JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will never give up the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, a day after the Israeli leader said he delivered the same message to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The meeting was held for the first time on the land captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.
“I chose to hold this festive Cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights in order to deliver a clear message: The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The international community has never recognized the annexation.
Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly has said that one principle upon which peace talks to end his country’s years-long civil war must be based is that the entire Golan Heights be considered Syrian and the part annexed by Israel be considered occupied territory.
Netanyahu told the government ministers at the Cabinet meeting that in speaking with Kerry the previous evening, he told the secretary of state that Israel “will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the State of Israel,” specifically that Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamic State will be removed from Syrian soil.
He added that he also told Kerry that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights.
Netanyahu called the Golan “an integral part of the State of Israel in the new era.”
He later said: “The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts. One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”