Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Photo: AFP

Olmert: Israel mustn't undermine US stance on Syria

Prime minister tells cabinet Israel should refrain from talks with Syria at this point in time, as not to go against the United States' stance regarding Damascus

Calls for a renewal of the peace negotiations between Syria and Israel by Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moalem this weekend, left Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unimpressed.


Olmert continues to stand by his stance that the conditions for talks with Syria have not yet matured.


"The question that should be asked is why Assad made these declarations after the Baker report was published in Washington, after (President George W.) Bush made a strong statement on the matter, and when the entire international community demands that the Syrians stop their war mongering and acts against the Siniora government in Lebanon," the PM stated.


Olmert told his cabinet he doubts talks with Syria would be the wise step to take at a time when the international community was pushing for pressuring Khaled Mashaal in Syria.


However, what apparently stands behind Olmert's reluctance to accept Syria's overtures for dialogue are United States pressures.


At the cabinet meeting, Olmert asked whether now was a good time for Israel to express views that go against those of the American president, while Bush is engaged in hard internal-political battles, as well as wars in Iraq and other places.


'Question is what Israel gets from Syria'

Olmert reminded the ministers that the US was Israel's most important ally, and that the state has a strategic relationship with it.


"The question is not what we give to Assad – Barak and Bibi made him offers in the past – but what Israel gets in return. Can Israel, under today's circumstances, disconnect Syria from Iran? Can we stop Syria's support for Hamas? Before we respond and formulate our policy we should weigh these things with caution," he said.


Vice Premier Shimon Peres also referred to Israel's friendship with the United States, "Which protects us from all threats," and wondered whether Israel would be right to operate against the American stance, "In order for the Syrian president to escape the trouble he's in."


However, an official at the Prime Minister's Office said that Olmert does not rule out completely talks with Syria.


"He means that this is not the time to respond to the call, since no discussion has taken place yet, and he wants to hear the ministers and defense establishment's opinion on the matter," he explained.


פרסום ראשון: 12.17.06, 15:31
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