New Israeli Non-profit Group Calls for Peace Talks With Syria

Group forms in wake of reports of secret 2004 talks, calls on Israel to 'heed the voices from Damascus.'

A new forum calling for peace talks with Syria will meet Sunday evening in Tel Aviv.

Forum participants will include former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin Shahak, former Shin Bet chief, Ya'akov Perry, former directors at the Foreign Ministry, David Kimche and Alon Liel, as well as authors, academics and intellectuals.

The group, The National Movement for Peace with Syria, will be registered as a non-profit organization in the coming days.

The group was established following recent reports of informal talks between Liel and a Syrian-American, Ibrahim Suleiman, in Switzerland, and Syrian President Bashar Assad's repeated calls for a resumption of peace talks.

The gathering will take place at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa and the director of the British peace organization, The Next Century Foundation, William Morris, will report on meetings he recently held with the Syrian political leadership in Damascus and the messages he delivered, on their behalf, to Jerusalem.

A petition that will be published Sunday on behalf of the forum will state that intentional avoidance of reconciliation with Syria will be "an irresponsible gamble with the fate of the State of Israel."

The forum calls on the government to "heed the voices from Damascus," because "the price of peace is a lot smaller than the bitter and destructive cost of wars."

Following a request by MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi, agreed to invite Liel for a special meeting on the contacts he had with Syrian representatives in early 2004.