Netanyahu: The Golan Heights belong to Israel

Netanyahu: The Golan Heights belong to Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed concerns to Russian President Vladimir Putin over increased Iranian influence in war-torn Syria.
3 min read
10 March, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his country's claim over the Golan Heights during summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Netanyahu said the occupied territories - captured from Syria in the 1967 War and then annexed in 1981 - belong to Israel, despite a total lack of international recognition.

"The Golan is part of Israel and we will stay there for the world to acknowledge it as so," said Netanyahu.

The previous Obama administration in Washington did not recognise Golan as falling within Israel's borders and the Trump administration has not shifted its position.

The two leaders met after the reported establishment of an Iranian-allied Shia militia called the Golan Liberation Brigade, whose aim, it's claimed, is "the liberation of the Golan Heights" from Israel.

The brigade, an offshoot of Iraq' Hizballah al-Nujaba, announced its intention to fight in Golan.

"If the Syrian government requests we are ready to take actions to liberate Golan," Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted a spokesman as saying.

Neetanyahu also said there could never be peace in Syria as long as there was an Iranian presence in the country during a meeting in Moscow on Thursday.

Netanyahu praised Russia's role in fighting the Islamic State group and other radical militants in Syria but voiced concern over the presence of Iranian and Hizballah forces there.

"Of course, in the past year, there was significant progress in the fight against the radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by Daesh and al-Qaeda," Netanyahu said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

"Russia has made a very important contribution. Naturally, we do not want this terrorism to be replaced by the radical Shia Islamic terrorism led by Iran."

"The threat of radical Shia Islam threatens us no less than it does the region and the peace of the world, and I know that we are partners in the desire to prevent any kind of victory by radical Islam of any sort," Netanyahu said.

In a statement released by his office at end the end of the talks, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he "made it clear" to Putin that Israel is opposed to any agreement on Syria that would leave "Iran and its proxies with a military presence in Syria."

Greeting Netanyahu at the start of their Kremlin negotiations, Putin emphasised a high level of trust between them.

The two nations have coordinated their actions to prevent any possible incidents between their militaries in Syria.

Before the talks, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied media reports that Moscow has given Israel a green light to strike Hizballah.

"It has nothing to do with reality," Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. "It hasn't been discussed, and there is no talk about it."

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran has been implacable in its opposition to Israel and has provided extensive support to some Palestinian militant groups.

Hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, famously called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

Russia and Iran are allies and both back the Syrian regime in a conflict that has killed 500,000 people since it erupted in March 2011 with protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.