Book: Rabin Promised Golan To Syria

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JERUSALEM: Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made a secret promise to President Clinton that Israel would return the entire Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace, a prominent Israeli journalist said Wednesday. Rabin even kept the pledge secret from then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, Orly Azulai-Katz wrote in a new book about Peres, excerpts of which were printed in the Yediot Ahronot daily on Wednesday. Azulai-Katz says Peres was upset when he found out about the deal after he took office. "Look at what Rabin did to me, and people say I'm not trustworthy," the book quotes Peres as saying in reference to his long-standing rivalry with Rabin. TIME senior foreign correspondent Johanna McGeary says the timing of the release may have to do with internal bickering in the Israeli political scene. "It's in the Labor Party's interest to show that they can bring peace and Likud can't," McGeary said. The book maintains that Rabin agreed to a full withdrawal from the Golan after the U.S. informed him that Syrian President Hafez Assad, in a change of positions, agreed to accept all the security arrangements demanded by Israel. The understandings, including details of withdrawal and normalization of relations, were then spelled out by the Clinton administration in a non-binding document, Azulai-Katz said. Two senior Israeli officials have denied that any such promise was made. McGeary reports that the report could further complicate the strained relations between Syria and the new Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Clinton this week that he wants to start from scratch in talks with the Syrians. Assad insists that negotiations pick up where they left off with Rabin's government. "Syria will never be willing to settle for less than the entire Golan in return for peace," McGeary says. "They are letting Netanyahu know that they had a better offer on the table than he's offering now, so why should they accept anything less?" Janice Castro