Barak and Mubarak Discuss Proposal to Withdraw from Golan

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak discussed in Cairo a plan for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights.

Hana Levi Julian,

The Golan Heights overlooking the Galilee
The Golan Heights overlooking the Galilee

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who met on Wednesday in Cairo, discussed plans for a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

The plan to oust Israel from the Golan was presented by Mubarak in hopes of enticing Israel and Syria to renew long-dead negotiations, according a report published Thursday in the United Arab Emirates newspaper Al-Bayan.

Israel would gradually withdraw its forces, destroy its vibrant communities and expel its Jewish residents from the area over a period of 10 to 15 years, according to the plan. The withdrawal and expulsion would be followed by deployment of Egyptian, Russian and U.S. troops in the area.

Mubarak also suggested that Egypt mediate between Israel and Syria in order to bring both back to the table.

The agenda for the meeting was originally reported to be focusing on a number of other issues; among them was the issue of smugglers bringing weapons and contraband across the border into Gaza from Egypt, as well a request by Hamas for a hudna (pause in hostilities) with Israel.

Also to be discussed was progress by Egyptian mediators in negotiations for a prisoner swap with Hamas terrorists for IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped in June 2006.

No mention was made of the proposal for Israel to hand over the Golan Heights to Syria, although Voice of Israel government radio reported late Wednesday that Mubarak had passed on to Barak a message from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Golan Heights from which Syrian troops for decades rained gunfire down on Israeli civilians working their fields in the kibbutzim and moshavim (agricultural communities) below, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

The area was formally annexed by the State of Israel in 1981 with the Golan Heights Law.