Israeli minister says US may soon recognise Israel's hold on Golan

24.05.2018

Israel is pressing the Trump administration to recognise its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday, predicting US assent could come within months.

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz described endorsement of Israel's 51-year-old hold on the Golan as the proposal now "topping the agenda" in bilateral diplomatic talks with the United States.

Any such move would be seen as a follow-up on the US exit from the international nuclear deal with Iran, and President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of a new US embassy there this month.

Trump's moves were hailed by Israel and caused deep concern among major European allies of Washington.

There was no immediate comment from the White House on Katz's remarks.

The Golan Heights form a strategic plateau between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles). It was part of Syria until Israel captured it in the 1967 Middle East war. It moved Israeli settlers into the area that it occupied, and annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally.

Once willing to consider returning the Golan for peace with Syria, the Israelis have in recent years argued that the civil war in Syria and the presence there of an Iranian garrison backing Damascus show they need to keep the strategic plateau.

Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, cast the Golan proposal as a potential extension of the Trump administration's confrontational tack against perceived regional expansion and aggression by Iran, Israel's arch-enemy.

"This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognise Israel's Golan sovereignty - with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined (in law)," he said. (Reuters)

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