Despite avowing in 2006 that “the Golan Heights will remain in our hands forever,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced last week he is conducting indirect peace talks with Syria over the strategic plateau in the North, angering officials in Israel and among Syria’s Arab allies.
In this morning’s weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert emphasized the need to keep details of the talks out of the media.
“I can say that we are taking these negotiations seriously and are preparing for them rigorously,” he said. “They will be held according to the current reality, not according to the situation 10 years ago; according to today’s diplomatic sensitivities, and not according to what took place in the past.”
Israel may be eager to cut a deal with Syria to stem the influence of Iran and Hizballah - which has just captured power in Lebanon - in the region. However, with the strategic Golan Heights, Syria would have a bird’s eye view into Israel and an extreme military advantage.
Syria has long been the funnel from Iran who supplies weapons to Hamas and Hizballah and depends heavily on Iran as a political and financial ally.
Iranian President Ahmedinajad was said to be angry with Syria for talking to “the enemy.”
Hamas leader Khaled Mashal who lives in Damascus tread lightly on criticizing his host country, saying he trusts “Syria and its leadership, and it will not harm Palestinian rights.”
Israeli Minister of Science and Culture Raleb Mejadle, Israel‘s only Arab government minister, defended the talks with Syria, saying this is “in the best interests of both Israel and Syria” and will hopefully disconnect Syria from Iran and the axis of evil.