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Israel launches 'Trump Heights' on Golan, but construction may lag

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a ceremony to unveil a sign for a new community named after US President Donald Trump, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights June 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
2019-06-17

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SULAIMANI – Israel approved in principle on Sunday a new community named after US President Donald Trump on a contested frontier zone with Syria - but construction looked likely to lag given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political stumbles.

The sign was decorated with the Israeli and US flags and planted on a patch of synthetic grass.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed and settled it - moves not accepted by most world powers, who deem it to be occupied Syrian territory.

Ongoing hostilities between Israel and Syria, and internal Syrian fighting that drew Iranian-backed auxiliaries to back Damascus and deploy near the Golan, helped Netanyahu make his case for Trump to recognize the Israeli claim of sovereignty.

Trump similarly delighted Israelis - while appalling other world powers - by recognizing Jerusalem as their capital and withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“Trump is a great friend of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

“He has torn the mask off this hypocrisy which doesn’t recognize the obvious.”

“Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!” Trump said on Twitter.

The hesitancy was in part due to the fact that Netanyahu heads a caretaker government, having failed to form a coalition after an inconclusive national election in April. The conservative four-term premier must now contest a Sept. 17 re-run vote.

Netanyahu’s center-left rivals ridiculed Sunday’s ceremony.

“Whoever reads the small print on the ‘historic’ resolution understands that it is a dummy-resolution,” tweeted Zvi Hauser, an ex-Netanyahu cabinet secretary now with an opposition party.

The political upheaval appears to have put a spanner in the works of a long-awaited US proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Trump advisers had predicted the plan would be made public this month, but officials now say that is unlikely to happen until after the September election.

(NRT Digital Media/ Reuters)