Syrian officials rejected the proposed visit to Israel in response to a call made Wednesday by Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres for Syrian President Bashar Assad to prove his intentions for peace by visiting Jerusalem.
The call was made Wednesday by Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in a interview with Israeli radio, asking rhetorically that "If Assad said, 'I'm coming to the Knesset,' would he be stopped?" referring to the 1977 visit of Egyptian President Anwar Saadat to Jerusalem, a step which initiated the peace talks between the two nations, and ultimately ended in the Camp David Accords in 1978.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s office were also not too delighted from Peres’ proposal and were quick to react that Peres had said these words on his own, and did not reflect the official policy of the Israeli government.
Assi Shariv, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that in any case, they don’t see Assad’s calls for peace as genuine, since they were not backed by any actions. Shariv said that better than a visit to Jerusalem Assad could prove he is willing to go for peace by expelling Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal from Damascus and stop supporting Hizballah in Lebanon.
Since the end of the recent war in Lebanon, both Israel and Syria have been back-and-forth on the issue of possibly restarting peace talks between the countries. Syria is claiming the Golan Heights which were annexed to Israel after the Six Day War, and Israel is demanding that Syria stop supporting and funding Hizballah in Lebanon, as well as Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank and Gaza as a condition for negotiations.