In a major policy shift, U.S. President Trump announced in a tweet Thursday that the United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the BBC reported .
“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 said in the tweet.
Israel captured most of the Golan Heights from Syria during the June 1967 Six Day War. While the Jewish State ceded a portion of the land as part of a separation of forces agreement with Syria following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel has retained roughly two-thirds of the Heights. The Syrian regime has consistently sought to regain sovereignty over the region.
Earlier this month, for the first time, the U.S. referred  to the Golan Heights as an area “under Israeli control,” instead of “occupied territory,” in its latest annual human rights report, published by the State Department.
The change in language came amid intensified efforts by Israel to win U.S. recognition of its claim of sovereignty over the mountainous plateau in the northeast of the country. Israel sees the Golan Heights as an important strategic asset in the defense of its northern borders. The territory forms a critical buffer zone of about 450 square miles between Israel and Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has warned about Iranian “entrenchment” in the Syria conflict, tweeted his thanks to Trump on Thursday. “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,” he wrote.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who sits on the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently visited  the Golan Heights with Netanyahu and vowed to “start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu later praised Graham in a statement to Israeli journalists, saying, “I was very happy to hear him say those words. I think this is a very important direction, and very, very promising to our national security.”
The shift in policy has gained increased bipartisan support in recent months. In January, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D – Md.) said , “Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights.”
Earlier, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, calling for the official recognition. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is also supporting  the move.
A month earlier, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced  a resolution that stated, “Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights is critical to Israel’s national security” and that “Israel’s security from attack from Syria and Lebanon cannot be assured without Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
[Photo: The White House / Wikimedia Commons]