Israel should exhaust every possible option for a peace settlement with Syria, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a special session of the Knesset on Wednesday.
In a stormy session, the prime minister defended his peace policy toward Syria, which has raised tremendous concerns among the settlers of the Golan Heights and Israelis whose homes are within shooting range of the strategic heights.
A parliamentary recess was interrupted to hold the extraordinary session at the request of the opposition, in light of the peace talks scheduled to reconvene in Washington next Monday.
In defending his policy, Rabin invoked the late Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Speaking over frequent interruptions by Likud hecklers, Rabin quoted Begin as having said that “nothing would stand” in Israel’s way once Syrian President Hafez Assad declared he was ready to negotiate peace with Israel.
The prime minister referred to Israel’s acceptance of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 as applying to talks with Syria.
The prime minister said no one could enter negotiations with Syria interpreting the resolutions as meaning only “peace for peace – unless he is fooling himself.”
But Rabin said Syria should not make a precedent of Israel’s return of the Sinai Desert in its entirety in exchange for peace with Egypt, a formula adopted by Syrian negotiators at the peace talks in Washington.
As he spoke, news reports from Damascus quoted Assad as saying Syria wants “every inch” of the Golan Heights returned as part of any peace pact with Israel.
Assad made his remarks to a visiting delegation of some 200 visiting Druse who live on the Golan Heights, which Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. A considerable number of Druse on the Golan, who were Syrian citizens before the war, have expressed desires to be reunited with their brethren in Syria.
At the Knesset session, Likud speakers charged that Rabin was not briefing them on the precise state of the negotiations with Syria.
David Levy, the former foreign minister, said the Rabin government was “wrecking” the political process started by the Likud government in Madrid last October.
The Knesset struck down opposition motions for the agenda to debate the negotiations with Syria in the House.