Saguy Backs Claim Netanyahu Was Ready to Give Up Golan

Major General (res.) Uri Saguy, former chief of Israel's Military Intelligence and the man who headed negotiations with Syria under then-prime minister Ehud Barak, confirms that as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines, i.e., to the water line of the Sea of Galilee.

Saguy thereby confirms the version recounted by former U.S. president Bill Clinton in his new autobiography and rejects the denial by Finance Minister Netanyahu, who claimed he was prepared to give up only parts of the Golan.

Saguy told Haaretz Wednesday that when he received the task of coordinating negotiations with Syria, he read all of the material on negotiations under the governments of Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu and Barak. "Anyone with eyes in his head, not to mention the Syrians, could have understood that all of the Israeli leaders were willing to leave all of the Golan Heights if satisfied in the realms of security, water, normalization, and also regarding a settlement in Lebanon."

Saguy noted that the documents he read included reports of talks conducted on Netanyahu's behalf by his friend, American businessman Ronald Lauder. "By reading these documents, I learned that if I were a Syrian, I would understand from the proposal brought by Lauder that if Israel can be satisfied regarding all of the abovementioned points, it would be willing to withdraw to the June 4, 1967, lines."

Saguy previously said, in connection with the Shepherdstown talks with the Syrians in late 1999, that, as Clinton claims in his book, Barak at the last minute withdrew his willingness to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights.

In April 2001, Yedioth Aharonoth published a photograph of the complete peace treaty draft Lauder gave Hafez Al-Assad from Netanyahu on Aug. 29, 1998. Article 2 of the document stated that Israel will withdraw from the Syrian lands conquered in 1967, congruent to UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and that the new border will be based on the international border of 1923. The document contains a handwritten note - "given to President Clinton 17.11.98." Lauder commented at the time that the memo expressed only his personal view and that the agreement was voided by Netanyahu's claim for the border to pass at a substantial distance east of the June 4, 1967, lines and the 1923 international border.