JERUSALEM--The Prime Minister's Office has denied a report on an Arabic language television channel that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has passed on a message through French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel is ready to discuss a pullout from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.
According to the report on Al Arabiya, Israel has a genuine interest in talks with Syria. Netanyahu did say Wednesday that Israel was ready for talks with Syria "without preconditions." The Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz cites a senior Israeli official who says that Netanyahu may enter into talks with Damascus because both he and Syrian President Bashar Assad have good working relations with Sarkozy.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War after Syria repeatedly attacked Jewish communities in the Galilee from there. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981. In the Bible, it is known as the land of Bashan.
Before he became prime minister this year, Netanyahu went to the area and planted a tree with his son, saying "Years from now, my son will bring his children here and tell them how his father planted this tree, that is so rooted in the ground, just like we are rooted in the Golan."
Sources: Ha'aretz, YnetNews