- Carlos Barria/Reuters
- President Donald Trump formally recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
- Netanyahu offered Trump glowing praise in joint remarks, likening the president to famous leaders such as “Cyrus the Great.”
- The Israeli leader referred to Trump as “my dear friend Donald.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at the White House on Monday as President Donald Trump officially recognized the Golan Heights, one of the world’s most disputed territories, as part of Israel.
In remarks before Trump signed a proclamation to formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty of the territory, Netanyahu declared Israel and “never had a better friend” than Trump.
“Mr. President, over the years Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office. But Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu said to Trump in a joint appearance. “You’ve shown consistently incredible support for Israel, for our right to self-defense. When we exercise that self-defense, you have never flinched.”
The Israeli leader referred to Trump as “my dear friend Donald,” and likened him to leaders of the past.
“In the long sweep of Jewish history there have been a handful of proclamations by non-Jewish leaders on behalf of our people and our land. Cyrus the Great … Lord Balfour, President Harry S. Truman, and President Donald J. Trump,” Netanyahu said.
- Carlos Barria/Reuters
By recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Trump has broken with decades of US policy and is the first president to do so. Much of the international community does not view the Golan Heights as part of Israel, but as an occupied territory.
“Today I am taking historic action to promote Israel’s ability to defend itself,” Trump said at the joint announcement. “This was a long time in the making that should have taken place many decades ago.”
Netanyahu on Monday said Israel won the Golan Heights in “a just war of self-defense.” Israeli forces seized the territory from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967, formally annexing it in 1981.
This moves comes just a few weeks before Israel’s national elections, in which Netanyahu hopes to win reelection. He’s made controversial moves to ensure his far right Likud party stays in power, including aligning with an extremist political party that experts have said is Israel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan.
The president last week signaled he would recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel, but claimed it had nothing to do with boosting Netanyahu’s chances of reelection. Netanyahu has explicitly tied Trump to his efforts, with his reelection campaign hanging massive images of the two of them in major Israeli cities.
Trump’s foreign policy has often aligned with Netanyahu’s interests, which the Israeli prime minister highlighted in his remarks on Monday.
Netanyahu praised Trump for withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal and for formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there. Both of these moves were criticized by US allies and put Trump at odds with much of the international community.
As Trump and Netanyahu met at the White House, Israel’s military said it “started striking Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip.” This came after a rocket fired into Israel from Gaza destroyed a home in the village of Mishmeret, about 60 miles from the Israel-Gaza border.
Meanwhile, in recent days there have been protests in Gaza against Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, over what citizens say are abusive police actions and poor living conditions. Hamas security forces have moved to clamp down on the demonstrations, arresting organizers, journalists, and human rights monitors, The New York Times reports.