Israel to Expand Settlements in Occupaied Golan Heights

January 13, 2004

On December 31, the Israeli government announced plans to dramatically expand Israeli settlements in Syria's Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights comprise 625 square miles which Israel occupied by force of arms in 1967. The Golan is considered a strategic military site; it also includes the major source waters of the Jordan River and, in turn, the Sea of Galilee.

Already, more than 18,000 Israeli settlers have moved on the Golan Heights and in 1991, Israeli formally announced its annexation of the territories despite universal condemnation by international public opinion. The new expansion project will cost $56 million and include the building of nine new settlements as well as the expansion of existing ones. Altogether Israel plans to move 9,000 more settlers on to the Golan over the next three years. Israel also plans to expand several tourist projects in the Golan which receives 2.5 million visitors every year.

Commenting on the new settlement plans, Israeli Agriculture Minister Israel Katz said: "The aim is to send an unequivocal message: the Golan is an integral part of Israel and we will continue to develop the settlements." On the same day, the Israeli Interior Ministry admitted that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza have grown by 16 percent since March 2001 when the Sharon government took power.

U.S. Pressure

The expansion of Israeli settlements is part of the program of U.S. imperialism and its police dog, Israeli zionism, to increase pressure against Syria.

Last month, the U.S. Congress passed into law the "Syrian Accountability Act" which imposes economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria. The bill demands that Syria 1) end "the development and deployment of medium and long range surface to surface ballistic missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons"; 2) "halt support for terrorism" (which includes support for various Palestinian organizations); 3) "halt the illegal imports and transshipments of Iraqi oil and illegal sales and supplies of weapons and military-related equipment to Iraq." And 4) withdraw its 20,000 troops from Lebanon.

Until the U.S. President certifies that the above demands have been met, the new law bans the export of weapons to Syria as well as so-called "dual-use items," those which the U.S. alleges have both civilian and military applications. The law also allows the U.S. President to impose a number of other sanctions, including banning all U.S. exports except food and medicine, freezing Syrian assets in the U.S., banning all U.S. investments, restricting the movement of Syrian diplomats in the U.S., forbidding Syrian-owned planes from entering U.S. airspace.

The Syrian Accountability Act follows the same Big Lie logic which the U.S. used to prepare its war against Iraq. Syria is branded as a "supporter of terrorism" because it does not accept U.S. dictates and domination and because it speaks out in defense of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Syria is accused of building "weapons of mass destruction" to cover over the reality that it is the U.S. government which has militarized the Middle East, flooded it with hundreds of thousands of troops, carried out the savage bombardment of Iraq, threatened nuclear first-strikes against Syria, etc. The Syrian Accountability Act is a dangerous step on the road to yet another U.S. war.

In voting for the law, Senator Lugar emphasized: "Syria shares a 400-mile border with Iraq. With more than 135,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, Syria needs to reconsider where its future security interests lie." Similarly, Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle said the time "to sit back and hope for Syria to change course has passed ... it simply has failed one too many times to live up to these obligations."

Make no mistake about it. The U.S. government is preparing yet more wars in the Middle East and Syria is one of its next targets. U.S. imperialism aims at nothing less than recolonizing the entire region.