Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday told the Makor Rishon Golan Heights Economic and Regional Development Conference that “the Golan Heights is a strategic goal,” and that “doubling the communities in it is a goal of the Government of Israel.” According to the PM, he had delivered the same message earlier in the day in his meeting with the Golan Heights council heads and business people.
“My directive in this context is unequivocal,” Bennett said. “In six weeks, we will hold a Cabinet meeting at which we will approve a national plan for the Golan Heights. Our goal is to double, and double again, the number of residents in the Golan Heights.”
This will include “the establishment of two new communities, jobs, and more investments in infrastructure. The government will allocate the necessary resources to implement this concept and we are now working to complete the plan that will change the face of the Golan Heights. This is the obligation of the government that I lead – and we will live up to it.”
The PM reminded his audience that “generations have fought over this beautiful section of the land, insisted on living on the hard ground and never gave up on the dream and vision buried on the Golan Heights. This is our home; this is the scenery of our homeland. And now, given this magnificent history, we must ensure that the future of the Golan Heights is even more magnificent.”
He continued: “Exactly 40 years ago, the Government of Israel led by Menachem Begin made an incredibly brave and important decision: to apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights. Almost three years ago, we were informed of another significant development: the decision of the previous American administration to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel – a perception that has been adopted by the current administration.”
Bennett cited the “wall-to-wall agreement in Israeli society regarding the Golan Heights and its importance. For years, the slogan ‘The people are with the Golan’ has been familiar to almost every child.” And yet, he noted, “despite the statements and the slogans – the Golan Heights are far from utilizing their latent potential.”
“On my way here, the Justice Minister and I looked at the cattle fences and remarked to each other that nothing much has changed since our childhood,” Bennett shared with his audience. “In a world that allows remote working, when many families want space, quality of life, proximity to nature, and a sense of community, there is due to be a massive flow to the Golan Heights and we in the Government of Israel need to encourage whoever wants to build their lives here – in every way.”
“To my joy, there is competition in the government over the right to build up the Heights,” Bennett said, and revealed that “Minister Liberman, Minister Shaked, MK Tzvi Hauser, Minister Elkin, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz – all of them understand that developing communities on the Golan Heights is a national interest of the highest order and are genuinely ‘competing’ to be at the forefront and lead the effort.”
Passing on the opportunity to criticize the three coalition parties who aren’t necessarily competing to enhance Israel’s rule on the heights, Bennett said instead that “the residents will be the big winners. It is not enough to say ‘The people are with the Golan’ – the people need to be on the Golan. And for this, the government also needs to be on the Golan. And today there is such a government. For example, there is my friend, minister Gideon Saar, a true friend of the Golan Heights. I can attest that in all my years in the government and the Knesset, in various positions, in closed rooms and in public, Gideon was among the leading supporters of strengthening the communities.”
TENSIONS WITH THE ENEMIES ACROSS THE GOLAN BORDER
The PM continued: “It is impossible to discuss the Golan Heights without touching on what is happening over the border – in the other part of the Golan Heights, and in Syria in general. For more than a decade, Syria has not known stability.
“We are closely—very closely—monitoring what is happening in Syria and its ties with Iran. Iran, which has dispatched proxies and built armies to surround the State of Israel, aspires to build yet another army on the border of the Golan Heights. We will continue to act wherever and whenever necessary, at our initiative, and on a daily basis, in order to roll up the Iranian presence in Syria. They have nothing to look for there. Their adventure on our northern border needs to end. Thus, we will ensure not only the peace of the residents of the Golan Heights but of all citizens of Israel.
“I would like to make one thing clear – our position regarding the Golan Heights is not connected to the situation in Syria.
“True, the horrors that have been taking place there for a decade have convinced many in the world that perhaps it is preferable that this beautiful and strategic piece of land be in the hands of the State of Israel, that it is preferable that it be green and prosperous than yet another arena for killings and bombings.
“But even in the situation – which could happen – in which the world changes direction regarding Syria, or regarding the Assad Regime, this has no connection to the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is Israel, period.”
Bennett concluded his remarks by commending the participants in the conference that was initiated by Makor Rishon, saying: “I am pleased with the decision to dedicate this conference to the important discourse on the socio-economic resilience of the Golan Heights, to the settlement, to agriculture, the future and more. In my earlier conversation, with the entrepreneurs, I heard some very interesting ideas on how to turn the Golan Heights into an experimental area for renewable energy, solar and more. We will increase the momentum and together we will bring prosperity and development to this beautiful piece of land and its excellent people.”