Standing under an oversized sign for a village his temporary government has no authority to build, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu took his friendship with Donald Trump to a new level by inaugurating Trump Heights in the Golan.
“It is a historic day,” said Israel’s prime minister, standing next to US ambassador David Friedman.
“Many years have passed since a new settlement was established in the Golan Heights. Today it is happening: We are making an important step toward the rise of Trump Heights. 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.”
Netanyahu spoke of the name as a symbol of gratitude for the White House decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Golan as a part of Israel, while Friedman spoke of the settlement as a “beautiful birthday present” to Trump, who turned 73 on Friday.
Trump later tweeted his gratitude.
Despite, a “festive cabinet meeting” to approve the construction of the settlement on the Syrian border, as the head of the interim government who failed to form a ruling coalition after April’s election, Netanyahu has no power to authorize construction. At the earliest, Trump Heights could begin to exist as more than a sign if and when his bloc wins the new election in September.
His chief opponents for the upcoming vote criticized the ceremony as a cheap pre-election stunt, exploiting Trump’s name (and perhaps taking attention away from his wife Sara’s court verdict on the same afternoon).
“Whoever reads the fine print in this ‘historic decision’ will understand that it is nothing more than a fictitious and non-obligatory resolution – a fake policy,” said Zvi Hauser of the center-left Blue and White party. “There is no budget, there is no plan, there is no location for the settlement and there isn’t really any binding decision to execute the project.”
The settlement currently exists only as a sign. Only 25,000 Israelis have chosen to settle in the Golan Heights since 1967. © Reuters / Ammar Awad
Those outside the country were likely more concerned about Israel’s unwillingness to consider the return of the region,