Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the first-ever cabinet meeting held in the Golan Heights on Sunday that the area will “forever remain” part of Israel.
Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War and extended Israeli law to the area in 1981.
Netanyahu said that he told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the day before that he supported international efforts to end the Syrian civil war as long as they don’t involve changing Israel’s border with Syria, the Times of Israel reported. He also reportedly told Kerry that it was unlikely that Syria would ever be reconstituted as a single nation. The prime minister added that any peace deal with Syria would have to be “on the condition that it doesn’t come at the cost of Israel’s security, i.e. that at the end of the day, the forces of Iran, Hezbollah and Daesh [ISIS] will be removed from Syrian soil.”
Netanyahu announced that he convened the cabinet meeting in the Golan “to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights….In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem.”
“Israeli leaders see in the turmoil in Syria a chance to convince the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan,” The Times reported.
Former State Department official Aaron David Miller, who was deeply involved for over twenty years in peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in October that had Israel ceded the strategic territory back to Syria, “the results might have been catastrophic for Israel and for the U.S….In response to the Syrian civil war and the rise of Islamic State, Israel would have faced a hot front confronting Hezbollah, Iran, and a range of Islamist jihadis.”
Hoover Institution senior fellow Peter Berkowitz argued in RealClearPolitics two months ago that although there are few precedents in international law for establishing sovereignty over territories that had once been part of a different nation, in the wake of Syria’s collapse, Syria had no longer had real title to the Golan. Given Israel’s “exercise of sovereign power on a peaceful and extended basis” over the Golan, Berkowitz argued that since “public international law favors stability, order, and peace,” it should favor Israeli sovereignty over the Golan “to the grim alternatives for the Golan Druze: the tyrannical rule of Shiite Islamist Iran’s puppet Assad, or the tyrannical rule of Islamic State Sunnis.”
[Photo: Effi Sharir / POOL ]