In defiance of massive international criticism over the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Israeli government hopes to settle some 250,000 Israelis in the occupied Syrian Golan heights over the next 30 years, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) reported on Monday.
Israel plans to construct two new Jewish-only settlements in the Golan, along with thousands of new settlement units and a raft of planned transport and tourism projects in the region, according to IBA. The population of the Golan Heights currently stands at around 50,000, including 22,000 Israeli settlers, according to Israeli figures.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed a decree on Monday at the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the U.S. now recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war. The decree formalized Trump's statement on March 21 saying it was time for the U.S. "to fully recognize" Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The move appeared to give Netanyahu a boost ahead of the closely contested April 9 Israeli elections. The illegal settlement projects in the occupied territories have been seen as a pillar of the electoral campaign launched by Netanyahu's government.
However, according to the U.N., the Golan's legal status will remain unchanged and still be considered "occupied territory" under international law. Since the decision first made by the U.S., Turkey, along with other countries, has strongly criticized the unilateral move. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the move, saying the decision has brought the region to the brink of a new crisis.
During the Six-Day War, fought between June 5-10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt (known at the time as the United Arab Republic), Jordan and Syria, Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria. Israeli settlements in the Golan began soon after the war. Israel has been seeking to maintain its grip on the Golan Heights mainly because of its geostrategic significance due to the existence of water resources and its physical location.
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