Netanyahu denies saying he wouldn't abide by Syria deal

However, opposition leader says if Olmert signs deal with Damascus it will be rejected by the Knesset and the public.

netanyahu likud 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
netanyahu likud 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday denied ever saying that he would not abide by a peace agreement signed with Syria. Netanyahu's office released a statement declaring that not only did the opposition leader not make the remark, but that "the issue was not even discussed by the Likud faction." The statement went on to say that Netanyahu believes that if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signs a deal with Damascus, it will be rejected by the Knesset and the public by a huge majority. On Thursday, Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar was quoted as saying that the Likud would not be obligated by any peace agreement reached between Olmert's government and Syria if Netanyahu wins the next election and returns to the Prime Minister's Office. The faction met Thursday at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters to respond to Olmert's overtures to Syria and the ongoing criminal investigations against him. "There is wide agreement from Right to Left that the diplomatic process cannot be used to shelter politicians in distress," Netanyahu said. "Most of the public knows the prime minister expedited the talks with Syria and set the exact time for revealing them to distract the public from the investigations against him. Olmert, who is up to his neck in investigations, has no moral or public mandate to conduct fateful negotiations on Israel's future." Netanyahu said Syria was "an inseparable part of the axis of evil" that would not disconnect from Iran. He warned that conceding the Golan would allow Iran to use it as a command post to endanger the entire country. "If you believe the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem that Olmert has already promised to give up the Golan up to the banks of the Galilee before the negotiations have begun, it is unprecedented diplomatic and security abandonment," Netanyahu said. "This irresponsibility joins the failures of running the Second Lebanon War, preventing the rearming of Hizbullah and preventing Kassam fire on the people of southern Israel. It is forbidden to allow the Kadima government to continue failing." Netanyahu called upon all the parties to agree on a date for elections that would allow whomever would win to receive a "new, clear and clean mandate from the people." Olmert's associates declined to respond to Netanyahu, beyond reiterating that the timing of the Syria announcement was decided before the Talansky affair broke out. But in April, amid reports of renewed diplomatic moves between Israel and Syria, Olmert traded jabs on the Golan issue with Netanyahu. "Netanyahu... was the one who sent then-Syrian President Hafez Assad an American businessman [Ron Lauder] to relinquish the Golan Heights in Israel's name, before any negotiations had begun," read a statement issued then from the Prime Minister's Office. Netanyahu's office responded that "despite Olmert's attempts to mislead the public, Netanyahu insisted on keeping the Golan Heights, and that was why the talks were stopped. In an interview with Channel 2 Thursday night, Netanyahu would not rule out negotiating with Syria, but he did rule out relinquishing the Golan Heights.