Israel to Expand Settlements in Occupied Golan Heights

January 4, 2004

On December 31, the Israeli government announced plans to dramatically expand Israeli settlements in Syria's Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights comprise 625 square miles which Israel occupied by force of arms in 1967. The Golan is considered a strategic military site; it also includes the major source waters of the Jordan River and, in turn, the Sea of Galilee.

Already, more than 18,000 Israeli settlers have moved onto the Golan Heights and in 1991, Israel formally announced its annexation of the territories despite universal condemnation by international public opinion. The new expansion project will cost $56 million and include the building of nine new settlements as well as the expansion of existing ones. Altogether Israel plans to move 9,000 more settlers to the Golan over the next three years. Israel also plans to expand several tourist projects in the Golan which receives 2.5 million visitors every year.

Commenting on the new settlement plans, Israeli Agriculture Minister Israel Katz said: "The aim is to send an unequivocal message: the Golan is an integral part of Israel and we will continue to develop the settlements." On the same day, the Israeli Interior Ministry admitted that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza have grown by 16 percent since March 2001 when the Sharon government took power.

The expansion of Israeli settlements is part of the program of U.S. imperialism and its police dog, Israeli zionism, to increase pressure against Syria. Last month, the U.S. Congress passed into law the "Syrian Accountability Act" which imposes economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria. Following the same script used to prepare the war against Iraq, the U.S. government is trying to brand Syria as a "terrorist state" with "weapons of mass destruction" and demanding that Syria accept, unconditionally, U.S. dictates. In October, Israel -- with the full support of the Bush administration -- carried out air strikes deep inside Syrian territory.