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Golan Heights to remain Israeli 'forever', US ambassador Friedman says

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2018

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Netanyahu raised the issue of recognising Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in his first White House meeting with US President Donald Trump in February 2017.

The occupied Golan Heights will remain under Israel's control "forever", US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said this week.

The Golan Heights - constituting the south-westerly tip of Syria - were captured by Israel in 1967 and have remained under Israeli occupation ever since.

The elevated territory, which is used as a buffer and observation point, carries much strategic importance for Israel, especially since Iranian forces fighting in Syria began encroaching towards the Israeli border zone.

"I cannot honestly imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights is not part of Israel forever," Friedman told pro-Binyamin Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom on Friday. "I cannot imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights is returned to Syria."

"Giving up the high area of the Golan Heights may put Israel at great security disadvantage, and it is unnecessary to say that I cannot think of anyone more unworthy of receiving such a prize than Assad," he added.

Friedman also mentioned the possibility of the US recognising the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Netanyahu raised the issue of recognising Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in his first White House meeting with US President Donald Trump in February 2017.

Several Israeli officials have subsequently said the issue was being discussed at various levels of the US administration and Congress.

In August, however, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said no discussions were underway for official recognition of the territory.

"Obviously we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights - we understand their position - but there's no change in the US position for now," he said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Some 20,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 30 settlements in the occupied territory. Around 20,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, also live in the area.

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