Netanyahu, Pompeo vow to counter Iranian 'aggression'

Netanyahu, Pompeo vow to counter Iranian 'aggression'

Netanyahu, Pompeo vow to counter Iranian 'aggression'

The president's tweet represents a departure from US policy, which has for years referred to the territory seized by Israel from Syria over 50 years ago as the "Israeli-occupied Golan Heights". Syria unsuccessfully tried to retake the territory in 1973.

The announcement was met with praise by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, for some time and Netanyahu had pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just a day earlier. "It's very rare for a secretary of state to come visit an Israeli prime minister without any apparent diplomatic reason justifying it, without a peace process, without any regional agenda".

And Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt hailed "another bold, courageous, and historic decision by @POTUS who understands Israel and its security needs".

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed the territory, a move not recognized by the us or the worldwide community.

Netanyahu's spokesman tweeted out this picture of a phone call with President Trump.

Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, quickly tweeted his gratitude.

Netanyahu, who faces an election in Israel on April 9, has been pressing for the United States to recognize its claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights. "You made history", Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

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Netanyahu is battling for his political survival against both a strong challenger in centrist candidate Benny Gantz and against plans by Israel's attorney-general to indict the prime minister, now in his fourth term, in three corruption cases.

USA diplomats and White House aides had believed the Golan Heights issue would be front and center at next week's meetings between Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. Last week, the State Department dropped a reference to the Golan being under Israeli occupation. Trump declared his break with that policy in a tweet. Thank you, President Trump. 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.

Like the Trump administration's decision to move the United States embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this will be seen as another demonstration of its unreserved support for Israel, and for Mr Netanyahu in particular.

In a press conference with Pompeo, Netanyahu accused Iran of trying to set a terrorist network to target Israel in the Golan Heights.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat panned the Golan announcement and said USA policy would bring "bloodshed in our region".

"We are deeply grateful for the USA support". He said Washington's "attempts to legitimize Israel's illegal acts will only lead to more violence in the region".

Compared to other regions occupied by Israel that may have primarily strategic or cultural significance, the conflict over the Golan is heavily driven by resources.

Previous US administrations have treated Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, in line with United Nations security council resolutions.

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