American mediator reveals that Netanyahu expressed willingness to surrender the entire Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria, but had reservations about Assad.
By World Israel News Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entertained the idea of a total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria in 2010, according to a new book by one of the key mediators between the then-premier and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Frederic C. Hof, who once served as the U.S. Special Envoy to Syria, wrote in Reaching for the Heights: The Inside Story of a Secret Attempt to Reach a Syrian-Israeli Peace that the two nations, who are officially still at war, expressed interest in a territorial exchange for a peace treaty.
But Israel was wary about engaging with Assad, who they were worried would be “less than committed to an end game requiring him to do anything of substance.”
“Before moving any farther into a diplomatic process of potential political peril, Netanyahu wanted to be sure that Assad was personally committed to Syria’s full geopolitical realignment,” Hof wrote, in an excerpt from his book published by the Atlantic Council.
“He asked that one of the American mediators meet with Assad and ask the tough questions about his readiness to meet Israel’s price for peace, the identical price set by Washington for lifting American sanctions on Syria.”
Hof wrote that Yitzhak Molcho, a trusted Netanyahu advisor who had once served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Palestinians, confirmed “Israel’s acceptance in principle of full withdrawal as the price of peace with Syria.”
A 2012 report from the New York Times also outlined Netanyahu’s willingness to exchange the region for peace with Syria, confirming Hof’s account.
According to the report, Netanyahu engaged in intense negotiations on the issue for several months in 2010, with a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights floated by American mediators.
The talks were disrupted by the Arab Spring, which saw dictators throughout the Arab world toppled. During that period, Syria descended into a chaotic and bloody civil war.