An exceptional meeting was held this Sunday in Israel. Traveling to the occupied Golan, a strategic area taken from Syria in 1967, Naftali Bennett’s government voted a plan to double the number of settlers in this region annexed 40 years ago.
The Prime Minister, who chaired this ministerial meeting held in Kibbutz Mevo Hama, announced the vote on this plan, the cost of which will amount to one billion shekels, or about 280 million euros.
Doubling the population in the Golan Heights
« Our goal today is to double the population in the Golan Heights, » said Naftali Bennett, adding that the plan aims to develop infrastructure in this region in the north of the country, as well as create housing and jobs. About 25,000 Israeli settlers now live in the Golan Heights alongside some 23,000 Druze who claim to be mostly Syrians while having the status of residents in Israel.
The Golan Heights, conquered by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed on December 14, 1981, constitutes a strategic territory for the two countries, which are still technically at war. Rich in water, the Golan Heights overlooks the Galilee and Lake Tiberias on the Israeli-controlled side and commands the route to Damascus on the Syrian side.
American recognition in 2019
In March 2019, former US President Donald Trump signed the decree officially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a decision at odds with the US position for decades. Syria had denounced a « flagrant attack » on its sovereignty. « It goes without saying that the Golan Heights are Israeli, » Bennett said on Sunday, stressing « the importance » of « Mr. Trump’s recognition and the fact that Joe Biden’s administration has clarified that he there was no change in this policy ”.
Last February, the new US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken declared that the Golan was « very important to Israel’s security » but that « questions of legality (were) of a different order ». In June 2019, a new settlement was inaugurated on the annexed part of the Golan Heights, named “Ramat Trump” – “Trump Hill” – in Hebrew in honor of Donald Trump.