Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert has offered the return of the Golan Heights to Syrian control in return for peace between the two nations. Rumors have been circulating for the past six months or so that Olmert would be willing to make a move. Syrian President Bashar Assad confirmed that Olmert had made the offer through the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip.
Israel entered into a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 under similar “land for peace” conditions set forth by U.N. Resolution 242. Since then, Egypt has backed off from the conflict which then became an Israeli-Palestinian conflict as opposed to the Israeli-Arab conflict that preceded it.
Talks between Syria and Israel have been frequent after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. However, the deal may hinge on how the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, votes on a peace agreement with Syria. The Oslo Accords with Palestine in 1993 that allowed for mutual recognition passed by only one vote and there are qualms about a treaty with Syria namely because of the worry that giving up the Golan will lead to further security risks. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and Likud party member said, “Olmert’s willingness to come down from the Golan is an expression of unprecedented political and security anarchy.” However, with hypothetical future conflicts most likely missile and rocket based, its security value to Israel is up for debate when weighed against the security gained from a peace treaty. MK Yossi Beilin of the opposition Meretz party felt differently about the issue and asked Olmert, “to take advantage of the opportunity and conduct quick and intensive negotiations with the Syrians.” He furthered that talks would, “lead to a dramatic change in [Syria’s] relationship with extremist elements in the area.”