Netanyahu’s cabinet gathered Sunday in the Golan Heights to announce that Israel intends to pass a resolution establishing the new town known as “Ramat Trump,” which is Hebrew for “Trump Heights.” The country is hoping the settlement, an area that’s decades old and has a population of 10 people, will expand to new residents thanks to the renaming, according to Politico.
“President Trump is a very great friend of the country, a friend who did things for the country that were not done in the past and should have been done in the name of justice and truth,” Netanyahu said Sunday, The Times of Israel reported.
The decision to rebrand the settlement came after Trump’s executive order earlier this year recognising Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights territory, marking a huge shift from more than 50 years of U.S. policy. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed the plateau in 1981. Most of the international community considered Israel’s move illegal under international law and views the Golan Heights as an occupied territory.
Israel has been urging residents to settle in the Golan Heights, though the location is several hours from the main hub of Tel Aviv and reportedly has very little industry. The eight-year Syrian civil war occurring just miles away from the territory could discourage new residents from coming in.
The last time Israel named a settlement after an American president was in 1949, when the country named Kfar Truman after President Harry Truman, according to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Truman was the first US president to recognise Israel as a country.
Though Netanyahu said the country will establish the community, his cabinet’s resolution that passed actually stated that the government cannot make such a decision during an election period, according to Axios. Netanyahu is currently running for reelection in Israel’s Sept. 17 election.
The cabinet did decide that the Ministry of Housing will start preliminary planning work. Until then, Netanyahu has placed a large sign displaying the name of the settlement that will eventually be established as “Ramat Trump.”
An opposition lawmaker said before the Sunday event that the Israeli government was using the inauguration ceremony as a publicity stunt, according to The Times of Israel.
“Anyone who reads the fine print in this ‘historic’ decision will understand that this is nothing more than a nonbinding, fake policy,” said Zvi Hauser, a member of the Knesset from the Blue and White party and former Cabinet secretary to Netanyahu. “There is no budgeting, no planning, no location for a settlement, and there is no binding decision to implement the project. But at least they insisted on a name for the settlement.”
The sign worked. In a tweet Sunday, Trump thanked Netanyahu and Israel for the settlement rebranded under his name.