Olmert: Syria most aggressive member of the axis of evil


(Gold9472: Because killing is always a better solution than talking. Right?)


Syria is the "single most aggressive member of the axis of evil," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday, ruling out a resumption of negotiations with Damascus at this time.

"I am the last person who will say I want to negotiate with Syria," Olmert said in unusually harsh comments. In a visit to northern Israel, Olmert noted that rockets that hit the town in 34 days of Israel-Hizbullah fighting came from Syria.

According to the prime minister, "When Syria stops supporting terrorism, when it stops giving missiles to terror organizations, then we will be happy to negotiate with them."

His comments were made hours after Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that he was in favor of withdrawing from the Golan Heights in return for true peace with Syria.

The former head of the Shin Bet told Army Radio, "We have paid similar territorial concessions in the past when we signed peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt."

"Any diplomatic initiative is preferred over war, whether in Syria or Lebanon," Dichter said. "With regards to Lebanon, conditions are even more welcoming than they are with Syria. Lebanon can today begin talks with Israel without the Syrians."

According to the minister, "Talks with Syria are legitimate. If there is someone to talk to on the other side, we should talk. Israel can initiate this or turn to a third party."

In response, Olmert said, "I recommend not to get carried away with any false hopes."

"We are not going into any adventure when terror is on their side," Olmert said of Syria. "We're not going into any negotiations until basic steps are taken which can be the basis for any negotiations."

Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said there was "no significance" to talk of peace with Israel as long as it does not withdraw from all territory in conquered in 1967. He stressed that Syria would accept the Arab peace initiative only after an independent Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital.

Dichter's comments also elicited a flurry of responses from MKs - among them MK Effi Eitam (NU/NRP), a Golan resident, who protested that "withdrawing from the Golan Heights will only endanger the security of Israel."

"Syria associates itself with the evil axis of Hizbullah and Iran, and its goal is to destroy Israel," Eitam said, and declared that Syria "cannot be a partner for discussion."

Fellow NU/NRP MK Aryeh Eldad claimed that "by the same logic, Dichter will certainly suggest we give the Galilee to Iran if they would be so kind as to shoot 4,000 rockets at us. Whoever doesn't understand that the equation 'land for peace' never worked and has only brought about more bloodshed, would do better not to give advice on security matters."

Meretz MK Ran Cohen, however, supported Dichter's calls for negotiations with Syria, demanding that the government "discuss immediately the initiation of negotiations with Syria and Lebanon for peace agreements."

He added, "We must not sit and wait for the next war. A [peace] agreement in exchange for giving back the Golan would disconnect Syria from Iran and disarm Hizbullah."

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday that the time was not right to resume negotiations with Syria, arguing that Israel was too busy trying to deal with Lebanon and the Palestinians.

Peres said he believes it's unlikely Syrian President Bashar Assad was even contemplating a return to negotiations. "The Syrians, if they are serious (about peace talks), should come and say 'we are interested in holding negotiations,'" Peres said. "I don't see Assad doing this."

Last week Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Israel that peace was not the only way to achieve Syrian goals, referring to the territory Israel captured from Syria during the Six-Day-War, the Golan Heights.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz suggested the possibility of negotiations last week when he said the conflict with Hizbullah may have created a new opportunity for renewed dialogue with Syria.