Israel’s Deputy Minister Michael Oren said on Wednesday, June 6 that his government is mulling the idea of massively expanding their presence inside the Golan Heights region, Al-Masdar says, citing Arutz Sheva.
“We’ve been settling the Golan for more than 50 years now, but there are just 22,000 Israeli citizens there,” Oren stated.
“The Golan is an inseparable part of the character of the State of Israel, and we must develop the area,” he said on the 51st anniversary of Israel’s victory during the 1967 Six Days War.
According to Oren, expanding Israel’s presence in the occupied Golan Heights is not only a moral issue, but also, a security one, as he accuses Iran of purposely displacing the local Sunni population.
“This is not just a demographic or moral issue, but a serious security threat. Iran is working to replace the local Sunni population with Shi’ite forces [on the Syrian side of the Golan], and to establish itself militarily in Syria in order to turn the Golan into a new front with Israel. We have a window of time that is critical to take advantage of – our presence there is important to the security of the State of Israel, the Middle East, and the world,” he added.
Israel captured the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Days War; they would later annex the region 1981.
In response to Israel’s refusal to hand back the Golan Heights, the United Nations passed Resolution 497, which recognized the region as a part of Syria.
While Israel claims just 22,000 citizens in the occupied Golan Heights, the remaining population is Syrian Druze, who refuse to accept Israeli citizenship.