TEL AVIV — Israel's government approved funding on Sunday for a new settlement in the Golan Heights that will be named after President Donald Trump.
The country's cabinet approved 8 million Shekels (about $2.3 million) in funding in order to take practical steps to start building the “Ramat Trump” — or Trump Heights — as a gesture of gratitude for Trump's decision to ditch decades of U.S. foreign policy and recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights on March 25 of last year.
"The initiative to establish a new Golan Heights settlement to be named after President Donald Trump expresses gratitude for his work for the State of Israel and the Golan Heights," the cabinet said in a statement.
It is important to advance the decision to establish the settlement at this time to strengthen the political ties between Israel and the United States, the statement added.
Currently known as Bruchim, the settlement is over 30 years old and has a small population of about 10.
But after construction begins in three weeks time, Israel is hoping the rebranded "Trump Heights," will encourage a wave of residents to vastly expand it. Haim Rokach, the head of the Golan Heights council, said around 20 families are expected to move in over the next few months.
Plans for the new settlement have been in the works for over a year.
In 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he intended to introduce a resolution to have a new Jewish settlement named after Trump in gratitude for his decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area.
His comments came after Trump broke with years of precedent and signaled a major shift in U.S. policy when he said it was time to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic territory that the Jewish state captured from Syria in 1967. Many of Israel’s neighbors condemned the abrupt decision.
The Golan Heights is a 700-square-mile area overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley that is home to some 40,000 people many of whom are not Israeli. The majority are Syrian Druze, a sect of Shiite Islam, as well as a small Alawite community — the sect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel annexed the area in 1981, although most of the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over it.
Netanyahu also congratulated Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday for their recent decision to impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“The tribunal makes absurd charges against the state of Israel, including the scandalous claim that the existence of Jews in the heart of our homeland constitutes war crime,” he said.
Trump’s sanctions against the ICC — which prosecutes war crimes and genocide — authorized economic sanctions against officials investigating or prosecuting U.S. personnel without Washington’s consent.
Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv and Isobel van Hagen from London.