In a ceremony yesterday attended by US ambassador David Friedman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the founding of a new settlement on the Golan Heights to be called Trump Heights (Ramat Trump), in honor of US President Donald Trump. The Israeli government also held its weekly cabinet meeting on the Golan. The founding of the settlement is meant as a gesture of particular gratitude for Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
"Trump is the first international leader to have done this, and to have torn away the mask of hypocrisy," Netanyahu said at the ceremony. "Begin (Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin) said that sometimes one has to state the obvious, and Trump has done so several times: in transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem; in cancelling the nuclear agreement with Iran and standing up to Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf. We are proud to honor a great friend. We shall continue to develop the Golan for both Jewish and non-Jewish residents."
Friedman thanked Netanyahu for holding the cabinet meeting on the Golan and said he would continue to work towards strengthening ties between the two countries, describing Israeli-US relations as "dynamic" and "critical for both countries."
At the end of the event, Netanyahu and Friedman unveiled a sign marking the site of Trump Heights, near the existing settlement of Kela Alon.
President Trump responded with a Twitter message saying "Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!"
There is one other Israeli settlement that was given the name of an incumbent US president: Kfar Truman, in central Israel, named after President Harry Truman in 1949. Truman recognized Israel when the state was declared in 1948, against the advice of his own State Department.
For all the festivities, there is at present no budget for constructing the new settlement, since Israel's current transitional government cannot deviate from the state budget that was passed in early 2018. Given the excessively large fiscal deficit and the repeat election to be held in September, it is far from certain that it will possible to allocate the required funds in 2020. In addition, as a transitional government, the present government's hands are tied, and in cannot decide on an outline plan for a new settlement or determine its borders.
The government resolution on the new settlement states that the Ministry of Construction and Housing will be responsible for advancing professional staff work, to be presented to the chairperson of the National Planning and Building Commission within 90 days. The Ministry of Finance is due to formulate a budget to finance the settlement.
Most minsters attended yesterday's cabinet meeting on the Golan, including newly appointed Minister of Justice Amir Ohana, Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri, and Deputy Minister of Health Ya'akov Litzman. Ministers Gilad Erdan and Yisrael Katz were absent at a conference in the US.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 17, 2019
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