Netanyahu dedicates new settlement to US president

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to unveil a sign for a new community named after U.S. President Donald Trump, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights June 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Ammar Awad | Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday sent President Donald Trump a token of his gratitude for supporting Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in the form of a “new community” in the disputed territory named after the U.S. leader.

The settlement – to be known as “Trump Heights” – sits within the Golan Heights, which had been occupied for decades by Israel but was not seen as Israeli territory by the U.S. until last March, when Trump officially recognized Israel’s annexation of the region.

American ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended a “festive meeting” Sunday where the new town was inaugurated by the Israeli government, according to Netanyahu’s official Twitter account.

“It’s a great recognition of the president’s courageous decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Friedman said. The ambassador also referred to the naming ceremony as a “birthday present” to Trump, who turned 73 on Friday.

A large sign emblazoned in gold letters with the name of the community, written in English and in Hebrew below the national flags of the U.S. and Israel, was also unveiled at the ceremony.

“Thank you PM and the State of Israel for this great honor! ” Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Trump and Netanyahu have forged a close bond and have regularly lavished praise on each other’s leadership. At the event Sunday, Netanyahu again celebrated Trump’s support for policies that benefited Israel’s agenda, including leaving the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and moving a U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, and had passed a law applying its government to the area 1981 – a move that was opposed by much of the international community at the time.

Trump’s full-throated endorsement of Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights came in the middle of Netanyahu’s re-election bid, which he won. After his election to a record fifth term, Netanyahu said he would push to name a new area in the Golan Heights after Trump.

Trump’s action was rejected by other Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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