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Who’s Actually Ready for Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks?

July 24, 2009

What exactly are the prospects for renewed Syrian-Israeli peace talks now?

SYRIA-ISRAEL/PEACETurkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s has called for a new round of Turkish-mediated Syrian-Israeli negotations.  The problem is that it is unclear whether Israelis or Syrians are still on board with the idea.

In a Reuters  article about Erdogan’s proposal, some Israeli officials said they were now sceptical of Turkey’s role: Benny Begin, a Netanyahu confidant, suggested Turkey’s fierce criticism of the Israeli Gaza offensive had damaged Ankara’s role as a neutral negotiator and said any negotiations for a peace agreement would have to be conducted directly between Syria and Israel without a negotiator.

As for Syria, the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman quotes the Syrian political analyst, Sami Moubayed, who argues that the meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Erdogan shouldn’t necessarily point solely to an interest in restarting Syrian-Israeli peace talks. Rather, it highlights improved Syrian-Turkish relations (they historically had their own  tensions over a disputed Turkish land grab on the Syrian-Turkish border and Syria’s harbouring of Kurdish Workers’ Party leaders). Zaman also quotes Israeli analyst Shlomo Brom, who argues that the only ostensible mediator in future talks now could be the United States.

Meanwhile recent posts by Joshua Landis, an American analyst of Syrian politics, suggest that Syria’s best strategy may be to sit back and do nothing for now.

As Landis argues, “Syria may be weak militarily but it holds many regional cards.”  Right now, its position is fairly good. Saudi Arabia is making moves towards improving relation. Between improved diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and the current Lebanese political standstill, Syria hasn’t lost its foothold there either. It will also be important in internal Palestinian negotiations.

“[Syria] will likely stand firm,” Landis says, ” allowing Lebanon’s emulous factionalism to paralyse progress in forming a government. Assad can also stand back as Netanyahu and Obama play their game of chicken over settlements and the future of Palestinian land. If Obama blinks and allows Netanyahu to continue to expand Israel’s control over Palestinian land, as most expect him to do, it will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — America’s allies — which will take the most heat for America’s failure.”  Best to stay in the clear for now.

Meanwhile,  Assad can stand by his argument of there being “no peace partner”, argues Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el. Bar’el specifically points to a Knesset bill proposed in 2008 that would require a referendum for a Golan pullout, which, he says, makes a pullout nearly impossible (see our coverage of that bill here). Now, Bar’el says, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will try to add “extra protection from expected American pressure.” For Bar’el, this signals that “Israel is neither ready nor ripe, nor does it desire to make peace with Syria.”

As an alternative to a land pullout, some analysts have toyed with the idea of making the Golan a kind of shared nature preserve. ( You can find more details about  the vision for natural preserve plan here, formulated by a Syrian-American biologist. ) But given the ongoing intransigence on the political playing field, planning for parks seems far off.

Under the current conditions, does it even matter that Turkey’s ready to play referee again?  And is the United States in a position to do a better job?

Comments

I think Israel will not come around on it’s own without US sanctions.Why would they?
Tens of millions per day in US aid.
Hey folks,the aid is deposited in cash directly in Israel’s Treasury at the first of the year.Money that is borrowed,US TAXPAYER PAYS INTEREST!Israel invsts the money collects interst!!Another free ride:automatic US veto in UN when Israel flouts International law,is in violation of UN resoulutions and the Geneva convention.Not to mention US laws as in The Arms Export Control Act,which prohibIts use of American Arms against civillians.
A practice Israel has used most recently in it’s attack on the besieged Gaza strip in 2008.
US should not support Israel’s brand of Apartheid either.
Jewish only settlements subsidised by US tax dollars served by Jewish ONLY roads!!!
What Century are we in??

Source for funding:
According to the Christian Science Monitor,the cost of Israel to the American TAXpayer has been over $1.6 TRILLION since 1973.http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/ p16s01-wmgn.html

Posted by bruce | Report as abusive
 

well said bruce. israel is becoming a thorn on the side for the U.S. considering we give them billions in our hard earned tax payer dollars you would think they would at least try and stop making us look bad. if it was any other country that was violating human rights at the level israel does or violate international law the way israel does then the world and especially the U.S would have slapped them with sanctions and embargos years ago. why do we continue to support a fascist regime that is the equivalent of the taliban? they are of no benefit to the U.S

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive
 

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