by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
After National Security Adviser John Bolton says there is no change in U.S. position on Golan sovereignty claim, Prime Minister Netanyahu says he will never give up on the issue
Israel still hopes the United States will recognize its claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, after a top U.S. official said the issue was not currently under consideration by Washington.
Israel seized much of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it, a move not endorsed internationally. Netanyahu raised the possibility of U.S. recognition in his first White House meeting with President Donald Trump in February 2017.
In December, Trump reversed longstanding U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The move angered the Palestinians, who want east Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state.
In May, Netanyahu's intelligence minister said U.S. recognition on the Golan issue could be forthcoming within months.
But Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton, who visited Israel this week, said, "There's no discussion of it, no decision within the U.S. government."
Bolton said that while the United States understands Israel's position regarding the Golan, "there's no change in the U.S. position for now."
Asked by reporters whether Israel, in light of Bolton's remarks, had dropped expectations of U.S. recognition of Israel's Golan claim, Netanyahu replied: "Would I give up on such a thing? No way."
Once willing to consider returning the Golan for peace with Syria, in recent years Israel has argued that the Syrian civil war and the presence of Iranian troops backing Damascus show that Israel has to keep the strategic plateau.
Diplomatic-Security Cabinet member and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant suggested on Thursday that the priority for Israel and the U.S. is the removal of Iranian forces and the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from Syria.
"As Syria is rebuilt, we have two significant interests. The first is Iran and Hezbollah each going back where they belong, and the second interest is unequivocal Israeli sovereignty on every meter of the Golan Heights," Gallant told Israel's Channel 13 television.
"I think that if we work the right way, we will get this."
Bolton discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Thursday. Russia backs Damascus and wants Syrian territorial integrity restored, and has said that it cannot compel Iran to quit Syria.
Bolton said Russia was "stuck" in Syria and seeking alternative sources of reconstruction funds. This gave Washington leverage in urging an Iranian withdrawal, the prerequisite for resolving the Syria crisis.
Moscow disputed those remarks.
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