Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly fuming over indications that plans for a negotiated settlement for Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, could specify that the entire Golan Heights, including the western two-thirds of the strategic ridge captured by Israel in 1967, is Syrian land.
Netanyahu discussed the issue in a telephone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry a few days ago, a Channel 10 TV news report said Monday. He will also discuss the matter when he travels to Russia next week to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
The TV report said that the Prime Minister’s Office had confirmed that Netanyahu was concerned over the issue, that he had made clear that any such language would be unacceptable to Israel, and that he would “act to ensure” any agreement included no such provision.
Israel was frequently attacked from the Golan in its first two decades of statehood, captured the Heights in the 1967 war, and extended Israeli law to the area in 1981, a move tantamount to annexation.
Prior to to the eruption of the Syrian civil war, some Israeli security chiefs had encouraged the Israeli political leadership to explore the possibility of reaching a peace treaty with President Bashar Assad, which could also have enabled a treaty with Lebanon and the isolating of Assad’s key ally Iran, in return for relinquishing the Golan. Since Syria descended into civil war chaos and mass slaughter, however, the notion of Israel relinquishing the strategic high ground has become highly improbable.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Golan on Monday. During his tour, he said Israel has carried out dozens of strikes against Hezbollah and associated targets in Syria to prevent the Lebanese group from obtaining advanced weapons. Israeli officials have warned that Hezbollah and Iranian fighters may try to set up a base across the border, on the Syrian-held eastern one-third of the Golan, to launch attacks against Israelis.