There’s a Trump Tower in New York, and one in Chicago, and one in Las Vegas. There was nearly one in Moscow. And now, thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there will likely be a settlement bearing Trump’s name in the disputed Golan Heights.
“Trump Heights” will be built in a region that Israel annexed from Syria more than 50 years ago. Golan Heights has never been internationally recognized as Israeli territory — that is, not until Trump tweeted out his announcement that the U.S. would recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area.
Since the Six Day War in 1967, the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights have been occupied by Israel, while the eastern third has been under Syrian control. It’s estimated that about 130,000 Syrians were expelled from the Golan during the war and haven’t been allowed to return. The construction of Israeli settlements there had been internationally condemned.
The construction of 100 homes is slated to begin later this year. Haim Rokach, head of the Israeli Golan regional council, said he hopes that eventually they’ll build 400 homes there, according to the Guardian.
“Trump is a great friend of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the unveiling ceremony on Sunday. “He has torn the mask off this hypocrisy which doesn't recognize the obvious.”
Not all Israelis think Trump Heights is a good idea. Netanyahu hasn’t yet been able to form a government after the last elections, and new elections are slated to be held in September. His political opponents ridiculed him for his announcement of a new settlement: “Whoever reads the small print on the 'historic' resolution understands that it is a dummy-resolution,” tweeted Zvi Hauser, as translated by Reuters. Hauser is a former Netanyahu cabinet member who’s now with the opposition Blue and White party.
Trump's policies have embolden Israel's hardliners. He’s relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move given that the Palestinians claim part of the city as theirs. Trump has also entirely cut U.S. aid to Palestinians, and White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s peace plan for the region reportedly doesn’t call for the formation of a Palestinian state.
All of this has made Trump exceedingly popular in Israel. His approval rating is higher there than it is almost anywhere else, with 69 percent of Israelis saying they like him, according to polling from October of 2018.
Back in 1973, Syria tried, unsuccessfully, to take the territory back from Israel. The regional tensions still run high there. Last summer, as the Assad regime in Syria bombed its own civilians, 160,000 Syrians fled toward the Golan Heights. Israel provided aid to some of them, but refused to let any Syrian refugees into its territory, despite calls from humanitarian groups to do so.
To the Israelis living in the Golan, the news that Israel will expand its settlements there is welcome news. Trump’s recognition of the land they live on as Israeli has already led to an influx of international investment in the region. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson — GOP megadonors who also contribute huge sums the Birthright Israel program, which sends American Jews to Israel for free — are reportedly planning to invest in a 200-room hotel in the Golan Heights, according to the Guardian.
Cover: Israeli women visit a sign for a new settlement named after U.S. President Donald Trump on June 17, 2019 in Golan Heights, Israel. The Israeli government named the new settlement "Trump Heights' to honor Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)