US President Donald Trump reversed decades of US policy yesterday by announcing that he will formally recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
In a tweet, the US President said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
The US previously considered the legal status of the Golan Heights as being occupied territory, which would be settled as part of negotiations for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. Israel now anticipates that there will be a formal announcement by the White House, State Department and Justice Department formally recognising Israeli sovereignty over the territory which has been under Israeli control since the 1967 Six-Day War.
US recognition will allow official visits to take place, permit US business investment and tax-deductible donations to charities without legal complications. Existing US-Israel bilateral agreements will also be extended to the territory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the decision as a “Purim miracle”. Speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is currently touring the Middle East, Netanyahu said: “I called [Trump]. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel … he recognised 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. And the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”
Pompeo said: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought and the lives they lost on that very ground [the Golan] were important and worthy.”
Yair Lapid, number two in the Blue and White Party, tweeted in support: “Thank you @POTUS for your intention to recognise our sovereignty over the Golan.”
Syria, which also claims sovereignty over the territory, condemned the decision in a statement by the foreign ministry on Syrian media: “The Syrian people remain committed to the liberation of the Golan Heights by all means at its disposal.”
Russian diplomatic sources said that the way to change the agreements pertaining to the Golan Heights was by means of the UN Security Council. They said that the status of the Golan Heights cannot be altered by tweets.
In Haaretz Amos Harel described the move as “mostly political” and said the timing as “unsurprising”, implying the move was intended to boost Netanyahu’s electoral prospects. Prime Minister Netanyahu will visit Washington next week to speak at the AIPAC Policy Conference and it was announced yesterday that he will have dinner with President Trump in the White House.