Fighting Words

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JERUSALEM: The war of words between Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu heated up, as Peres accused the Likud leader of sending secret messages to Syrian President Hafez Assad. The messages, Peres told the Knesset yesterday, say Israel will be ready to trade land for peace if Likud wins the parliamentary elections later this year. Netanyahu denied the charges, calling them "a big bluff." Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer reports: "This accusation dates back to Rabin, who also accused Netanyahu of sending such messages. And for two prime ministers to make that accusation does carry with it a certain level of credibility. Even if the messages are being sent, it is doubtful that Assad will believe Likud. Assad has come to understand recently that Labor and Likud are not the same, and that he stands a much better chance of striking a deal with Peres and the Labor Party than with Likud."