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Israels says US to recognize Golan Heights claim

Nicole Goebel
May 24, 2018

The US could soon recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in interviews. The move would follow the US recognizing Jerusalem as capital and exiting the Iran nuclear deal.

Israel Katz
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Bality

Yisrael Katz told the Reuters news agency that the endorsement of Israel's 51-year occupation of the Golan Heights is "topping the agenda" in current talks with the US and that Washington could make a decision within a few months.

The White House has neither confirmed nor denied the comments. Such a move would follow the Trump administration's widely criticized decisions to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and leave the Iran nuclear deal.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

What Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said

In an interview with Reuters he said:

  • He thinks "there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen," referring to the US possibly recognizing Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights.
  • Asked if it would happen this year, he said "yes, give or take a few months." It would be "a perfect time" for such a move.
  • "The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel's Golan sovereignty, with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined (in law)." 

In a subsequent interview with Israeli news service ynet he said:

  • There is "great support for this idea in many wide circles in the US," both in Congress and in the executive.
  • "American recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan is the best answer to Iran's attempts to establish a military front against Israel."

White House noncommittal

The White House declined to confirm or deny the report, telling Reuters "We meet with Israel on a wide range of issues."

What are the Golan Heights? The western two-thirds of Syria's Golan Heights were captured by Israel in the 1967 war. It has since had control over the region, but Israeli sovereignty has never been internationally recognized. In 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement, which ultimately failed. Today, Israel argues that the civil war in Syria and Iran's support for Syria means Israel needs the Golan Heights as a strategic plateau.

Read more: Iran denies attacking Israeli positions

What Israel wants: Israel is keen to contain its arch-enemy Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue of sovereignty over Golan with US President Donald Trump last spring. Trump agreed to put it on the agenda. Israel is hoping that the fact that the US exited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - or the Iran nuclear deal — and its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital will provide further momentum for Golan and its fight against Iran.

US-Iran ties: it's complicated