Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will not withdraw from Golan Heights

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that his country will never withdraw from the Golan Heights and the strategic plateau bordering Syria will forever stay in Israeli hands.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: AP

In a ceremonial Cabinet meeting in the Golan marking the one-year anniversary of his current government’s formation, Netanyahu said he doubts Syria will ever return to what it was before the devastating civil war that has gripped it for more than five years. He said he would not oppose diplomatic efforts to stabilise Syria so long as they did not come at the expense of Israel’s security.

Netanyahu added that, regardless, the border would not change and it was time for the world to finally recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.

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“I chose to have this festive Cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights to send a clear message: The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israeli hands,” he said. “It’s time, after 50 years, that the international community finally recognises that the Golan will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. An Israeli withdrawal was long seen as a key to any Israel-Syria peace agreement. But as Syria began to disintegrate, the odds of Israel giving up the Golan have dimmed.

Since the aftermath of the 1973 Mideast war, the Golan has been the quietest of Israel’s front lines, a place of hiking trails, bird-watching and winery tours.