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Trump Officially Recognizes Golan Heights as Israeli Territory

President Trump prays at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, May 23, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump on Monday signed an order recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, abruptly shifting long-standing U.S. policy on the matter.

“We’re celebrating the Golan Heights. It’s something that I’ve been hearing about for many years,” Trump said during remarks to reporters at the White House alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This should have been done, I would say, numerous presidents ago, but for some reason they didn’t do it, and I’m very honored to have done it.”

Israel has held the Golan for 52 years since capturing it from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. About 20,000 Israelis and 20,000 Syrians live in the territory, whose 1981 annexation by Israel was not recognized internationally. The disputed land remains a fraught issue in Middle East politics; Syria attacked Trump’s decision as “a blatant attack on its sovereignty” and threatened to recapture the region “through all available means.”

Trump’s move is a political boon for Netanyahu, coming two weeks before hotly contested national elections on April 9. The prime minister, damaged by corruption charges and facing a stiff challenge from the centrist former IDF general Benny Gantz, has for months has called on the U.S. to recognize the territory as part of Israel.

“Your proclamation comes at a time when Golan is more important than ever for our security,” the prime minister said. “Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of self-defense and the Jewish people’s roots in the Golan go back thousands of years.”

Trump similarly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, calling it “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.”

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