The political Right immediately connected the dramatic announcement to the legal hot waters Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in, saying that the further the investigation into his alleged bribery offenses becomes, the more dramatic his political move will be.
"Olmert has just proven that he is willing to sell off anything, including the safety of the State of Israel in order to take the public's mind off the criminal actions he is suspected of," Knesset Member Gilad Erdan (Likud) told Ynet.
MK Gideon Sa'ar, chairman of the Likud faction, reiterated, saying the announcement demonstrated that "Olmert's calculated cynicism when gambling Israel's strategic assets for his own political survival knows no bounds… He has no mandate to make any concession in the Golan Heights."
MK Nissan Slomiansky (NU-NRP) said, "The launching of negotiations with Syria prove that the prime minister's investigations have reached a very advanced stage."
NRP chairman, MK Zevulun Orlev, also linked between the timing of the negotiations and the investigations against the prime minister: "Olmert is trying to save his skin at the Golan's expense due to heavy bribery suspicions, while critically hurting the State's security.
"The Syrians and Americans must know that the Israeli prime minister has no moral authority to stay in office and has no legitimization to negotiate the Golan. Any agreement with him has no chance of being approved by the Knesset."
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that negotiations with those calling and working for Israel's destruction were a farce. "Negotiations with Syria will bolster the extremists and weaken the moderates, and will legitimize the terror organizations."
Coalition criticizes Olmert as well
Some Labor Party members also slammed Olmert's announcement. MK Danny Yatom said, "The publication of the negotiations has a clear purpose, aimed at covering up the prime minister's investigations. As a person who took part in all the talks and discussions on the Syrian issues, the Syrians are not directly discussing fundamental issues."
MK Shelly Yacimovich added, "By spreading the new spin on imaginary peace talks with Syria, the prime minister is trying to cynically fool decent, peace-seeking citizens. His only aim is to divert the attention from his cash envelopes."
Shas members were also among those who did not rush to welcome the negotiations. Party Chairman Eli Yishai said that "Syria is still the root of the axis of evil. We should ask ourselves whether we should hand our northern front to the axis of evil."
Minister Yishai expressed his surprise over the Israeli announcement, saying that "the prime minister said in the past that as long as Syria holds on to its stances, negotiations should not be held. It is unclear what has changed. Our security must not be placed in the hands of Hizbullah."
The political Left, however, welcomed the announcement: Meretz's MK Ran Cohen said he hoped "both sides will have the courage necessary to see the process through and help stabilize the region and isolate Iran."
The Prime Minister's Office rejected various claims saying the announcement was a media spin made to divert attention from the prime minister's legal predicament, saying the talks with Syria were "a long process which has finally materialized."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report