Netanyahus policies equal war against peace, says Syria

Meanwhile, Netanyahu seems unconcerned about Arab sensitivities, and last week said that Arab threats will not affect him.

"We are not impressed by various declarations of [Arab] leaders, nor do threats intimidate us," Netanyahu said Thursday of last week. "In fact, they have an opposite effect."

All things considered, the first Arab summit in six years that convened this week was likely to raise the rhetorical ante. Some fear hardline foreign ministers Amr Moussa of Egypt and Farouk Shara of Syria may feel Netanyahu's platform has given them ammunition for taking a tougher approach toward Israel than that favored by Jordan and some Gulf states.

Adding to the heated atmosphere, Syria has said it will not reopen peace talks with Israel if the new government declares that it intends to retain sovereignty over any part of the Golan Heights — while Netanyahu has urged negotiations with "preconditions."

Ironically, Yitzhak Rabin began his tenure by saying "withdrawal on the Golan, but not from the Golan," but he dropped the second half of that sentence very quickly. Now, the Netanyahu government, by insisting it will not leave the Golan, is giving the United States no room to persuade the Syrians that they may ever control the Golan .

Arab commentators have warned against what they call Netanyahu's "three no's": no to giving up the Golan, no to Palestinian statehood, and no to sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem. The main points in the guidelines that officials such as Moussa and Shara are likely to seize upon include:

*Insistence on Israeli sovereignty on the Golan as part of a deal with Syria (the coalition agreement between Likud and The Third Way calls for greater resources to be allocated to reinforcing settlement on the Golan Heights).

*Opposition to a Palestinian state.

*Antagonism to the return of Palestinian refugees to the territories.

*An undivided Jerusalem will remain Israel's exclusive capital and a Greater Jerusalem area will be developed.

*Settlements, albeit unspecified, will be bolstered in the territories;

*Negotiations on final disposition of the territories is contingent on the Palestinian Authority living up to its commitments.

In contrast, there is no mention of Israel adhering to commitments made by previous governments.

*The government will allow the Israeli army and security forces "to act against the threat of terrorism everywhere."

An aide to Netanyahu insists the new guidelines do not end negotiations with Syria and that there is no inherent contradiction between its call for talks with Damascus and its insistence on retaining Israeli sovereignty over the Golan as a "basis" for Syrian talks.

So far the Netanyahu government is sticking to its campaign promise of making Israel's defense its top priority, however.

"The supreme test of any agreement we make, and any agreement that has been made, will be security," Netanyahu said. "There will be no compromise on this issue."