Israel Officially Renames Golan Heights Settlement After President Donald Trump

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a special ceremony on Sunday to officially rename a settlement in the disputed Golan Heights after President Donald Trump.

Trump announced in March that he would officially recognize the Golan Heights, which are historically claimed by Syria, as Israeli territory. Following the decision, Netanyahu suggested that Israel would name a settlement in the region after the U.S. president.

"This is a festive moment that will be remembered for generations as a milestone in the history of the Golan Heights," Netanyahu said Sunday at a ceremony, attended by Trump's ambassador to Israel David Friedman, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!🇺🇸🇮🇱

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

"Many years have passed since a new settlement was established in the Golan Heights," Netanyahu said. "Today it is happening: We are making an important step toward the rise of Ramat Trump [or Trump Heights in Hebrew]. It will proudly carry the name of a very great friend of the State of Israel, and I am also very proud to say a great friend of mine – President Donald Trump."

The settlement was previously named Bruchim and was established 30 years ago, according to Politico. It currently has a population of only 10 people, but Netanyahu suggested that Israel hopes the community will expand rapidly moving forward.

"Few things are more important to the security of the state of Israel than permanent sovereignty over the Golan Heights," Friedman said at the Sunday ceremony. "It is simply obvious, it is indisputable and beyond any reasonable debate."

Trump tweeted his personal thanks to Netanyahu and Israel, writing: "Thank you PM @netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!" He made the comment with a retweet of Friedman's post about the naming ceremony. In that post, the ambassador pointed out that this was the first time Israel had named a settlement after a sitting U.S. president since Harry Truman in 1949. Modern-day Israel was officially founded in 1948.

Toward the end of March, Trump tweeted: "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!"

Ramat Trump in Golan Heights
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman applaud after unveiling the place-name sign for the settlement of Ramat Trump, or Trump Heights in English, during an official ceremony in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 16 AFP/JALAA MAREY

The move was criticized by many in both the U.S. and the international community. Israel first captured and took control of the strategic Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War. A few years later, in 1973, Syria attempted to reclaim the land in a surprise attack during the Yom Kippur War. But Israel repelled that attack and formally annexed the territory in 1981, although the international community has never recognized the annexation.

Harshly criticizing Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territory, Syria's permanent representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari suggested the U.S. should give its own territory to Israel at the end of March.

"The Syrian Arab Golan is ours and will return to us," al-Jaafari asserted. "America is a wide and vast country, so why doesn't it give up a state or two of the United States to the Israelis?" he asked at the time.

Trump has been staunchly supportive of Netanyahu, with analysts suggesting he timed the announcement of the Golan Heights recognition to boost Netanyahu in Israeli elections. The president also disregarded decades of U.S. policy and formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. He relocated the U.S. embassy to the historic city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as their capital, last year.