During an interview with Ynet, Olmert explained that the "Syrians … continue to sponsor terrorists, including Palestinian terror groups working against us in the territories. I don't see in their behavior a sign that could encourage Israel to start a process."
Earlier, Education Minister Yuli Tamir expressed a contrary view, claiming that there should be dialogue with the Hamas government and with the Syrians, in order to advance a solution for the regional crisis.
Knesset Member Barakeh said Monday evening following Olmert's comments: "The Syrian leadership is again calling on the government to open negotiations and the Olmert government is again insisting on refusing, like it refuses dialogue with the Palestinian leadership. This government has proven it is the only partner in the Middle East to the warring policy of the White House."
Acting Knesset chairman, Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) said: "Olmert is concerned with searching after Syria's motives for peace and is continuing in his rejection. At this time Olmert is not a peace partner – not with Syria and not with Palestine."
"Peace has a price tag – a withdrawal from the whole of the Golan Heights and a withdrawal from all of the Palestinian territories conquered in '67 and this is a price Israel is not willing to pay. Other than Olmert's concern not to upset George Bush, he has his own agenda regarding Syria, Israel is losing yet another opportunity for peace," he added.
Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said following the Ynet interview: "The prime minster must open the possibility for peace and not close it. Instead of saying what not to do, Olmert must explain how he is building partners for peace. Without meaning to, the prime minister is leading us to another round of useless violence."
During the interview, Olmert said that "the United States is opposed to talks with Syria not because it opposes peace. It, like many others, doesn't believe that Syria wants peace, but that Syria's face is turned towards lessening pressure on it, which is the result of its support for terror – Terror against the United States in Iraq and terror against Israel in the territories. This explains America's suspicion over talks with the Syrians, because they believe the Syrians do not truly mean what they say, and there is no reason we should give Syria rewards it doesn't deserve. I didn't say Assad is no partner. At this moment in time … I don't see in him a partner to steps that could lead to negotiations."
Ronny Sofer contributed to this report