By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
A public debate erupted this week among parliamentarians in Lebanon, over whether Beirut should begin peace negotiations with Jerusalem.The head of the parliamentary majority, Saad Hariri, has discounted the possibility, saying to was against "Lebanon's national interest" to engage in talks with Israel.Nevertheless, he welcomed the renewal of contacts between Israel and Syria, and said Lebanon supports a just peace. "Inshallah, there will be peace between Syria and Israel," he said.
Earlier this week, the Lebanese-Christian General Michel Aoun - who recently visited both Tehran and Damascus -- surprised many by suggesting that Lebanon begin negotiations with Israel, with Syria sitting at the same table.While Hariri opposes talks, others in his political bloc see the merits of entering the peace process. Amin al-Gemayel, the country's Christian leader, said on Monday the best solution to the sectarian conflict in Lebanon was to demand a strategy for peace rather than for defense.
Senior U.S. State Department officials sent concerned messages to their Israeli counterparts in recent months regarding the negative effects an Israel-Syria peace deal could have on Lebanese sovereignty."Don't sell Lebanon to the Syrians," American officials reportedly wrote.The diplomatic messages asked Israel to remain committed to Lebanese sovereignty at all costs, stating "Israel must not sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of peace with Syria." A senior Foreign Ministry official said the U.S. even asked Israel for "guarantees" on the matter.
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