JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his first steps Sunday to express his gratitude to President Trump, unveiling, at a specially convened cabinet meeting, a plaque marking the spot where Israel’s newest town — Trump Heights — will sit.
The new community is located on the occupied Golan Heights, which — in a highly controversial move that upended decades of U.S. foreign policy — Trump recognized as being part of sovereign Israel last March.
The establishment of Trump Heights — Ramat Trump in Hebrew — is another sign of the flourishing political relationship between the Israeli and American leaders, whose political rhetoric and actions often appear to mirror each other as they lavish mutual praise.
The Golan Heights, a lush plateau between Israel and Syria, was captured by Israeli forces during the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, which began when Israel launched a preemptive strike after neighboring Arab countries mobilized forces at the borders. The area was formally annexed by Israel in 1981, a move not recognized by the United Nations or much of the international community.
Israel argues that handing back the territory, used by Syria as a shelling position, would allow a strategic threat. Just over half the population are Arabic-speaking Druze, living alongside the Israelis who have settled there since 1967.
“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s meeting. “We are going to do two things: Establish a new community on the Golan Heights, something that has not been done for many years. This is an act of Zionism, and it is paramount.
“The second thing is to honor our friend, a very great friend of the state of Israel — President Donald Trump, who recently recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
At Sunday’s ceremony, which was also attended by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, a gold-rimmed plaque displaying the name of the new community in Hebrew and English was unveiled.
Friedman, a staunch supporter of Israel, called the creation of a community in Trump’s honor “an extraordinary gesture.”
On March 25, while Netanyahu was visiting the White House ahead of the April election, Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s hold on the plateau. Some saw the move as timed to help the long-serving Israeli leader in his reelection bid.
After his apparent election victory, Netanyahu declared he would establish a new town named for the president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said in a video. “I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights, named after President Donald J. Trump.”
Trump tweeted his thanks Sunday to Netanyahu and to Israel.
Loveday Morris contributed to this story.