Syrian official: Golan tax breaks prove Israel doesn't want peace
Knesset votes on bill that would grant tax benefits to Israeli residents of territory Syria wants returned.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that a Knesset bill that would grant tax benefits to residents of the Golan Heights, a territory that Syria demands that Israel return in any peace agreement, proves that Israel does not really want peace, Israel Radio reported.
On Wednesday, some 67 of the 120 lawmakers in the Knesset voted in favor of the bill, while 13 voted against. The rest abstained or were absent.
The private bill, proposed by lawmaker Eli Aflalo of the opposition Kadima party, was approved in its preliminary reading and must pass three more readings before it becomes law.
The Syrian official added that if this bill is approved, it would violate international law as well as United Nations resolutions.
Under the bill, 33 Israeli communities on the Golan - the strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day war - would be added to a list of towns which receive tax benefits amounting to 13 percent. The move would cost Israel 35 million shekels annually in tax revenue.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and a few other members of her party voted against the bill, which they charged was "poorly" timed because of a recent verbal clash with Syria, and which they warned could further raise tensions with Israel's north-eastern neighbor.
In a recent exchange of threats, Damascus hinted that if attacked by Israel, it would lash out at Israeli cities. Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman of the coalition Israel Beitenu party then replied that if Syrian President Bashar Assad dared to attack Israel, he should know that "neither he nor the Assad family will remain in power."