US president thanks Israel in tweet for 'great honor'

Netanyahu inaugurates new Golan community honoring Trump

PM leads cabinet meeting at site of ‘Trump Heights,’ says US president who recognized Israel’s control over strategic plateau is a ‘very great friend’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech before the newly-unveiled sign for the new settlement of 'Ramat Trump', or 'Trump Heights' in English, named after the incumbent US President during an official ceremony in the Golan Heights on June 16, 2019. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech before the newly-unveiled sign for the new settlement of 'Ramat Trump', or 'Trump Heights' in English, named after the incumbent US President during an official ceremony in the Golan Heights on June 16, 2019. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

The Trump name graces apartment towers, hotels and golf courses. Now it is the namesake of a tiny Jewish community on the Golan Heights.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet convened in this hamlet on Sunday to formally approve and announce the inauguration of a new community named after US President Donald Trump.

The move came just over two months after the US leader recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed, in a move not recognized by the wider international community. In 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy to the city in another move that broke ranks with the global community.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and officials from the Golan Regional Council also attended the ceremony unveiling the new community of “Ramat Trump,” to be known in English as “Trump Heights.”

Israel hopes the community, first built under a different name in the 1980s, will attract a wave of people to what is currently little more than an isolated outpost with just 10 residents.

Speaking at the ceremony to unveil a large sign bearing the community’s name in Hebrew and English, Netanyahu told the gathered dignitaries that “it is a milestone in the history of Golan.”

“President Trump is a very great friend of the country, a friend who did things for the country there were not done in the past and should have been done in the name of justice and truth.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech before the newly-unveiled sign for the new community of ‘Ramat Trump’, or ‘Trump Heights’ in English, named after the incumbent US president, during an official ceremony, June 16, 2019. (Jalaa MAREY/AFP)

“The Golan will always be an inseparable part of Israel,” he continued.

He also referred to Israel’s fears over Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in neighboring Syria, whose regime it is helping end a bloody civil war that has continued for over seven years.

“We will constantly work against Iran and its proxy Hezbollah to establish themselves militarily in Syria,” he said of the Lebanese terror group.

“We all know what is going on over the past decade beyond the border here,” Netanyahu said. “If we were not here, Iranian militias would be here. We will never allow that to happen.”

Israel has, over the past few years, carried out dozens of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) look on during the unveiling of the sign for the new community of ‘Ramat Trump,’ or ‘Trump Heights’ in English, named after the US president, during an official ceremony on the Golan Heights, Israel, June 16, 2019. (Jalaa MAREY/AFP)

Netanyahu urged the international community to support the US in its stand against Iranian aggression in the region. Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated after Trump pulled last year pulled out of a nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, as well as a recent spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, which Washington blames on Iran.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump thanked Netanyahu and Israel for the “great honor.”

US Ambassador Friedman noted in his remarks that the last community in Israel named after a serving US president was Kfar Truman, in 1949, to honor US president Harry Truman.

“I want to thank you for the extraordinary gesture that you and the State of Israel are making to the president of the United States,” Friedman said. “It is well deserved, but it is much appreciated, and we look forward to work[ing] with you and with the government of Israel to continue to strengthen the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel.”

“Anyone who has visited the Golan Heights… immediately realizes it is incredible important territory to the State of Israel. Few things are more important to the security of Israel than sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he added.

In April, Netanyahu said Israel would name a town in the Golan Heights after Trump in honor of the US president’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the northern territory.

Trump signed a proclamation on March 25 recognizing Israel’s hold on the plateau when Netanyahu visited the White House, in a move seen by some as timed to help the Israeli premier in his reelection bid.

US President Donald Trump smiles at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, after signing a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Susan Walsh)

An opposition lawmaker earlier on Sunday accused the interim government of using the ceremony as a PR stunt.

“Anyone who reads the fine print in this ‘historic’ decision will understand that this is nothing more than a nonbinding, fake policy,” Blue and White MK Zvi Hauser said. “There is no budgeting, no planning, no location for a settlement, and there is no binding decision to implement the project. But at least they insisted on a name for the settlement.”

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