Israeli Minister Attacks U.S. for Coddling Syria’s Assad

An Israeli Cabinet minister has attacked the U.S. administration for treating Syrian President Hafez Assad with kid gloves, while responding with “kneejerk” criticism to Israeli actions.

Health Minister Ehud Olmert, a Likud moderate, complained last week that Secretary of State James Baker and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa embraced “like long-lost brothers” during a Damascus stop in the pre-Madrid shuttle diplomacy.

“There was no mention of Syria’s support for terrorism,” Olmert, a Likud moderate considered close to Yitzhak Shamir, told the New York Jewish Community Relations Council during a recent U.S. visit.

Olmert complained that while “a Palestinian detained in the territories” elicits American condemnation, “with Assad, there’s no questions, no remarks, no criticism — a great friendship.”

He further warned that the U.S. appears to have also embraced Syrian policy on the Golan Heights.

“Mr. Sharaa said in his speech in a Damascus press conference that U.N. Resolution 242 applies to the Golan Heights, which has to be fully recovered by Syria. What is the comment by the Secretary of State? That America supports the Syrian interpretation of 242.”

This, said Olmert, is just one indication that the American administration wants to see a total return to the pre-1967 borders.

This desire for total Israeli withdrawal, said Olmert, is what the often-acrimonious debate with the U.S. over settlements is really about.

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