TEL AVIV — Marking a monumental shift in U.S. policy that would help ensure Israel’s security into the future, President Donald Trump on Thursday declared that the time has come for America to “fully recognize” Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“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!,” 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump to thank him by phone. “You made history,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying.
“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,” Netanyahu subsequently said in a tweet.
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! @realDonaldTrump
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 21, 2019
U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt hailed Trump’s “historic” call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty:
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 21, 2019
As Haaretz reported, Trump’s tweet does not formally change U.S. policy. There are two main avenues to formalize the declaration:
There are two main avenues for changing the official U.S. position on the status of the Golan Heights. One way is through legislation in Congress, which indeed already exists and could be sped up now as a result of Trump’s tweet. The second way could be through a presidential decision, such as the one Trump made when he decided to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
While his tweet isn’t an official declaration, it increases the likelihood that such a decision will be issued.
Already, the State Department took the surprise move last week to remove the phrase “occupied” when referring to Israeli sections of the Golan Heights in its 2018 human rights report. Instead, the Israeli Golan was referred to as “Israeli-controlled territory.”
The Golan Heights is strategic, mountainous territory that looks down on Israel’s main population centers. It was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state – in 1948 and again during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel captured the Israeli sections of the Golan Heights from Syria as a result of the Six-Dar War and Israel annexed the territory in 1981.
Israel has maintained the territory longer than the brief 19 years that it was under Syrian control from 1948 to 1967. Before that, the Golan was controlled by the French and British mandates and by Turkey.
After the modern state of Israel was founded in 1948, tens of thousands of acres of land in the Golan Heights was seized from Jewish associations which had purchased the land in the late 19th century.
The Golan Heights is steeped in Jewish history.
This reporter previously gave an account of the Jewish historic and biblical connections to the Golan Heights:
The book of Joshua relates how the Golan was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh. Later, during the time of the First Temple, King Solomon appointed three ministers in the region, and the area became contested between the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus. The book of Kings relates how King Ahab of Israel defeated Ben-Hadad I of Damascus near the present-day site of Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan, and the prophet Elisha foretold that King Jehoash of Israel would defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik.
The online Jewish Virtual Library has an account of how in the late 6th and 5th centuries B.C., the Golan was settled by Jewish exiles returning from Babylonia, or modern day Iraq. In the mid-2nd century B.C., Judah Maccabee’s grandnephew, the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannai, added the Golan Heights to his kingdom.
The Golan hosted some of the most important houses of Torah study in the years following the Second Temple’s destruction and subsequent Jewish exile; some of Judaism’s most revered ancient rabbis are buried in the territory. The remains of some 25 synagogues from the period between the Jewish revolt and the Islamic conquest in 636 have been excavated. The Golan is also dotted with ancient Jewish villages.
In recent years, Syria has been destabilized by the years-long civil war there and Iran managed to gain a significant foothold in the country.
Trump’s declaration comes as Jews worldwide celebrate the holiday of Purim, which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of biblical Haman under the ancient Persian Empire.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.