Strange ‘signals’ and meetings in the night

News item:

Opening up hope for some sudden progress on the Syrian front, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a verbal message to Syria on Wednesday, when he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy he would be happy to resume peace talks with Syria anytime, anywhere and without preconditions, a government source said…

On Tuesday in Brazil, President Shimon Peres said, “I call from here to President Assad: come, enter direct negotiations with us immediately. With no mediations, with no preconditions, with no levels, and with no delay…”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, “It is possible and important to negotiate with Syria. In any situation we have to preserve our security interests, but we must not treat lightly the peace signals that have come from Damascus of late.”

Peace signals? How about this one:

On Wednesday, according to AFP, Assad gave a nod in Israel’s direction when he said, “We do not put forward conditions on making peace.” But in the same breath, he added that, “The essence of peace is not just negotiations but rather, resistance as well.” Assad said armed conflict and peace talks were parts of the same “axis” to recover legitimate Palestinian rights.

Just like Hamas, Assad can always be counted on to tell us what he’s really thinking!

He has, in a few words, presented the Arab strategy to dismember Israel: flip back and forth between military (and terrorist) pressure and diplomacy. Wars, even if Israel ‘wins ‘ them, provide opportunities to get the West to force Israel to make concessions.

Look at how Hamas, objectively beaten (although unfortunately not crushed) in Operation Cast Lead, has Goldstoned Israel into a corner. One wonders what it will have to do to get a US veto of a Goldstone-report-inspired resolution in the Security Council.

The prospect of yet another round of negotiations with Syria now has appeared on the horizon. Barry Rubin has argued in detail in his book “The Truth about Syria” that although Syria would like to get the Golan Heights back, Assad is not prepared to make peace in return. This is because his regime depends on the continued conflict with Israel to stay in power, to hold back demands for political reform and economic improvement, and to satisfy his patrons in Iran — from which he gets far more benefits than he could from Israel and the US.

But if this is the case, then Israel is wasting her time and energy, as well as taking risks. Would it be better to fight another war with Hezbollah or even Syria with or without the Golan? Is there any doubt? So why bother negotiating when all you can do is weaken yourself?

One reason — and I’m not a diplomat so I don’t really understand this — is that a country claiming to want peace gets diplomatic points, even if they really don’t want peace (like Syria) or if  (like Israel) they know that it’s not possible today. Have to get those points.

Another may be something that I hinted at above: the price for a US veto of an anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council. Or maybe even (I’d like to believe this, but I doubt it) real US action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Maybe that’s what the mysterious meeting between Netanyahu and Obama Monday night was all about.

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One Response to “Strange ‘signals’ and meetings in the night”

  1. Robman says:

    The meeting Monday night was not so “mysterious”. The PM was in town to address the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, and it is unusual – though not unprecedented – for an Israeli leader to be in D.C. and NOT meet with the sitting U.S. president. In fact, Obama was putting off a commitment to this expected protocol until the last minute, hoping to squeeze some new concesssions from Bibi. I guess this was all he got [they comments on Syria]. I think he wanted more.

    Your theories as to the why and wherefor of Israeli official “signals” to Syria are probably correct. At the very least this is a quid pro quo for a U.S. veto of the Goldstone Report, and it might even have something to do with Iran.

    As I’ve posted in other venues, I don’t rule out direct U.S. action against Iran. I know that I am a very lonely voice on this, but any reasonable observer has to concede the following as likely:

    -That negotiations are going nowhere.

    -That while an overthrow of the mullahs would solve everybody’s problems, and while this may ultimately happen, it probably won’t happen soon enough.

    -Given the above, if the U.S. doesn’t act, Israel will.

    Now, if Israel is left to act alone, this will instigate a s***storm in the region. Iran will blame the U.S. anyway for “letting” Israel attack, and will retaliate against U.S. interests in addition to Israel. Worst of all, in my own personal estimation, the Israeli Air Force – which I rate in absolute terms as the fifth most powerful in the world today – still will not land a sufficiently telling blow to make the fallout worth the trouble.

    Like seventies movie character Billy Jack once said, “..If you’re in for a licking, you might as well get in the first lick”.

    We can’t afford to “wound” this elephant. We have to kill it. Now, we don’t have the ground forces to spare for a land invasion of Iran – we’d need a draft and a couple of years lead time for that – but our air and naval assets could greatly reduce Iran’s ability to make regional trouble, outside of terrorism. We could destroy their entire air force and navy in the course of a busy afternoon (Israel cannot do this). We could obliterate every Revolutionary Guards barracks. And we could do this even while we employ our unique “bunker busting” capabilities against not just a few key nodes of Iran’s program – as Israel probably would – but the whole schmeer.

    I’m sure Obama did not come into office planning to do this. I imagine that the fool actually thought he was clever enough to use a combination of diplomacy and economic sticks/carrots to solve this problem. And I think he really WANTS to solve this problem – not for Israel’s sake, but for his Gulf Arab buddies, who are just about as afraid of Iran as is the case for Israel. (Of course, if he actually does this, he will make it out to be for Israel’s sake for public consumption; after all, he DOES face reelection in 2012, and if things go wrong, it is always handy to be able to blame the “Israel Lobby” for forcing us to do something like this).

    Now, I consider it at least plausible – I didn’t say LIKELY – that Obama & Co. are coming to the grim realization that they will have to pull the trigger at some point after all. I’d SWAG it at about a 40% chance(Scientific Wild Ass Guess, a favored U.S. military acronym – I’m a U.S. Army vet – for you uninitiated readers).

    Real world, though, I expect Obambi to wring his hands and dither, make excuses, rationalize inaction, etc…..until Israel will be left with little chance but to take matters into her own hands. And we’ll all have to hope to heaven that she can strike a more decisive blow than most of us give her credit for being able to carry out.

    But….sometimes a situation develops where events force a president to make a decision of a certain type, no matter who is president (well, almost no matter who, I suppose).