Israel has no unique or compelling claim to the Golan as part of its "native lands".
The area has been occupied by many civilizations. During the 3rd millennium BC the Amorites dominated and inhabited the Golan until the 2nd millennium, when the Arameans took over. Later known as Bashan, the area was contested between Kingdom of Israel (the northern of the two Jewish kingdoms existent at that time) and the Aramean kingdom from the 800s BC. King Ahab of Israel (reigned 874–852 BC) defeated Ben-Hadad I in the southern Golan.
In the 700s BC the Assyrians gained control of the area, but were later replaced by the Babylonian and the Persian Empire. In the 5th century BC, the region was settled by returning Jewish exiles from Babylonian Captivity (modern Iraq).
The Golan Heights, along with the rest of the region, came under the control of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, following the Battle of Issus. Following Alexander's death, the Golan came under the domination of the Macedonian noble Seleucus and remained part of the Seleucid Empire for most of the next two centuries. It is during this period that the name Golan, previously that of a city mentioned in Deuteronomy, came to be applied to the entire region (Greek: Gaulanitis).
The Maccabean Revolt saw much action in the regions around the Golan and it is possible that the Jewish communities of the Golan were among those rescued by Judah Maccabee during his campaign in the Galilee and Gilead (Transjordan) mentioned in Chapter 5 of 1 Maccabees. The Golan, however, remained in Seleucid hands until the campaign of Alexander Jannaeus from 83-80 BC. Jannaeus established the city of Gamla in 81 BC as his capital for the region.
Following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, Augustus Caesar adjudicated that the Golan fell within the Tetrarchy of Herod's son, Herod Philip. After Philip's death in 34 AD, the Romans absorbed the Golan into the province of Syria, but Caligula restored the territory to Herod's grandson Agrippa in 37. Following Agrippa's death in 44, the Romans again annexed the Golan to Syria, promptly to return it again when Claudius traded the Golan to Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, in 51 as part of a land swap.
Although nominally under Agrippa's control and not part of the province of Judea, the Jewish communities of the Golan joined their coreligionists in the First Jewish-Roman War, only to fall to the Roman armies in its eary stages. Gamla was captured in 67; according to Josephus, its inhabitants committed mass suicide, preferring it to crucifixion and slavery. Agrippa II contributed soldiers to the Roman war effort and attempted to negotiate an end to the revolt. In return for his loyalty, Rome allowed him to retain his kingdom, but finally absorbed the Golan for good after his death in 100.
In about 250, the Ghassanids established a kingdom which encompassed southern Syria and the Transjordan, building their capital at Jabiyah on the Golan. Like the later Herodians, the Ghassanids ruled as clients of Rome; unlike the Herodians, the Ghassanids were able to hold on to the Golan until the Sassanid invasion of 614. Following a brief restoration under the Emperor Heraclius, the Golan again fell, this time to the invading Arabs after the Battle of Yarmouk in 636.
After Yarmouk, Muawiyah I, a member of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraish, was appointed governor of Syria, including the Golan. Following the assasination of his cousin, the Caliph Uthman, Muawiya claimed the Caliphate for himself, initiating the Umayyad dynasty. Over the next few centuries, while remaining in Muslim hands, the Golan passed through many dynastic changes, falling first to the Abbasids, then to the Shi'ite Fatimids, then to the Seljuk Turks, then to the Kurdish Ayyubids. During the Crusades, the Heights represented a formidable obstacle the Crusader armies were not able to conquer. The Mongols swept through in 1259, but were driven off by the Mamluk sultan Qutuz at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. Ain Jalut ensured Mamluk dominance of the region for the next 250 years.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Druze began to settle the northern Golan and the slopes of Mount Hermon. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks came in control of the area and remained so until the end of World War I.
In 1894, a Jewish community called Ramataniya was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a French Jew and early Zionist; however, the community failed within a year.
Between World War I and the Six-Day War
The boundary between the forthcoming British and French mandates was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920. The demarcation was completed March 7, 1923, several months before Britain and France assumed their Mandatory responsibilities. This placed most of the Golan in the French sphere. In accordance with the same process, a nearby parcel of land that included the ancient site of Dan was transferred from Syria to Palestine early in 1924. The Golan Heights thus became part of the French Mandate of Syria and, when that mandate ended in 1944, part of the new independent state of Syria. They remained under Syrian control until 1967.
After the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War,the Golan Heights were partly demilitarized by the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement. Over the following years the Mixed Armistice Commission (which oversaw the implementation of the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement) reported many violations by each side. The Syrians fortified positions on the Heights, from which they shelled civilian targets in Israel and launched other attacks for the next 18 years. Before the Six-Day War the strategic heights of the Golan, which are approximately 3,000 feet (1,000 m) above pre-1967 Israel, were used to frequently bombard civilian Israeli farming communities far below them, although Moshe Dayan (Israeli Defense Minister during the 1967 war) would later state that it was most often the result of Israeli provocations in the demilitarized zone. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, former Israeli General Matityahu Peled claimed that more than half of the border clashes before the 1967 war "were a result of our security policy of maximum settlement in the demilitarized area".
140 Israelis were killed and many more were injured in these attacks from 1949 to 1967.
During the Six-Day War of 1967 Syria's shelling greatly intensified and the Israeli army captured the Golan Heights on 9-10 June. The area which came under Israeli control as a result of the war is two geologically distinct areas: the Golan Heights proper (413 sq mi; 1,070 kmÂ²) and the slopes of the Mt. Hermon range (39 sq mi; 100 kmÂ²).