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Interior minister forms committee to move ahead with establishing Trump Heights

Decision enables construction projects to form new 276-acre community on Golan Heights, named for former US president

A construction truck enters Trump Heights on September 21, 2020 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
A construction truck enters Trump Heights on September 21, 2020 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday signed off on a key step toward establishing the new community of Trump Heights, named for the former US president.

Accepting the recommendation of her ministry’s director-general and the Upper Galilee planning committee, Shaked approved the setting up of a committee that will act as a municipal authority for the new settlement on the Golan Heights.

Among other things, the committee will lay down the territorial boundaries of Trump Heights, which is set to cover an area of 276 acres.

The move enables advancing construction projects for residential and public buildings, industrial areas, and roads.

Shaked approved a similar committee for Givot Eden, another new community.

The minister posted an image of herself signing the documentation.

“The approval of the local committees in Trump Heights and Givot Eden is another step toward the completion of the establishment of the towns and their launch, while implementing the goals of strengthening the population, and constructing residential buildings and public institutions,” Shaked said in a statement.

Interior Ministry Director-General Yair Hirsch noted that the developments are part of the government’s plan to boost the population of the Golan Heights.

Last week Haaretz reported that the government had begun setting up a special planning committee with broad authority to advance construction projects on the strategic plateau. The plans call for two new communities, Assif and Matar.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in 1981, a move not recognized by most of the international community.

But former US president Donald Trump signed an executive order recognizing the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory in March 2019. In a show of thanks, the government at the time, under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said it would set up Trump Heights.

Shaked’s approval came in the wake of revelations that Trump had lashed out at Netanyahu because the Israeli leader had congratulated US President Joe Biden on winning the election last year.

In comments released Friday, Trump said Netanyahu’s congratulatory message to Biden came too quickly after the announcement of the election results, which Trump continues to contest to this day.

“He was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him,” Trump said in an interview with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid.

Netanyahu was actually quite late in congratulating Biden in November of last year, conspicuously doing so hours after many other world leaders.

Trump spoke to Ravid in April and July for the Israeli reporter’s new Hebrew-language book, “Trump’s Peace,” about the normalization deals between Israel and Arab states, which were brokered with the help of the Trump administration.

In a statement responding to the revelations, Netanyahu thanked Trump for all that he had done for Israel but noted he had to congratulate Biden for the sake of the vital US-Israel relationship.

In October Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that the government plans to dramatically increase the number of people living on the Golan Heights. He also stressed that the Biden administration would continue to recognize the northern plateau as Israeli territory.

Israel has built dozens of towns and villages in the Golan over the years, with an estimated 26,000 Israelis living there as of 2019. A large community of Druze live there.

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