Less than three months after US President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the cabinet on Sunday started the bureaucratic ball moving toward establishing a new community on the Golan Heights called Ramat Trump (Trump Heights).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pushed to name a settlement in the area after Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, as well as moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and his strong support for Israel, unveiled the sign “Ramat Trump” on a plot of synthetic grass near the existing community of Kela.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to establish a new community, and also to honor a big friend,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the special cabinet meeting held on the Golan Heights. In addition to recognizing Israeli sovereign of the Golan and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Netanyahu also mentioned as reason for appreciation Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
Trump responded to the gesture on Twitter: “Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!”
Netanyahu, along with US Ambassador David Friedman, unveiled the sign at the site of the future community, near Kela Alon in the northern Golan Heights.
“This is a festive moment that will be remembered for generations as a milestone in the history of the Golan Heights,” he said at the ceremony. “Many years have passed since a new settlement was established in the Golan Heights. Today it is happening.”
Friedman, who was present at the meeting and the naming ceremony, thanked Netanyahu for the “extraordinary gesture that you and the State of Israel are making to the president of the United States.”
“It is well deserved, but it is much appreciated,” he said. Friedman said that the US-Israel relationship was a “dynamic” one that was “critical for both countries.”
He pointed out that it is very rare anywhere in the world for a country to name a community after a sitting US president, and that the only time this was done in Israel in the past was Kfar Truman, a moshav near Ben-Gurion Airport, named after US President Harry Truman in 1949.
The resolution passed on Sunday calls on the Construction Ministry to initiate professional staff work regarding the new settlement that will be presented to the national planning commission. It also mandates the Finance Ministry to give its economic perspective on the new settlement within 30 days to the national planning commission.
Yael Cohen, the deputy legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, said material circulated to the minister that the actual decision to establish the new community will need to be taken by the next government, and that this decision was to start the process moving toward its establishment.
Because no final decision on the establishment of the new community was made, nor any budget set aside for it, MK Zvi Hauser, of the Blue and White Party who served as cabinet secretary under Netanyahu from 2009 to 2013, called the measure “Israbluff.”
“Whoever reads the fine print in this ‘historical decision’ will understand that it is nothing more than a fictitious and non-obligatory resolution (fake policy),” Hauser said. “There is no budget, there is no plan, there is no location for the settlement and there isn’t really any binding decision to execute the project.”
Netanyahu, Hauser said, “must decide if he really wants to establish a new settlement and deepen our roots in the Golan Heights or whether he is content with creating virtual reality for the purposes of a photo opportunity. After 52 years in the area, there are only 25,000 Israelis in the Golan and the population growth rate is negligible. This is not how a government wants to settle the Golan.”
In April, two weeks after the elections, Netanyahu toured the Golan and said a community in the Golan should be named after the US president.
The community, to be a mixed secular-religious settlement which in its first stage is expected to number some 120 families, will be set up in the northern Golan at Beruchim.Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.