Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is attempting to distract the public from mounting dissatisfaction regarding his government’s management of the war in Lebanon by resorting to “radical” moves, such as calling for peace talks with Syria, an official Egyptian report charges.
The report, an assessment sent this week to Cairo from the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv and obtained by WorldNetDaily, recommends a reassessment of Egyptian positions in light of Israeli overtures to Syria. According to the report, the Egyptian embassy has concluded that as long as Olmert feels his government is in peril, he will take further radical moves aimed at galvanizing supporters.
Senior members of Olmert’s cabinet last week sent mixed messages to Syria. Defense Minister Amir Peretz told reporters that a resumption of talks with Damascus over vacating the Golan Heights was possible. He took back his remarks the next day.
Public Security Minister and senior Kadima member Avi Dichter said that in exchange for “real peace” with Syria, Israel could give up the Golan Heights.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed a former Foreign Ministry official as “special project manager” for possible talks with Syria. Olmert himself announced that negotiations with Syria were “legitimate” but said Damascus must stop supporting terrorism before talks can commence.
The peace overtures came just days after Syrian President Bashar Assad spoke about destroying Israel.
“We tell them [Israelis] that after tasting humiliation in the latest battles, your weapons are not going to protect you – not your planes, or missiles or even your nuclear bombs. The future generations in the Arab world will find a way to defeat Israel,” said Assad last week at a journalists’ convention.
Meanwhile, in Syria…
Following what it views as a Hizbullah victory against Israel, Syria is forming its own Hizbullah-like guerrilla organization to fight Israel in hopes of “liberating” the Golan Heights, according to a report aired this week on state-run Iranian television.
Last week, this column broke the story that Syria is in the process of forming what an official from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath Party called the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, a new “resistance” group that models itself after Hizbullah.
The official said the Front will attempt attacks to force Israel from the Golan Heights, strategic mountainous territory captured by the Jewish state after Syria used the terrain to attack Israel in 1967 and again in 1973. The Heights borders Israel, Syria and Lebanon and is claimed by Damascus.
Al-Alam Iranian television on Monday featured an interview with a man who identified himself as the leader of the new Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights. The man, whose features were blocked out, said his new group consists of “hundreds” of fighters who are currently training for guerilla-like raids against Israeli positions in and near the Golan. He claimed the Front has opened several training camps inside Syria.
Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier whose kidnaping in June prompted a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, is alive and being treated “very well,” the leader of one of the groups responsible for the kidnaping told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview.
“I can say that [Shalit] is treated very well according to Islamic rules that oblige Muslims to treat prisoners good. Not like America treats our Muslims brothers in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. And not like the Zionists treat our brothers in the Israeli jails,” said Abu Mohammad, leader of the Palestine Army of Islam.
The Army of Islam is one of three terror groups that claimed responsibility for Shalit’s kidnaping during the raid two months ago of an Israeli military installation.
Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees also say they took part in the abduction. The Army of Islam is a splinter of the Committees and says it is aligned ideologically with Al Qaeda.
Israel says it suspects Shalit is being held in Khan Yunis, a large city in central Gaza.
Abu Muhammad, however, said it was possible that Shalit was taken from Gaza into the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert, which is known to be a stronghold for groups working on behalf of Al Qaeda.
“It is not an impossible mission to smuggle anything or anyone from Gaza to Sinai,” Abu Muhammad said.
He refused to answer particular questions about Shalit’s abduction or whereabouts.
“At the moment of the kidnaping we said that no information will be given for free and you don’t expect me to give you any more information, do you?”
Hizbullah Rebuilds Underground
Hizbullah, with the help of Iran, has started building underground war bunkers in Palestinian camps in south Lebanon just a few miles from the Israeli border, according to senior Lebanese officials.
During its 34-day confrontation with Hizbullah in Lebanon, Israel destroyed scores of complex Hizbullah bunkers that snaked along the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Military officials said they were surprised by the scale of the Hizbullah bunkers, in which Israeli troops reportedly found war rooms with Iran-made advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment.
Palestinian groups, including Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also maintain armed bases in Lebanon, mostly south of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley, near Lebanon’s border with Syria and Israel. The Lebanese Army and any international force that deploys in south Lebanon are not authorized to enter Palestinian camps.
The Lebanese officials’ report comes after Israel’s Army Radio this week quoted security sources in south Lebanon saying Hizbullah dismantled 14 outposts near the border with Israel, removing rockets and equipment for transport.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He is a co-host of ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show and can be heard regularly on other top American radio programs.