Netanyahu says has not given up on U.S. recognition of control over Golan

Israel is not giving up trying to gain US recognition of its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in a Reuters interview a day earlier that the Trump administration .

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“I’ve heard the idea being suggested but there’s no discussion of it, no decision within the US government,” he said. “Obviously we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights – we understand their position – but there’s no change in the US position for now.”

Asked before boarding his plane for Lithuania whether in light of Bolton’s comments Jerusalem has given up on the expectation of US recognition of its sovereignty on the Golan, Netanyahu replied, “I should give up on something like that? It can’t be.”

Netanyahu asked the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area in February 2017, but has not publicly been actively lobbying for the issue, though he does frequently bring it up with visiting statesmen.

In July the House Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing on the matter under the title: “A new horizon in US-Israel relations: From an American embassy in Jerusalem to potential recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

The purpose of the hearing, according to an announcement put out by the subcommittee, was “to discuss the potential for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in furtherance of US national security interests.”

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Former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, who is currently the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, appeared before the committee and advocated for a recognition of Israel sovereignty.

He said on Thursday that the key words in Bolton’s remarks about the subject were that Washington was not considering the issue “for now.”

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “I think they are focused on the President’s peace plan, and am not surprised that they are not looking now to come up with new initiatives.”

Gold asked, however, what would the alternative to Israeli control of the Golan Heights be – “to resurrect the power of the [al-Qaeda affiliate] Nusra front, or to give it to Hezbollah and Iran? Israel is the strongest power that will protect the Golan Heights, and combat the effort of Iran to take over this part of the region.”

Despite Bolton’s remark, Gold said that Israel “should make an effort” to obtain American recognition of Israeli control there.

“We are in a period that after the war in Syria it is a time where several countries are seeking to formalize international understandings about the status of different powers in the area, and therefore formalizing Israel’s position makes tremendous sense,” he said.

Gold added that “The Trump administration is one of the friendliest administrations to the state of Israel, and therefore an initiative of this sort would not be inconsistent with how the administration looks at the region as a whole.”

Gold noted that in 1975 then US president Gerald Ford acknowledged Israel’s position on the Golan Heights in a letter to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. “That letter said that the United States had not taken a position on borders, but when it does ‘it will give great weight to Israel’s position that any peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights’,” he said.

Gold added that the administration of George Bush reaffirmed that letter immediately before the Madrid talks in 1991, and that the Clinton Administration did the same just before the Wye River Memorandum in 1998.

He said he was unaware of any efforts to get that letter reaffirmed by the Trump administration now.

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