Copy of Israel_US_94247.jpg-21c3b~1-1592217549416
This June 16, 2019 picture shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, his wife Sara , United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, his wife Tammy pose during the inauguration of a new colony named after President Donald Trump in the Golan Heights. Image Credit: AP

Occupied Jerusalem: A cabinet minister in the Israeli regime on Sunday said the government approved plans to build a new colony in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights named after President Donald Trump.

Colonies Minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote on Facebook that her ministry will start preparations for Ramat Trump - Hebrew for ‘Trump Heights’ - to house 300 families. 

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. Most of the international community considers the move, and Israeli colonies in the territory, illegal under international law.

But Trump signed an executive order recognising the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory in March 2019. The move came during a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just weeks before Israeli elections. The decision, just one of several diplomatic moves benefiting Israel, was widely applauded there.

The Israeli government’s approval of the plan, which according to Israeli media will involve earmarking 8 million shekels ($2.3 million) for developing the town, advances a project announced by Netanyahu last year with great pomp and fanfare. Sunday’s announcement coincided with Trump’s birthday, although it was unclear if it was connected.

Copy of 110594-01-08-1592217553101
A picture taken on June 14, 2020 from the village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows an Israeli occupation military vehicle patrolling the border fence with Syria. Image Credit: AFP

Last June, Netanyahu convened his Cabinet in the small hamlet of Qela for a vote on rebranding the community as a gesture of appreciation for the president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The small town of Qela is home to under 300 people. Its original neighbourhood of Bruchim, which will be rebranded as Trump Heights, is home to less than a dozen.

At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel would “begin practical steps in establishing the community of Ramat Trump on the Golan Heights, Israel’s sovereignty over which was recognised by President Trump”.

Israel has built dozens of colonies in the Golan over the years, with an estimated 26,000 Jewish colonists living there as of 2019. Roughly the same number of Arabs live there, most of them members of the Druze sect.