By HERB KEINON – Jerusalem Post – 06/16/2019
“Thank you [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!” US President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday in response to the inauguration of a new town on the Golan named after the president.
A great day on the Golan. PM Netanyahu and I had the honor to dedicate “Trump Heights” — first time Israel has dedicated a village in honor of a sitting president since Harry Truman (1949). Happy Birthday Mr. President!! @POTUS
His comment came above a previous Friedman tweet he embedded that read: “A great day on the Golan,” and “Happy Birthday Mr. President!!”
Less than three months after Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the cabinet on Sunday started the bureaucratic ball moving toward establishing a new community on the Golan Heights called Ramat Trump (Trump Heights).
Netanyahu, who pushed to name a settlement in the area after Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, as well as moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and his strong support for Israel, unveiled the sign “Ramat Trump” on a plot of synthetic grass near the existing community of Kela.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to establish a new community, and also to honor a big friend,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the cabinet meeting. In addition to recognizing Israeli sovereign of the Golan and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Netanyahu also mentioned as reason for appreciation Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. This, as well as Trump’s stringing up to Iranian aggression in the region, including during recent events in the Persian Gulf.
Netanyahu, along with US Ambassador David Friedman, unveiled the sign at the site of the future community.
“This is a festive moment that will be remembered for generations as a milestone in the history of the Golan Heights,” he said at the ceremony. “Many years have passed since a new settlement was established in the Golan Heights. Today it is happening: We are making an important step toward the rise of Ramat Trump. It will proudly carry the name of a very great friend of the State of Israel, and I am also very proud to say a great friend of mine – President Donald Trump.”
If Israel were not on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu said, “Iran’s fanatic militias” would be there. “We will continue to act against the attempts of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah to establish itself across the border and in Syria in general. We will not extend our necks to the slaughter of those who want to kill us,” he said. “The exact opposite [is true] time after time we take the knife out of their hands.
“My friends, President Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan is the result of a sober
understanding that this is an irreversible reality,” he continued. “President Trump repeatedly demonstrates his firm commitment to our security and our future, standing firm against the Iranian threat, the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and the transfer of the American Ambassador to Jerusalem. For 52 years, world leaders have refused to recognize this simple historical and political fact – the Golan must remain in the hands of Israel as part of the State of Israel. Until President Trump came and said the obvious, and I quoted Menachem Begin first when his government accepted the Golan Law in 1981: ‘Even the obvious must say it twice.’”
Freidman, who was present at the meeting and the naming ceremony, thanked Netanyahu for the “extraordinary gesture that you and the State of Israel are making to the president of the United States.”
“It is well deserved, but it is much appreciated,” he said. Friedman said that the US-Israel relationship was a “dynamic” one that was “critical for both countries.”
He pointed out that it is very rare anywhere in the world for a country to name a community after a sitting US president, and that the only time this was done in Israel in the past was Kfar Truman, a moshav near Ben-Gurion Airport, named after US President Harry Truman in 1949.
Friedman said that Trump would be honored “to be in that small category of heroes in Israel – Harry Truman and Donald Trump. I think they belong together and I think they will always be known as the two greatest presidents for the State of Israel.”
Trump, Friedman said, celebrated his birthday two days ago, and “I can’t think of a more appropriate and a more beautiful birthday present to present to him than Ramat Trump, Trump Heights.”
The US ambassador said there are few things more important to Israel’s security than the Golan Heights, and that it took a unique combination of “wisdom, insight, common sense and of courage” on the part of Trump to finally recognize – after 52 years – Israel’s sovereignty in perpetuity over the Golan Heights.
The resolution passed on Sunday calls on the Construction Ministry to initiate professional staff work regarding the new settlement that will be presented to the national planning commission. It also mandates the Finance Ministry to give its economic perspective on the new settlement within 30 days to the national planning commission.
Yael Cohen, the deputy legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, said material circulated to the minister that the actual decision to establish the new community will need to be taken by the next government, and that this decision was to start the process moving toward its establishment.
Because no final decision on the establishment of the new community was made, nor any budget set aside for it, MK Zvi Hauser, of the Blue and White Party who served as cabinet secretary under Netanyahu, called the measure “Israbluff.”
“Whoever reads the fine print in this ‘historical decision’ will understand that it is nothing more than a fictitious and non-obligatory resolution (fake policy),” Hauser said. “There is no budget, there is no plan, there is no location for the settlement and there isn’t really any binding decision to execute the project.”
Netanyahu, Hauser said, “must decide if he really wants to establish a new settlement and deepen our roots in the Golan Heights or whether he is content with creating virtual reality for the purposes of a photo opportunity. After 52 years in the area, there are only 25,000 Israelis in the Golan and the population growth rate is negligible. This is not how a government wants to settle the Golan.”
In April, two weeks after the elections, Netanyahu toured the Golan and said a community in the Golan should be named after the US president.
The community, to be a mixed secular-religious settlement which in its first stage is expected to number some 120 families, will be set up in the northern Golan at Beruchim, where plans for a previous settlement were approved in 1991, and where there have been unsuccessful efforts over the years to establish a community. Beruchim is near the existing community of Kela Alon.
Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights came in late March, some two weeks before the April 9 elections. Israel captured the region during the 1967 Six Day War, and 38 years later annexed the region.
According to explanatory material distributed to the ministers ahead of the cabinet meeting, the United States has through the years been Israel’s greatest friend in the international arena.
“During the tenure of President Trump, American support for Israel has even been significantly strengthened,” the explanation read. “This is manifest in a series of decisions taken by the US administration that strengthens the State of Israel in many ways and solidifies its position in the international arena and in other areas.”
According to this statement, Washington’s support for Israel’s security has increased significantly under Trump, as evidenced by the US standing firmly beside Israel in regard to the Iranian nuclear threat.
The Golan move, the resolution said, is a “significant and historic act that is expected to influence other countries.”
According to the explanation, “There is importance in advancing this decision at this time to strengthen the political ties between the State of Israel and the United States.”
Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.