Israel plans to name settlement on occupied land after Trump

Oliver Holmes and Quique Kierzenbaum in Jerusalem


Israel plans to name a new settlement after Donald Trump on land it captured from Syria, as a token of gratitude to the US president for recognising its contested claim to the occupied territory.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he would press his next government, which he is still in the process of forming, to approve the naming of the new community in Golan Heights.

Israeli and US officials are expected to hold a cornerstone-laying ceremony next month at the site where the village is due to be built, next to the location of the existing village of Kela Alon, according to a spokeswoman for the area’s regional council.

“It will be soon,” said Batya Gottlieb, adding that the final decision rests with the prime minister’s office and will need formal approval from a governmental naming committee.

However, she said local councils backed Netanyahu. “Yes, we proudly agree on having the US president’s name at the new place,” she said.

Israeli forces took control of the volcanic plateau from Syria in the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed it, moves that were condemned by the UN security council and never internationally recognised.

Local rights groups estimate up to 130,000 Syrians fled or were forced from their homes during the war and have not been allowed to return. Many of their farms and villages have since been demolished. Israel has offered the few thousand Syrians, mostly Druze Arabs, who remain the option of citizenship, but most reject it.

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Trump’s recognition of Israel’s claim, announced in a tweet in March, ended half a century of US foreign policy and broke from post-second world war international consensus that forbids territorial conquest during war.

The US president later said he made the decision after getting a “quick” history lesson from his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his pro-settlement ambassador to Israel and former bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman.

Friedman was thrilled, Trump said, and reacted like a “wonderful, beautiful baby” getting what he wanted.

The Golan move followed Trump’s decision in December 2017 to recognise Jerusalem, part of which is claimed by the Palestinians, as the Israeli capital. In gratitude, the city’s mayor named a roundabout in Trump’s honour.