'Israel is open to any murmur of peace'

PM's comments indicate a softening of stance on talks with Syria.

assad cool 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
assad cool 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
In a gesture to Syria, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday said that he was open to "any murmur of peace" from Israel's enemies. Syria has recently signaled that it would like to reopen peace talks with Israel, which broke down seven years ago. Olmert has rejected the offers, citing Syria's support for Hizbullah and Palestinian terror groups. In a speech to graduates of an air force pilot's course, Olmert indicated he was softening his opposition. "The state of Israel is open to any murmur of peace from our neighbors and across our borders," he said. "If our enemies genuinely want peace, they will find in us a fair partner, determined to establish relations of peace, friendship and reciprocity," he added. Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, played down the comments. "He has constantly said that if we see anything different, a glimpse of change, then that would be interesting and could make a difference," she said. However, Syria continues to support Israel's staunchest enemies - including the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah, she added. There was no immediate reaction from Syria, where government offices were closed at the beginning of an eight-day holiday. In recent weeks, Syrian President Bashar Assad has offered to restart peace talks with Israel. The offers came in different forms, including news interviews. The recent report for the White House by the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, urged Israel to reopen talks with Syria to help reduce tensions in the Middle East. Israel has rejected the report's conclusions. In peace talks that broke down in 2000, Israel offered a return of all of the captured Golan Heights, but the negotiations foundered on Syrian demands for a foothold on the shore of the Sea of Galilee - a major source of Israeli drinking water - and conditions for peace it would give Israel.