04/23/2008, 00.00
SYRIA – ISRAEL

Lively reactions in Jerusalem about reports that a Golan Heights-Peace deal is in the works

A Syrian news agency releases report today about Olmert’s offer. In the Knesset some lawmakers want a referendum to decide the issue fearful that the loss of the Heights “will pump Hezbollah forces into region.”

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – “Independent” Syrian news agency Cham-Press has reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to exchange the Golan Heights for peace and this is raising a hornet’s nest in Israel.

According to the Syrian source, the message was passed on through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is mediating between the two historical rivals.

Olmert’s office responded to the news report only by stating that “Assad is familiar with Israel's position regarding peace talks and visa versa," implicitly confirming it.

For some there were rumours about secret negotiations between the two countries. Assad wants back the strategic but also water-rich Heights lost in the 1967 war.

In Israel news about Olmert’s offer has led to lively reactions.

MK David Tal, head of the Knesset House Committee, said he intends to accelerate the passage of a bill subjecting any withdrawal from the Golan to a national referendum

“Evacuating the Golan Heights will pump Hezbollah forces into region,” Tal said.

Former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and MK Arieh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party both expressed concern about the impact of withdrawal on the country’s security.

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