The Mideast Side

23 Mar 19
The Night Watchman

Evangelicals and Muslims see similarities in faiths and favor closer ties, survey says March 20, 2019. RNS. (RNS) — As a growing number of evangelical Christian leaders are working to improve Christian-Muslim relations, a new online study finds that more than 3 in 4 U.S. evangelicals say they never or infrequently interact with Muslims. The national […]

22 Mar 19
WGEH

By ZEINA KARAM and ISABEL DEBREAssociated Press BEIRUT (AP) – President Donald Trump's move to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights turns the tables on decades of U.S. diplomacy and international law and threatens to further inflame regional tensions. It is unlikely, though, to have much impact on the actual status of the […]

22 Mar 19
National Post

BEIRUT — President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights turns the tables on decades of U.S. diplomacy and international law and threatens to further inflame regional tensions. It is unlikely, though, to have much impact on the actual status of the territory, where Israel acts with full military control […]

22 Mar 19
Maga One News

President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights turns the tables on decades of U.S. diplomacy and international law and threatens to further inflame regional tensions.

It is unlikely, though, to have much impact on the actual status of the territory, where Israel acts with full military control despite the lack of international recognition for its annexation 38 years ago.

A look at the Golan Heights:

___

WHAT IS ITS POLITICAL AND STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE?

The Golan Heights is a strategic high ground at the southwestern corner of Syria with stunning, broad views of both Israel and Syria below. It is roughly about 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) and borders the Sea of Galilee. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it in 1981, a move that was never recognized by any country in the world.

U.N. Security Council resolution 497, issued after the annexation, refers to Israel’s action as "null and void and without international legal effect."

For then-Syrian President Hafez Assad, the father of current leader Bashar Assad, the loss of the Golan Heights left a gaping wound, and he held various rounds of talks with the Israelis aimed at recovering the territory. The two sides appeared close to a deal in 2000, but disagreement over its fate ultimately foiled the talks.

For Bashar Assad, recovering the territory has been more of a rallying cry than a genuine concern. The civil war in Syria over the past eight years has been the priority and the areas adjacent to the Golan nearly fell to the rebels at one point .

Having recovered those areas with Russia’s help, Assad and his allies will likely seize on Trump’s move to renew its claims to the Golan. The Syrian government said in a statement Friday it is now more intent on liberating the Golan, "using every possible means."

WHO LIVES THERE?

The Golan front has been mostly quiet since 1974, a year after Hafez Assad mounted a failed attempt to retake the plateau. The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, known as UNDOF, was established to monitor the cease-fire in May 1974 by a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Israel has built dozens of settlements in the Golan over the years, with an estimated 26,000 Jewish settlers living there as of 2019. Roughly the same number of Arabs live there, most of them members of the Druze sect of Shiite Islam.

Settlers have built wineries, boutique hotels and a ski resort, transforming the picturesque area into a popular region for Israel’s domestic tourism. The Sea of Galilee is also Israel’s main reservoir.

In contrast to the Palestinian territories captured in 1967, the Golan has remained quiet under Israeli rule. While most of the Golan’s Druze have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship, they hold Israeli residency status that gives them the right to travel and work freely. Residents speak Hebrew.

Still, the community largely sees itself as inextricably linked to Syria. Many of the families living in the occupied Golan are separated from family in Syria. In past years, particularly before digital technology, they communicated with their brethren on the Syrian side through megaphones placed on two opposite sides of a valley named the "valley of tears." Before the war, brides would often cross at the border pass of Quneitra.

WILL TRUMP’S DECISION HAVE AN IMPACT?

Trump’s decision won’t change the status of the Golan as occupied territory in the eyes of the U.N. and most of the international community, although it may not be easy for a successor to reverse a decision once it has been made.

Michael J. Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum in Washington, said Trump’s move may even signal to Israeli politicians that they can argue for the annexation of the West Bank.

It could embolden other leaders who have seized territory in violation of international norms, such as Russia’s action in 2014, when it seized Crimea from Ukraine .

"This has a huge impact in terms of condoning occupation and has very negative implications if you’re looking for peace in the Middle East," said Nikolaos Van Dam, an expert on Syrian War and former special envoy of the Netherlands to Syria.

WHAT ABOUT ARAB REACTION?

Trump’s decision could be, in a way, a boost for Assad as well as Iran, Hezbollah and the so-called axis of resistance, allowing them to change the conversation and switch focus from the Syrian civil war to Israel’s occupation of the Golan.

The Arab world is divided, and U.S. and Israeli officials may be betting no one will go to battle for Assad at this point.

Still, Arab occupied land remains a sensitive topic, even though Gulf countries may be more interested right now in partnering with Israel against Iran than in upholding notions of Arab nationalism. Even regional states opposed to Assad, while they may secretly rejoice at Trump’s decision, will find it difficult to support it publicly.

The head of the Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 over his handling of the civil war, rejected Trump’s move and said the League fully supports Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

___

DeBre reported from Jerusalem.

Source: Fox News World

22 Mar 19
Middle East Affairs

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday it was time to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in 1967, marking a dramatic shift in U.S. policy and giving a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. The disputed area was captured by […]

22 Mar 19
Lowmiller Consulting Group Blog

Horrifying footage shows ferry packed with Iraqi revellers capsizing, killing 94, as president rushes to Mosul ahead of three days of mourning WARNING DISTRESSING CONTENT: The ferry, carrying around 100 people, sank in the Tigris river in Iraq on Thursday after a suspected technical fault 94 people died in the accident and there were not enough rescue […]

22 Mar 19
Stabroek News

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said yesterday it was time to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in 1967, marking a dramatic shift in U.S. policy and giving a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. The disputed area was […]

21 Mar 19
Russia News Now

President Trump has with a single bombshell tweet rattled an already tense and war-torn region by announcing “it is time” for the US to “fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty” over the Golan Heights.  “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical […]

21 Mar 19

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday it was time to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in 1967, marking a dramatic shift in U.S. policy and giving a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. The disputed area […]

21 Mar 19
Press Enterprise
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.
21 Mar 19
Orange County Register
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.
21 Mar 19
Whittier Daily News
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.
21 Mar 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.
21 Mar 19
Daily News
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.
21 Mar 19
Press Telegram
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s planned visit next week to the White House. The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” “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!” Trump tweeted. Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu’s delight. Trump’s announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo’s words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel’s April 9 ballot. Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat. Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel’s claim on the area. “You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem’s Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel’s control of the contested city. Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies. Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site. The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel. “I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel,” he said before making the trip. “It’s a place that’s important to many faiths and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be very special.” Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city’s most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church. Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said it did not determine the city’s final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said. While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned. “The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that,” Pompeo said. “It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.” In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,” he said. ___ Riechmann reported from Washington.