\u00a0Israel is pressing the Trump administration to recognize its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday, predicting U.S. assent could come within months.\r\nInterviewed by Reuters, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz described endorsement of Israel\u2019s 51-year-old hold on the Golan as the proposal now \u201ctopping the agenda\u201d in bilateral diplomatic talks with the United States.\r\nAny such move would be seen as a follow-up on the U.S. exit from the international nuclear deal with Iran, and President Donald Trump\u2019s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of a new U.S. embassy there this month.\r\nTrump\u2019s moves were hailed by Israel and caused deep concern among major European allies of Washington.\r\n\u201cWe meet with Israel on a wide range of issues,\u201d a White House official said, but declined to confirm any of the details provided by Katz about the Golan.\r\nThe Golan Heights form a strategic plateau between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles).\r\nIt was part of Syria until Israel captured it in the 1967 Middle East war. It moved Israeli settlers into the area that it occupied, and annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.\r\n\u00a0\r\nOnce 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.\r\nKatz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu\u2019s security cabinet, cast the Golan proposal as a potential extension of the Trump administration\u2019s confrontational tack against perceived regional expansion and aggression by Iran, Israel\u2019s arch-enemy.\r\n\u201cThis is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel\u2019s Golan sovereignty - with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined (in law),\u201d he said.\r\nThe message to Tehran, Katz said, would be: \u201cYou want to destroy (U.S. ally Israel), to generate attacks (against it)? Look, you got exactly the opposite.\u201d\r\nThe matter, raised by Netanyahu in his first White House meeting with President Donald Trump in February 2017, is now under discussion at various levels of the U.S. administration and Congress, Katz said.\r\n\u00a0\r\n\u201cI reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen,\u201d he said. Asked if such a decision could be made this year, he added: \u201cYes, give or take a few months.\u201d\r\nAsked about Katz\u2019s comments, a U.S. Embassy official in Israel said: \u201cWe don\u2019t as a general policy discuss our diplomatic communications.\u201d\r\nRussia, Damascus\u2019s big-power ally, has long insisted that Syria\u2019s territorial integrity should be restored - a position implicitly requiring an eventual return of the part of the Golan occupied by Israel.\r\nKatz, however, played down any prospect of a blow-up between Moscow and Washington, casting the proposed U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan as a piece of a larger Syria mosaic.\r\nOPPORTUNITY\r\nWith Syrian President Bashar al-Assad beating back the insurgency against him, now could be the opportunity for Assad and Russia to show the Iranians out, Katz said.\r\nHe described the Iranian presence next door as the Netanyahu government\u2019s main concern, by implication offering Assad a chance for immunity from Israel.Israeli soldiers stand next to tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel May 10, 2018.\r\n\u201cThis is a moment of truth for Assad. Does he want to be an Iranian proxy, or not?\u201d Katz said. \u201cIf he becomes an Iranian proxy, then sooner or later he\u2019s condemning himself, because Israel is acting against Iran in Syria ... If not, then we have always said we have no interest in getting involved there.\u201d\r\nRussia, Katz said, would respond to a U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan with declarations that \u201cthey won\u2019t do the same and they do not have to support this\u201d.\r\n\u201cBut in actuality, from their perspective, if it gives Israel something in the wider Syrian context, what do they care? Assad\u2019s survival is more important to them, as Syria is so weak,\u201d he said. \u201cThey want a new, overall re-arrangement.\u201d\r\nKatz suggested that a U.S. 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.\r\nThe Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their own state, along with the West Bank, also occupied by Israel in the 1967 war - among the geographical disputes that have dogged their diplomatic contacts with Israel.\r\n\u201cThey should hurry up and sit down with Israel, because where Israel says it is determined to be, it will be, and it won\u2019t give up, and history is working in our favor,\u201d he said.\r\nSyria tried to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan in the 1973 Middle East war, but the assault was thwarted. The two signed an armistice in 1974 and the land frontier has been relatively quiet since.\r\n\u00a0\r\nSince 1967, about 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved to the Golan, which also borders Jordan. Some 20,000 Druze Muslims also live there. Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, though most rejected it.\r\nIn 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement. But the negotiations collapsed and subsequent talks, mediated by Turkey, also failed.