Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed off a new State Department map of Israel autographed by President Donald Trump during a televised statement Thursday night, telling viewers that it marks the Golan Heights as part of Israel and that Trump had written “Nice” on it.
Netanyahu said the map was a gift from Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is visiting Jerusalem as part of a swing through several countries in the region.
“Jared Kushner brought me the updated map that includes the Golan Heights within Israeli sovereignty – here is the signature of President Trump and he writes here ‘Nice,’” Netanyahu said.
On the map, a hand-drawn arrow in black ink points from the word “Nice” to the Golan. Running along the side of the map in the same black ink is the President’s distinctive spiky signature.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, using it as a strategic military post.
In March, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, reversing more than 50 years of American policy and putting the US at odds with the international consensus, which regards the land as occupied Syrian territory. The President took the step just two weeks before Israel’s general election on April 9th, giving Netanyahu an enormous political boost.
Now, as the Israeli leader faces an unprecedented political challenge at home, Trump appears once again to be making his support for Netanyahu clear.
Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself late Wednesday night, triggering new elections set for September. Six weeks of coalition negotiations with other right wing and religious parties had resulted in failure for Netanyahu, marking the first time in Israeli history that elections failed to yield a new government.
The political impasse in Israel puts a new question mark over the Trump administration’s plans to roll out a plan aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trump perhaps alluded to the plan when he tweeted his support for Netanyahu as the Israeli leader was in the final days of trying to agree a new government.
“Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!” the President tweeted.
In public remarks released to reporters Thursday, Kushner made no mention of his host’s failure to secure a new government, nor of his own intentions for the peace plan.
“The security of Israel is something that’s critical to the relations between America and Israel, and also very important to the President, and we appreciate all your efforts to strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” Kushner told his host, adding, in a statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, that the relationship has “never been stronger, and we’re very excited about all the potential that lies ahead for Israel, for the relationship, and for the future.”
Netanyahu did refer to his political setback Wednesday and also praised relations between the two countries.
“You know, we had a little event last night. That’s not going to stop us. We’re going to continue working together,” Netanyahu said. “We had a great, productive meeting, which reaffirms that the alliance between the United States of America has never been stronger, and it’s going to get even stronger.”
The first part of the Kushner proposal, focusing on the economic and financial issues, is due to be unveiled in Bahrain at the end of next month, though Palestinians have refused to attend and any Israeli delegation attending will now be that of a transitional government lacking a clear mandate.
The Trump administration has not set a date to present its proposal on the more challenging political issues in the conflict, such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the future for Palestinian refugees.
Also in June, the national security advisors of Israel, the United States and Russia are set to meet in Jerusalem to “discuss regional security issues,” according to a statement released by the White House Wednesday.