(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Likud has issued a clear policy directive against Israeli talks with Syria to advisers of both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as to representatives of the US State Department.
"If we form the next government we won't be committed to any agreement, or partial agreement, that was achieved by Kadima during this election period between Israel and Syria," MK Yuval Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Sunday he would not order the government to stop negotiating with Syria. On Monday MK Limor Livnat (Likud) filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against the decision.
Steinitz said the Likud did not believe it was in the best interest of democracy to bind itself to an agreement with Syria reached by a caretaker government, such as the one now lead by Kadima.
Steinitz said he delivered this message about Syria last week during a conversation he had with an Obama adviser.
He said the same thing in talks with officials from the US State Department who were in Israel, and earlier in October in a conversation with a member of McCain's staff.
Overall, the Likud's position on Syria has differed from that of Kadima in that it does not believe that Israel should be conducting negotiations with Syria until Syria's stance on a number of key issues - such as support for Hamas and Hizbullah - changes, Steinitz said.
Throughout the US presidential campaign, he said, members of both Obama's and McCain's staffs have shown interest in the Likud's position on a variety of issues and have been in contact with him.
Steinitz, who chairs the joint dialogue on defense between the Knesset and Congress, said he often had an opportunity to speak with politicians in Washington.
He refused to publicly state support for one candidate or another, saying rather that it had been important for him to maintain relations with both candidates
But the Likud is not the only political party that has interested Obama and McCain as they prepared for the presidency. Both men have visited Israel this year and met with its top leaders. McCain and Defense Minister Ehud Barak even appeared at a joint press conference together in Sderot in March.
A spokesman for Barak and for the Foreign Ministry said that maintaining a relationship with the candidates was important for them; but like Steinitz would not hint at a preference.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that position papers existed in preparation for either outcome, but that the ministry had not pre-determined the outcome. "We're waiting for the victory and concession speeches," he said.
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