Israel’s Maariv newspaper published unprecedented remarks by the leader of the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, claiming that the Israeli government had proposed to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad the return of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria only two weeks before the outbreak of the civil war.
According to Maariv, the former Foreign Minister made his comments during a local elections rally in the Katzrin settlement in the occupied Golan. He told supporters that, “Circles within the Israeli government have been willing to return the Golan to Assad up to Tiberias Lake in exchange for leaving the axis of evil.” However Lieberman did not disclose the identity of the “circles” in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government when Ehud Barak served as Defence Minister.
Lieberman stressed that, “as long as the Yisrael Beiteinu Party remains in the government today, the issue will not be put on the agenda,” pointing out that Israel is now “committed to the Golan regardless of the Syrian conflict”.
Reporting on Lieberman’s remarks, Haaretz newspaper suggested that perhaps Lieberman was hinting to the US administration’s mediation efforts between Syria and Israel during the period when the US was trying to reach an understanding that could lead to broader negotiations.
Haaretz said that the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the story and there was no response from former Defence Minister Barak.