On Thursday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that "after 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights," calling the area important to regional stability.
Within minutes, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his thanks to Trump for "boldly" recognizing "Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
Netanyahu, speaking of Trump while later delivering remarks alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said, "He did it again." The prime minister was all smiles as he listed Trump's decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and finally his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which he called "the miracle of Purim."
Israeli claims and a UN rebuff
Israel took control over the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights, which was previously part of Syria, during the Six-Day War in 1967. The eastern portion of Golan remained under the control of the Syrian Arab Republic.
The western section of the Golan remained occupied by the Israeli army from 1967 until December 14, 1981, when the Israeli government passed the Golan Heights Law, essentially annexing the area.
Despite the fact that Israeli settlements had been built in the area, the move was roundly condemned in the United Nations Security Council when it passed UN Resolution 497 on December 17, 1981, declaring the annexation "null and void and without international legal effect."
The United States is the only country that has signaled a willingness to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Policies designed to help a friend
Trump's tweet comes as Netanyahu is engaged in a fierce battle for re-election. The Trump administration has put its support for Netanyahu, who is also under investigation on corruption charges, on full display in the run-up to the April 9 vote.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for instance, became the highest-ranking US official to ever visit the Western Wall with an Israeli Prime Minister on Thursday, shortly before the Trump tweet was uploaded.
Speaking of the visit to yet another site of contested control, Pompeo said, "I think it's symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel."
Pushing the boundaries
Previously, Trump caused international outrage by unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017. Last May, he also ordered the US Embassy in Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The move was contentious as Palestinians hoping to gain recognition in a two-state solution see East Jerusalem, where the wall is located, as theirs.
Netanyahu will also travel to Washington DC, to meet with Trump on Monday.
The Trump Administration is expected to release its much-awaited Middle East peace plan, designed by senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, after the April 9 vote.
js/msh (AP, dpa)