Israel will never give up Golan Heights, says PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu has stated in emphatic terms that his country will never withdraw from the Golan Heights - a strategic plateau which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. The Israeli prime minister made the declaration at a theatrical ceremonial cabinet meeting in the Golan. It was held to mark the formation of his government one year ago. The timing of the announcement coincided with peace talks aimed at ending the Syria conflict in Geneva.

The time has come for the international community to recognise reality. Whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Striking a hawkish tone at the meeting on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said he wanted the international community to uphold Israel’s claim to the disputed territory. Israel grabbed and occupied the Golan Heights during the six-day war in 1967. In 1981, it annexed the 500 square mile territory, although this has never been recognised by the international community. The area is of huge strategic importance to Israel’s border security. Prior to 1967, when it was held by Syria, its military could look down - and shell - the small Israeli farming communities scattered below in the Finger of Galilee.