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Trump Tweet Signals Big Change to US' Israel Policy

Netanyahu, facing re-election, welcomes recognition of Israeli control
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2019 2:20 PM CDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, touches the stones of the Western Wall during his visit Thursday to the site in Jerusalem's Old City.   (Jim Young/Pool Image via AP)
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(Newser) – President Trump said Thursday that it's time for the US to recognize Israel's control over the disputed Golan Heights, signaling a shift in policy ahead of the Israeli prime minister's visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, the AP reports. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase "Israeli-occupied" from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it "Israeli-controlled." On Thursday, Trump tweeted, "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: "At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!"

Trump's announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo's words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Standing together in Jerusalem, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned Israel's heated April 9 election. But Netanyahu, facing a challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the administration's strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Pompeo also paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem's Western Wall with Netanyahu, an apparent sign of support for Israel's control of the contested city. He's the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader.

(Read more Golan Heights stories.)

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