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|Donald Trump announces US should recognise Israeli annexation of Golan Heights ||First-day surprises, second-day upsets -- and Zion |
Donald Trump has announced it is time for the US to recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, handing Benjamin Netanyahu a major diplomatic victory less than three weeks before the Israeli elections. The US and all other Western nations have always refused to recognise Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, the strategic high ground which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Mr Trump cast that policy aside on Thursday with an announcement on Twitter. “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!” The Israeli prime minister responded minutes later with a Twitter post of his own. “At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!” Like the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, Mr Trump’s announcement puts US policy at odds with the UK and other European allies, who consider the Golan Heights to be under Israeli occupation. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019 The move will enrage the Syrian regime but also puts America’s Arab allies in an awkward diplomatic position, where they must be seen to oppose Israel’s annexation of Arab territory while avoiding directly criticising Mr Trump. There was no formal announcement from the White House and it was not clear if US policy was changing immediately or at a future date. Mr Netanyahu’s opponents in Blue & White, a centrist coalition, have feared for weeks that Mr Trump would try to tilt the election in the prime minister’s favour by announcing the Golan decision shortly before voters head to the polls. Mr Netanyahu has made his close relationship with Mr Trump a centrepiece of his campaign for a fifth term in office. One of his campaign posters shows the two men grinning and shaking hands. An election campaign billboard shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US President Donald Trump in Jerusalem Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty Mr Trump posted a picture of the poster on his own Instagram account in what was widely seen as an endorsement of Mr Netanyahu’s re-election bid. The two leaders will meet at the White House next week where Mr Trump is expected to further lavish praise of the Israeli leader. Polls show Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Party running even with Blue & White, with both forecast to win around 30 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament. Israel captured the Golan Heights after defeating Syrian forces during the Six Day War in 1967. In 1999, Israel came close to returning the high ground to Syria during negotiations with Hafez al-Assad, the father of Bashar al-Assad, but the talks collapsed. Since the Syrian war broke out in 2011, public opinion in Israel has hardened on the issue and there is a broad political consensus in Israel that the Golan should never be returned to Syria. The Golan Heights is a strategic highground captured from Syria in 1967 Credit: BAZ RATNER/AFP/Getty Images The Israeli occupation of the Golan has been less controversial than the occupation of the West Bank partly because the Golan is sparsely populated. Around 27,000 members of the Druze sect, a small Arabic speaking minority, live in the Golan. Most are residents of Israel but not full citizens. Many of the Golan Druze continue to swear loyalty to Syria, partly out of fear that if the Golan were ever returned to Damascus they could face reprisals from the Assad regime if they were seen to have collaborated with Israel. But some younger Druze have accepted they are likely to live forever under Israeli control and have taken steps to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society. Roughly 20,000 Israelis now also live in the Golan, enjoying dramatic mountain views and plentiful vineyards but also enduring occasional rocket fire from Syria or Lebanon. The US had offered several hints that a decision on the Golan may be coming. Last week, the State Department dropped a reference to the Golan being under Israeli occupation. The US ambassador also recently accompanied Mr Netanyahu on a visit to the area. Mr Trump made the announcement while Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, was in Jerusalem for meetings with the Israeli prime minister. Despite taking a series of pro-Israel moves, the White House insists that it is still able to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House is expected to unveil a peace plan after Israel’s elections. Expectations for success are low, partly because the Palestinians have cut off all political contact with the US in protest at Mr Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
| The Madness started for real on Thursday. Here are our panel's top takeaways from the day's action, as well as a look-ahead at Friday's NCAA tournament games. |
|Citigroup to sell Venezuelan gold in setback to President Maduro: sources ||How's your bracket doing? |
Maduro's government has since 2014 used financial operations known as gold swaps to use its international reserves to gain access to cash after a slump in oil revenues left it struggling to obtain hard currency. Under the terms of the 2015 deal with Citigroup's Citibank, Venezuela was due to repay $1.1 billion of the loan on March 11, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Citibank plans to sell the gold held as a guarantee - which has a market value of roughly $1.358 billion - to recover the first tranche of the loan and will deposit the excess of roughly $258 million in a bank account in New York, two of the sources said.
| See how your picks stack up with the crowd. |
|FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 Max 8 safety certification in wake of crashes ||Source: Cards, Goldy finalizing 5-year extension |
The FBI has joined the widening criminal probe into how Boeing's 737 Max 8 jets were deemed as safe in the months before two of them crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia,
| Slugger Paul Goldschmidt is finalizing a five-year extension for $130 million with the Cardinals, a source confirmed to ESPN. The deal will keep him in St. Louis through the 2024 season. |
|See Photos of the New 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe ||Sources: Bama negotiating buyout with Johnson |
| Alabama is in the process of negotiating a buyout with head coach Avery Johnson, sources confirmed to ESPN. |
|Ex-cop says he thought he saw a gun when he shot black teen ||MSU's Izzo doesn't apologize for yelling at Henry |
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A white former police officer said Thursday he thought a weapon was pointed at him when he shot and killed an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer.
| Tom Izzo didn't apologize for yelling at freshman forward Aaron Henry during the second half of Michigan State's first-round NCAA tournament win over Bradley on Thursday. |
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