With Israeli sovereignty over its portions of the Golan Heights more solid than ever, the government wants to increase the Jewish population there fivefold.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Deputy Minister Michael Oren has a plan to quintuple the Jewish population in the Golan Heights, and on Wednesday his party head, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, came on board.
Syria’s disintegration has largely eliminated the possibility of Israel returning land in the Golan to the Assad regime, once considered a real option.
“The missed opportunity in the Golan is not only demographic but also a security danger,” Oren said.
“Iran is trying to replace the Sunni population near the border with Shi’ite forces to build a base in Syria and make the Golan a conflict zone with Israel. We must take advantage of this window of opportunity,” he added.
Even after holding the Golan for 51 years – ever since its capture from Syria during the Six Day War – and despite its formal annexation by Menachem Begin in 1981, there are only some 22,000 Jews living in the region.
They are scattered in kibbutzim and other smaller cooperative-style communities, with the only larger town in the area being Katzrin, with roughly 7,000 inhabitants.
About 25,000 Druze in four villages make up the other population that resides there, many of whom are of Syrian extraction and refuse to become full Israeli citizens.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Golan has the lowest population density of any region in Israel – 40 residents per square kilometer. It also has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.