Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP)
Syria has long demanded the return of the Golan, and Israel’s unilateral annexation of the area was not recognized internationally
JERUSALEM: Israel will keep the Golan Heights forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced remarks that stopped short of recognizing the claim.
In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump parted with other world powers by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli. Israel occupied the strategic plateau in a 1967 war with Syria and annexed it in 1981.
Blinken said on Monday he saw control of the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel and also borders Lebanon and Jordan, as being “of real important to Israel’s security” but was circumspect about recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the territory.
“Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at, but we are nowhere near that,” Blinken told CNN.
Briefing reporters, Netanyahu said in response: “Look, they said they are looking at it — but I have already looked at it. As far as I am concerned, the Golan Heights will remain forever part of the State of Israel, a sovereign part.”
“What, should we return it to Syria?” he added, noting the internal strife in Israel’s long-time enemy. “Should we return the Golan to a situation where mass-slaughter is a danger?”
Syria has long demanded the return of the Golan, and Israel’s unilateral annexation of the area was not recognized internationally.
Former US President Donald Trump signed a decree in March 2019 recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied part of the Syrian Golan, annexed in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Syria described Trump’s decision at the time as a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.
Israel and Syria, which are still technically at war, are separated by a de facto border at the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the end of the 1967 Six-Day War.