Israel’s cabinet approved a plan to double the Jewish population in the southern Golan Heights, part of a 1 billion-shekel ($317 million) program meant to cement Israeli control over the territory, captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
About half of the funds will be allocated to planning and housing, and the balance to developing transportation, education, medical services, tourism, agriculture and industry, according to a statement from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office.
The plateau is home to more than 20,000 Israelis and a similar number of Syrian Druze, some of whom oppose Israeli control. Most Druze in the southern Golan have rejected Israel’s offer of citizenship.
“After long and static years in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement in the Golan Heights,” Bennett said at a special cabinet meeting in the territory. Syria’s civil war has made it clear that Israeli control of the territory is the preferable option, he said.
The Trump administration officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in 2019, departing from longstanding US and international policy. The Biden administration has not challenged that decision.
Israel has long maintained that it needs the plateau as a buffer against Syria, and more recently, against Iran, which has expanded its presence and influence in Syria in the course of the civil war.