“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!” he wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for the announcement.
“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!” Netanyahu tweeted.
Such a move would upend decades of U.S. policy but fall in line with the Trump administration’s pattern of lavishing Israel with symbolic gifts and political support.
Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham promised the same thing.
“The Golan is not disputed. It is in the hands of Israel and will always remain in the hands of Israel,” he said at the time.
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Syrian officials denounced the comments, calling them arrogant.
A statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry previously said that according to the United Nations, the Golan Heights are considered Syrian occupied lands.
What and where is the Golan Heights?
The Golan Heights is located on the border between Israel and Syria. It is described as a rocky plateau.
The BBC notes that Syria’s capital, Damascus — only 60 kilometres away — is clearly visible from the Golan Heights, which makes it strategically important for Israel.
The area has another important asset: access to clean water. The BBC reports that a third of Israel’s clean water supply comes from the Golan Heights.
Why is its ownership controversial?
Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 during the Six Day War.
Syria tried to retake the region in 1973, but failed. An armistice was signed and a UN observer force was put in to monitor the ceasefire.
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Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, a move not recognized by most of the international community.
Currently, the U.S. designation of the Golan Heights is that of disputed territory.
In past negotiations, Syria has demanded a withdrawal from the Golan as part of any peace deal. Since then, civil war has broken out in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Israel this week and lauded the White House’s strong ties with the country.
The White House announced Wednesday that Netanyahu would be welcomed in Washington over two days next week. That’s a boost for Netanyahu, who is heading into a general election while plagued by corruption investigations.
In a press conference with Pompeo, Netanyahu accused Iran of trying to set a terrorist network to target Israel in the Golan Heights.
Pompeo did not mention the issue.
–-With files from the Associated Press