In Jerusalem, Pompeo Tackles US Democrats on Antisemitism

In Jerusalem, Pompeo Tackles US Democrats on Antisemitism

President Donald Trump on Thursday overturned longstanding USA policy regarding the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, announcing "it is time" for the United States to "fully recognize Israel's sovereignty" over the region.

Netanyahu, who faces an election in Israel on April 9, has been pressing for the United States to recognize its claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Currently, the USA designation of Golan Heights is that of disputed territory after Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 during the Middle East War.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now in Israel meeting with Netanyahu just weeks before a heated Israeli election and the two men were about to hold a news conference. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with President Donald Trump.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. "Well done, Mr. President!"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. "But I would imagine the other side, whoever's against him, is also in favor of what I just did", Trump said.

The Golan recognition is only the latest diplomatic bombshell dropped by Washington, which is Israel's main backer, in seeking to redraw the fraught Middle East map.

However, Israel has repeatedly refused to do so, and in 1981 declared the territory formally annexed to Israel.

The Golan Heights move was hinted at a week ago when the State Department changed its usual description of the area as "occupied" to "Israeli-controlled".

A separate section of the report on the West Bank and Gaza Strip also did not refer to those territories as being "occupied" or under "occupation". Last month, other American lawmakers, namely Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), together with Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), introduced a resolution "to ensure that Israel retains control of the Golan Heights".

Formally recognising Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights would mark a break in decades of U.S. foreign policy and fly in the face of worldwide consensus. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

This was echoed by the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, which thanked Trump, but warned the Israeli public not to let the move blind them to the dangers of Trump's expected peace plan. Trump wrote on Twitter.

"It's time that the USA and the worldwide community recognize that Israel is staying on the Golan and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel", the prime minster said. Acknowledging the significance of the US Secretary of State participating in the summit, the prime minister went on to say that, "It symbolizes the fact that the US supports this regional effort".

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