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He linked the Doha deal to Israel’s secret negotiations with Syria about withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for a normalization of ties between the two neighbors.

Hezbollah cannot survive as it is now, as an armed militia, if Syria and Israel have peace and that is the main concern in its immediate future,” he said. “A move to consolidate its position in the capital and in the government is an insurance policy against that eventuality to be able to survive that.”

After weeks of official quiet amid Syrian claims that talks were being mediated by Turkey, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that “serious and continuous” indirect talks with Syria are aimed at a “comprehensive peace.”

The last time Israel held official talks with Syria was eight years ago in Shepherdstown, W.Va., under the Clinton administration.

The move, which represents a departure from the Bush administration policy of isolating Syria, is an attempt to reverse Iran’s growing influence in the region.

“The years which have passed since the negotiations were frozen did not improve the security situation on our northern border, which still serves as our primary source of concern for regional deterioration. In such a situation, it is always better to talk than to shoot,” Mr. Olmert said last night.

Opposition members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, immediately assailed the announcement.

“The Golan Heights is vital for the defense of northern Israel and for its water resources,” said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the right-wing Likud Party. “If Israel will come down from the Golan heights, it will backfire on Israel’s national security immensely.”

“It is obvious that a prime minister who is evading police investigations is willing to burn down the house of everyone,” said Effi Eitam, from the far-right National Union Party and a resident of the Golan Heights, referring to an investigation into accusations that Mr. Olmert accepted cash donations from U.S. contributors during his tenure as trade minister.

c Joshua Mitnick reported from Tel Aviv.