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  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during their visit at Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during their visit at Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 March 2019

This announcement comes just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces curruption allegations during an electoral year.

In a new interventionist move, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that is time his country recognizes Israel's alleged "sovereignty" over the Golan Heights, a territory that was captured from Syria in 1967 but has never been internationally recognized.

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According to Trump, the plateau, which was annexed by Israel in 1981 despite international condemnation, "is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel."

Early last December, with 99 votes in favor, 10 against, and 66 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved the “Syrian Golan” resolution which called on Israel to relinquish its control over the mountainous region. The UNGA also urged the international community to refrain from supporting any unilateral measures or resolutions made by Israel in Jerusalem.

Trump's announcement comes at a moment when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a very close and fought general election, that will be held on April 9, as well as alleged corruption charges.

Minister Netanyahu took only 16 minutes to respond to Trump's statement of recognition.

In a tweet, he thanked his U.S. counterpart and close ally, writing, "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."

There hasn't been a response from Syria or Iran on this matter.

The Golan Heights like the West Bank and Gaza Strip- territories taken by Israel in the June 1967 Middle East war- is regarded internationally as occupied under a U.N. Security Council resolution passed later that year.

However, the 2018 "human rights report" released by the U.S. State Department in mid-March changed the usual official description of territories from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled,” serving as a subtle preview for Trump's Thursday decision.

In 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and ordered the embassy be moved to that city andaway from Tel Aviv. The international community, the majority of which has embassies in Tel Aviv, agree that the future of Jerusalem should be a part of the broader deal between Israel and Palestine. However, Netanyahu has said he will not give up any part of Jerusalem.

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