On Monday, I traveled to Katzrin to meet with Yehuda Harel. Known in some circles as the “father of settlement” in the Golan, Harel was intimately involved with the founding of Merom Golan, the first Jewish settlement to be built in any of the newly conquered territories after the 1967 Six Day War. As a former head of the Golan Residents Committee, he helped found some 33 Jewish communities in the Heights.
Harel has been deeply politically involved in the struggle (מאבק) to prevent Israeli withdrawal from the territory. A former aide to Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and active in the Labour Party (עבודה), he broke from the party in protest of PM Shimon Peres’ moves to negotiate with Syria over the Golan. In 1996, along with former Avodah MKs Avigdor Kahalani and Emanuel Zisman, he help found a short-lived political party: the Third Way. The party won four seats in the 1996 Knesset elections, Harel among them, on a platform of opposition to withdrawal from the Golan. As a coalition partner in Netanyahu’s Likud-led government, it played a pivotal role in ensuring majority parliamentary opposition to territorial negotiations with Syria. In the 1999 elections, the party failed to secure a seat and exited the Israeli political stage.