Trump just made a highly controversial decision about Israel

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Trump just made a highly controversial decision about Israel
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the White House on March 5, 2018.Getty Images

Trump just made a highly controversial decision about Israel

The United States will now recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel a massive change in American foreign policy that will likely benefit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The surprise announcement by U.S President Donald Trump about the disputed territory is in keeping with his full-throated support for Netanyahu and embrace of right-leaning Israeli positions. The questions now are if the decision will complicate the administration’s efforts to bring peace to the region and if the move will help Netanyahu’s re-election chances next month.

The answers to both, according to experts, are “yes.”

The Golan Heights, as Neri Zilber wrote for Vox, is a strategic area of elevated land situated along Israel’s northern border with Syria. For decades it was part of Syria. But, Israel conquered the region during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community.

That’s why Donald Trump’s decision is so controversial. Most other countries see Israel as illegally occupying the plateau. But on Thursday, Trump tweeted, After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The move was not totally unexpected. Last May, Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, showing that he had no qualms about breaking with decades-long American policy in the region. And an annual human rights report released by the State Department last week referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” not “Israeli-occupied,” as was customary.

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That’s all made PM Benjamin Netanyahu happy. He took no time to praise Trump’s announcement, tweeting his thanks only 16 minutes after Trump’s missive and telling the president in a phone call later that day that “you’ve made history.”

And there’s a really good reason for Netanyahu’s glee: it might help him stay in power.

Reporting by Vox