Former Syrian President Hafez Assad was willing to give Mount Hermon up to Israel, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a radio talk show.
In the interview which will be broadcast on Radius 100FM on Friday, Netanyahu describes the negotiations, held through his messenger Ron Lauder, that almost led to an agreement with the Syrians.
"I held talks… and they (the Syrians) said, 'Regarding the international line'… and this, by the way, was after he gave up the Hermon, people don't know that. Assad gave up the Hermon because I said, 'I have a precondition,' that's what I told him, 'I have a precondition: The Hermon.'
"He asked me: 'Why do you need this precondition?' I said, 'Because there is a threat from Iran,' I am talking about 1997 or 1998, 'There is a threat from Iran, I need to have eyes to the east.'
"He gave me the Hermon. I must say that I was surprised, but he gave me the Hermon and I was pleased."
Ron Lauder supposedly made many trips from Jerusalem to Damascus in Netanyahu's name.
In a document presented to the Syrian president in 1998, which was exposed by Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper at the time, Israel was meant to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the international border of 1923, which passes some 10 meters from the coastline. The area between Damascus and Safed was meant to be demilitarized.
In the past, Netanyahu's associates denied that he was willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights. According to Netanyahu, his offer was to withdraw only until the "defense line", which would leave Israel with at least several hundreds of meters of land from the ridge.