An Israeli tank near the Syrian border on the Golan Heights

Israel says it will keep Golan as Assad's fortunes, U.S. views shift

Addressing conservative forum, Bennett says internal Syrian strife persuaded many that perhaps it's preferable territory be in Israel's hands, pledges to double size of Israeli population in contested region

Reuters |
Published: 10.11.21, 12:26
Israel will keep the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in a 1967 Six-Day War, even if international views on Damascus change, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • In 2019, then-U.S. president Donald Trump broke with other world powers by recognizing Israel as sovereign on the Golan Heights, which it annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    An Israeli tank near the Syrian border on the Golan Heights
    An Israeli tank near the Syrian border on the Golan Heights
    An Israeli tank near the Syrian border on the Golan Heights
    (Photo: AFP)
    Bennett's remarks came as the current U.S. administration hedges on the Golan's legal status and some U.S.-allied Arab states ease their shunning of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his handling of a decade-old civil war.
    Addressing a conference about the Golan's future, Bennett said the internal Syrian strife had "persuaded many in the world that perhaps it is preferable that this beautiful and strategic territory be in the State of Israel's hands.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
     A man drives an agricultural tractor in a vineyard in the Golan Heights
     A man drives an agricultural tractor in a vineyard in the Golan Heights
    A man drives an agricultural tractor in a vineyard in the Golan Heights
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "But even in a situation in which - as could happen - the world changes tack on Syria, or in relation to Assad, this has no bearing on the Golan Heights," he told the forum hosted by the conservative Makor Rishon newspaper.
    "The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop."

    Assad's grip on power

    The extension of Assad's two-decade-old presidency in a May election did little to break his pariah status in the West, but fellow Arab leaders are coming to terms with the fact he retains a solid grip on power.
    Geopolitical considerations contributing to their recalculation include calls by Assad backer Russia for Syria's reintegration, Washington's more hands-off regional approach and Arab hopes of countering Iranian and Turkish clout in Damascus.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
    (Photo: Reuters)
    While not changing the policy, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has been circumspect on the Golan issue, describing Israel's hold in de facto rather than de jure terms.
    Asked in a February interview if Washington would continue to deem the Golan Heights part of Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled openness to an eventual policy review on a territory most countries consider to be under occupation.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Druze residents of the Golan Heights attend a rally in support of Syrian President Assad in Majdal Shams
    Druze residents of the Golan Heights attend a rally in support of Syrian President Assad in Majdal Shams
    Druze residents of the Golan Heights attend a rally in support of Syrian President Assad in Majdal Shams
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "As long as Assad is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran ... the control of the Golan in that situation, I think, remains of real important to Israel's security," he told CNN.
    "Legal questions are something else. And, over time, if the situation were to change in Syria, that's something we'd look at."
    In his speech, Bennett pledged to double the size of the Israeli population on the Golan, which is currently about equal to a Druze Arab community that often professes loyalty to Syria.
    Talkbacks for this article 0