Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. FILE PHOTO

Israel Says It Will Keep Golan As Assad's Fortunes, US Views Shift

10/11/2021

Israel will keep the Golan Heights, which it has annexed, even if international views on Damascus change, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.

In 2019, then US President Donald Trump broke with other world powers by recognizing Israel as sovereign on the Golan Heights, which it annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

Bennett's remarks came as the current US administration hedges on the Golan's legal status and some US-allied Arab states ease their shunning of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his handling of a decade-old civil war.

Bennett said the internal Syrian strife had "persuaded many in the world that perhaps it is preferable that this beautiful and strategic territory be in the State of Israel's hands.

"But even in a situation in which - as could happen - the world changes tack on Syria, or in relation to Assad, this has no bearing on the Golan Heights," he told the forum hosted by the conservative Makor Rishon newspaper.

In February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "As long as Assad is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran,” Golan’s control is important to Israel.

Report by Reuters

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