Most Kadima Party Ministers Oppose Golan Giveaway

Olmert talks of giving away the Golan Heights, but his own party colleagues in the Cabinet are against.

Hillel Fendel ,

Just days after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced dramatically that he had initiated unofficial talks with Syria, it is becoming clear that his own party colleagues in the government are withholding support for the bid to give Syria the strategic Golan Heights.

Three Cabinet ministers from Olmert's Kadima party - Ze'ev Boim, ex-Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and Meir Sheetrit - say they are against giving away the Golan for at least the next 25-30 years.  It will take this long to see if Syria has truly changed its terrorism-supporting spots, they told the NRG-Maariv Hebrew news site.

Minister Gideon Ezra said he would not object to an agreement under which Israel leases the Golan from Syria for at least 25 years.

Syria has demanded - and apparently received - an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights, in exchange for simply announcing that it has begun unofficial talks with Israel. Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset on Monday that four other prime ministers before him have made similar commitments, "and it is all documented."  One former Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, challenged Olmert to also produce counter-documentation showing that Netanyahu had repudiated any Israeli offer to give away the entire Golan.

Minister Ruchama Avraham-Belila told NRG flat-out she would vote against any withdrawal from the Golan, while Minister Yaakov Edry and Roni Bar-On are leaning the same way. 

Minister Avi Dichter, asked to comment on the future of the Golan, refused to respond. Nearly two years ago, however, he implied that he would be willing to give away most of the Golan in exchange for genuine peace.  However, "the question of water and [the borders near] the Kinneret Sea are things I would not easily give up on," he said.

Minister Chaim Ramon, who favors a full Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria but now opposes a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, is taking a relatively strong stance vis-a-vis Syria.  "We are willing to make painful concessions in order to attain peace with Syria," he said, "but we cannot agree to have Syria simultaneously support Hizbullah and Hamas, continue to be a central ally of Iran, and continue to be a central component in the extremist-Islamic axis."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is trying not to come out too strongly in favor of or against the criminal investigation-plagued Prime Minister whom she may be asked to succeed in the near future, said, "Israel wants peace, but the Syrians must understand that it involves a total end to their support for terrorism, Hamas and Iran."