Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Golan Heights, April 17, 2016..
(photo credit: GOLAN REGIONAL COUNCIL)
As UN-led peace talks on the future of Syria are being held in Geneva, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the Golan Heights Sunday and declared that Israel will never leave the strategic region.
“The time has come for the international community to recognize reality,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a special cabinet meeting held for the first time ever on the Golan Heights. “First, that whatever will be on the other side of the border, the border will not change.
“And secondly,” Netanyahu added, “the time has come after 40 years for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty.”
Israel took the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War, and in 1981 extended Israeli law to the region, thereby de facto annexing it.
“I decided to hold this meeting on the Golan Heights to send a clear message,” he said. “The Golan Heights will always stay in Israeli hands, Israel will never leave the Golan Heights.”
Netanyahu said that the Golan was an integral part of Israel during antiquity, a fact borne out by the archeological remnants of dozens of synagogues there. And, he added, the Golan – which he said now has some 50,000 residents – is an integral part of Israel during the modern era.
“For the 19 years that the Golan was under Syrian occupation , it served as a place for bunkers, barbed wires, mines, and aggression – it was used for war,” he said. “ In the 49 years that the Golan is under Israeli control it was used for agriculture, tourism, economic initiatives, building -- it was used for peace.”
Netanyahu said that he spoke on Saturday night with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and said that he doubted that Syria would ever return to what it was.
“It has persecuted minorities, like the Christians, Druze, and Kurds, who are fighting justifiably for their future and their security. And on the other side there are terrorist forces – led by Islamic State, Iran, Hezbollah, and others who want to impose extreme Islam on Syria and the region, and from there to continue to impose it thought the world.”
Netanyahu said he told Kerry that Israel would not oppose a diplomatic agreement in Syria, “On the condition that it does not come at the cost of Israeli security.” That means, he added, that at the end of the day Iranian, Hezbollah and Islamic State forces be kicked out of Syria.