Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) chairman Naftali Bennett called on the world to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in speech to the annual Herzliya Conference on Sunday.
Israel annexed the strategic and water-rich Golan in 1981, but many foreign media articles are preceded with the dateline “Golan Heights, Occupied Territories.”
Bennett’s initiative might be the first small step towards what is going to be an eventual reality. As Syria falls apart, the idea of handing over the Golan to Bashar Al-Assad doesn’t even enter the imagination of Secretary of State John Kerry.
However, Bennett’s call for recognition was welcomed with a resounding thud by foreign media, such as AFP, whose first words in its report were “Far-right Israeli minister.” The description is outlandish, if not libelous, unless the same news agency were to call Labor party chairman Yitzchak Herzog “far-left.”
Bennett said yesterday:
I call on the international community… to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan…. 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.
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 Assad? To Al-Nusra Front? To the Islamic State group? To Hezbollah?
There is a consensus among Israelis that the Golan Heights should remain in Israel. The 20,000 Jews in the Golan Heights make up 50 percent of the population, the other half being Druze, approximately half of whom live in the city of Majdal Shams.
Prime Minister Netanyahu took the air out of Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party, which in the early stages of the election was polled to win 16 seats in the Knesset. By Election Day, the number was down to 12, the same it had in the previous government.
The day after the election, Netanyahu’s frantic call for Jews to vote had reduced the party’s strength to eight.
Bennett is not making the mistake of previous nationals religious parties to become a party of “Yesha,” the acronym for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.
He is trying to shed the party of the stigma that nationalists must be religious. Secular Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked was at the top of the heap in the elections and won the prize of Justice Minister.
Now Bennett needs even broader support in Israel to strengthen his position in the government, and his call on the world to recognize the Golan was more for local consumption than any expectation that the United Nations or even the Obama administration will admit to the truth.