WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump said it was time to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“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!” Trump said Thursday on Twitter.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed for the recognition of the strategic plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. Republicans in Congress, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have advanced legislation to recognize the Golan as belonging to Israel. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier this month toured the Golan and said he would push for recognition.
Israel sees holding on to the Golan now as especially critical because of continued instability in Syria.
It’s not clear what action Trump would take, if any. In a tweet immediately following, Trump’s top Middle East negotiator called Trump’s statement a “decision.”
“Another bold, courageous, and historic decision by @POTUS who understands Israel and its security needs,” Jason Greenblatt said. Trump in 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and last year moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump’s tweet comes on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington and just over two weeks before Israel’s election. Trump has taken a number of steps to bolster Netanyahu ahead of the April 9 vote.
On Thursday, Netanyahu and Trump spoke on the phone.
“You made history,” Netanyahu said, according to the Israeli Government Press Office.
Netanyahu also referred to Trump and the Golan tweet at his appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Israel for talks.
He said the move was of “equal historic importance” with moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump “recognized 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,” said Netanyahu. “And the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”
The Israel Policy Forum, which supports a two-state solution, said it supports U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, calling Israeli control over the territory a “strategic imperative.” But it questioned the timing of Trump’s decision, saying it could bait Syrian pro-regime forces and create momentum for recognition of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which it opposes.