Netanyahu Adviser Says Trump Should Recognize Golan Control

Updated on
  • Adviser says Netanyahu should raise the issue on U.S. trip
  • Israel’s control of strategic plateau not recognized abroad

Michael Oren has advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek U.S. recognition for Israel's control of the Golan Heights.

Photographer: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg

A senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging him to take advantage of an upcoming meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to seek formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

“It’s very important for the U.S. to back a formal recognition of Israel’s control of the Golan,” Michael Oren, a deputy minister for diplomacy at the prime minister’s office, said in an interview in Jerusalem. “If it weren’t for Israel’s presence, the Syria war would be spilling over to Jordan. So Israel’s presence in the Golan is indispensable for Mideast stability.”

Michael Oren

Photographer: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg

The prime minister told journalists Tuesday he’s planning to visit Trump soon. The Foreign Ministry already is analyzing possible repercussions if the U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, according to a ministry official who requested anonymity because the issue is sensitive.

Oren, a former ambassador to the U.S. and now a legislator from the Kulanu party, said he has advised the prime minister to raise the issue with Trump but doesn’t know exactly what will be discussed. A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment.

Strategic Area

After years during which Syria shelled Israeli communities below the plateau, Israel captured the southern part of the Golan in the 1967 Mideast war and extended its law to the area in 1981, a move that was not recognized internationally. The future of the plateau, a scenic area containing important water sources, has been considered a subject for negotiation in any potential peace agreement with Syria. Now, with Syria wracked by a civil war that includes Islamic State and other militant groups, Israel wants its control over the area to be recognized worldwide.

Netanyahu said in April that Israel will never withdraw from the Golan and called on the international community to recognize Israeli control there. Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz last week reiterated that demand, requesting that the government boost the number of residents in the Golan in coming years. More than 40,000 people live in the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan, including Jews, Druze and Alawites.

Speaking to foreign reporters Tuesday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Syria is unlikely to ever be stitched back together and that he wants Israel to do more for suffering Syrian civilians.

“I’ve asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy,” he said. “We’d like to do that, bring them to Israel, take care of them in our hospitals, as we’ve done with thousands of Syrian civilians.”

Ancient Ties

In addition to the strategic benefits of controlling the Golan, Jews have a historical connection to the area, Oren said.

“There are something like 90 ancient synagogues that have been discovered in Israel, 34 of them in the Golan,” he said. “This was always part of the land of Israel. So let us extend our sovereignty in a formal way.”

(Updates with spokesman response in fourth paragraph.)
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