PM Rejects Baker-Hamilton Recommendations on the Golan

In his first public reaction to the US government's Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the report's recommendation that Israel relinquish the Golan Heights to Syria.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, | updated: 16:06

"We have a different opinion," Olmert told a conference of editors in Tel Aviv on Thursday. "To the best of my knowledge, President Bush also had a different opinion on this matter. I don't know what the president will decide regarding the report, but I can say that the views that I heard from the president and from all leading administration officials on the matter of Syria were that there is no possibility of negotiations - neither American-Syrian nor Israeli-Syrian. I very much trust the president's measured consideration and responsibility."

While claiming that no one is more interested in opening talks with Syria than the Israelis, the prime minister cited the Syrian regime's ongoing support for the Islamist Hamas terrorist organization as a factor mitigating against any negotiations in the near future. Hamas is currently the ruling power in the Palestinian Authority, although many of its political offices and leading personnel are located in Damascus.

The comprehensive ISG report, which primarily addresses the situation in Iraq, was prepared by former US Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton. It claims that if the United States does not take a more leading role in the Mideast Israel-Arab conflict, there is no hope of America achieving its goals in the region. To that end, the Baker-Hamilton report recommends a summit based on the 1991 Madrid Conference model - a meeting of regional leaders that would be aimed at solving the conflict between Israel, the PA, Syria and Lebanon. In addition to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, the report calls upon Israel to recognize the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Golan Heights, a commanding mountain range on the border with Syria, was conquered by Israel in the June 1967 Six Day War. The Syrian army and irregulars had used the Heights to shell and shoot into Israeli agricultural communities in the Galilee Panhandle and along Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) below. The Golan was annexed as an integral part of the State of Israel in the 1980s.

In a statement released to the press on Thursday, the left-wing Peace Now organization called on Israel to implement the Baker-Hamilton report. According to the statement, Israel's refusal to implement the recommendations of the report will only lead to additional violence in the region, including a "Third Intifada."