After Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday showed off a map of Israel he received from the White House signed by President Trump, the State Department has confirmed it has officially changed its maps to show the disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
The Netanyahu photo immediately generated controversy, given the US president had written the word "Nice" beside an arrow pointing to the Golan, which appeared as part of Israel. The prime minister boasted this was one of the early "updated" versions which the president had autographed.
Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner gifted him the map while touring the region ahead of a US-sponsored economic peace summit set to be held in Bahrain in late June, during which Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" plan will be unveiled, designed to achieve economic stability for the Palestinians as part of a peace plan.
The Palestinians under President Mahmoud Abbas have declared their intent to boycott the summit, saying they weren't even consulted and don't agree with what's on the agenda. And crucially, China and Russia will also stay away in solidarity with the Palestinian side, but also presumably to flex their muscles in the Middle East.
“I know we have for sure... we updated the maps,” a State Department spokesperson said later in the day when pressed on if the US has formally changed the maps.
The US has published for the first time a map that shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory 🇮🇱🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/KoMwTfTXFN— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) April 18, 2019
The White House bestowed US formal recognition on the disputed Syrian-claimed Golan as Israeli territory in late March days after Trump issued a single bombshell tweet which announced "it is time" for the US to "fully recognize Israel's sovereignty" over the Golan Heights.
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
Israel fully annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 after capturing it from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. The United Nations has never recognized Israeli annexation and settlement there, but has repeatedly condemned it — all of which has resulted in a Syria-Israel state of war ever since.