TEHRAN, Iran — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is too weak to take the necessary steps for peace with Syria, Hamas' exiled leader said Saturday during a visit to Iran, the militant group's ally.
An investigation into Olmert over corruption allegations has raised doubts about his ability to conclude a peace deal with the Palestinians by a year-end target or pursue recently confirmed peace talks with Syria.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said there is skepticism about the seriousness of Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. Withdrawing from the strategic plateau that Israel captured in 1967 is Syria's key demand for peace. But it would be tough to sell in Israel and unlikely that the unpopular Olmert would be able to pull it off.
"It's maneuvering and playing with all the (negotiating) tracks — it's a well-known game and besides, Olmert's weakness will not allow him to take this step," Mashaal said.
Mashaal spoke during a joint news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki, in response to a question about Wednesday's announcement that Israel and Syria had restarted direct peace negotiations.
Mashaal, who resides in the Syrian capital, Damascus, was careful not to criticize Syria's decision to restart negotiations with Israel and said he was sure the renewed talks would not come at the expense of the Palestinians.
Israel asked Syria to cut its ties with Hamas and Iran as a condition for a peace agreement, which Damascus rejected Saturday.