On the Golan Heights, People Say That All This Talk About Talks Is 'Just Talk'

Community leaders in the Golan slammed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday for the indirect peace talks with Syria, saying his willingness to hand over part of sovereign Israel to the Syrians and their Iranian allies endangered Israel's existence.

Many people on the ground, however, remained indifferent, saying they've lived in the shadow of land-for-peace talks before.

"The news doesn't do anything to me, I'm not feeling fear or pressure," said Liki Azaria, a tourism promoter at Kibbutz Merom Hagolan, the first Israeli settlement in the Golan after the Six-Day War.

"This has been an amazing tourism season and we're getting masses of hikers. It should only continue like this."

The secretary of Kibbutz Geshur, Ofer Zilberberg, spoke of the community's expansion as well as its thriving vineyards and olive plantations. Established by the Hashomer Hatzair socialist-Zionist youth movement, Geshur has said in the past that it would not be an obstacle to peace.

"I've been living here since 1980 and these headlines are for political needs and far from reality," Zilberberg said.

The community leaders accused Olmert of attempting to use the talks to escape from the corruption investigations against him, and people on the street seemed to agree.

"We can tell if these things are serious or not," Zilberberg said. "This government cannot lead such a move; it feels like it's only talk and tomorrow Olmert will no longer be prime minister. When we feel otherwise I don't know what we'll do."

Dvora Bar, of the religious moshav Nov, was a little more militant.

"Every few years a wave passes over us and each time our knees start to tremble again. It's an uncomfortable feeling," she said.

"We have experience, we've seen that you can wake up one morning and be evacuated from your home. I was evacuated from Yamit. It was very difficult." She said that although yesterday's news seems like "a media spin with nothing behind it, we must treat it with caution.

"There's a new generation of young people who know nothing except the Golan, and they will fight even when the older ones get tired. Let's hope we don't come to it, but in Israel it's hard to tell. It's disturbing, especially with such a feeble leadership. We must not be caught sleeping."

According to a statement by the Golan community leaders: "Israel's citizens will not lend a hand to such a bizarre and irresponsible act, handing over such a vital strategic asset to the Arab axis of evil."