US embassy: Friedman does not recall talks on issue

US envoy scolds Israeli MKs for demanding US recognition of Golan — report

TV report says Ambassador David Friedman berated lawmakers for being ‘ungrateful’ in asking for more after relocation of embassy to Jerusalem

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

US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman speaks at the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman speaks at the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US Ambassador David Friedman reportedly told Israeli lawmakers they were “ungrateful” for demanding that Washington follow up on its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel with an official US acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Among those who recently called for American recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which it captured five decades ago from Syria, were Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, Likud party MK Yoav Kisch, and Yair Lapid, who leads the opposition Yesh Atid party.

According to a Hebrew-language report from the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday, Friedman met recently with some MKs and admonished them over the public call for a change in US policy vis-a-vis the Golan Heights.

The report quoted him as saying that Israelis do not understand that the US has global interests unrelated to the Jewish state, while Israeli politicians have only a domestic agenda.

In private conversations, Friedman allegedly told the politicians that, instead of being grateful after the US recognized Jerusalem and made the momentous move of its embassy to the city, the Israelis immediately asked for more, displaying what he termed “ingratitude.”

The Kan report did not specify which lawmakers Friedman spoke to in the meetings.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz attends an inauguration ceremony for a new section at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on February 15, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The US Embassy responded in a statement to the news channel, saying the American ambassador does not recall any conversations about the matter.

Concerning the American policy regarding the Golan Heights, the mission said there are no new announcements to be made at this time.

The embassy noted that US officials have regular meetings with various Israeli officials on various topics.

Recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the strategic mountainous plateau in the north east of the country has both support and opposition in Washington.

Israel captured the Golan in 1967 from Syria, which used its elevated position to routinely shell Israeli settlements in the Galilee. The Jewish state annexed the territory in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community — including by the United States — which still regards it as occupied.

“This is the perfect time to make such a move,” said Likud Minister Katz, in late May.  “The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation.”

Likud MK Kisch had also recently sent a letter to Friedman urging Washington to take the step.

At the end of May, the US House of Representatives shelved a Republican lawmaker’s proposal for the recognition, following reported opposition from party leaders and from within the White House.

Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida had introduced the non-binding proposal to the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, saying that although symbolic, its approval could encourage the administration to take a position on the matter.

The proposal, however, was shelved and prevented from coming up for a vote as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

An old Israeli tank with a flag overlooking the Syrian town of Quneitra in the Golan Heights on February 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In December, US President Donald Trump bucked decades of US policy by declaring his administration was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Though welcomed by Israeli officials, the announcement was criticized by the international community and soured relations with the Palestinians who have refused to meet with US officials ever since. The US embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.

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