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Within hours of the publication of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's interview in the Washington Post Saturday in which he said that Syria would not demand the return of the Golan Heights as a precondition for peace talks, MKs from a number of parties were calling on the government to take action and initiate such talks with Syria.
"I call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to show leadership and to respond to the peace offer that Syria has made," said MK Danny Yatom (Labor). "Only negotiations can solve the terror and war plaguing our region. Rejecting the Syrian offer could lead to a senseless war and an increase in terror."
Yatom's party colleague, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, also called on Olmert to begin peace talks.
"In light of the two Syrian declarations, one by the president and the other by the foreign minister, I call on the prime minister not to continue ignoring Syrian messages, but to seriously consider them," said Paz-Pines. "The policy of denying or ignoring these offers does not serve Israeli interests."
Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Amir Peretz has issued calls for Israel to begin peace talks with Syria several times since the recent war with Lebanon. Paz-Pines and Yatom are among several other Labor MKs, including Amy Ayalon and Avishay Braverman, who are challenging Peretz for the party leadership.
Meretz Party MKs also responded positively to Moallem's comments, with MK Ran Cohen calling the move a "significant step." "We've reached an absurd situation in which Syria is going out of its way to signal its seriousness to Israel, while the Israeli leadership is going out of its way to prevent any progress," said Cohen.
Meretz Faction Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called on Olmert to stop "Israeli insubordination" and initiate talks .
Meanwhile, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's office released a statement saying he believes Israel should talk to Syria if it disconnects from the "axis of evil with Iran," stops transferring weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon, clamps down on terrorism within its own borders, and includes the US within the peace talks.