By Ze'ev Schiff
The Bush administration has changed its position regarding a possible receptive Israeli response to the calls of Syria's President Bashar Assad for peace talks.
The American change of heart is accompanied by several preconditions. Washington emphasized that Israel is, of course, entitled to discuss the future of the Golan Heights, security arrangements and peace with Syria. But Israel should insist on not agreeing to any negotiations, not even indirectly, regarding the United States' positions, and also not about the future of Lebanon.
The new American message says that in possible talks with Syria, there are three 'cards,' or main issues. The first is the Golan Heights card, and this is a matter for Syria and Israel to decide.
The two other cards are Lebanon and the Washington's policies. Israel has been told that it is not in its interest to make promises to the Syrians regarding the way the U.S. will behave. This is a matter to be dealt with only by the U.S. and the Bush administration. Furthermore, Israel was told that the Lebanese question cannot be on the table of negotiations between Syria and Israel.