JERUSALEM (Jul. 24)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed down from supporting legislation that would make it harder to relinquish any of the Golan Heights as part of a peace accord.
The bill, which gained preliminary Knesset approval Wednesday, would require a majority of 80 in the 120-member parliament to change the law annexing the area.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, and Damascus has always said that any peace deal with Israel must include withdrawal from the Golan.
Despite his support, Netanyahu said Thursday that he hoped the bill would be revised in committee.
“I will change this law from 80 legislators to 61,” he told Army Radio. Netanyahu added that a national referendum would be held on any decision on the future of the Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, both Foreign Minister David Levy and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai sharply criticized the bill. Mordechai said the vote was poorly timed, and that Israel should send a clear message to Syria of its interest in pursuing peace negotiations.
Levy blasted the bill as “unwise” and “damaging” for Israel’s international standing when it is already coming under pressure for the impasse in Israeli- Palestinian talks.
The official Syrian press denounced the measure as “another provocation” in a long list of Israeli moves intended to “destroy the peace process.”
Meanwhile, Knesset speaker Dan Tichon delayed until Monday a decision on an opposition request for a revote.
The vote was the first of three votes necessary for it to become law.