Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled the sign marking the location of the newest illegal settlement in the occupied Golan Heights on Sunday. The soon-to-be settlement’s name? “Trump Heights.”
Standing in front of the massive plaque, written in Hebrew and English with emblems of the US and Israeli flags on top, Netanyahu spoke to officials at the unveiling ceremony, saying “Trump is a great friend of Israel.”
“He has torn the mask off this hypocrisy which doesn’t recognize the obvious,” he said, praising the event as a “historic day” for Israel. “We are proud that we have the opportunity to establish a new settlement and to give thanks to a great friend,” he said.
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his gratitude to Netanyahu, thanking him for the “great honor.”
According to CNN, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman sat next to Netanyahu during the unveiling, and thanked the premier for the “extraordinary gesture,” which he said was “well-deserved.”
Senior Palestinian official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi condemned Friedman and Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt for their support of the move, saying it reflects the Trump administration’s “determined steps to undermine and circumvent the requirements of peace in the region.”
“They also mirror the administration’s abject disregard for international law and the United Nations Charter. This is an extension of the Trump administration’s endorsement of the Israeli theft of the occupied capital of Palestine, Jerusalem, then the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, by way of annexation,” she said.
The Golan Heights, West Bank, and East Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Jerusalem was illegally annexed by Israel in 1980, and a year later Israel extended its “laws, jurisdiction and administration” into the Golan Heights, essentially annexing it as well in a move that today remains unrecognized by the international community.
Netanyahu announced his plans to name a new Golan Heights settlement after Trump back in April, as a thank you to the US president for his recognition in March of the occupied Syrian territory as part of Israel.
Given that construction on the new settlement has yet to begin, and is contingent upon Netanyahu being able to win another election in September and successfully form a coalition, the event was largely symbolic.
Coming off of a whirlwind election and failure to form a coalition, Netanyahu used Sunday’s event to remind his right-wing base of his strong relationship with Trump and his ability to leverage that for right-wing, pro-settler interests.
Historically, world leaders, including former US presidents, have refrained from recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied territories, and maintain that the continued settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal.
But, as he did with Jerusalem, Trump completely changed the American discourse surrounding the territories, and broke with decades of US foreign policy in the region when he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.
He justified his decision by claiming that it was of “critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability.”
Palestinian officials have condemned the move, accusing the US administration of “whitewashing the Israeli occupation.”