Rice euchres Israel

DEBKAfile Exclusive: Israeli leaders dismayed to learn Washington is secretly lifting its boycott of Syria. Palestinians want more concessions too

November 12, 2007,

Although the US promised Israel that its renewed contacts with Syria would be confined to the Lebanon controversy, DEBKAfile’s sources report that a Washington-Damascus rapprochement is in full flight. The US ambassador will soon return to Damascus and Syrian officials are made warmly welcome in the US capital these days.

The rumors circulating Monday, Nov. 12, asserting that Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak was pushing prime minister Ehud Olmert hard to enter into peace talks with Syria were put about by Olmert’s own office. The PM is weaving and feinting to avoid admitting that he was manipulated by Washington into attending the Annapolis peace conference alongside Syria, in breach of the American promise to Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has gone so far as to offer the Syrian delegate the conference floor to press his case for Israel to return the Golan which Syria lost in the 1967 War. The Golan issue will even be incorporated in the closing document.

The favors the Bush administration is bestowing on Damascus, none of which were cleared with Israel, have encouraged the Palestinians to inflate their demands and harden their negotiating stance.

Mahmoud Abbas, as DEBKAfile first revealed on Nov. 5, wants the Annapolis declaration to include the following points:

    The Palestinian Authority will recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish state;

    Palestinian sovereignty over Temple Mount including the Western Wall (last relic of the Jewish Temple) will be absolute;

    There will be no Palestinian compromise on the 1948 refugees’ “right of return”;

    The Palestinian state will enjoy full sovereignty over its land, skies, electro-magnetic space and underground resources, including water;

    Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be held to the deadline of August 2008.

These tough Palestinian conditions may force the conference’s delay from November to December. Mahmoud Abbas is using the extra time to send a delegation to Damascus to discuss cooperation to their mutual advantage in wheeling and dealing with Washington.

DEBKAfile’s Jerusalem sources add: Prime minister Olmert can hardly admit that by going along with the US-promoted peace conference, he fell into a trap which has cornered Israel against a hostile lineup, restored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s fortunes in Washington and encouraged the Palestinians to stiffen their price for attending. Instead, he is pretending he is under extreme duress at home from his defense minister and army command to join Syria in peace talks.

In fact, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, Israel’s high command is amazed by the Bush administration’s amity with Damascus just two months after Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and military intelligence worked in close harmony with the Americans over the raid they set up to destroy Syria’s secret nuclear project.

November 12, 2007 | 14 Comments »

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