1973: An Israeli soldier under sniper attack in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Nachum Guttmann/Keystone/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur of 1973 © Getty
Experimental feature

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00
Experimental feature

Successive Israeli governments have called the Golan Heights an “integral part of Israel” since its forces seized the territory from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Numerous US resolutions have called on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights and there have been several attempts to convince Israel to pull back. As recently as 2010, Israel held secret talks with Syria under which it would have return to its 1967 border in exchange for a peace deal.

But Israel’s position has hardened since the Arab Spring revolts and the civil war in Syria that started in 2011.

On Thursday, Donald Trump said the US should recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, reversing half a century of US policy.

Israel seizes the Golan Heights

Israeli tanks in action on the Golan Heights during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war © AFP

June 1967

Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against Syria, Egypt and Jordan. In the ensuing Six-Day War, Israeli forces capture the Golan Heights from Syria.

November 1967

A UN Security Council Resolution calls on Israel to withdraw from territory it gained in the Six-Day War, including the Golan Heights, in exchange for peace with its Arab neighbours.

A destroyed Soviet-made Syrian 57mm anti-aircraft gun and ZIL truck are abandoned on the Syrian front lines on the Golan Heights, two weeks after the beginning of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. On October 06, 1973, on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, a two-pronged assault on Israel was launched: Egyptian forces stuck eastward across the Suez Canal and pushed Israelis back, while Syrians advanced from the north and had broken through the Israeli lines on the Golan Heights.        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL DUVAL/AFP/Getty Images)
© AFP

October 1973

Egypt and Syria launch a war on two fronts on Yom Kippur — the holiest day of the year in Judaism. After a fierce battle with Syrian forces in which Israel suffers heavy losses, Israel holds on to the Golan Heights.

May 1974

Israel and Syria sign a disengagement agreement in which Israel partially withdraws from the Golan Heights, creating a demilitarised “buffer zone” between the two countries, patrolled by UN peacekeeping forces.

December 1981

Israel’s Knesset passes a law that effectively annexes the Golan Heights. The abrupt move, orchestrated by prime minister Menachem Begin, is condemned in a UN Security Council resolution.

Attempts at peace

US President Bill Clinton(C) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (L) and Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara (R) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washinton, DC 15 December 1999 at the resumption of Syrian-Israeli peace talks. These are the first talks between the two in more than three and a half years. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/ Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Bill Clinton welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (L) and Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara (R) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washinton, DC 15 December 1999 at the resumption of Syrian-Israeli peace talks. © AFP

October/November 1991

Direct talks begin between Israel and Syria after the Madrid peace conference. The US and Soviet Union co-sponsor the conference, the first time in decades that Israel had entered negotiated with delegations representing all of its Arab neighbours.

2000

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syria’s president Hafez al-Assad fail to reach an agreement at US mediated talks in Geneva. Syria insists on a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, while Israel wants to use an earlier border between the two states as a reference point. The difference is small in terms of territory, but the 1967 line would give Syria direct access to the Sea of Galilee.

June 2007

Israel expresses desire for a peace agreement with Syria. The offer is reported to include a withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for Syria severing links to Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas.

September 2007

Syria says its air defences fired on Israeli warplanes after they violated its airspace in the north of the country.

2008

Indirect talks between Israel and Syria, which take place through Turkish government intermediaries, are suspended after the resignation of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

2010

Israel holds secret talks with Syria under which it would have pulled back to its 1967 border in exchange for a peace deal.

Fighting returns

Syrian protesters throw stones at an Israeli army vehicle during a demonstration marking "Nakba" on the border between Israel and Syria near Majdal Shams...Syrian protesters throw stones at an Israeli army vehicle during a demonstration marking "Nakba" on the border between Israel and Syria, near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights May 15, 2011. Israeli troops shot at Palestinian protesters on its frontiers with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, killing nine who were marking what they term "the catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the territory in 1981, a move not recognised internationally. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu/JINI (POLITICS CIVIL UNREST ANNIVERSARY) ISRAEL OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN ISRAEL
Syrian protesters throw stones at an Israeli army vehicle during a demonstration in the Golan Heights in 2011 © Reuters

May 2011

In the first outbreak of violence along the Israeli-Syrian border in almost 40 years, Israeli forces open fire on Syrian demonstrators who had crossed into the Golan Heights to stage a protest.

May 2013

Israel’s army chief says Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad (who succeeded his father as president in 2000) will suffer heavy consequences if he destabilises the Golan Heights. The comments came after a night that sees Israel fire into Syria following an attack on one of its military vehicles.

Israel’s army establishes a new territorial regional division to address the Syrian threat.

Netanyahu tightens Israel’s grip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) poses with ministers prior to the weekly cabinet meeting in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on April 17, 2016. / AFP / POOL / Sebastian Scheiner (Photo credit should read SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) poses with his ministers in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights in April, 2016 © AFP

April 2016

In remarks that coincide with Syria’s Independence day, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister, says the Golan Heights will “forever remain in Israel’s hands.

Israel is officially neutral in Syria’s civil war but in a visit to the Golan Heights on April 11, Mr Netanyahu admits for the first time that Israel’s military had struck “dozens of times” inside Syria to prevent the shipment of Iranian weapons to Hizbollah.

Since then, Isael has attacked hundreds of Iranian targets, shot down an armed Iranian drone over the Golan and traded cross border artillery fire with Shia militia.

March 22 2019

US President Donald Trump says the US should fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, linking the territory to Israel’s security and regional stability. Such a move would reverse more than 50 years of US policy and is in contravention of the largely held international view that the Golan is occupied territory.

Get alerts on Israel when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article