JERUSALEM (Sep. 11)
Only hours before Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral did Shimon Peres learn of the slain premier’s commitment to return the entire Golan Heights as part of a peace deal with Syria, according to a book on Peres being released this week.
The author, Orly Azulai-Katz, a political reporter for the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, claims Rabin verbally committed Israel to withdraw from the Golan up to the pre-June 1967 border with Syria.
After the funeral, Peres found himself pressed by President Clinton to endorse Rabin’s commitment and proceed with the Syrians toward its implementation, the book asserts.
Peres, who was Rabin’s foreign minister, was angered at having been kept ignorant of Rabin’s secret diplomacy, writes Azulai-Katz.
However, in a telephone interview from New York on Wednesday with an Israeli television program, Peres denied that he had been angered by Rabin having “concealed” the diplomacy with Syria from him.
Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, who led the Israeli team in the Syria talks under Rabin and Peres, declined to confirm in an interview Wednesday on Israel Radio that Rabin had signaled so far-reaching a readiness to withdraw, but he also refused to deny the book’s account.
Israeli-Syrian peace talks were suspended in March.
As part of new efforts to recommence the talks, Syria is demanding that they resume from the point at which they broke off, apparently a reference to oral understandings reached during the Rabin-Peres years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, maintaining that no written agreements had been reached in the Israel-Syria talks, insists that the two sides bring no preconditions to the table.