Netanyahu agreed to Golan withdrawal in 1998: report

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the principle of withdrawing from the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria in 1998 during his first stint as prime minister, a newspaper said on Thursday citing a newly revealed document.

CIA map highlighting the Israel-controlled part on the Golan Heights.

"Israel will withdraw from the Syrian land taken in 1967, in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which established the right of all states to secure and recognised borders in the 'land for peace' formula," according to a copy of the document published by the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot daily.

The withdrawal will be "to a commonly agreed border based on the line of June 4, 1967," it said.

The document was drawn up by US businessman Ron Lauder to summarise the positions reached by Israel during its indirect talks with Syria in which he served as a go-between. Lauder presented it to then US president Bill Clinton in 1999, after Netanyahu had left office.

Although the existence of the document has been known for years, Thursday marks the first time that its exact contents have been published.

Netanyahu, who was sworn in for his second term as prime minister on March 31, has always denied that he agreed to fully withdraw from the Golan in the talks held during his first premiership from 1996 to 1999.

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967 and then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

The territory is currently home to some 20,000 Israeli settlers who live alongside roughly the same number of Druze.

Syria has always made return of the Golan a non-negotiable condition for peace.

But Netanyahu told a meeting of his right-leaning government on May 10 that he would not withdraw from the territory in return for peace.

"I have no intention of bringing Israeli forces down from the Golan," a senior official quoted him as telling members of his cabinet.

"Everything that has taken place up to this point has no relevance."

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