Daily Israel Report

Syria Not Serious About Peace, Continues Arming Hizbullah

Senior American sources say Assad's "peace offerings" are not genuine, and that Israel should not fall into the trap of believing him. Syria took advantage of the recent cataclysmic earthquake in Iran to resume arms shipments to Hizbullah.
First Publish: 1/11/2004, 2:39 PM / Last Update: 1/11/2004, 9:42 AM

Senior American sources are of the opinion that Assad's "peace offerings" are not genuine, and that Israel should not fall into the trap of believing him. Washington has transmitted to Israel messages to this effect over the past few days. The White House, too, according to today's edition of Maariv, is of the opinion that Assad is still a supporter of terrorism. Had Assad truly been serious, it is felt, he would have made his offer via normal diplomatic channels, and not through a newspaper.

Itamar Rabinowitz, the former Israel Ambassador to the U.S. who led previous Israeli negotiations with Syria, says that nothing was ever finalized with the Syrians. For this reason, Rabinowitz says, there is nothing behind Assad's demand that future talks resume from the point they left off. Assad has said that he has no pre-conditions, but insists that the negotiations resume from where they ended under Ehud Barak - a code-phrase meaning that Israel must come ready to cede the entire Golan Heights except for a few dozen meters around the northeastern Kinneret shore.

It was reported on Thursday that Syria took advantage of the recent cataclysmic earthquake in Iran to resume arms shipments to Hizbullah. Syria, according to the reports, tricked the United States by sending planes it claimed were carrying humanitarian aid. The planes then returned to Syria loaded with arms and war materiel that were then transferred to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran has denied the reports, but Syria has not said a word.

Prime Minister Sharon said today that though Israel is interested in peace, Assad must cease his support for terrorist organizations before Israel enters into talks with him. "We don't have to be Assad's stepping-stone into the White House," Sharon told the Cabinet this morning. "It happened last time with Arafat, and ended catastrophically."

MK Yossi Sarid, leader of the extreme left-wing Meretz party, says he cannot understand why Israeli leaders do not instinctively jump at every chance for peace with Arab leaders. "What do we have to lose by talking?" asked Sarid, implying that Israel "lost" nothing when entering into the Oslo process or when previous Prime Ministers "promised" to give away most of the Golan in previous negotiations.