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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Netanyahu, Syria Drafted Golan Pullout

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted secret negotiations with Syria and agreed in principle to a significant withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace and security arrangements, a newspaper said Friday.

Netanyahu's spokesman refused to comment.

Several drafts were written, but Netanyahu at the last minute refused to commit himself, military commentator Zeev Schiff wrote in the Haaretz daily.

Haaretz said that shortly after Netanyahu's election, the two sides started secret contacts to continue the negotiations. They involved diplomats from Oman; the European Union's envoy to the Middle East, Miguel Moratinos; and American businessman Ronald Lauder, who is close to Netanyahu.

One of Israel's goals was to keep the United States out of the picture. American officials received only partial, late briefings, Schiff wrote.

Ten days after Israelis handed him a crushing defeat at the polls, Netanyahu on Thursday announced his resignation from parliament and active political life but promised a comeback, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Netanyahu resigned as leader of the Likud party on election night, immediately after the scope of his defeat by Labor party leader Ehud Barak became clear. Ariel Sharon, the hawkish outgoing foreign minister, was voted temporary chairman of Likud until primaries are held later this year.