Reaction to Trump’s declaration on Golan

Hot Topic: President Trump took shocked the news cycle mid-afternoon Thursday with a Tweet expressing his support for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Swift reactions of support came in from Republican members of Congress, while Democrats stayed mostly silent.

In two tweets, the account for the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the prime minister had thanked President Trump for his decision to recognize the Golan Heights and “You made history.”

PM of Israel account: “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, @POTUS Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!”

MK Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid Chair and co-leader of the Kachol Lavan Party:“I thank President Trump for his intention to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. We started a campaign on this issue over a year ago and the entire leadership of Blue and White stood on the Golan Heights just a few weeks ago and called for international recognition. President Trump has proven once again that he’s a true friend of Israel. It’s time for the rest of the world to follow the lead of the United States and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who visited the Golan last week and called for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty, called President Trump’s announcement, in a series of tweets, “strategically wise and overall awesome.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad allows Iran and Hezbollah to operate with impunity in southern Syria and “would operate against Israel from there too. Israel needs that buffer to be permanent.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote: I applaud @realDonaldTrump for taking the long overdue step of recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. It’s an enormously important signal that we stand with our allies and against our enemies, and will be heard by both.”

Sen. Cruz further released a joint statement with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) praising Trump’s announcement. The three Republican members introduced in February a formal bill recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan heights and laying out policy for economic investment in the region.

“More work remains to be done to align American policy with today’s recognition,” the members wrote. “We look forward to advancing our bicameral legislation on the Golan Heights which acknowledges Israel’s sovereignty over its territory, streamlines Congressional language, and expands the basis for joint projects on the issue.”

Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer wrote on Twitter: “[sic] ]THANK YOU, PRESIDENT TRUMP! HAPPY PURIM!”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Jewish Insider he supports Israeli control of the Golan Heights but stopped short of fully backing President Trump’s Thursday declaration that “it is time” for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty.

“Israel has controlled the Golan Heights for over 50 years. The Syrian civil war and the resultant presence of extremists on Israel’s northern border, including Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and ISIS, underscores the importance of Israeli control of this strategic area,” the chairman said. “This is the reality of the situation, and there is no circumstance under which Israel should give that strategic advantage to the murderous Assad regime.” [Jewish Insider]

AIPAC responded on Twitter: “Given current political and security circumstances in Syria, we have said it was inconceivable to imagine Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. @realDonaldTrump’s statement marks a dramatic change in American policy, and we appreciate his leadership on this issue.”

Some not so agreeable reactions…

The Israel Policy Forum, a non-partisan organization supporting a two-state solution, welcomed President Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights but questioned the motivation and the timing, raising concerns of politicizing the move. “Coming so close to Israel’s elections, this appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to bolster Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election efforts rather than a move whose timing is dictated by pure policy considerations,” the organization wrote in a statement.

J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami echoed this statement, saying that the announcement is a “cynical move by Trump” and a “political gift” to Netanyahu. “Once again, this administration is playing dangerous partisan games with US foreign policy and the US-Israel relationship,” he said in a statement.

Americans for Peace Now further condemned the President for pushing for a policy shift, saying it opens the door for the Israeli government to call for annexing of the West Bank. “The US should not in any way help pave the way for annexing the West Bank,” the group said in a statement. “Annexation of the West Bank – whether all or part of it – could very well mean the death knell to the two-state solution and therefore to Israel’s future as a national homeland for the Jewish people and a liberal democracy.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.