Trump Signs Order Recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli Territory

With Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, Trump said the U.S. will always stand by Israel's side

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on, Washington, D.C., March 25, 2019.
AP/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday to sign a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory on Monday, thus formalizing a move announced with a tweet earlier on Thursday. 

>> FULL TEXT: Trump's proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights

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In a joint press conference, Trump said: "We do not want to see another attack like the one suffered this morning north of Tel Aviv," adding: "Our relationship is powerful." Trump then said: "We will confront the poison of anti-Semitism."

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Netanyahu called Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights "historic justice" and a "diplomatic victory," saying that "Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of defense."

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2019.
AFP

Netanyahu said he brought Trump a "box of the finest wine from the Golan Heights."

The prime minister said that "as we speak Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression," referring to the offensive Israel launched on Gaza moments before.

Netanyahu then thanked Trump for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem in May, and for pulling out of the Iran deal

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the proclamation, calling Trump "a true friends of the State of Israel." Opposition head Shelly Yacimovich, as well as Labor chairman Avi Gabbay, also commended the move.

Syria's foreign ministry called the decision a "blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Syria on Monday, in a statement carried by state news agency SANA. 

Trump, Pence and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019.
Susan Walsh,AP

The two leaders also discussed Iran and Syria after the press conference.

The event is overshadowed by an escalation between Israel and Gaza that forced Netanyahu to cut his U.S. trip short. Netanyahu might still address the AIPAC conference via satellite, however.

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In a tweet on his personal Twitter account on Thursday Trump wrote: "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!"

In a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Netanyahu said, "We feel that it's a Purim miracle, President Trump made history today." According to Netanyahu, "Trump recognized Israel's sovereignty in the Golan Heights at a time when Iran is trying to use it as a platform to destroy Israel."

The move by Trump caused an instant international uproar of protests: under international law, the Golan Heights are considered to be Syrian territory occupied by Israel, like East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel captured the Golan Heights, which is populated by around 25.000 Druze, in 1967 and de facto annexed the territory in a 1981 law.

After the Trump tweet, a European Union spokesperson in Israel told Haaretz the EU will not change its position regarding the Golan Heights in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration. Representatives of Russia, Turkey, multiple actors in the Arab world including Palestinians and Syrians also condemned the move.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area, but the ongoing conflict in Syria has complicated the matter of ownership. Assad-aligned forces, including Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias, regularly clash with rebel forces on the Syrian side of the border.

Only around 12 per cent of the Golan's Druze hold Israeli citizenship, as most still reject it on nationalist grounds citing an allegiance to Syria.

Relations with local Israeli residents are however far better than between Palestinians and Israelis settlers in the West Bank.