A senior Likud official was sent by party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with a top Syrian official in Washington in January, a Lebanese news website reported on Tuesday, quoting Israeli sources.
MK Ayoob Kara said that he was the official mentioned in the report, but Netanyahu himself denied that the trip was carried out on his behalf. "Netanyahu didn't send MK Ayoob Kara to attend any meeting and knows nothing about messages that might have been conveyed through him by the Syrian government," a spokesman for the Likud leader said.
According to Lebanon Now - a site affiliated with the anti-Syrian camp in Lebanon and which is considered relatively credible - the two sides agreed to meet again after Netanyahu forms his government.
"Officials in the new American administration asked Netanyahu to consider a meeting with Syrian officials, in the hope of better understanding his plans and the prospects for renewing the peace talks with Syria," the sources told Lebanon Now.
"Netanyahu consented, and sent a representative on his behalf to Washington to meet with a Syrian delegate in the presence of US officials," they added.
The sources noted that the Syrians inquired as to Netanyahu government's plans regarding negotiations with Damascus, but that the prime minister-designate refused to convey his reply on the subject.
Netanyahu to emulate Sharon?
The website also quoted Likud officials as estimating that after the government is established rapid progress on the Syrian issue could be made in light of the tremendous efforts invested by the US government in bringing the sides closer.
"Netanyahu has positive intentions regarding progress on the regional peace process," they said, adding that "what he declared during his election campaign will be different from what he will do when the practical stage arrives.
"This is what (former Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon did during his final term in office, when he decided to pull out of Gaza, going against the messages of his election campaign and despite firm opposition against it, even within his party and among his allies in the right-wing parties," they concluded.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report