The State Department confirmed published reports that Israel said in secret peace talks it was prepared to make serious territorial concessions in order to obtain a peace treaty with Syria.
The report said Israel and Syria were engaged in American-brokered peace talks in 2010 that involved a tentative Israeli agreement to withdraw from the strategically-important Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty with Syria, the New York Times reported.
However, the popular uprising against Syrian leader Bashar Assad scuttled the talks and Syria then degenerated into a state of civil war.
“Our goal has always been to have a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of her neighbors, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “Prior to the eruption of all of the violence in Syria, there were efforts to try to support contacts between Israeli and Syrian officials.
“But obviously, in the current environment in Syria, that's not something that one can continue to work on,” Nuland said.
As far back as 1993, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Israel was prepared to withdraw from the Golan Heights, saying “the depth of the withdrawal will correspond to the depth of the peace” with Syria. Prior to their capture by Israel in the 1967 war, the Syrian army had made life hell for the residents of northern Israeli farms and towns by constantly firing down on them from the heights.
Israeli efforts over the years for a peace treaty with Syria were hampered by Assad’s increasingly close ties with Iran, whose leaders objected to any country making peace with Israel and repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction. Syria and Iran also both support and arm the radical Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, which parrots its Iranian sponsor’s opposition to peace with Israel.
The uprising in Syria led to increased security along the Israeli border and international fears that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists.