The head of the research division of Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz told the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s remarks regarding the renewal of peace talks with Israel are sincere, adding that such negotiations would serve Syria’s interest.
Baidatz’s assumption directly contradicts that of Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, who said last week that "There is no indication at the moment of actualization of Syrian positions or that the country is moving toward peace."
Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting (Photo: Haim Tzach)
According to Dagan, Syria is arming itself and Hizbullah at a rapid pace, is trying to topple Siniora's government, and is undermining American presence in Iraq.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said during Monday’s meeting that “there is no indication of a war with Syria in the summer, and all the remarks made on this issue are damaging.”
Meretz MK Ran Cohen said, “Israel must seize this opportunity and negotiate with Syria so we will not wake up one morning and realize that the region’s countries are reaching their hand out to peace and Israel remains defiant.”
Likud MK Yuval Steinitz spoke of the Qassam attacks on Israel and criticized the IDF’s restraint. “We are the only country in the world that does not do anything to prevent attacks on its citizens,” he said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to oppose the opening of negotiations with Syria. “Syria continues to support terror in Iraq, is collaborating with the Iranian President and is sparing no effort to topple the government of (Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad) Siniora," Olmert said recently during a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg in Jerusalem.
"We want to achieve peace with every state, peace we want – but false pretenses we are not ready to accept," he said.
'No reason for dialogue'
European Parliament member David Hammerstein told Ynet last week that Syria was serious in its intentions for peace with Israel , but that it all depends on Israel's willingness to discuss the Golan Heights.
Hammerstein, who recently met with top Syrian officials, claimed that the peace signals received from Damascus were not a Syrian manipulation.
The Syrian moves opposite Iraq, including in the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two states, the improvement of the relations with Turkey and in the fact that the Syrians did not thwart the deployment of the international force in Lebanon testify to the fact that this is not a Syrian manipulation, Hammerstain explained.
A senior source at the Prime Minister's Office told Ynet last week that "the conditions for opening a dialogue with Damascus are clear to the Syrians . They have already been conveyed to the by Colin Powell during the term of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"Unfortunately, the Syrians are not even implementing the minimal steps they could implement,” he said. “In such a situation, there is no reason in the world for Israel to hold a dialogue or negotiations with the Syrians, and certainly not against the position of (US President) George Bush, Israel's greatest friend."