Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967. It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.
On 19 June 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement, although this was rejected after the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Syria tried but failed to recapture the Golan, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UNDOF.
Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981. This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497, which said that « the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect. »Israel states it has a right to retain the Golan, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, which calls for « safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force ». However, the international community reject Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.
‘The United States considers the Golan Heights to be Syrian territory held under Israeli occupation subject to negotiation and Israeli withdrawal. The United States considers the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, both the 4th Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242’
Discovery of Oil Deposits
Reportedly, the potential production of newly discovered oil deposits in the Golan may reach billions of barrels, while Israel consumes 270,000 barrels per day, it currently imports up to three quarters of its oil from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, the Financial Times reported in August.
The occupied region is, however, also a key source of water for an arid region dependent on the River Jordan along its length. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River and currently provides a third of Israel’s water supply. Water to the Palestinian West Bank is restricted.