Israel 'was ready to return Golan Heights to Syria'

Benjamin Netanyahu was ready to hand back the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace, it was reported yesterday. The Israeli Prime Minister's secret contacts with Damascus started in 2010 but ended when the Syrian uprising began last year.

The extent of Mr Netanyahu's offer will shock his supporters. In public, he has always backed Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, and excoriated former Prime Minister Ehud Barak for reportedly offering to return the strategic plateau in 2000.

But the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that Mr Netanyahu surprised US officials by agreeing to withdraw to the pre-June 1967 border.