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.