Netanyahu Thanks Trump for 'Standing by Israel' on Golan Heights

From left Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo center and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit the Western Wall tunnels synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday

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This story was last updated at 1:25 p.m.

Indeed, in Trump's tweet - which, it bears noting, does not in itself constitute a formal recognition; it's a declaration of intent at best - he cited the oft-made argument that the Golan "is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!"

Trump called the Golan - a strategic area seized from Syria and annexed in a move never recognised by the global community - "of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!"

"We are at the beginning of a historic moment for the State of Israel", he said in a statement.

Israel occupies roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights as a de facto result of the conflict.

"The territorial integrity of states is the most fundamental principle of worldwide law", said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a tweet.

Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, there was an uneasy stand-off between Israeli and Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

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"There is no construct I can imagine now or any time in the future for the state of Israel to give the Golan up", Graham said, according to Reuters. That force's mandate expires at the end of June.

The move comes just a week after the State Department changed references in its annual human rights report from being "Israeli-occupied" to "Israeli-controlled territory", a move that signaled the change. Trump tweeted early Thursday afternoon. However, in comments to reporters ahead of a Purim dinner with Netanyahu and his wife at their Jerusalem home, Pompeo hailed the shift. Palestinian leaders, who broke off contact with Washington after the recognition of Jerusalem by Trump, say they expect the plan to be blatantly biased in favour of Israel.

Kuwait's foreign minister said that a long-awaited United States peace proposal for the Middle East should be acceptable to all stakeholders and factor in regional considerations.

It is "further evidence that the Trump administration is willing to ignore global law in order to satisfy Israeli demands, including Security Council resolutions supported by past administrations", the diplomat told CNN.

Donald Trump has delivered a boost to Binyamin Netanyahu's prospects in a looming election by recognising Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. Netanyahu and Pompeo slipped a note in one of the cracks, a longstanding tradition.

Fresh off the Trump Administration unconditionally recognizing the 1981 Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to see the U.S. curb its intelligence and military ties with Israel because the country is trading too much with China.

The move is the latest sudden shift in USA policy towards Israel from Trump - shifts that seem aimed at pleasing his own base and shoring up Netanyahu. "The president has given a pretty clear statement on his intent". But no doubt, as with every other major foreign policy initiative undertaken by Trump, especially those seen as supportive of Israel, the hysteria will be swift and vicious.

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"It's clear that this cynical move by Trump is not about the long-term interests of the USA or Israel, but rather about handing yet another political gift to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hopes of boosting his chances for re-election next month", Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street writes. But now he did something of equal historical importance: "he recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights", he said. Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war.

"I'm looking forward to going to the wall with the PM", he said. "It wouldn't be appropriate for the US secretary of state to comment on Israeli domestic politics".

He was also taken to the Western Wall tunnels and Wilson's Arch.

Pompeo is also pushing for a greater role for the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a US-sponsored Arab NATO aimed at uniting Washington's Arab allies against Tehran.

Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "This recognition is long overdue, and President Trump is the first president to finally take action". The Palestinians have already rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration.

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