Israel Says It Will Keep Golan Heights Despite No Recognition Of Ownership

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stated that Israel will keep the Golan Heights despite Syrian claims on the territory. On October 11th, a press conference was held in Hispin City where Bennett outlined his plans for the area and ensured it was under Israeli control. It also was announced that a national plan would be ratified to double the population of Israelis living in the Golan Heights. Israel’s interests in the region stem from its security advantages as well as being a rich source of natural resources, but it is a possible point of conflict as it is internationally recognized as Syrian.

The Golan Heights are a plateau in Western Asia that was captured by Israel from Syria in 1967 after the Six-Day War. In 1981, the Golan Heights Law was passed which was described as an annexation of the land by Israel, but the U.N. security council passed a Resolution that condemned this action. In addition, the international community always recognized this territory as Syrian and many States have demanded the return of it. In 2019 the United States became the only state to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli sovereign territory under President Trump.

Bennett stated that the Syrian Civil War had “persuaded many in the world that perhaps this beautiful and strategic territory should be in the State of Israel’s hands.” This further demonstrates his intentions with the area but raises questions as to which states — not individuals — would support Israel in its efforts. According to Reuters, an official source from Syria’s Foreign Ministry stated that “such aggressive statements and policies will not change the eternal truth that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian and that it is returning to the motherland sooner or later.”

These statements are suggestive of future conflict as Israeli and Syrian interests over the area contradict. Israel wants the Golan for security reasons as the territory serves as a buffer zone between the nation and unstable Syria. In addition, the land provides important water sources and fertile soil. There is growing concern over conflict in the region as Israeli airstrikes and the stationing of Iranian armies have been reported according to the International Crisis Group. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that keeping violence down in the area would be a top priority for the U.S. and possible measures will be taken to do so.

Looking forward, there is likely to be strife within the region and between Israel and neighboring Syria. The people of the Golan are resentful towards Israel and have even begun protests in cities according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). Bennett’s plan to increase the Israeli population on the plateau is likely to create further tensions and reactions from Syria. President Joe Biden’s administration has been mostly circumspect to the issue and has followed a hands-off approach. Within Washington, it has been stated that there is some openness to discussing policy review in the future.