Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters late last week that his government will never approve a withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal with Syria.
Netanyahu's remarks were a major reversal of purported progress former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made in third party negotiations with Damascus. Olmert, too, had been reluctant to part with the Golan, but he and several members of his government repeatedly lamented that ultimately there was no other choice.
Netanyahu, however, insists that the Golan is a critical strategic asset that Israel can never give up just in case there are future wars with Syria or other Arab neighbors.
The new prime minister's firm position regarding the Golan was expected to be a point of tension when he meets with US President Barak Obama later this month, but on Friday Obama decided to extend sanctions against Syria, indicating that he and Netanyahu are on the same page on that issue for the time being.