Israel to double settlers in Golan Heights

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 26, 2021, 07:58 PM(IST)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) heads the weekly cabinet meeting in Kibbutz Mevo Hama in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on December 26, 2021. Israel today approved a plan to double settlers in occupied Golan, the prime minister's office said. Photograph:( AFP )

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Golan Heights was captured by Israel from Syria during Six-Day War in 1967. Syria and Israel technically remain at war to this day

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday announced a plan costing more than USD 300 million to double Jewish Israeli settlers in the Golan Heights. This territory was captured by Israel from Syria more than 40 years ago.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who held his weekly cabinet meeting at the Mevo Hama community in the Golan on Sunday, vowed this was the "moment" to boost the number of Jewish Israelis living in the territory.

"Our goal is to double the population in the Golan," the right-wing Bennett said as he presented his one billion shekel ($317 million) programme to improve housing, transportation, tourism and medical facilities in the area.

Israel captured Golan Heights from Syria during Six-Day War in 1967. 

Around 25,000 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights, along with some 23,000 Druze, who remained on the land after it was seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel annexed the territory on December 14, 1981, in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

Former US president Donald Trump, widely viewed as pro-Israeli, granted US recognition to Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in 2019.

"It goes without saying that the Golan Heights is Israeli," Bennett said Sunday, noting the Trump recognition and what he described as the "important" fact that President Joe Biden's administration had "made it clear that there is no change in policy".

Shortly after the Biden administration took office in January, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested there were legal questions surrounding Trump's move, which Syria condemned as a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty.

But Blinken indicated there was no thought of reversing course, especially amid the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Israel and Syria, which are still technically at war, are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights.

Bennett, who leads an ideologically disparate eight-party coalition, needs cabinet approval before his Golan plan can move forward.

Sunday's meeting was temporarily delayed after the premier's 14-year-old daughter tested positive for the coronavirus, sending Bennett into isolation, but a vote on the plan was still expected.

(With inputs from agencies)

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