Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said Thursday his call for US recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights were part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's talks with the Trump administration.
Katz told Reuters on Wednesday that the proposal for an American endorsement of Israel’s 51-year-old hold on the Golan is now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks with the United States.
In an interview with Ynet on Thursday, Katz explained that he spoke to the international news agency as part of Israel's campaign to win over public opinion in the US.
"The message is clear—and it's the prime minister's and the government's position—we want American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. My statement is meant to send a message to the American public opinion," he said.
Katz declined to say how the talks with the White House on the matter are going, noting "I never speak on behalf of the Americans. But I can say there is great support of this idea in broad circles in the US, including in the House of Representatives, among others."
He explained the rationale behind the move, saying that "Following the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, and particularly in the wake of the cancelation of the nuclear agreement with Iran and the strategic stance the US it taking against Iran and its spread in the area, I think American recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan is the best answer to Iran's attempts to establish a military front against Israel."
The intelligence minister went on to say that Iran "is threatening, while we grow stronger. And in this instance, the message is very important—it also strengthens our security and diplomatic hold in the Golan Heights, an important area security-wise, which is a part of the State of Israel. It's also a message to Iran and everyone—you can threaten us, but the State of Israel and our allies will only grow stronger."
"It's time for the US to recognize the historic truth, the historic fact, and strengthen Israel," he added.
Katz also had a message to Europe concerning the Iranian nuclear deal and the attempts to salvage it. "The Europeans need to stop being the weak link," he said.
The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions on Tehran, and later set 12 conditions to Iran for the removal of these sanctions. In response, Iran on Wednesday set seven conditions of its own to staying in the agreement.
"(Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei is basically telling the Europeans: 'Be some sort of militias under Iran's Shiite sponsorship.' He's telling them: 'You won't object to the development of missiles, you will commit to buying oil,'" Katz said. "This is the scornful answer they got from Khamenei. Not 'thank you very much,' not appreciation. He feels contempt towards Europe, which, despite its strength, behaves as weak and begs a murderous dictatorship to keep the deal. They need to sober up from their illusions, join Trump in putting effective pressure on Iran, and it'll work."
Addressing the recent violence on the Gaza border, Katz rejected reports that Israel and Hamas were negotiating a ceasefire, and that there are discussions on proposals from Egyt and Qatar. "It's not true," he insisted.
Katz said the IDF was able to stop Hamas's attack, and now, "under the assumption this will die down, Israel needs to discuss this and make strategic decisions."
He said he believes such a discussion will take place soon. "My proposal on separation—building an island, distancing the security threat and getting rid of the Gaza issue—will be raised in this discussion. I've been fighting for it for years. Today there's a far greater readiness."
"I don't believe we need Gaza. We don't need responsibility over them, and we also don't need to shut them down," he added.