Former Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel should ''seize opportunity'' to renew negotiations with Syria
On Thursday, Israel's Finance Minister and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom expressed their support for examining the possibility of resuming contacts with Syria.
"I think there is the opportunity today to explore possible contacts with Syria," Netanyahu told Israel Radio.
Netanyahu said, "Syria is a country with a despotic regime, which is trying to survive in the face of an historic wave that is removing such tyrants. They need peace with us like they need air to breathe. They need peace much more than we do. So the advantage has now moved completely to our side."
Furthermore, Netanyahu denied a report Thursday in the Yediot Ahronoth daily that he had said he was prepared to accept a withdrawal on the Golan Heights to the "cliff line" - a reference to the cliffs that overlook the Galilee lake and the surrounding Kibutzim.
According to the report, Netanyahu had told Prime Minister Sharon that Israel could "seize the opportunity" to hold negotiations with Syria, due to the current regional situation, in which "totalitarian regimes" were "seeking the closeness of the US."
In wake of the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the recent developments in Libya, Netanyahu said Israel was currently in a much stronger position were it to enter into talks with Damascus.
"The advantage has been reversed. We must demand substantial concessions from Syria on the Golan... Finally, there is an opportunity to break the notion... that Israel should withdraw to the very last meter and make all of the concessions, when in the current situation I think it is Syria who should make the significant territorial concessions."
Meanwhile, foreign minister Shalom told Army Radio that Israel should seriously examine the prospects of resuming talks with Syria, which broke down in early 2000, but that there was still a "long way" between this and a withdrawal on the Golan.
Elsewhere, according to Turkey's NTV channel, Turkey has offered to serve as a mediator between Israel and Syria. Ankara's proposal was made in the course of President Bashar al-Assad's visit to Turkey.
In the meantime, Israel's President Moshe Katsav said the government should relate seriously to recent remarks by President al-Assad, in which he called on Israel to resume talks without preconditions.
Although Katsav had "doubts about whether Assad was serious", the Israeli President said these doubts should not stop Israel from initiating contacts with Damascus, but "without any preconditions."
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had been checking Assad's recent remarks, but added he did not believe Syria was "high" on the priority list at the moment. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)