Forwarded from the New York Post of February 23, 2000


By Uri Dan

JERUSALEM -- President Clinton has secretly orchestrated a peace plan for Israel and Syria that gives Syria complete control of the Golan Heights, rights to the Sea of Galilee -- and $15 billion in economic aid. Although the deal has not been signed, sources told The Post Syrian President Hafez Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday gave their consent to the groundbreaking accord.

"I believe we have enough here to achieve final peace," Barak said in a top-secret meeting, the minutes of which were obtained by The Post. Quipped one Cabinet member after the meeting: "Maybe President Clinton will get that Nobel Peace Prize he wants."

Clinton has been working feverishly to bring the two countries together after peace talks in Shepherdstown, W.Va., ground to a halt last month when the two countries refused to agree on how to divvy up the Golan Heights. Negotiations intensified in the past four weeks -- but had hit a snag again over violent clashes in Lebanon.

Hezbollah killed seven Israeli soldiers in a rash of attacks, and the Israelis retaliated by bombing Lebanon power stations. But tensions eased -- and the United States took advantage of the relatively peaceful lull, sources said.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Syria has demanded every inch back -- plus a huge economic package. Israel said it was willing to hand over most of the territory, but wanted to keep control of the Sea of Galilee and the international border.

Under the new deal, Israel has agreed to hand over all of the heights, including the sea and its fishing rights.

Only two snags remain -- Syria is demanding an additional several billion dollars in arms from the United States beyond the $15 billion in aid. Barak objects to this. Barak also insists Syria should not be allowed to police the border. Instead, he asked Clinton to post U.S. peacekeeping troops there for at least 10 years.

In addition to the $15 billion for Syria, Clinton offered Israel an estimated $15 billion in arms and at least another $15 billion in economic aid so that it could relocate its citizens from the Golan Heights, sources said. The three leaders will not meet again until all the details have been hammered out -- but a final peace accord could be signed by May, the sources said.

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