Netanyahu plans to name illegal settlement in Golan after Donald Trump

He said the US president's recognition of the illegal occupation of the Syrian territory 'deeply moved' the Israeli people

A picture taken on April 19, 2019 shows construction works underway in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. / AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel's claim of sovereignty there.

Mr Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the occupied region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to Cabinet calling for a new settlement named after the US president.

"All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights," he said.

Mr Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognised Israel's claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Mr Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.

Mr Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel's favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights it seized in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.

Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect – most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship – remain in the occupied region.

Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.

Since Mr Trump took office, Israel has dramatically increased its illegal settlement building and plans for future units in the West Bank, data obtained by The National in January showed.

Figures collected by the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now from official government records show that Israel’s hardline government approved thousands more tenders for settlement construction in the first two years of the Trump presidency than those prior to his election victory.

The data indicated that Mr Netanyahu’s government was aiming to build on a massive scale during Mr Trump’s time in office as his soft stance on such construction deemed illegal under international law.

They show a significant rise in settlement construction starts, with the first nine months of 2018 representing a 20 per cent increase on the year prior.

In 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government issued just 42 tenders for construction. But just a year later, with Mr Trump in power, those tenders rose to 3,154. In 2018, the tenders shot up again to 3,808, the highest ever.

"From this data we have deduced that the Israeli government has for a second year supported a dramatically higher rate of settlement growth, due to domestic reasons and because of the unwillingness of the US administration to deter settlement expansion," Brian Reeves, director of external relations at Peace Now, told The National.