Amid recent calls for such a move, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday his support for Israel to remain in control over the strategic Golan Heights region.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

Adding to what has been deemed by many as a pro-Israel agenda by the Trump administration that also included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy there, Thursday’s announcement comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a close re-election battle on April 9. The move by Trump will likely been seen as a boost to Netanyahu that could be further bolstered by a visit next week to Washington, where he is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House and address the annual AIPAC Policy Conference.

Over the phone, Netanyahu told Trump, “You made history,” according to the prime minister’s office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump on March 21, 2019, thanking him for calling for the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Netanyahu told Trump, “You made history.” Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon also thanked Trump.

“We are at the beginning of a historic moment for the State of Israel. President Trump once again proves the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and Israel,” said Danon. “The time has come for the world to recognize that the Golan Heights is an inseparable part of the State of Israel.”

Towards the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the Golan from the attacking Syrian army. In 1981, Israel’s Knesset voted to apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights, but stopped short of formally annexing it. After 1967 and for the next 40 years, multiple attempts by a number of Israeli prime ministers to give the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace ended in failure over Syrian refusal to cut ties with terror organizations and Iran.

Today, the Golan Heights remains a critically important region for Israel’s security amid the Syrian civil war. Iran, which has deepened its presence in Syria during the war, and its terror proxies such as Hezbollah poses a serious threat to Israel from Syria.

Several U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling for the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

“There is no construct I can imagine now or any time in the future for the State of Israel to give the Golan up,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said during a recent visit to the region.

Companion resolutions calling on the United States to follow through with this recognition were introduced last month by Cruz, in addition to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.).

A strategic interest for Israel

Trump’s announcement was met with widespread praise by the pro-Israel community and supporters.

“Given current political and security circumstances in Syria, we have said it was inconceivable to imagine Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. @realDonaldTrump’s statement marks a dramatic change in American policy, and we appreciate his leadership on this issue,” tweeted AIPAC.

“I applaud @realDonaldTrump for taking the long overdue step of recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. It’s an enormously important signal that we stand with our allies and against our enemies, and will be heard by both,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) applauded the announcement as part of a larger agenda by the Trump administration.

“Yes. 100% right & a position I’ve long held as well after visiting the Golan Heights. Add this to the Embassy move to Jerusalem, signing the Taylor Force Act into law, fighting against anti-Israel & anti-Semitic hate at the UN & elsewhere, & withdrawing from the flawed Iran deal!,” he tweeted.

However, J Street condemned Trump’s tweet.

While the organization acknowledged that the Golan Heights is a strategic asset for Israel, “premature U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is a needlessly provocative move that violates international law and does not enhance Israeli security.”

“It’s clear that this cynical move by Trump is not about the long-term interests of the United States or Israel, but rather about handing yet another political gift to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hopes of boosting his chances for re-election next month. Once again, this administration is playing dangerous partisan games with U.S. foreign policy and the U.S.-Israel relationship.”