Israel wants to double the settlements in the Golan Heights

Status: December 26, 2021 3:49 p.m.

To this day, the Golan Heights are considered the territory of Syria occupied by Israel under international law – now the government in Tel Aviv wants to double the population. The background to this is a decision by ex-US President Trump.

Israel wants to significantly promote the settlement of the annexed Golan Heights and thus consolidate its position in the area it captured more than five decades ago. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at a special meeting of the local cabinet that the number of settlers in the Golan Heights should be doubled. “This is our moment. This is the Golan Heights moment,” he said.

In the city of Katzrin they want to build two new quarters. In addition, two new settlements were to be built on the Golan Heights, Assif and Matar. With this goal one wants to invest around one billion shekels (around 280 million euros). The Golan Heights should become Israel’s renewable energy technology hub, Bennett said.

Many states do not recognize annexation

Israel occupied the strategically important Golan Heights in the Middle East War in 1967 and annexed them in 1981. Tens of thousands of Israelis currently live in the area. Syria, which used to rule there, claims the Golan Heights for itself. The construction of settlements would make peace with Syria more difficult.

According to international law, the areas are considered to be the territory of Syria occupied by Israel, and the majority of the international community does not recognize the annexation. However, the former US President Donald Trump formally recognized the Golan Heights as the state of Israel in March 2019, thus completing a U-turn in US foreign policy.

US decision as justification

Bennett said that, among other things, this decision encouraged the US to further develop the settlement. He indicated that the Israeli government was also initiating the multi-million dollar project because the current Biden government would apparently not reverse Trump’s decision at the moment. For Israel’s allies, the civil war in Syria made it more acceptable for Israel to control the Golan Heights, he said. An alternative to this is worse.

The Golan Heights are a strategically important rock plateau, about 60 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. More than 50,000 people currently live there, slightly more than half of them Jewish Israelis. The rest are Druze and a small Alawite minority. Some Druze villages refuse to allow Israel to control the Golan Heights.

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