Trump says U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights

Trump says U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights

Donald Trump has delivered a boost to Binyamin Netanyahu's prospects in a looming election by recognising Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.

The Commander-in-Chief tweeted: "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!"

The decision immediately followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday, almost a year after Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the sole capital of Israel and announced that he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv.

In gesture of appreciation, Netanyahu pointed out that "under President Trump, this partnership brought recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US Embassy to it".

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Seventeen faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley, warned on Tuesday against the threat posed by the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, .

In past negotiations, Syria has demanded a withdrawal from the Golan as part of any peace deal.

But in a tweet that appeared to catch many by surprise, Trump said the time had come for the United States to take the step, which Netanyahu warmly welcomed as a "miracle" on the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Smoke from explosions rises during fighting in the village of Jubata Al Khashab, held by Syrian rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, as seen from the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, on September 11, 2016.

"I still remember some people telling me during the last election that Trump would be tougher on Israel than Clinton", Hasan tweeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem's Old City
In a First, Pompeo Visits Jerusalem's Contested Western Wall With Netanyahu

Without directly addressing the Golan issue, Pompeo affirmed USA support of Israel: "With the threats of annihilation that Iran is making against Israel, we are committed to Israel's security and its right to self-defense".

The Golan Heights move was hinted at a week ago when the State Department changed its usual description of the area as "occupied" to "Israeli-controlled".

Pompeo did not mention the issue. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who recently visited Israel and urged the president to recognize the Golan, indicated he would push for a motion on Capitol Hill.

Roughly 20,000 Israelis now also live in the Golan, enjoying dramatic mountain views and plentiful vineyards but also enduring occasional rocket fire from Syria or Lebanon.

Meeting with Pompeo on Wednesday, Netanyahu said, "Last week we uncovered efforts by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy, to build up a terror network on the Golan Heights - and you can all imagine what would happen if we were not in the Golan".

After annexing the Golan, Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, but most rejected it and still identify as Syrian.

Between the Israeli and Syrian armies is a 400-square-km (155-square-mile) "Area of Separation" - often called a demilitarized zone - in which the two countries' military forces are not permitted under the ceasefire arrangement.

"The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel", he said in a statement. "You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee".

Angering Palestinians and drawing global concern, Trump broke with decades of U.S. Middle East policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and moving the American Embassy, which Pompeo will visit on Thursday, to the city last May.

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