Olmert went to Turkey on Monday for a meeting with the country’s prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss Israel’s indirect negotiations with Syria aimed at an Israeli retreat from part or most of the Golan.
Olmert said last week that negotiating a peace treaty between Israel and Syria is possible, adding that it would require “tough sacrifices” – alluding to some sort of Israeli retreat from the Golan.
According to the informed diplomatic sources, Turkey passed a Syrian message to Olmert requiring Israel to first pledge to a complete retreat from the Golan Heights as a starting point for Israel-Syrian talks. Olmert apparently refused to do so.
Olmert wanted to open direct negotiations with Syria and favors fast-tracking talks to reach understandings on some key issues before he leaves office in February. According to a top Syrian government source speaking last May, Olmert did not ask Syria to curb its relationship with Iran or its support of the Hizbullah or Hamas terrorist organizations as a condition for the talks.
During Olmert’s Tenure
It is extremely unlikely that Israel and the Palestinian Authority will reach any final understandings regarding the creation of a Palestinian state before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves office in February, according to senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Erekat told this column that the PA is set to refuse Olmert’s request to reach understandings on some key issues but to postpone until a later date a final-status agreement on Jerusalem or so-called refugees.
Israel and the PA were quietly working to conclude a major agreement before President Bush leaves office, according to informed Israeli and Palestinian sources. The agreement was to seek an eventual major West Bank withdrawal and would have granted the PA permission to open official institutions in Jerusalem. But it was to postpone talks on the future status of the capital city until new Israeli and U.S. governments were installed.
Hamas is putting all its eggs in the basket of President-elect Barack Obama, according to former president Jimmy Carter, who met with the chiefs of the terror group in Syria last week.
“Like the Syrians, they [Hamas] are patient, relatively satisfied with the status quo, and putting all their eggs in Obama’s basket. We had to caution them about expecting too much of an immediate change in U.S. Middle East policy,” Carter wrote in a first-person report posted on his Carter Center website.
Carter recounted how on the anniversary of Hamas’s founding, he met last week in Damascus with Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal “and his fellow Hamas politburo members, all of whom are scientists, medical doctors, or engineers – none trained in religion.”
A senior Israeli security official who was made aware of Carter’s description of Meshaal and other top Hamas members as “scientists, medical doctors, or engineers,” said such descriptions were “simply outrageous apologies for evil.”
The official pointed out there is strong evidence that Meshaal, who heads an active terrorist organization, directly ordered numerous Hamas terror attacks over the years, and, until Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, controlled the flow of money for all Hamas activities, including terrorism and the group’s vast civilian infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.
Carter continued by stating that he discussed with Meshaal “items on my agenda that included an extension of the cease-fire in Gaza.” About an hour after he met with Carter last Sunday, Meshaal announced at a press conference that Hamas would not renew the cease-fire, although spokesmen for the terror group later clarified that a decision had not yet been made.
Aside from Hamas, Carter, who visited Lebanon, also lamented that the Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist organization lacks missiles to “defend” itself from Israeli aircraft.
“The general showed us a graph of the many flights of Israeli planes over all parts of Lebanon, averaging about a dozen each day. Neither Hizbullah nor the Lebanese Armed Forces have any anti-aircraft weapons for defense,” wrote Carter.
Carter’s information may not be accurate. Israel has some intelligence indicating that Hizbullah may have smuggled anti-aircraft missile batteries along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Regardless of whether Hizbullah possesses anti-aircraft missiles, Israeli overflights, which have been ongoing since the end of the Second Lebanon War, have not targeted or endangered Hizbullah operatives.
Israel says the overflights are crucial to collect intelligence on the continued smuggling of mass quantities of weaponry to Hizbullah across the Syria-Lebanon border – an area that is supposed to be patrolled by UNIFIL. Israeli security officials complain that the Israel Air Force routinely provides UNIFIL with exact smuggling routes backed up with photographic evidence but the international force does almost nothing to stop the smuggling.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “Schmoozing with Terrorists.”