The Israeli Parliament voted to annex the Golan Heights on December 14, 1981 – 14 years after capturing the territory in the Six Day War.
On December 14, 1981 – 14 years after Israel captured the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War – the Knesset (Israeli parliament) voted to annex the strategic territory in a majority vote of 63 to 21.
Israel launched the Six Day War on June 5, 1967, when faced with an existential threat from the surrounding Arab countries, including Syria, which vowed to eliminate the Jewish State. On June 9, the IDF moved against Syrian forces on the Golan, and by late afternoon the next day, they were in total control.
In a surprise attack on October 6, 1973, which that year coincided with Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. Syrian troops stormed the Golan Heights before being driven back by the IDF. On May 31, 1974, Syria signed the Agreement on Disengagement, and Israel remained in control of the Golan.
It took more than seven years until Israel formally annexed the territory in what was called the Golan Heights Law, which was rejected by the United Nations. UN Resolution 497, adopted unanimously on December 17, declared it to be “null and void and without international legal effect.”
The Golan Heights – roughly 40 miles from north to south and 10-12 miles from east to west – are strategically important, due to their high elevation.
Approximately 20,000 Jews have made their home in the scenic Golan. The economy is based on agriculture and industry, including tourism. There are wineries, beautiful fields and reservoirs, hiking trails, waterfalls, historic sites, and a thriving city by the name of Katzrin. Israel has also invested heavily in improving the quality of life for the large Druze population in areas such as health care, social security, job training and education.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly urged US President Barack Obama to recognize Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights during their meeting at the White House in early November, but received no reply.
Later that month, the UN General Assembly adopted six anti-Israel resolutions sponsored by the Palestinian Authority and Syria, including a demand that Israel relinquish the Golan Heights – despite the Syrian Civil War and the growing threat of the Islamic State terrorists.