Thursday, May 24, 2018

The U.S. May Soon Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan, UN Envoy Urges Quick Action To Avoid Israel-Palestinian War

Minister says U.S. may soon recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan

Israel is pressing the Trump administration to recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday, predicting US assent could come within months.

Interviewed by Reuters, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz described endorsement of Israel's 51-year-old hold on the Golan as the proposal now "topping the agenda" in bilateral diplomatic talks with the United States.

Any such move would be seen as a follow-up on the US exit from the international nuclear deal with Iran, and President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of a new US embassy there this month.

Once willing to consider returning the Golan for peace with Syria, the Israelis have in recent years argued that the civil war in Syria and the presence there of an Iranian garrison backing Damascus show they need to keep the strategic plateau.

Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, cast the Golan proposal as a potential extension of the Trump administration's confrontational tack against perceived regional expansion and aggression by Iran, Israel's arch-enemy.

Katz suggested that a US move on the Golan could also prod the Palestinians - who have shunned the Trump administration since it announced in December that it would relocate the embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv - to revive peace talks.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their own state, along with the West Bank  - among the geographical disputes that have dogged their diplomatic contacts with Israel.

"They should hurry up and sit down with Israel, because where Israel says it is determined to be, it will be, and it won't give up, and history is working in our favour," he said.

The UN's Mideast envoy called Wednesday for urgent action to avoid another Israel-Palestinian war sparked by the violence in Gaza.

Nikolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that "Gaza is on the verge of collapse" and urgent action is also needed to relieve the suffering of its "increasingly desperate" people. 

Israeli-Palestinian relations are at their lowest point in years in the aftermath of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem and bloodshed on the Gaza border, where over a period of week Israeli fire has killed over 100 Palestinians during mass violent protests since March. 

Mladenov said the people of Gaza have survived three "devastating conflicts" and have lived under Hamas control for over a decade "with crippling Israeli closures and with diminishing hopes for an end to the occupation and a political solution."

"We must act urgently to avoid another war, to alleviate the suffering of people and to empower the Palestinian government to take up its responsibilities in Gaza," Mladenov said. 

The Islamic terror group Hamas forcibly wrested control of Gaza from the rival Fatah party in 2007 after winning legislative elections, triggering an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has severely restricted the movement of most of Gaza's 2 million inhabitants.

Mladenov again called on all countries to join "in condemning in the strongest possible terms the actions that have led to the loss of so many lives in Gaza" since March.

However, Israel says that the live rounds were fired only at protesters who attempted to breach the border fence or who were engaging in violent activities. Moreover, many of those killed have be claimed by Hamas to have been group members.

According to the UN humanitarian office, in the past month 76 Palestinians, including 11 children, have been killed by Israeli forces and over 3,000 injured by live fire and other means, he said.

He stressed that Israel has a responsibility not to use lethal force "except as a last resort under imminent threat of death or serious injury." And he said Hamas must not use the protests to "attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations" or to hide operatives among demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.

"Gaza's infrastructure teeters on the verge of total collapse, particularly its electricity and water networks as well as its health system," he said. 

Mladenov stressed that the UN efforts require that all parties observe the cease-fire at the end of the 2014 war "and that all factions in Gaza refrain from illicit arms build-up and militant activity." 

"If we are able to move quickly, we will reduce the chances of military confrontation and another devastating conflict," the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said.

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