NSC: Golan not too high a price for peace

National Security Council report recommends that Israel pursue Syria negotiations in '09 to counter Iranian threat, Hamas, Hizbullah.

golan heights 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
golan heights 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A report compiled by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's National Security Council recommends Israel pursue negotiations with Syria in 2009 to counteract threats from Iran and Hamas, Reuters reported Sunday. The Reuters report quoted a senior Israeli official, who was instrumental in compiling the report, as saying that US President-elect Barack Obama should oversee such peace talks. "The most important actor for Israeli-Syrian peace talks speaks English, and his name is Obama. Without very positive and significant US involvement, the Syrian track, like the Palestinian track, will go nowhere," he said. The official was also quoted as saying that ceding the Golan Heights to Syria would not be "too high a price to pay" if Syria were to agree to cutting ties with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran. Last week, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who made the highest-level British visit to Syria in several years, dismissed as "nonsense" reports that he would be offering Syrian President Bashar Assad the prize of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan as part of a package of measures designed to persuade Syria to abandon its backing for Hamas and Hizbullah, halt its efforts to destabilize Lebanon and distance itself from Iran. "I'm not going to negotiate on anyone's behalf," he said, but added that he had been talking to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallam for 18 months about Damascus's responsibilities in the region - in Lebanon, including Hizbullah; in Iraq, as regards to its dispatch of fighters and arms; in relation to terrorism and other key issues. According to sources in Olmert's office, the prime minister is anxious to renew the indirect Israeli-Syrian talks brokered by Turkey and to meet face-to-face with Assad. David Horovitz and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.