Netanyahu: Israel ready for Syria talks


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is ready for direct negotiations with Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he recently informed French President Nicolas Sarkozy of Israel’s desire to enter into new negotiations without preconditions. Netanyahu said that Sarkozy told him that Syria has dropped its precondition of a withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights in order to start negotiations and that Syria was ready for mediated negotiations.

Netanyahu also said he told Sarkozy that he would prefer that France take over the mediator’s role from Turkey.

The prime minister also discussed the threat to Israel from Lebanon to the north.

"If in the past we considered Hezbollah as a sideline militia, today Hezbollah is the real Lebanese army," he reportedly said. "Hezbollah has replaced the Lebanese army as a significant force; it is arming and organizing as a real army. The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are becoming interwoven in each other — and they will suffer the consequences of any violation against Israel."

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