President Trump Just Recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli Territory

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed the United States to recognize Israeli governance of most of the Golan Heights during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.

Israel seized most of the Golan from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973. "But I would imagine the other side, whoever's against him, is also in favor of what I just did", Trump said.

But now he did something of equal historic importance - he recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel. Netanyahu tweeted his gratitude. Thank you President Trump!

The announcement marks a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu, two weeks before elections, and four days before he is due to visit Washington.

"It's time that the USA and the worldwide community recognize that Israel is staying on the Golan and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel", the prime minster said.

Trump enjoys sky-high approval ratings in Israel, and his embrace of Netanyahu so close to the elections, coupled with delivering a long-sought recognition, could impact the outcome of the Israeli election.

French-built Israeli tanks in action in this
French-built Israeli tanks in action in this

Following are excerpts from Netanyahu's remarks at the joint statements with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem Thursday evening, regarding Trump's declaration. "It's our first chance to go there together", Pompeo told journalists before the visit on Thursday.

The disputed Golan Heights territory, considered by neighbouring Syria to be a part of its territory, was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Trump State Department has likewise dropped previous definitions of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as being "occupied" by the Jewish state.

This was echoed by the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, which thanked Trump, but warned the Israeli public not to let the move blind them to the dangers of Trump's expected peace plan. "They're going to fail again", Netanyahu said.

"With such threats a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparallelled commitment to Israel's security and firmly support your right to defend yourself", he said. Netanyahu raised the possibility of United States recognition in his first White House meeting with Trump in February 2017.

But Robert Malley, president of the Crisis Group consultancy, said the "intensely political" decision by Trump was "in disregard of worldwide law" and "an ominous step at a time when voices in Israel calling for the annexation of the West Bank are growing louder".

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