Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in principle to withdraw from the Golan Heights during indirect talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2010, according to US documents cited by Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday.
The pertinent documents were written by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Frederick Hoff, an assistant to the then-US Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell.
The paper reported that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak opened secret negotiations with Assad over a full withdrawal from the Golan to the shores of the Sea of Galilee in exchange for a peace deal. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Netanyahu had Israeli officials who were involved in the negotiations sign confidentiality agreements, according to Yedioth, in order to guard the secrecy of the talks, of which the rest of the Israeli government was apparently unaware. The negotiations reportedly ended in early 2011, with the outbreak of the popular uprising against the Assad regime.
The Prime Minister’s Office immediately denied the report on Friday, saying in a statement that Israel had never accepted the American initiative and that it was no longer relevant.
Netanyahu announced on Thursday that Israeli elections would be held on January 22, 2013, nine months ahead of schedule.