HERZLIYA, Israel (JTA) – Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, called on the international community to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
Bennett, chair of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, issued the call on Tuesday at the opening of the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s premiere defense and diplomatic gathering, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center-Herzliya. He said the collapse of Syria and lack of conflict in the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981, justified recognizing Israeli sovereignty there.
“Whom should we give the Golan to, to al-Nusra? To al-Qaida?” he asked, referring to terror groups in Syria. “Why do they still not recognize the Golan? What’s the reasoning? If we had listened to the world, we would have given away the Golan, and ISIS would have been on Lake Kinneret,” the Sea of Galilee.
Bennett called for Israel to increase the Golan’s Jewish population to 100,000 – from about 20,000 today – in the next five years. He also decried boycotts of Israel, vowing to “hit back” at anyone who boycotts Israeli products.
Speaking after Bennett, haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism lawmaker Moshe Gafni called on Israel to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union party also called for talks toward a Palestinian state in order to avoid a binational Israeli-Palestinian state. He said Israel should initiate a regional conference with like-minded Arab states, forming a united front to advocate for shared interests.
“With our own hands, we’re losing our independence,” he said at the conference Tuesday. “The Jewish national home will turn into the Palestinian national home. We’ll be a minority that needs to fight for its freedom and rights, just like in thousands of years of exile.”
Also speaking at the conference, veteran Likud lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi said he favored two states, but that a Palestinian state cannot be established until Palestinians stop demanding a right of return to Israel.
“One state won’t be,” he said. “We didn’t create a Jewish state to turn into an Arab state. The two-state solution is possible on the condition that the Palestinians take the step that’s so hard for them, and give up on the dream of flooding Israel with refugees under the Law of Return.”