"After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of crucial strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and the stability of the regions," Trump tweeted.
The announcement hands Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a significant foreign victory less than three weeks before the Israelis go to the polls to decide whether to stay in power. The move takes place just days before Netanyahu calls for Trump in the White House. A few weeks later, Netanyahu has stepped up pressure on the US to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
Israel conquered the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967 and formally annexed the area in 1981. However, this annexation has not been recognized by the international community, which regards the Golan Heights as occupied territory and Israeli settlements there as illegal under international law.
Trump enjoys the highest approval in Israel, and his embrace of Netanyahu, which is so close to the election, coupled with a long-awaited recognition, could influence the outcome of the Israeli election.
Netanyahu quickly went to Twitter to thank Trump: "At a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly acknowledges Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, many thanks, President Trump ! @RealDonaldTrump. "
It was not clear if the White House would release additional information or details about the step of recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel outside of Trump's Tweet.
Former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who officiated under President Barack Obama, said the move was "of great concern" and it was difficult not to see this as an attempt to shore up Netanyahu's chances of winning a prime minister.
"It's hard not to put two and two together," Panetta told CNN. "The President has made clear his support for Netanyahu."