Israel Bets On Golan Peace Plan

Israel's government is staking a peaceful future on a plan that would return the Golan Heights to Syria, the power behind the Muslim guerrillas facing Israeli troops across the Lebanese border, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey.

The Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, is the key issue between Syria and Israel. Control of the Golan provides a clear field of fire all the way to the Syrian capital Damascus. Looking from the Syrian side, it's a clear shot across much of Israel.

The deal on offer at the moment would make this the Syria-Israel border, which it was until the 1967 war. But the Syrians are demanding access to the waters of the Sea of Galilee, and analysts warn that could wreck the whole deal.

Hopes are being pinned on the ailing Syrian President Haffez al-Assad's pragmatism and desire to clear the field of problems for his son to succeed him.

The Syrian military is thought to have advanced missile technology, but their main arms supplier was the former Soviet Union, and in every field they are seriously out-gunned by the U.S.-supplied Israelis.

Syria has up to 40,000 troops in Lebanon, which gave them enough control there to use the Hizbollah guerrillas to attack Israeli forces in south Lebanon.

The Israeli pull-out removes that punching bag, and Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that any attacks now could bring retaliation against Syria itself.

"Syria is there and we are here and we are ready to make peace with Syria and we are ready to get off the Golan Heights in order to make peace," says Yossi Beilin, Israeli Minister of Justice.

“The chapter of peace is around the corner," says Beilin. "It doesn't mean that we are already there.”

But Monday's quiet along the border where Israel and Syria fought their proxy war brings that corner -- or perhaps we should say, those heights -- closer than ever.

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