The London based Al-Hayat reported Saturday that Israel was "concerned" that Syria's decision to remove military checkpoints on the road to Kuneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights could be a preparation for war. According to the report, the checkpoints in question had been in place for 40 years, ever since the Six Day War. Al-Hayat also claimed that foreign journalists were being barred from covering IDF maneuvers conducted on the Golan Heights.
Syrian students in Lebanon to go home
The newspaper reported that Israel had blocked access to areas on the Golan Heights from which villages and towns were visible. The report listed the equipment the IDF had left in place, including bulldozers and 70 tank outposts.
The report came two days after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni addressed Syrian concerns that Israel planned to attack the country. Livni said that the IDF was conducting exercises and nothing more.
Speaking at a meeting with her Danish counterpart, Per Stig Moller, Livni said that Israel wanted to live in peace with its neighbors.
"Israel, unfortunately, has to be constantly prepared. The IDF's job is to protect Israeli citizens, and for this it must train, and for this exercises were created. It would be a shameâ€¦ to interpret this otherwise," Livni said.
Also on Saturday, Dr. Ibrahim Suleiman - a Syrian-American who appeared before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee several months ago reiterated what he told Channel 10 news at the time, saying [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert is too weak politically to achieve peace with Syria.
In an interview to the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabiye, Suleiman said that officials in Israel who opposed peace with Syria had leaked reports of his meetings with former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel in order to "torpedo" any possible talks.
"If [Syrian President] Bashar Assad repeats that he's interested in peace with Israel, he means it," Suleiman said. He added that peace between Israel and Syria was the key to stabilizing the Middle East, including Iraq and Lebanon, and would renew contact between Israel and the Palestinians.
Following Suleiman's visit, which was sponsored by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On and much publicized in the Israeli media, Syrian sources were quick to dismiss Suleiman as a "non-entity," saying that he represented "no one but himself" and that he was "not speaking for the Syrian people."
The Syrian regime contradicted both Suleiman's statements and itself by alternating statements of a will to negotiate peace and threats to take back the Golan by Mukawama - resistance in Arabic - a phrase that can mean anything from a limited terror campaign to all-out war. Threats of Mukawama by the Syrian foreign minitstry and other top Syrian officials sometimes arrived within days from declarations that Syria seeks nothing but peace.
The constant factor in Syrian foreign policy remains its arming of Hizbullah, a violation of UN resolution 1731 from August 2006, which prohibits any country from rearming the terrorist Shi'ite Organization
Farid Ghadri, president of the Reform Part of Syria, based in Washington DC, visited Israel in June and also appeared the FADC. In his address there, Ghadri urged Israel to avoid making peace with a totalitarian Syrian regime, as this would constitute "Betrayal of the Syrian people."
Last week, the Golani Infantry Brigade held its training-concluding drill in the Golan Heights. The drill summarized 70 days of training which focused on practicing for battle against a Syrian-Lebanese constellation.
The drill was widely covered in the Syrian media, even prompting a Syrian radio analyst to say that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was lying in his statements that Israel seeks peaceful relations with Syria. The analyst said it was clear the Golani drill constituted preparation for an Israeli attack.