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Olmert Ready to Give Away Golan in Exchange for Direct Talks

Knesset sources say PM Ehud Olmert told Damascus he is willing to give the Golan to Syria in exchange for direct talks.
By Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel
First Publish: 7/30/2008, 11:35 AM

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told Damascus that he is prepared to cede the Golan to Syria in exchange for Syria’s agreement to enter into direct talks with Israel, according to sources in the Knesset.

The sources from the opposition parties told Army Radio Wednesday morning that Olmert is wiling to make “painful concessions” in order to promote negotiations between the two countries. The sources did not specify what, if anything, Olmert asked the Syrians to sacrifice on their part.

According to the report, Olmert promised Damascus that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights on the sole condition that the Syrians would agree to direct talks between the two governments, including a discussion on cutting ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.

The Prime Minister's Office denied the claims. Officials for the PM said that Olmert has not made any promises to Damascus.

Meanwhile, according to MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), the Syrians have agreed to direct talks with Israel on the condition that Israel gives them the Golan Heights in advance.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni criticized Olmert Tuesday, saying that he would easily give up too much Israeli land without appropriate concessions from the other side. Livni pointed out that there are "issues regarding negotiations with Syria that still require internal planning."

The FM’s remarks came the same day that Olmert declared a willingness to present Syria with a “true alternative” to partnership with Iran and Hizbullah.  Olmert also expressed his desire that the ongoing indirect talks become direct talks "at a certain stage."