U.S. national security adviser John Bolton meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem) Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to discuss the pullout of U.S. troops from Syria and recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

By: Associated Press and United with Israel Staff

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Trump backs Israel’s right to self defense. He says it proudly and unequivocally. Any nation, whether in this region or not, that has any doubt about America’s support for Israel’s self-defense, better think about it again.”

According to Bolton, he and Netanyahu were slated to “discuss[] the president’s decision to withdraw [U.S. troops from Syria],” with the Trump security adviser offering assurances that the U.S. would “make sure ISIS is defeated” and “make sure the defense of Israel and our other friends in the regions is absolutely assured.”

Bolton also praised the United States’ ties with Israel, which he referred to as “the best US-Israel relationship in our history.”

In addition to ISIS, Bolton also referenced the Iranian threat, which remains a top security priority for Israel.

“We’ve got the continuing threat of Iran’s quest for deliverable nuclear weapons, and despite getting out of the Iranian nuclear deal and despite the sanctions, we have little doubt that Iran is strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons,” commented Bolton.

He added, “The United States and Israel are strategically committed to making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Prior to the meeting, it was reported that Bolton would convey the message that the U.S. is “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton’s plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Speaking at the joint press conference on Sunday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed for all intents and purposes in 1981.

“Tomorrow, if whether permits, we’ll go up to the Golan Heights. [It] is tremendously important for our security,” explained Netanyahu. “When you are there, you’ll be able to understand perfectly why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights and why it is important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

U.S. Exit from Syria Slows Down

Bolton’s comments were the first public confirmation that the U.S. troop drawdown in Syria has been slowed. Trump had faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, announced in mid-December, that he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.

“We’re pulling out of Syria,” Trump said Sunday at the White House, but, he added “[W]e won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”

Bolton on Sunday also toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. He watched a virtual reality tour of the historic site and dined there with his Israeli equivalent, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

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