CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Members of Knesset (MKs) responded harshly to Arab media reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to cede sovereignty of the Golan Heights to Syria.
On Wednesday, Syria's Champress Web site posted a report claiming that Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan relayed Olmert's message that he's ready to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty with Syria.
On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad confirmed the media reports and said Olmert had agreed to cede the Golan. Assad also said that Israeli and Syrian officials have been in contact since the end of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.
"The mediation between Damascus and Tel Aviv thoroughly increased since the end of the war in Lebanon and Hezbollah's victory," the Syrian president told the Qatari daily, al Watan. "However, Turkey entering the picture in April of last year has precipitated the disclosure of new, positive details," he said.
Rather than deny the reports, the prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, said, "We don't make it our practice to comment on every report on the press or an Internet site."
MK David Tal (Kadima), head of the Knesset's House Committee, said he will push for passage of the Golan Heights Act, which calls for a national referendum to decide the area's future, when lawmakers return from the week-long Passover holiday.
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said the information revealed "unprecedented irresponsibility on Olmert's part, both political and defense-wise."
"Israel will have serious trouble defending itself and its water sources [without the Golan Heights]," Steinitz said. "I have no doubt the public is on the Golan's side -- not the prime minister's," he said.
The Likud party issued a formal statement Wednesday afternoon.
"There is no limit to the dangerous concessions Olmert is willing to make for the sake of his political survival….Now he is willing to give way to Syria, an ally of Iran, which supports Hamas terror and supplies Hezbollah with weapons," the statement read.
MK Marina Solodkin, another member of the prime minister's Kadima party, also criticized the prime minister's plan.
"I am utterly against any withdrawal from the Golan," she said, "mainly because Syria is in cahoots with Iran and Hezbollah. Peace with Syria, at this point in time, is suicidal for Israel," she said.
MK Ze'ev Elkin, also a Kadima member, said, "Olmert has been fooling the Israeli public and the international community, making promises he can't keep. He has no support for this move, neither in the Knesset nor in Kadima," Elkin said.
"Creating false expectations like these will end up costing Israel dearly. A media spin is no way to make true peace," he said.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union/National Relgious Party), a retired general, said Olmert's political aspirations were nothing more than "desperate attempts to show his constituents some sort of a political achievement."
"He is willing to give up one strategic asset that has kept the northern border quiet for the past 40 years," he said. "[The Israeli people] will not let him or anyone give the Golan Heights back to the Syrians," Eitan said.
On Thursday, leaders of Israeli towns in the Golan released a statement regarding the Olmert government's plans to cede the Golan.
"The heads of Golan communities emphasize that the Golan belongs to the Jewish people, who will never agree to relinquish it."
The leaders also announced that development of the Golan would continue "out of certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan constitutes a grevious threat to national security and is destined to fail."
Source: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post