Netanyahu Declares Establishment of Community Named After Trump in Golan Heights

Premier calls founding of Ramat Trump a 'historic day,' but the community cannot be officially established until next government takes office

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara stand with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman at the unveiling of the Ramat Trump sign, June 16, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday the establishment of Ramat Trump, the new Golan Heights community named after the U.S. president.   

During a government meeting, Netanyahu said that this is a historic day. "We're going to establish a new community, something that hasn't happened in many years, and in honor of President Donald Trump."

The meeting was followed by a sign unveiling ceremony for the town.

>> Read more: Netanyahu promised to name a 'new' community after Trump. We went there and locals are not pleased ■ ■ Welcome to Trump Heights, the Israeli town that doesn't exist | Analysis ■ Never mind the embassy move and the Golan, Trump's true mark in Israel is on its economy | Opinion

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 31Haaretz

In the unveiling ceremony in the Golan Heights, Netanyahu addressed Iranian presence in Syria: "Everyone knows what's been happening over the past decade on the other side of this border. If it weren't for us, this place would be populated with fanatic Iranian militias - we will never let that happen. We will continue to act against Iran and its terrorist extension Hezbollah's attempts to solidify their presence on the Syrian side of the border." 

Responding to Haaretz’s report on and subsequent analysis of the ceremony announcing the establishment of the new community, the Prime Minister’s Office released a following statement: "The process of establising any new community in Israel requires approval through two government decisions. The first approves the initiative and the second the management procedure, according to the attorney general's directives." 

A homemade sign in the Golan Heights on the road to Kela Alon. “Ramat Trump — not here!”
Allison Kaplan Sommer

The statement continues, "Therefore, the government did approve the initiative [Sunday] to establish the new community, and the directive of the Housing and Construction Ministry and the Finance Ministry to start complementary administrative work on the subject," in continuation of administrative work on the subject that was already carried out by a number of government organizations.

Trump later took to Twitter to thank Netanyahu and his government on the move, writing: "Thank you PM Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor." Trump's comment retweeted a tweet by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who wrote about the ceremony on his Twitter handle.

Also at the ceremony Thursday, Netanyahu commented for the first time on Thursday's attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. "As for Iran's aggression in the Gulf of Oman, all peace-loving countries should support the United States and President Trump's efforts to end this dangerous aggression and promise freedom of movement in international routes," Netanyahu said. The United States, Britain, and now Israel have blamed Iran for the attacks, while Iran denies accusations.

Despite the fanfare in the Golan Heights, the current government is temporary, and cannot officially approve the community. At this point, it can only start the administrative work on the project.

According to the prime minister, establishing the community constitutes a gesture of respect for Trump's actions "for the good of the State of Israel in a wide variety of areas." These include recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a move that was criticized by the international community.

The decision's proposal states that "We must acknowledge the large contribution of the United States to the security of the State of Israel, a contribution that grew substantially during President Trump's years in office." An example of this, the proposal states, is the United States' standing with Israel against the Iranian threat.

According to the proposal, the community will be part of the Golan Regional Council and will be built in the extant Kela Alon community, in which dozens of families already live. The plan would see Ramat Trump established in what is now the Bruchim neighborhood, in which a few families live.

The legal opinion accompanying the proposal states that the decision to establish the community in practice will be up to the next government, which will be formed after new elections take place in September. It also states that the finance ministry and the National Planning and Construction Commission will have to carry out large-scale administrative work before a final decision can be made.

Last week, an event to "recognize America in the Golan" that was supposed to be organized by Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman was cancelled a few days before it was supposed to take place. According to the head of the Golan Regional Council, Haim Rokah, it was nixed due to "dissolving the Knesset, governmental reasons and legal problems that were out of our control."  

Noa Landau contributed to this report.