Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has expressed his full support for the project to develop the Golan Heights over the next decade, which was earlier written by Deputy Minister Michael Oren, The Jerusalem Post has reported. The plan promises rapid development of the territory and a significant increase in its population, from the current 22,000 people to 100,000.
"The missed opportunity in the Golan is not only demographic but also a security danger. Iran is trying to replace the Sunni population near the border with Shiite forces to build a base in Syria and make the Golan a conflict zone with Israel," Oren claimed.
The plan also suggests the creation of an inter-ministerial committee, which will be tasked with improving the quality of life in the Golan Heights and making it more tourist-attractive.
The Golan Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. For a long time the territory was governed by a military administration, but in 1981 Tel-Aviv extended the jurisdiction of its laws to the territory and established a civil administration. The move was condemned by the UN Security Council as illegal from the point of international law. Israel justified its move as aimed at safeguarding its borders from aggressive military acts.
Israel and Syria have also been engaged in multiple tit-for-tat clashes in the disputed area, with the last one taking place on May 10, when the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes against Syrian military bases in retaliation for rockets being fired at the occupied Golan Heights from the Arab Republic's territory.
Tel Aviv claims the missile attack was launched by the Quds Force — a special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards tasked with extraterritorial operations. IDF airstrikes targeted the bases where purportedly Iran's forces rallied. Both Tehran and Damascus deny the allegations about the presence of Iranian military forces in Syria, noting that Iran only sends military advisers to the Arab republic.