Trump signs declaration reversing U.S. policy on Golan Heights

During a White House visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump signed a proclamation officially granting United States recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, in a dramatic shift from decades of U.S. policy.

Mr. Trump signed proclamation recognizing Israeli's sovereignty over Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu said: "My dear friend Donald, you have demonstrated consistent and extraordinary support for Israel, in our right to defend ourselves".

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move never recognized by the global community.

Trump had previewed the move in a tweet last week, in which he said the USA would take the step after 52 years of Israeli occupation of the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.

Russia on Monday warned of a "new wave" of tensions in the Middle East after the decision by Washington to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, which are claimed by Russian ally Syria.

Syria and other states in the region condemned Trump's pledge, saying it violates global law.

With Israel's election just two weeks away, Benjamin Netanyahu will get to showcase his close ties with Donald Trump in a USA visit just days after the president backed Israel's hold over the occupied Golan Heights.

A protester burns an Israeli flag during a rally to condemn Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, outside the USA embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 15, 2017.

Formal annexation of the Golan Heights will only make Israel's position weaker, which neither Trump nor Netanyahu care about in the short-term.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was "clear that the status of Golan has not changed", UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.

There has been talk in recent weeks about similarities in style between Trump and Netanyahu - although there are key differences.

"We will never allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights", he said.

Crucially to Israel, the Golan Heights is one of only three sources of freshwater feeding the arid Jewish state.

The Tánaiste has said that Ireland regards the Golan Heights as Syrian territory under Israeli occupation. About 20,000 Israelis and 20,000 Syrians live in the territory, whose 1981 annexation by Israel was not recognized internationally.

Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service said it treated seven people in the Israeli village, including an infant, a 3-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl and a 60-year-old woman who was suffering from blast injuries, burns and shrapnel wounds.

"Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under global law".

Robert Danin, a former senior State Department official and senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center, also decried the decision. The foreign ministry said Trump's step represented the "highest level of contempt for worldwide legitimacy" and showed that Washington was "the main enemy" of Arabs.

Israel's prime minister arrived in Washington on Sunday, originally for a four-day trip.

  • Tracy Klein