Analysis

Welcome to Trump Heights, the Israeli Town That Doesn't Exist

The sign with gilded letters and the dramatic ceremony, just as the president likes, hides the fact that the proposal to establish the new Golan Heights community does not include any actual steps toward building it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman unveil the Ramat Trump sign in the Golan Heights, June 16, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

In huge gilded letters (what else?), on a piece of synthetic lawn (of course), a large sign was erected in the Golan Heights, as if taken directly from the best of comedy sketches. Ramat Trump, or Trump Heights, will be built here. Even the strong gusts, which made it difficult to put up the scenery, gave this ridiculous event the atmosphere of an Israeli satire – a moment before a variety of government ministers began their comically dramatic march toward the ceremony.

We’ll begin at the end. No new community named for U.S. President Donald Trump was actually established on Sunday in the Golan Heights. As even the founder of the Knesset caucus for the Golan, Kahol Lavan MK Zvi Hauser, observed: “Anyone who reads the fine print of the ‘historic’ decision understands that this is a conceptual decision. There is no funding. There is no planning. There is no location and there is really no committed decision. That’s what the ‘Israbluff’" – to borrow a term from Israeli comedy, avoiding a problem with a fictional solution – "of establishing of a new community in the Golan Heights looks like. Salah Shabati at his best,” he added, referring to the 1964 Israeli satire film.

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Indeed, the proposal put before the cabinet to found the new community includes no real steps toward its establishment. It's mainly “administrative work,” which in Israeli speak means barely a single meeting around a plate of carbs. Numerous other expressions from the very creative “Israbluff” lexicon appear there in full force: “Formulating recommendations,” "examining a variety of aspects,” “submitting opinions,” “the government notes,” and so on and so forth.

There's just one sentence at the end that reveals the deceit: “When the final government decision is made on the establishment of the community, and insofar as the location of the new town will be in the area of the community of Kela…” There it is. Indeed, no such final decision was made, and it's unclear if after the sign’s installation such a community will ever be established, or will remain a celestial “Trump Heights” – a mythological town that exists only in the imagination.

In the explanatory notes on the government decision, the ruse at our expense continues: “There is importance in advancing the decision as noted at this time to strengthen the diplomatic ties between Israel and the United States.” On the other hand, the joke's not really at our expense, in real financial terms, because the next clause is the most charming: “Economic data and impact on the country’s economy: not relevant.” Finally, a glimmer of truth.

And why isn't it relevant? Because of the clause entitled “legal difficulties, if any, and means of resolving them.” These difficulties certainly exist. A temporary government, like the one that gathered on Sunday in the Golan Heights and is no government at all, can’t make such a decision until elections are held again and a real government is established. The solution? The legal opinion states that the next government will be the one to decide, and is under no obligation to do so at all. And in the meantime, the blathering about “administrative work” will continue and a pretty sign will go up on artificial grass. If a Netanyahu government is elected again, they'll figure out whether and how to resolve it.

The truth is that the Netanyahu government should be commended for a brilliant move. After all, what does Trump love more than seeing his name in golden letters on a big sign? The main thing is the picture, and who’s going to check afterward whether a community is built there or not. The honor has already been bestowed; the facts are marginal. After all, we live in the age of fake news, as President Trump likes to say.