in the form of the 1949 Geneva Convention and the charter of the United Nations, prohibits this.
''Conquest has ceased to constitute a mode of acquisition of territory since the general prohibition on recourse to force,'' the UN charter states. Israel is a member of the UN.
Israeli officials in the past have recognized that ''legal status'' of the Golan, West Bank, and Gaza ''remained that of a territory occupied as a result of war.'' But they have long argued that ''Israel does not consider itself an occupier since the land was seized in a defensive effort.''
That argument was never made by Israel when it annexed the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967. Israeli officials almost without exception see an ''undivided Jerusalem'' as Israel's bibically mandated capital.