Prime minister Naftali Bennett’s cabinet voted in favor of the plan that aims to build 7,300 settler homes in the region over a five-year period, during a meeting held at the Mevo Hama community in the Golan Heights.
It calls for 1 billion Israeli shekels to be spent on housing, infrastructure, and other projects with the goal of attracting roughly 23,000 new Jewish settlers to the area seized during the 1967 six-day war.
“Our goal today is to double the population of the Golan Heights”, the right-wing PM Bennett said ahead of the meeting. The Increased population will help Israel in its claims over the territory seized from Syria in the 1967 war.
He was forced to leave the meeting after his 14-year-old daughter tested positive for covid-19, putting him into isolation but a vote on the program went ahead after a delay.
Around 25,000 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights along with about 23,000 Druze, who remained on the land after Israel seized it.
Israel annexed the territory on December 14, 1981, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
In 2019, the former U.S. president Donald Trump, who is widely viewed as pro-Israeli granted U.S recognition to Israeli Sovereighty over the Golan Heights.
” The fact that the Trump administration recognized this and the fact that the Joe Biden administration has made it clear that there has been no change in its policy, is also important, the Golan Heights are Israeli. this is self-evident”, Bennett said.
Bennett claimed that after a decade of conflict in Syria, international calls to restore Syrian control of the Golan were muted.
“Every knowledgeable person in the world understands that it is preferable to have Israeli heights that are queit, flourishing, and green as opposed to the alternative”, Bennett said.
Although Bennett wants to expand Israeli settlements, some in his cabinet, notably from the dovish Meretz party have vocally opposed the plans to expand settlements in the west bank which is a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
Roughly 475,000 settlers now live in the West Bank in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law.
Prime minister Naftali Bennett is a former head of a settler lobbying council who opposes Palestinian statehood.
Bennett thinks that there is a need in Golan Heights to strengthen, cultivate and live in it, which is certainly a principle that unites everyone in Israel.
Remember Israeli and Syria are still technically at war and are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights.
Syria had been preparing itself to one day claim the Golan Heights that was occupied by Israel in a war it lost that lasted for just three days but the civil war in Syria has made such plans unlikely for the foreseeable future which has given Israel confidence to start building and expanding settlements in Golan Heights.
Initially, Israel would be worried about a possible war with Syria and would not take such steps but since Syria is weakened by a decade long civil war, it gives Israel the last opportunity to fully integrate Golan Heights into Israel before Syria re-organizes itself again and mas enough power to stop Israel settlements.
It remains to be seen what the situation will look like in the future but what is certain is that Israel has decided to take a strategic step in the direction for the formalization of Golan Heights as an Israel territory and we are likely to see Israel push hard countries to recognize this fact.