Golan

Syrian region occupied by Israel in June 1967, after the cease-fire called by the UN and accepted by Syria on 9 June. The Golan Heights were annexed by Israel in December 1981 (condemned by the UN Security Council in Res. 497 of 1981).

Like the « Security Zone » occupied by Israel in South Lebanon since 1978, the Golan Heights were never part of the British Mandate over Palestine.

The Golan Heights, with an altitude of 500-1300 m., is a strategic region overlooking the Damascus plain eastwards and the Hule valley and Tiberiade Lake westwards. Israel’s main interest there, however is the source of water it provides with 35% of the water consumed in Israel coming from there. Minister Yigal Allon in his book « Israel, the Struggle for Hope » wrote that « the global strategic needs of Israel require the control of the Golan Heights as we have to defend our main water sources. »

No other zone occupied by Israel has seen an exodus similar to that from the Golan Heights. Most of the 150,000 Syrian inhabitants fled the region during the conflicts in 1967 and 1973 to seek refuge in other parts of Syria. No more than 13,500 stayed behind, mostly Druzes and Alawis, whom Israel has refused to recognize as Syrian citizens.

This situation and agricultural opportunities drew to this area the first Israeli settlers in occupied territory. Today 17,000 settlers live on the Golan Heights spread over 12 kibboutzim, 16 moshavim, 4 other settlements and the « town » of Katzrin. The number of settlers increased by 18 % since the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993.

Israel developed an important wine production since the occupation of the region. At present, 38% of wine exported by Israel is vintaged on the Golan (1997 figures).