Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu: I Never Agreed To Full Golan Withdrawal

Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denies that which ex-Pres. Clinton wrote and says he never agreed to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

First Publish: 6/23/2004, 5:39 PM / Last Update: 6/23/2004, 8:45 AM

Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denies that he ever agreed to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

The issue has risen once again with the release of ex-US President Bill Clinton's autobiography, in which he claimed that four Israeli Prime Ministers with whom he worked agreed to leave the Golan. The three were Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu, speaking with Army Radio this morning, said that the first diplomatic move he made upon becoming Prime Minister in 1996 was to obtain a letter from then-US Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The letter laid out the U.S. position that Israel has no obligation to withdraw totally from the Golan.

"In no situation did I agree to leave the Golan," Netanyahu said. "That's what caused the break-up of the negotiations."

The interviewer then asked if Netanyahu might have agreed at a later date, despite the Christopher letter, to quit the entire Golan. The former Prime Minister answered, "I agreed only to make concessions in the Golan - concessions that were defined as setting the border 'kilometers' from the Kinneret Sea - or, to be exact, 'miles.' That's what we wrote there."

Clinton wrote that he convinced Rabin to shake Arafat's hand, and that in the end, "Rabin and Arafat would develop a remarkable working relationship, a tribute to Arafat's regard for Rabin and the Israeli leader's uncanny ability to understand how Arafat's mind worked."