Donald Trump cites rocket attack in recognizing Israel sovereignty in Golan Heights

March 25, 2019

President Trump offered condolences to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a rocket attack near Tel Aviv that wounded seven, saying it is emblematic of the dangers Israel faces every day and why he is recognizing its sovereignty over a disputed stretch of land known as the Golan Heights.

“Our prayers are with our friend in Israel as they carry out an incredible way of life in the face of great terror,” Mr. Trump said at the White House.

Mr. Netanyahu is cutting short his U.S. visit to deal with the fallout from the rocket, which launched from the Gaza Strip and flew across Israel, striking a home. Children were among the injured.

The prime minister had been scheduled to dine with the president Tuesday and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

Israel blamed militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, for the attack.

“Israel will not tolerate this, I will not tolerate this,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the White House, saying the military is already devising plans to respond to the attack.

He said he was departing early to “direct our actions close-hand.”

In their abbreviated summit, Mr. Trump signed a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, which Israelis captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967 and then effectively annexed.

“This was a long time in the making, it should have taken place many decades ago,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Netanyahu has pushed for the U.S. policy to endorse Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, rather than considering it land occupied by Israel.

The move is seen as a political boon for Mr. Netanyahu, who faces reelection next month and warned that Iran had been active in the Golan.

Benjamin “Benny” Gantz, Mr. Netanyahu’s political foe, angled for the upper hand, too, aiming tough words Monday at Hamas in light of rocket attack.

“Those that seek life are always stronger than those seeking death, and I’m telling you, the leaders of Hamas, you will not change that,” he said at AIPAC.

Mr. Gantz will also return to Israel soon after the AIPAC conference.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, drew a line between the attack and Iran’s influence in the region. He said the U.S. will not avert its eyes to “the dictatorship that says ‘death to America.’”

Mr. Netanyahu credited Mr. Trump as the greatest friend Israel has ever had, citing his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

“You have never flinched, you have always been there,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

Mr. Netanyahu said he brought Mr. Trump a case of Israel’s finest wine as a token of appreciation, even though the president doesn’t imbibe.

The prime minister said Mr. Trump could give it to his staff.

Gabriella Muoz contributed to this report.