Trump Declares Golan Heights Part of Israel, Helping Netanyahu
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg)

Trump Declares Golan Heights Part of Israel, Helping Netanyahu

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights Monday in a ceremony with Benjamin Netanyahu, delivering a symbolic boost to the Israeli prime minister just two weeks before he faces a re-election vote.

The presidential proclamation, foreshadowed last week when Trump said it was time for the change, breaks with decades of U.S. policy.

Trump Declares Golan Heights Part of Israel, Helping Netanyahu

“Under my administration, the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger," Trump told reporters at the White House.

Netanyahu told Trump: “Israel has never had a better friend than you.”

Netanyahu was originally planning to speak at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week in Washington but cut short his trip after a rocket attack on Israel from Gaza.

Trump announced his intention to recognize Israeli control over the territory it captured in 1967 in a tweet last week, prompting speculation he was looking to assist Netanyahu politically. The Israeli prime minister and longtime Trump ally has been dogged by corruption allegations, and polls show a close April 9 election.

Trump Declares Golan Heights Part of Israel, Helping Netanyahu

But Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network last week that the move wasn’t driven by politics.

"I wouldn’t even know about that," Trump said. "I have no idea, I hear he’s doing OK I don’t know if he’s doing great right now, but I hear he’s doing OK. But I would imagine the other side whoever’s against him is also in favor of what I just did."

The future of the plateau, a scenic area containing important water sources, had long been considered a subject for negotiation in any potential peace agreement with Syria. Now, with Syria wracked by a civil war that includes support from Iran, Israel wants its control over the area to be recognized worldwide. Israel extended its law to the area in 1981.

Trump has looked to boost U.S. support for Netanyahu, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 and backed out of the nuclear agreement his predecessor Barack Obama negotiated with Iran.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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