Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his first steps Sunday to express his gratitude to President Donald Trump, unveiling, at a specially convened cabinet meeting, a plaque marking the spot where Israel's newest town - "Trump Heights" - will sit.
The new community is located on the occupied Golan Heights, which in a move upending decades of U.S. foreign policy was recognized by Trump as being part of sovereign Israel in a controversial move last March.
The establishment of Trump Heights, known as Ramat Trump in Hebrew, is another sign of the flourishing political bromance between the Israeli and the American leaders, whose political rhetoric and actions often appear to mirror each other as they mutually lavish praise.
The Golan Heights, a lush raised plateau between Israel and Syria, was captured by Israeli forces during the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, which began after Israel launched a pre-emptive strike when neighboring Arab countries mobilized forces at the borders. The area was formally annexed by Israel in 1981, a move not recognized by the United Nations or much of the international community.
Israel argues that handing back the territory, used by Syria as a shelling position, would be a strategic threat. Just over half the population are Arabic-speaking Druze, who live alongside Israelis who have settled there since 1967.
"This is a historic day. We are going to do two things - establish a new community on the Golan Heights, something that has not been done for many years. This is an act of Zionism and it is paramount," said Netanyahu at Sunday's meeting. "The second thing is to honor our friend, a very great friend of the State of Israel - President Donald Trump, who recently recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
Last week, Netanyahu's government approved a resolution to begin planning for the community, although little can be done while Israel is in the throes of a second election cycle, less than two months after it held a general election. Netanyahu appeared to have won the April 9 race, but was unable to form a coalition. On May 29, he was forced to call for another election, to be held on September 17.
At Sunday's ceremony, which was also attended by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, a gold rimmed plaque displaying the name of the new community in Hebrew and English was unveiled.
Friedman, a staunch supporter of Israel, called the creation of a new community in Trump's honor "an extraordinary gesture."
On March 25, while Netanyahu was visiting the White House ahead of the first election, Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel's hold on the plateau. Some saw the move as timed to help the long-serving Israeli leader in his re-election bid.
Following his election victory on April 9, Netanyahu declared that he would establish a new town named for the president.
"All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights," said Netanyahu in a video. "I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights, named after President Donald J. Trump."
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The Washington Post's Loveday Morris contributed to this report.
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