Pompeo boosts Israel's Netanyahu before election

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Under the Trump administration, the US has repeatedly endorsed controversial Israeli positions.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, for some time and Netanyahu had pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just a day earlier.

There are more than 30 Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, according to the BBC, and roughly 20,000 Syrians still living in the area.

A couple look towards signs pointing out distances to different cities, on Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel January 21, 2019.

Many are ascribing the decision to reelection hopes, of both Netanyahu and Trump. That's a boost for Netanyahu, who is heading into a general election while plagued by corruption investigations.

"Attempts by the United States to legitimise Israel's actions against global law will only lead to more violence and pain in the region".

Israel has sought global recognition of its sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights for decades, but in the last three months has recruited powerful allies in a renewed campaign to influence Trump, including Sens.

A State Department source said there were no signs of a coming shift, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered no indication that the administration was reviewing its policy during his visit to the region this week, telling reporters in Kuwait on Wednesday that USA policy "had not changed".

The prime minister had been expected to raise the issue again with Trump during his visit to Washington, an Israeli official said.

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He made the comments in Canakkale province, northwestern Turkey which is home to the historic battlefields, on the anniversary of a World War I Turkish naval victory.

Netanyahu quickly took to Twitter to thank Trump, tweeting: "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".

The move comes after the US State Department dropped the word "occupied" in relation to the Golan Heights in its annual human rights report for 2018, published last week.

Without directly addressing the Golan issue, Pompeo affirmed U.S. support of Israel: "With the threats of annihilation that Iran is making against Israel, we are committed to Israel's security and its right to self-defense. Until then, premature USA recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is a needlessly provocative move that violates global law and does not enhance Israeli security".

Indeed, the United States president has recently called on Jewish-Americans to abandon the Democratic Party, pointing to his own staunchly pro-Israel policies, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. But that policy has been upended by the Trump administration.

Why does Israel want the Golan?

"You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan", he said.

"U.S. policy as it relates to the Golan Heights has been probably been one of the most consistent and long-standing positions we've had on any Arab-Israeli issue", said Scott Lasensky, former advisor to the USA ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration.

However, Leon Panetta a veteran Democrat who served as Central Intelligence Agency director and defense secretary, among other roles, blasted Trump for "tweeting out another policy that obviously has not been worked out with our worldwide partners".

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