Israel’s Netanyahu government and Syria began serious, albeit indirect, talks in 2010 regarding the possibility of a peace treaty ending decades of de facto war between the two nations. In the secret talks, confirmed by US documents, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to return its border with Syria to the June 4, 1967 line, ending their occupation of the Golan Heights.
The US State Department has confirmed the report, even though Netanyahu has rejected the claim, which first emerged in the Israeli press earlier today. The US was involved in the talks as part of former Special Envoy George Mitchell’s mandate.
According to the reports, the plan was moving along seriously right up until the beginning of 2011, when the Syrian Civil War began. Syria had sought the pullout in the next two years, while Israel sought a much longer timeline.
Netanyahu’s office tried to spin the story entirely differently, claiming the Obama Administration had been the ones pushing for the return of Golan and that Israel “never agreed” to the offer, which they claimed was “irrelevant,” accusing the media of turning it into a political issue.
It could well become a major political issue. Israel annexed Golan in 1981 (a claim not recognized worldwide), and the idea of trading peace for an end to an occupation doesn’t play well with Israel’s far right, which may give Netanyahu’s current coalition partners a chance to campaign against his insufficient hawkishness in the upcoming election.
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