President Trump Backs Israeli Sovereignty Claim Over Golan Heights

From left Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo center and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit the Western Wall tunnels synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday

Palestinian leaders, who broke off contact with Washington after the recognition of Jerusalem by Trump, say they expect the plan to be blatantly biased in favour of Israel.

President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's time for the United States to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in USA policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister's planned visit next week to the White House.

Trump's tweet coincided with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Jerusalem, and comes two weeks before Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face voters in his bid for reelection.

It was not clear if the White House would release additional information or specifics about the move to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel beyond Trump's tweet. "Thank you President Trump!"

The highly mountainous Golan Heights region, which borders war-torn Syria, is militarily strategic for Israel - allowing it to fall back into Arab hands would allow foreign armies to easily target large swaths of central Israel's population centers.

"It's now clear that the consensus among Israel's allies in Washington is that the USA should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and we look forward to that consensus being reflected in U.S. policy", Sandra Parker, chairwoman of Christians United for Israel, said in a statement.

Senior U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall in the past but never with an Israeli leader. Attempts to bring Israel and Syria to the table have failed.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Republican Sen.

A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is stationed in camps and observation posts along the Golan, supported by military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

Congressional momentum has been building on Capitol Hill for the change, and the State Department last week changed its terminology for the first time on the contested territory, referring to it as "Israeli-controlled" instead of its previous usage of "Israeli-occupied".

However, Leon Panetta a veteran Democrat who served as Central Intelligence Agency director and defence secretary, among other roles, blasted Trump for "tweeting out another policy that obviously has not been worked out with our worldwide partners". For years, the US has tried to broker a regional agreement that would involve Israel exchanging captured territory for peace.

During his visit, Graham vowed to push for usa recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

I'm guessing it's not a big concern of Trump's but if the U.S. is going to recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan then it really has no basis on which to continue rejecting Russia's annexation of Crimea. Netanyahu noted that modern Iran is trying to use Syria as a "platform" against Israel and called Trump's announcement a new "miracle of Purim".

Israel captured the Golan, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in 1981.

"All of you can imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan: We would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee", he said Wednesday during a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Times called Pompeo's visit to the historic landmark "significant", as it "could be seen as tacit American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested Jewish holy site and a shift in U.S. policy".

Netanyahu and Pompeo, who were accompanied by the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, placed notes in the wall, a religious tradition.

Because the global community does not recognize Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, officials generally only visit the Old City of Jerusalem in a private capacity and not accompanied by Israeli officials. Pompeo is an ardent US national security advocate and is widely considered positively disposed towards Israel.

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