‘Perfect time’ for US recognition of Golan sovereignty, intel minister says
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‘Perfect time’ for US recognition of Golan sovereignty, intel minister says

Katz tells Reuters action is ‘topping the agenda’ in talks with Washington, believes decision could be made within the year

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz attends a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)
Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz attends a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel is hoping for the Trump administration to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview published Wednesday, explaining that such a move would serve as a message of warning to Iran.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Katz said recognition of Israel’s hold over the territory was “topping the agenda” in talks with Washington, which has already recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and this month moved its embassy to the city.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in 1981, action never recognized by the international community.

“This is the perfect time to make such a move,” said Katz, who is also transportation minister and a member of the government’s security cabinet. “The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation.”

IDF vehicles driving along the road parallel to the border fence separating the Israeli and Syrian regions of the Golan Heights, July 19, 2017. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

The recognition would be a way to both punish and caution Iran for its aggressive attitude towards Israel, he said.

“You want to destroy [Israel], to generate attacks? Look, you got exactly the opposite,” Katz said in reference to Israeli concerns that Iran is seeking to entrench itself in Syria.

“I believe there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen,” Katz said, and predicted the decision could be made later this year “give or take a few months.”

The White House declined to comment on Katz’s claims, Reuters said.

Earlier this week a US congressman said he had called on Washington to recognize Israeli sovereignty.

In an interview published Sunday, Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) told the Walla news website he had brought the proposal before the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, on Thursday.

DeSantis told Walla he had suggested that amendment to a chapter on Syria in the US military’s budget. Though the move would be largely symbolic, he noted, approval could encourage the administration to take a position on the matter.

Although Israel and Syria signed a ceasefire agreement after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Damascus remains determined to regain the Golan territory.

 

Russia and Iran, key allies of Syria, have both provided President Bashar Assad’s regime with military support as he battles to suppress an insurgency now in its eighth year.

A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media, shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Katz said he believed while recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan would send a stinging message to Iran, Syria ally Russia would not be too perturbed. Moscow may issue verbal condemnations, he assessed, but not much more. It could even accept the plan as part of a wide effort to end the civil war.

“In actuality, from their perspective, if it gives Israel something in the wider Syrian context, what do they care? Assad’s survival is more important to them, as Syria is so weak,” he said. “They want a new, overall re-arrangement.”

Israel has carried out a series of airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria, vowing that it will do whatever it takes to keep Iran from digging in on Syrian territory. Earlier this month Iran fired a volley of dozens of rockets from Syrian territory at Israel. Most fell in Syrian territory, and several were shot down by Israeli missile defense systems. During retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian positions, Israeli jets also blasted Syrian air defense targets which had opened fire at the planes.

“This is a moment of truth for Assad,” Katz said. “Does he want to be an Iranian proxy, or not? If he becomes an Iranian proxy, then sooner or later he’s condemning himself, because Israel is acting against Iran in Syria.”

Katz suggested that recognition could also bring the Palestinians back to the negotiation table, which they have shunned in the wake of American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of the US embassy.

“They should hurry up and sit down with Israel, because where Israel says it is determined to be, it will be, and it won’t give up, and history is working in our favor,” Katz said.

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