Olmert offers Golan Heights to Syria

Friday, June 08, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to surrender the entire Golan Heights to Syria in return for the latter severing ties with Iran, Hizballah and Palestinian terror groups, Israel's largest daily newspaper reported on Friday.

In secret messages recently conveyed to Syrian President Bashar Assad by third parties, Olmert reportedly acknowledged that there would never be peace between the two nations unless Israel fully withdrew from the strategic plateau, a price Olmert claimed Israel was ready to pay.

But an opinion poll conducted immediately after Yediot Ahronot broke the story showed that an overwhelming 84 percent of Israelis oppose handing over the Golan Heights. Furthermore, 74 percent do not trust Assad to keep his word and comply with any signed agreement.

Israel is said to be under subtle pressure from Western powers to woo Syria away from Iran and its Hizballah allies by accepting Damascus' demands.

“We can break Syria away from Iran,” one Western diplomat told The Jerusalem Post. But first Israel must show “political will and courage” to negotiate with Damascus over the return of the Golan Heights.

Syria has issued thinly-veiled threats of war if the Golan cannot be reclaimed through negotiations. Syrian forces along the border have been beefed up in recent months, and the country has acquired a large arsenal of new long-range missiles and air defense systems.

For the first 19 years following Israel's independence, Syria used the Golan as a launching pad for repeated invasions of and small-scale attacks on the Jewish state. At one point, Syria tried to damage Israel's water supply by diverting the rivers and streams that originate on the Golan and feed the Jordan River.

Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Six Day War.

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