Fri, 26 Apr 2019

Netanyahu Cutting Short US Trip After Rocket Attack

Voice of America
25 Mar 2019, 18:37 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump Monday, then immediately fly back home, cutting short his trip in response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu had been scheduled to have dinner at the White House Tuesday and also give an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major U.S. lobbying group for the Jewish state.

He pledged in a statement announcing the change in his trip that Israel would respond with force to what he called a 'criminal attack' on Israel.

The rocket hit a house in central Israel, northeast of Tel Aviv, wounding seven people.

Netanyahu's abbreviated visit comes as he seeks a political boost in a tough re-election contest set for April 9, and as Trump is expected to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.

Israel seized the territory to its northeast from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed it in 1981.

Trump's stance breaks with long-standing U.S. policy and the international community, which considers the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied, not a sovereign holding.

'President Trump will sign tomorrow in the presence of PM Netanyahu an order recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,' Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges, is lagging in political surveys ahead of next month's election. His main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, is speaking at the annual AIPAC convention Monday.

Trump compared his decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as similar to that of his decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, another stance at odds with the international community. Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, but the Palestinians have also staked a claim on Jerusalem as their capital in any eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu, in the run-up to the election, has stressed his friendship with Trump.

'Our alliance in recent years has never been stronger,' the Israeli leader said last week as he met in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 'It is an unbreakable bond. It is based on shared values of liberty and democracy and shared interest to fight the enemies of democracy, the enemies of our way of life, the terrorists that prowl our airspace and our countries, and working together we have been able to achieve an enormous amount.'

Trump's Golan Heights announcement came shortly after Pompeo visited the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites in Palestinian east Jerusalem, with Netanyahu, the first time such a high-ranking U.S. official had visited the site with an Israeli leader.

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