Israel unveils new Golan settlement named in honour of President Trump
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Israel unveils new Golan settlement named in honour of President Trump

Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates tiny hamlet in disputed territory as 'Trump Heights', at ceremony attended by dignitaries including David Friedman

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) and his wife Tammy (2-L) and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (2-R) during the unveiling of the sign of the new settlement that approved by the Israeli cabinet earlier today and will be called 'Trump Heights', during an official ceremony in Bruchim-Kela Alon Golan Heights, 16 June 2019. After a festive cabinet that held in Bruchim-Kela Alon , Netanyahu cabinet approved the building of a new settlement in the Golan Heights which is to be named after US President Trump over his unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel takeover the Golan Heights during the six days war between Israel and Syria in 1967, and annexed to Israel in 1981. Photo by: Ayal Margolin-JINIPIX
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) and his wife Tammy (2-L) and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (2-R) during the unveiling of the sign of the new settlement that approved by the Israeli cabinet earlier today and will be called 'Trump Heights', during an official ceremony in Bruchim-Kela Alon Golan Heights, 16 June 2019. After a festive cabinet that held in Bruchim-Kela Alon , Netanyahu cabinet approved the building of a new settlement in the Golan Heights which is to be named after US President Trump over his unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel takeover the Golan Heights during the six days war between Israel and Syria in 1967, and annexed to Israel in 1981. Photo by: Ayal Margolin-JINIPIX

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled a new settlement in the Israel-controlled Golan Heights, named after US President Donald Trump.

Mr Netanyahu’s Cabinet convened in the tiny hamlet to inaugurate the settlement, named after Mr Trump in a gesture of appreciation for the president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territory.

The settlement, currently known as Bruchim, is over 30-years-old and has a population of 10 people.

Israel is hoping the rebranded “Ramat Trump”, Hebrew for “Trump Heights”, will encourage residents to help expand it.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said US Ambassador David Friedman, who attended Sunday’s ceremony.

Noting that Mr Trump celebrated his birthday on Friday, he said: “I can’t think of a more appropriate and a more beautiful birthday present.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981.

Most of the international community considers the move illegal under international law.

But during a visit to Washington by Mr Netanyahu in March, just weeks before Israeli elections, Mr Trump signed an executive order recognising the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory.

The decision, the latest in a series of diplomatic moves benefiting Israel, was widely applauded in Israel.

“Few things are more important to the security of the state of Israel than permanent sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Mr Friedman said.

“It is simply obvious, it is indisputable and beyond any reasonable debate.”

After the Cabinet decision, Mr Netanyahu and Mr Friedman unveiled a sign trimmed in gold with the name “Trump Heights” and adorned with US and Israeli flags.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and the US ambassador Dived Friedman (L) , attending a special festive cabinet meeting at the Israeli settlement of Bruchim-Kela Alon, in the Golan Heights, 16 June 2019. The festive cabinet held in Bruchim-Kela Alon is expected to approve Netanyahu decision to build a new settlement in the Golan Heights which is to be named after US President Trump over his unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel takeover the Golan Heights during the six days war between Israel and Syria in 1967, and annexed to Israel in 1981. Photo by: Ayal Margolin-JINIPIX

Addressing the ceremony, Mr Netanyahu called Mr Trump a “great friend” of Israel and described the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel, as an important strategic asset.

“The Golan Heights was and will always be an inseparable part of our country and homeland,” he said.

Mr Trump later tweeted his approval, saying: “Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!”

While Israel has encouraged and promoted settlement in the Golan, its remote location, several hours from the economic centre of Tel Aviv, has been an obstacle. The area is home to small agriculture and tourism sectors but otherwise has little industry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an official ceremony of the unveiling of the sign of the new settlement that approved by the Israeli cabinet earlier today and will be called ‘Trump Heights’, during an official ceremony in Bruchim-Kela Alon Golan Heights, 16 June 2019. After a festive cabinet that held in Bruchim-Kela Alon , Netanyahu cabinet approved the building of a new settlement in the Golan Heights which is to be named after US President Trump over his unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel takeover the Golan Heights during the six days war between Israel and Syria in 1967, and annexed to Israel in 1981. Photo by: Ayal Margolin-JINIPIX

The eight-year Syrian civil war, which at times has resulted in spillover fire into the Golan, could also present an obstacle to encouraging new residents.

Rosa Zhernakov, a resident of Bruchim since 1991, said the community was excited by Sunday’s decision.

“We hope it will benefit the Golan Heights,” she said, standing outside her bungalow on one of Bruchim’s few streets.

She said the revitalisation of the settlement would mean “more security” for residents from any possible return of the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a future peace treaty.

Syria has demanded a return of the strategic territory, which overlooks northern Israel, as part of any peace deal.

After the devastating civil war in Syria, the prospects of peace talks with Israel anytime soon seem extremely low.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and the US ambassador Dived Friedman (L) , attending a special festive cabinet meeting at the Israeli settlement of Bruchim-Kela Alon, in the Golan Heights, 16 June 2019. The festive cabinet held in Bruchim-Kela Alon is expected to approve Netanyahu decision to build a new settlement in the Golan Heights which is to be named after US President Trump over his unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel takeover the Golan Heights during the six days war between Israel and Syria in 1967, and annexed to Israel in 1981. Photo by: Ayal Margolin-JINIPIX

Ramat Trump joins a handful of Israeli places named after American presidents, including a village for Harry S Truman, who first recognised the Jewish state, and George W Bush Plaza, a square the size of a modest living room in central Jerusalem.

Several bureaucratic obstacles will need to be overcome to develop the settlement. With Mr Netanyahu running for re-election in the second national election this year, it remains unclear whether he will be able to complete the task.

Zvi Hauser, an opposition lawmaker who formerly served as Mr Netanyahu’s Cabinet secretary, called Sunday’s ceremony a cheap PR stunt.

“There’s no funding, no planning, no location, and there’s no real binding decision,” he said.

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