FM: Israel must keep Golan

If Monday was any indication, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will continue making foreign policy pronouncements despite the indictment cloud hovering over him. Just prior to saying he would resign as foreign minister, quit the Knesset and give up his leadership of Israel Beiteinu if the Attorney-General decided to indict him on a variety of breach of trust allegations, Lieberman met a massive delegation of Republican congressmen Monday and said Israel must retain the Golan Heights. "Israel is willing to begin immediate negotiations with Syria without any pre-conditions," Lieberman told the group, made up primarily of freshman congressmen. Whatever the case, he said, "in any agreement with Syria, the Golan Heights must remain under Israeli control." On Friday, in a speech marking Syria's Army Day, Syrian President Bashar Assad said there would be no compromise on the Golan Heights, and that the return of the region was "non-negotiable." "The return of all occupied land… is non-negotiable," he said. "The Syrian Arab Golan will remain Arab... and will return to the nation." Lieberman was the first high-ranking government official to meet the delegation which arrived for a week-long tour sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The group, the largest republican delegation ever in Israel, is led by House minority whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. A scheduled meeting the delegation had with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday evening was postponed until later in the week because the prime minister had to be in the Knesset for the key votes there. In addition to meeting Netanyahu, the delegation is also scheduled to meet President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and opposition head Tzipi Livni. On August 9 an even larger Democratic delegation, numbering some 30 representatives, will be arriving on a trip lead by House Majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.