Trump: Time for US to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights

“You made history,” Netanyahu told Trump in a phone call, thanking the U.S. leader for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

By Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, when the then-tiny Jewish state was threatened with annihilation by the surrounding Arab nations. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.”

“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!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

Minutes later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!”

US promises to keep pressure on Iran

Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat.

“You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” Netanyahu said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.”

Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu, where deposited written prayers in its crevices and then toured nearby tunnels and a synagogue.

The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel.

“I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths, and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.”

Israel also captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader.