Looking for Election Boost, Israel’s Netanyahu in US to Meet with Trump
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington looking for an electoral advantage from U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected formal recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.
Netanyahu, facing corruption charges and a tough re-election contest April 9, is meeting Monday with Trump at the White House and having dinner there on Tuesday, sandwiched around a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major U.S. lobbying group for the Jewish state.
Trump said on Twitter last week that he would recognize the Israeli ownership of the Golan Heights, the territory to the northeast of Israel along the Syrian border that was seized by Israel from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed in 1981.
Trump’s stance breaks with long-standing U.S. policy and the international community, which considers the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied, not a sovereign holding.
“President Trump will sign tomorrow in the presence of PM Netanyahu an order recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Netanyahu is lagging in political surveys ahead of next month’s election. His main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, is speaking at the annual AIPAC convention on Monday, but only Netanyahu will be at the White House dinner on Tuesday.
Trump compared his decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as similar to that of his decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, another stance at odds with the international community. Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, but the Palestinians have also staked a claim on Jerusalem as their capital in any eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu, in the run-up to the election, has stressed his friendship with Trump.
“Our alliance in recent years has never been stronger,” the Israeli leader said last week as he met in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “It is an unbreakable bond. It is based on shared values of liberty and democracy and shared interest to fight the enemies of democracy, the enemies of our way of life, the terrorists that prowl our airspace and our countries, and working together we have been able to achieve an enormous amount.”
Trump’s Golan Heights announcement came shortly after Pompeo visited the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites in Palestinian east Jerusalem, with Netanyahu, the first time such a high-ranking U.S. official had visited the site with an Israeli leader.