Standing on the Golan Heights overlooking Syria, US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Monday that he will return to Washington and, together with Senator Ted Cruz, work for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helicoptered to the strategic plateau with Graham and US Ambassador David Friedman, fueling speculation that he is trying to get US President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights before the April 9 elections. Such a move would be a huge gift to Netanyahu before the voting.
Netanyahu is expected to meet Trump in the White House in about two weeks.
Graham, who has developed a good relationship with Trump and whose advice the president often seeks out on foreign policy matters, said that he is in Israel as an American, “trying to figure out what is best for America – and what is best for America and for Americans is a safe, secure and prosperous Israel.”
The US and Israel share common values, have common enemies, “and from a military point of view, Israel is the best friend the United States can possibly have in a troubled region,” the Republican from South Carolina said, adding that “I cannot tell you” how much intelligence Israel shares with the US that “protects our homeland.”
“So if you believe as I do that the State of Israel is a strategic partner of the United States, and that its survival and prosperity and security are relevant to American national security, you would come here to the Golan,” he said.
Graham said that while the Golan Heights was for decades one of Israel’s more peaceful borders, this is no longer the case.
“So I’ve got a simple message,” he said. “I will go back to the United States Senate, and working together with Senator Cruz, I will start an effort the recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel now and forever, because to give this territory up would be a strategic nightmare for the State of Israel.” Besides, said Graham – chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee – “who would you give it up to?”
Netanyahu, speaking in Hebrew, characterized Graham’s words as “very strong remarks that articulate America’s support for Israel, the policy of President Trump, and takes it to a concrete step – to keep the Golan as part of Israel.”
Otherwise, Netanyahu said, “our border would be with Iran on the banks of the Kinneret, something we cannot accept.”
The prime minister said that Graham’s remarks signaled a very “important” direction and was “very promising for Israel’s national security.”
Speaking in English, the premier said that the Golan has been a part of Israel from the earliest part of Jewish history, and certainly since Israel took it over during the 1967 war and formally annexed it in 1981.
“The Golan is part of Israel, and the Golan must stay a part of Israel forever,” he said. “And I think it is very important that the international community recognize this fact and accept it, and most especially our great friend, the United States of America.”
Friedman tweeted after the tour that “compelling evidence” was “presented of the critical strategic importance of Israeli control of this territory. Senator Graham spoke movingly and with great moral clarity on this subject.” A day earlier, Friedman accompanied Graham on a tour of the Gaza border area where they inspected a Hamas terror tunnel that Israel uncovered.
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