While Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir publicly maintained his uncompromising stand against territorial concessions in the Golan Heights or anywhere else, a senior government official hinted strongly Wednesday that Israel would be flexible if and when peace talks with Syria take place.
The official, who spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on condition of anonymity, drew a distinction between Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights in 1980 and its annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The annexation of the Golan was “of a lesser legal degree” than the annexation of East Jerusalem, he said.
That observation seemed to suggest that Israel would be willing to negotiate with Syria about the Golan, despite protests to the contrary by Shamir.
The prime minister, meanwhile, in a speech Tuesday night, insisted that “Eretz Yisrael from the Golan to Eilat, including Judea, Samaria and Gaza,” is the inalienable homeland of the Jews.
The official pointed out that Shamir’s use of the phrase “from the Golan” did not rule out a pullback from the present lines, which would not sacrifice Israel’s presence or control on the strategic heights.
The Golan was seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. It was annexed de facto in December 1981 by extending Israeli law there.
The official noted that Israel and Syria were likely to seek agreement on Lebanon, as well.
Israel regards the Lebanese government in Beirut to be a virtual protectorate of Syria under the Brotherhood Agreement signed in May by President Elias Hwari of Lebanon and Syrian President Hafez Assad.
The recent bloody clashes between the Lebanese army, operating under Syrian protection.
and elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization in southern Lebanon were “in part a show,” the official claimed.
He noted, for example, that much of the PLO’s heavy weaponry was not confiscated when it was forced to leave its positions in the port cities of Sidon and Tyre and retreat to the Palestinian refugee camps inland.
Nevertheless, the PLO no longer operates with impunity in southern Lebanon. Its activities hereafter will be tightly controlled by Syria through its Lebanese surrogate, the official said.
But no attempt has been made to disarm Hezbollah, the Moslem fundamentalist militia that operates against Israel, or the Israel-allied South Lebanon Army, the official noted.
He suggested that was because the Syrians do not want to further aggravate Iran, the principal supporter of Hezbollah. The Teheran government has already denounced Syria’s willingness to enter into direct negotiations with Israel.
The most serious obstacle to peace talks seems to be the nature of Palestinian representation. Israel, apparently with U.S. backing, refuses to meet with a Palestinian delegation that includes a resident of East Jerusalem.
The official revealed that intense discussions are now going on over how the Palestinians will be designated at the peace table.
Israel will not accept a nameplate reading “Palestine” or “Jordan-Palestine.” Israel would also balk at any display of the PLO colors.
The official charged that Syria was in effect imposing a precondition on the talks by insisting that the Palestinians participate. His implication was that Israel would be pleased to negotiate with Syria alone, though he admitted that was not a likely prospect.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.