A far-right Israeli minister on Sunday called for the international community to endorse his country’s 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, where he called for increased Jewish settlement.
“I call on the international community… to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan,” Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, said in a speech at a time of increasing world pressure on Israel over the occupied West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem.
Bennett sees the sparsely-populated Golan as a very different case from the Palestinian territories and a vital buffer between Israel and the turmoil raging a few hundred metres (yards away) where the Syrian government has lost control of the border region to rebels.
“I understand that there is a disagreement on Judaea and Samaria, what the world calls the West Bank. I understand that on this we shall agree to disagree,” he said.
“But the Golan, to ban agricultural exports from the Golan? Where is the logic, where is your morality.”
“Who would you like us to give the Golan Heights to? To (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad? To (Al-Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra Front? To the Islamic State (jihadist) group. To (Lebanon’s) Hezbollah?,” he asked.
Bennett, the education minister and a leading supporter of the settlement movement, addressing a security conference at Herzliya near Tel Aviv, condemned boycott efforts by opponents of Jewish settlement.
He compared the mounting economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of territories seized in the 1967 Six-Day War to the international community’s stance on other disputed territories.
“Enough hypocrisy, enough of double standards,” he said.
“The European Union does not treat occupied northern Cyprus or Western Sahara in the same way it treats the Golan.”
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed it 14 years later, in a move never recognised by the international community.
“The world cried out and harshly criticised Israel then. There is not one country which recognised the Golan as part of the state of Israel, including our best friends,” Bennett said.
He said the current Israeli population of the strategic plateau was 23,000.
“We have settled on the Golan the equivalent of a few villages in Tuscany,” he said, setting an ambitious target for expansion.
“One hundred thousand Jews on the Golan Heights in five years, it is achievable.”
The international community regards all Israeli construction on land seized during the Six-Day War as illegal.
The European Union in 2013 issued guidelines banning European institutions from dealing with Israeli entities operating in settlements.
“The territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 comprise the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem,” it said.
“The EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over any of the territories referred to… and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law.”