Senior government politicians in Jerusalem on Thursday cast serious doubt on the sincerity of Syrian President Bashar Assad's comments that his country was interested in peace..
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said Damascus's overture was made to win points with the international community, while at the same time Syria continued to aid Hizbullah, Hamas and other terror groups.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Shalom pointed out that Syria enables arms from Iran to be smuggled to Lebanon through its borders and in doing so violates UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i was no less skeptical, saying that Syria's continued support of Hizbullah made it difficult to believe the Arab state was serious about peace.
"As we speak, weapons are being transferred to Hizbullah - from Syria to Lebanon," Vilna'i told Army Radio.
While Israel wants peace, he said, there were certain requirements that had to be fulfilled.
"The first stage is to implement the agreements to which we committed ourselves," he said.
"As far as it concerns us in Syria, we have national support to continue talks with Israel," Assad said on Wednesday, after meeting Croatian President Stipe Mesic.
A somewhat more optimistic attitude was evident in Israel's initial reaction to Assad's comments, as reflected in Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Wednesday night statement.
"Peace with Syria is a central block in any stable regional settlement. Israel has searched in the past and will continue to search in the future for ways to advance peace with Syria," said Barak, in a statement released by the Defense Ministry.
"Nonetheless, what is required is responsible leadership from Syria and also from Hizbullah to prevent a deterioration in the region."