JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated President Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
“President Trump has just made history. I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Near the end of Pompeo’s visit to Israel, Trump tweeted out his surprise.
“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!”
Standing alongside Pompeo, Netanyahu was visibly excited and called it a Purim miracle.
“He did it again. First, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy here. Then, he pulled out of the disastrous Iran treaty and re-imposed sanctions, Netanyahu said.
“But now he did something of equal historic importance – he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel. And the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel,” he added.
With Israeli elections just weeks away, recognizing the Golan Heights will likely boost Netanyahu’s re-election bid. But Trump said his decision was a long time coming and it wasn’t about Netanyahu and Israeli politics.
“I don't know if he's (Netanyahu is) doing great right now, but I hear he's doing OK,” Trump said about the political race in an interview on Fox Business. “But I would imagine the other side whoever is against him is also in favor of what I just did."
Earlier this month, Israel revealed that Hezbollah terrorists were establishing a network on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
During a visit here, US Senator Lindsey Graham said he’d push Congress to recognize the area as part of Israel because it’s good for America.
Analysts say the move draws a red line and sends a strong signal to Iran that the US stands with Israel on the Golan Heights.
Pompeo said as a West Point cadet he had studied the battles of the Golan Heights.
“There’s a famous battle called the battle of the Valley of Tears and it was Israeli heroism at its most amazing, saving this great nation at a time of enormous challenge – the threat that came from east of the Golan, from Syria, a tank battle of epic and historic proportions of amazing Israeli bravery,” Pompeo said following Trump’s tweet.
During his Middle East trip, Pompeo had refused to answer questions on the Golan issue – saying US policy hadn’t changed and it was up to Trump.
“Tonight President Trump made the decision to recognize that that hard-fought real estate, that important place is proper to be a sovereign part of the State of Israel,” Pompeo said. “President Trump made a bold decision.”
Netanyahu said Purim now and then would end the same way.
“We’re celebrating Purim, when 2,500 years ago, other Persians, led by Haman, tried to destroy the Jewish people. They failed then; and today, 2,500 years later, again Persians led by (Supreme leader of Iran) Khamenei, are trying to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish State. They’re going to fail again,” Netanyahu said.