Israel repeated its willingness to negotiate with one of its most ardent foes, Syria, and expressed hope that Syrian President Hafez Assad wanted to "break out of the circle of violence."
Israeli officials were reacting Tuesday to remarks attributed to Assad during his visit this week to Egypt, the only Arab nation to have made peace with Israel. During the visit, he said he wanted a comprehensive peace and sought an international peace conference.Last month after Parliament approved Israel's new right-wing coalition government, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called on Assad and other Arab leaders to negotiate peace with Israel without prior conditions.
"We are most certainly interested to progress toward peace negotiations with Syria and we bless the fact that if these signs that come from Syria, if they are signs, signify a change of policy to enter negotiations," Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Army Radio.
"If Syria is willing to break out of the circle of violence and wants to enter political negotiations, Israel will certainly support this," Netanyahu said. "Syria knows that if it really wants to enter negotiations with Israel, the door is open at any moment at all times."
Israel has been technically at war with Syria since the 1948 creation of Israel. In the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and after the 1973 Yom Kippur war a new cease-fire line was established slightly west of the post-1967 war position.
In 1981, Israel extended Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration to the Golan Heights, although most of the Druze residents living in the former Syrian territory have refused Israeli citizenship.
Israelis in the Golan Heights, worried by Assad's preference for an Israeli withdrawal from the area, sent a telegram to Shamir Tuesday saying the "people of Israel will not give their hand to any crazy adventure that will lead to giving up the Golan."