Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak has revealed that an Israeli proposal to give the occupied Golan Heights to Syria was turned down by Syria’s then-President Hafez al-Assad in 1998 to avoid recognizing Israel.
Speaking to the Egyptian al-Hayat network, Mubarak said the rejected offer included establishing formal relations and opening embassies.
“I contacted the Israelis to try to recover the Golan Heights, but they demanded the opening of an Israeli embassy in Damascus and a Syrian one on the occupied land as a kind of Syrian recognition of Israel” he said.
Mubarak added that United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory last month “was the result” of Syria’s refusal of the offer.
In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab countries, during which it occupied a large swathe of Syria’s Golan and annexed it four years later – a move never recognized by the international community.
Israel has since built dozens of illegal settlements in the Golan Heights in defiance of international calls for the regime to stop its illegal construction activities.
Earlier this month, reports suggested that Israel is planning to settle some additional 250,000 settlers over the next 30 years.
Tel Aviv has also admitted using the occupied part of Golan to prop up terrorists operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Having defeated terrorist enclaves in the country following the years-long foreign-backed militancy, Damascus has vowed to retake the Israeli-occupied territory by every means possible.
Speaking last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said “Syria will liberate the occupied Golan by all means, and all choices are on the table.”
“Israel mustn’t go [too] far…We have the will and determination,” he added.
The renewed tension over the Golan Heights comes as Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” is expected to be released in the near future.
The so-called deal, a backchannel plan to “reach a peace settlement” between Israel and the Palestinians, was proposed by the US administration in late 2017.
Although the plan has not yet been released, leaks signal it may consist of the same tried-and-failed ideas seeking to consolidate Israeli control over the occupied territory, according to Palestinian observers.
Trump had previously recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel in December 2017.
Following Trump’s recognition of Israeli rule over the Golan, Lebanese resistance movement’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned that the occupied West Bank may also be recognized as Israeli territory as the “Arab world remains silent”.
Many observers have highlighted the role of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner in pushing for the new Israeli initiative in Washington.