Israel will never leave Golan, Netanyahu tells Putin
search

Israel will never leave Golan, Netanyahu tells Putin

In Moscow meeting, PM also tells Russian president that the Jewish state will do ‘everything’ to ensure Hezbollah does not get advanced weaponry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 21, 2016 (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 21, 2016 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of his “red lines” regarding the security of Israel’s northern borders, and stressed that the Jewish state was determined to maintain its control of the Golan Heights.

“I have come to Russia to step up coordination on security matters, to prevent mistakes, misunderstandings,” Netanyahu said during the two leaders’ meeting in Moscow. “We are not going back to the days when rockets were fired at our communities and our children from the top of the Golan… and so, with an agreement or without, the Golan Heights will remain part of [Israel’s] sovereign territory.”

The prime minister also stressed that Israel would do “everything” in its power to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons, and was working to assure that no new “terror front” appeared on the Golan Heights.

The issues of the Syrian civil war and the ownership of the Golan had been expected to top the agenda at the meeting. Russia has been carrying out air raids in Syria in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad since September. And although Moscow recently announced it would withdraw many of its troops from the war-torn country, Russian planes still regularly fly sorties there.

Israeli airstrikes in Syria have also been the topic of previous high-level meetings between Moscow and Jerusalem. A number of airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah.

Netanyahu was also expected to address Russian-backed peace efforts in Syria, which have reportedly become entangled with the status of the Golan Heights, an area effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 in a move not recognized by the rest of the world.

The prime minister has previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks needed to take Israel’s position into account.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.

The prime minister was accompanied by Ukrainian-born Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin; Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; National Security Council head Avriel Bar-Yosef; and Netanyahu’s military secretary Col. Eliezer Toledano.

The entourage will return to Israel later in the evening to be home in time for the Passover festival, which starts on Friday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone during a weekly cabinet meeting held on the Golan Heights, April 17, 2016. (Moav Vardi)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone during a weekly cabinet meeting held on the Golan Heights, April 17, 2016. (Moav Vardi)

The prime minister has drawn fire internationally in the past few days, after holding a cabinet meeting on the Golan, in which he declared the plateau would remain in Israel’s hands forever. Netanyahu has also previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks, brokered between Moscow and Washington, needed to take Israel’s position into account.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.

During the meeting, Netanyahu was also likely to lobby for Russia to cancel the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, which has already begun to be implemented. Netanyahu has asked Putin to nix the sale on several previous occasions, to no avail.

On Tuesday the head of Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate said Moscow would complete its delivery of the S-300 system to Iran by the end of the year, after months of speculation over whether it would be transferred to Tehran at all.

The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles.

Putin extended an invitation to Netanyahu during a visit to Russia by President Reuven Rivlin last month, which came days after the Kremlin announced it was pulling its military forces out of Syria.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAXIM SHIPENKOV)
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAXIM SHIPENKOV)

During his visit, Rivlin asked Putin to help reestablish the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) presence on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.

Israel is interested in making sure that Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed terror groups are not able to use a power vacuum on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to set up a base near the border for attacks against Israel.

read more:
comments
more less