Israel and Syria have been holding secret peace talks, with Turkey as the middleman, the two sides announced today, acknowledging for the first time the long-rumored negotiations. Syria is technically at war with Israel over the Golan Heights, which the Israelis seized in 1967. Israel is ready to give the Golan back, the BBC reports, if Syria will sever ties with Iran and Hezbollah.
But giving up the Golan Heights would be an unpopular proposition in Israel. The plateau is strategically important, overlooking large swaths of Northern Israel. And some analysts theorize that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be confirming the Syrian talks to divert attention from the corruption scandal he is mired in.