President Donald Trump has abruptly declared the U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, a major shift in American policy that gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political boost a month before what is expected to be a close election.
The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, for some time. Netanyahu had pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just a day earlier.
U.S. and Israeli officials said Wednesday they had not expected a decision until next week, when Netanyahu is to visit the U.S.
But in a tweet that appeared to catch many by surprise, Trump said the time had come.
Israel's prime minister has praised President Donald Trump's recognition of its control over the Golan Heights as a holiday "miracle."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Trump's declaration is of "equal historical importance" to his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his withdrawal from the international nuclear deal with Iran.
The announcement came as Israel was celebrating the holiday of Purim, which marks the Jewish victory over a Persian tyrant. Netanyahu noted that modern Iran is trying to use Syria as a "platform" against Israel and called Trump's announcement a new "miracle of Purim."
At a press conference Thursday with the visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu said: "The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel."
Israel's leader has thanked President Donald Trump for "boldly" recognizing Israel's control over the Golan Heights.
Israel captured the Golan, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in 1981.
The international community considers the Golan to be occupied territory, and Syria has demanded its return as a condition for any future peace agreement.
After an eight-year civil war, peace talks with Israel are unlikely anytime soon. Throughout the war, Israel has carried out scores of airstrikes in Syria to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence there.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: "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." He added: "Thank you President Trump!"
President Donald Trump says that it's time to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
In a tweet Thursday, Trump said that after 52 years, it's important for the United States for fully recognize Israel's control over what he says is an area of "critical strategic and security importance to Israel" and stability in the region.
Trump's tweet came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jerusalem. Reporters asked Pompeo about the issue, but he declined to answer.
The Israeli prime minister has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. He has used the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel's claim on the area.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to make an unprecedented visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the highest-level American official to tour the holy site with Israel's leader.
Pompeo says he thinks it's important and symbolic to visit the wall with the Israeli leader Thursday as a show of U.S. support for Israel.
Senior U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall in the past but never with an Israeli leader.
Since Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967, U.S. officials have avoided appearances at the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israel's control over the city's most sensitive holy sites. But that policy has been upended by the Trump administration.
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