“The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, being held for the first time on the land captured from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War.
“I chose to hold this festive Cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights in order to deliver a clear message: The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said Sunday morning.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The international community has never recognized the annexation.
“The Golan Heights have been an integral part of the Land of Israel since ancient times; the dozens of ancient synagogues in the area around us attest to this. The Golan Heights are an integral part of the State of Israel in the new era. During the 19 years that the Golan Heights were under Syrian occupation, when they were a place for bunkers, wire fences, mines and aggression, they were for war. In the 49 years that the Golan Heights have been under Israeli rule, they have been for agriculture, tourism, economic initiatives and building. They are for peace. In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem,” Netanyahu said.
The meeting comes amid efforts by the United Nations and the international community to end the years-long Syrian civil war. Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly has said that one principle upon which peace talks must be based is that the entire Golan Heights be considered Syrian and the part annexed by Israel be considered occupied territory.
Netanyahu told the government ministers at Sunday’s meeting that, in a conversation the previous evening with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, he told Kerry that Israel “will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria, on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the State of Israel,” specifically that Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamic State will be removed from Syrian soil.
He added that he also told Kerry that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights.
“The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts. One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently,” Netanyahu said.