Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020


Trump Heights: Israel approves plan for occupied Golan settlement named after US president

The government has approved plans to build a new settlement in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

The Israeli government has approved plans to build a new settlement in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights named after President Donald Trump, a minister confirmed on Sunday.

Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote on Facebook that her ministry will start preparations for Ramat Trump – Hebrew for “Trump Heights” – to house 300 families.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed it in 1981. Most of the international community considers the move, and Israeli settlements in the territory, illegal under international law.

But Mr Trump signed an executive order recognising the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory in March 2019. The move came during a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just weeks before Israeli elections.

The Israeli government’s approval of the plan, which according to Israeli media will involve earmarking 8 million shekels (Dh8.42m) for developing the town, advances a project announced by Mr Netanyahu last year with great pomp and fanfare. Sunday’s announcement coincided with Trump’s birthday, although it was unclear if it was connected.

Last June, Mr Netanyahu convened his Cabinet in the small hamlet of Qela for a vote on rebranding the community as a gesture of appreciation for the president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Mr Trump is "a very great friend of Israel who has taken a decision that has never before been taken", he said on unveiling the plan.

The small town of Qela is home to under 300 people. Its original neighbourhood of Bruchim, which will be rebranded as Trump Heights, is home to less than a dozen.

At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said Israel would “begin practical steps in establishing the community of Ramat Trump on the Golan Heights, Israel’s sovereignty over which was recognised by President Trump.”

About 23,000 Druze – an Arab minority also present in Syria and Lebanon – live in the occupied and annexed portion of the Golan, while 25,000 Israeli settlers have arrived there since 1967.


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