White House said to rebuff Netanyahu over Golan recognition
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White House said to rebuff Netanyahu over Golan recognition

Administration sources say the PM’s suggestion could damage US efforts in Syria, didn’t warrant reply from Obama

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

US President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
US President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The US administration has rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion to discuss recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in light of the Syrian civil war, senior White House sources said according to a Thursday report.

Netanyahu reportedly raised the issue, albeit obliquely, in his Monday meeting with US President Barack Obama while the two leaders were speaking about the situation in Syria.

A White House official said Netanyahu made the suggestion as part of a discussion on preventing the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias on the Syrian side of the Golan, according to a report in the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily.

“He [Netanyahu] said almost in passing that one way to do it would be to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan because under these conditions Israel will not give it back to Syria,” he said.

The official reportedly said Obama did not think the suggestion warranted a reply.

“It wasn’t clear how serious he was about it. I think that it was clear the US is not going to change its position about the future of the Golan,” he said. “We always said it has to be negotiated in line with [UN Security Council resolutions] 242 and 338. This has been and remains our position and it will not change.”

The official called the proposal “unwarranted and counterproductive” and said that it could potentially damage US military efforts in Syria as well as its influence in the ongoing Vienna talks to end the conflict, according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu had reportedly said he was doubtful the peace talks underway between various outside powers and several factions in the Syrian war would result in reunifying the war-torn country.

That situation, he said, “allows us to think differently” about the future status of the Golan, which several American administrations have seen as a key part of any future Israeli-Syrian peace.

Netanyahu declined to answer reporters’ questions about the issue on Tuesday.

Israel claims the western Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and took steps to formally annex in 1981. The plateau is considered a critical strategic asset for Israel because it overlooks the towns and villages of much of the Galilee.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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