Livni, Mofaz set terms for Syria

Livni's comments prompted an angry response from the Syrians, who had received the impression from Olmert's advisers that J'lem would not set preconditions.

livni mofaz 88 (photo credit:)
livni mofaz 88
(photo credit: )
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, the top candidates to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as Kadima leader, set conditions on Thursday for a potential diplomatic agreement with Syria. Livni's comments prompted an angry response from the Syrians, who had received the impression from Olmert's advisers during this week's talks in Istanbul that Jerusalem would not set preconditions for further negotiations. "Israel has always striven to live in peace with her neighbors, including Syria, but of course the Syrians also have to understand that this means a complete shaking off of support for terror organizations - Hamas and Hizbullah - and all its problematic ties with Iran," Livni said at the beginning of a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Livni's associates said she had made the same statement about talks with Damascus many times before and she was not the least bit upset that she was not told in advance about this week's indirect dialogue with Syrian representatives in Turkey. Mofaz, who slammed Olmert's gestures to Syria in the past, made a point of not criticizing him on Thursday in media interviews. "Every government needs to instigate processes of dialogue," Mofaz said. "It can ease pressure with Syria. But the Syrians are deep in regional terror and the first condition has to be for them to stop their connection with Iran. They can't call for destroying Israel while they negotiate peace." A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday found that Mofaz could receive almost as many mandates as the leader of Kadima as Livni. Previous polls found that Livni was the only candidate who could present a serious challenge to the front-runner in the race for the premiership, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu. The poll found that if Livni led Kadima in a general election right now, the party would win 21 Knesset seats, compared to Likud's 24 and Labor's 16. If Mofaz was Kadima head, he would win 17 seats, the Likud 22 and Labor 18. Kadima would win much fewer seats if led by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter or Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, according to the poll. Despite polls that have found that the public is overwhelmingly against withdrawing from the Golan, the Shvakim Panorama poll found that 47 percent favor negotiations with Syria and only 31% oppose the talks. A telephone poll conducted by Channel 2 Wednesday evening showed that 70% oppose relinquishing the Golan Heights for peace with Syria, compared to 22% in favor of such a move. A poll taken by the Geo-Cartographic Institute that was broadcast Thursday on Army Radio found that 65% of Israelis were against a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, even if this would bring true peace with Syria, and 64% of respondents were also against partial withdrawal.