Israel will keep the Golan Heights forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced remarks that stopped short of recognizing the claim.
In 2019, then-U.S. President Donald Trump parted with other world powers by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli. Israel occupied the strategic plateau in a 1967 war with Syria and annexed it in 1981.
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Blinken said on Monday he saw control of the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel and also borders Lebanon and Jordan, as being "of real important to Israel's security" but was circumspect about recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the territory.
"Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that's something we look at, but we are nowhere near that," Blinken told CNN.
Briefing reporters during a visit to the northern Arab Israeli town of Zarzir, Netanyahu said: "The Golan Heights has been and will continue to be a part of the State of Israel. With an agreement or without an agreement, we are not leaving the Golan. It will remain under the sovereignty of the State of Israel."
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"What, should we return it to Syria?" he added, noting the internal strife in Israel's long-time enemy. "Should we return the Golan to a situation where mass-slaughter is a danger?"
Syria has long demanded the return of the Golan, and Israel's unilateral annexation of the area was not recognized internationally.