Israel plans to double number of settlers in occupied Golan

The Israeli government on Sunday, December 26, approved a plan to double the number of settlers in the occupied Golan, a strategic area taken from Syria in 1967 and annexed 40 years ago. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement:

“The government voted in favor of an unprecedented investment plan in the Golan to double the Israeli population there. « 

At the end of a council of ministers held exceptionally in the Golan Heights, the government gave its approval to this plan, the cost of which will amount to one billion shekels (approximately 280 million euros).

7,300 housing units built in five years

According to the plan, 7,300 housing units will be built over the next five years in the existing settlements, as well as two new settlements, Assif and Matar, accommodating 6,000 houses. This should add a total of 23,000 Israeli residents to the current population of the Golan.

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 plan also includes investments in infrastructure, medical and education systems, as well as aid for farmers and industry.

A popular holiday destination for Israelis, the Golan Heights are home to many attractions, which will be supported by the authorities, who want to strengthen this region. « The need to strengthen, develop and inhabit this region is common to us », said Bennett, who heads a motley coalition (right, center, left, Arab).

Strategic territory for the two countries

The Golan Heights, conquered by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war, was annexed on December 14, 1981. It constitutes a strategic territory for the two countries, which are still technically at war. Rich in water, it overlooks the Galilee and Lake Tiberias on the side controlled by Israel and the road to Damascus on the Syrian side.

In March 2019, former US President Donald Trump signed an executive order officially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a decision at odds with the US position for decades. Syria then denounced a « Flagrant violation » to its sovereignty.

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« It goes without saying that the Golan Heights are Israeli »Mr. Bennett said on Sunday, pointing out « Importance » from « The recognition of Mr. Trump and the fact that the administration of Joe Biden has clarified that there is no change in this policy ».

In February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Golan was « Very important for the security of Israel », more than « Questions of legality [étaient] of another order « .

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In June 2019, a new settlement was inaugurated on the annexed part of the Golan Heights, called « Ramat Trump » – the « colline Trump » in Hebrew – in honor of Donald Trump.

The World with AFP

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