Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Resolving Israeli-Syrian Tensions

Israel should take advantage of the opportunity to renew peace negotiations with Syria while there is a real chance of success, or risk further...

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Israel should take advantage of the opportunity to renew peace negotiations with Syria while there is a real chance of success, or risk further destabilizing the Middle East, says a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG). The report urges Israel to respond "positively" to Syria’s unconditional offer to resume peace negotiations and to "halt efforts to augment [Israeli] settler presence" in the Golan Heights, in order to revive peace efforts with Syria and pursue enduring normalization with the Arab world.

For most of the past 15 years, peace efforts between Israel and its neighbors have focused primarily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Hamas’s electoral victory in 2005 and the West’s subsequent boycott of the Palestinian Authority effectively blocked further progress on that track. Given the current impasse and Syria’s significant influence over Palestinian political affairs, the Israel-Syrian track could provide a better opportunity for engendering peace, according to the report.

The report also said there are could be significant costs if Syria is excluded from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"Damascus possesses multiple ways of undermining Israeli-Palestinian talks, whether by encouraging Hamas or Islamic Jihad to resort to violence; vocally criticizing Palestinian concessions; or, in the event of a peace deal, obstructing the holding of the referendum among Palestinian refugees in Syria," it says.

In 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights—a 7-kilometer-long strategic plateau—during the Six-Day-War and has occupied it since. There exist some 32 Israeli settlements housing 20,000 people and a similar number of Syrian nationals concentrated in five northern villages throughout the occupied area, according to the report.

The ICG also called on the George W. Bush administration to stop its opposition to negotiations between Israel and Syria. The United States continues to isolate Syria because of its alleged role as a state sponsor of terrorism and has cut off most high-level contacts with the Syrian government since former Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in February 2005. A UN prosecutor has implicated Syrian officials in Hariri’s death.

"Although Washington denies it, there is every indication it has signaled to Jerusalem its opposition to resumed negotiations with Damascus which, in its view, Syria would use to break out of isolation, cover up greater intrusion in Lebanese affairs, and shift focus away from the investigation into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination," said the report.

In early April, Newsweek magazine also published reports that Washington pressured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to continue rebuffing Syria.

"[U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] argued that talks would amount to a reward for [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s backing of Hezbollah in Lebanon and his ties with Iran," according to official sources cited by Newsweek.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited Damascus in early April to meet al-Assad, in part to identify herself and the opposition Democrats with the findings of Iraq Study Group (ISG), the congressionally appointed panel co-chaired by former Republican Secretary of State James Baker. The ISG’s report, released in December 2006, recommended that Washington reach out to Damascus and Tehran for help in stabilizing Iraq.

The Bush administration rejected most of the group’s recommendations, and admonished Pelosi for traveling to Damascus. Vice President Dick Cheney went so far as to assail the House Speaker for "bad behavior."

The U.S. stance is not the only obstacle. So far, Israel has conditioned any dialogue with Damascus on sweeping changes to Syria’s policy, which means cutting ties to Hamas, halting assistance to Hezbollah, and fundamentally changing the relationship with Iran.

"Hamas and Hezbollah are not mere tools of Syrian policy but they are adept at reading the regional map and would likely adapt their policies in response to signs of a changing Syrian-Israeli relationship," said the ICG report. "The same holds for Iran: Syria would be unlikely to break ties with its closest ally for two decades but Tehran would have to adjust its behavior as it faced the prospect of a peace agreement."

The current Israeli government, unpopular because of its performance in the Lebanon war and discredited because of multiple domestic scandals, lacks the influence to take on the settler lobby, "backed by a public that has grown accustomed to controlling the Golan Heights," according to the report.

Suspicion and distrust toward Syria also remain high because of Syria’s continued support of Hezbollah, most recently during the summer war of 2006.

That has not stopped some former Israeli politicians and Syrian businessmen from laying out an unofficial framework for a possible peace agreement between both countries.

In a series of secret meetings between September 2004 and July 2006, Israelis, led by Alon Liel, former head of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Syrians, led by Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Soliman, recommended that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights to its pre-1967 borders in exchange for Syria’s agreement to stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, distance itself from Iran, and make efforts to stabilize Iraq.

"Bashar wants to see the Golan returned to Syria, and he’s genuinely prepared to make peace with Israel to get it back," said Soliman, as quoted in Newsweek.

"In today’s Israeli political scene, it is possible for a Prime Minister to stand up and say: ‘I’m going to test the Syria option and see if Assad is ready to make a deal’," Liel told an Israeli Policy Forum audience. "The ‘Golan lobby’ that will resist a deal with Syria is not as overpowering as everyone thinks."

Khody Akhavi writes for the Inter Press Service.

 

Citations

Khody Akhavi, "Resolving Israeli-Syrian Tensions," Right Web Analysis (Somerville, MA: International Relations Center, April 30, 2007).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Rudolph Giuliani is a lawyer and Republican politician who was mayor of New York City from 1994-2001. A foreign policy hawk and vocal supporter of Donald Trump, Giuliani recently joined Trump’s legal team to add pressure on the special council to wrap up the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia in U.S. elections.


Bernard Marcus, the billionaire co-founder of The Home Depot, is a major funder of neoconservative, anti-Iran and pro-Likud causes and public figures.


David Makovsky, a fellow at the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has been hawk on Iran, but largely quiet since Trump took office.


Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is an important financial backer of conservative politicians and right-wing “pro-Israel” groups. Although at one time a Donald Trump skeptic, Adelson has seen his investment in Trump pay off as the president has made highly controversial moves on two issues that are priorities for Adelson, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.


Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is an outspoken promoter of aggressive U.S. foreign policies whose comments often combine right-wing Republican populism and neoconservativism.


I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a key neoconservative figure and former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted as part of the investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s and later pardoned by Donald Trump.


Since taking office Donald Trump has revealed an extremely hawkish approach to U.S. foreign affairs, which has been marked by controversial actions like dropping out of the Iran nuclear agreement that have raised tensions across much of the world and threatened relations with key allies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The US is suffering from the delusions of a hegemonic power that can no longer impose its will on other nations yet refuses to acknowledge the new reality. It has now manufactured another unnecessary, destructive, and imprudent crisis with Iran, which is bound to bring a future clash between US and Iran to the detriment of world peace.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Significant numbers of military combat operations across the globe are being outsourced to the private sector with little accountability, including in Syria where both Russia and the United States have put contractors to war.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Among the many disturbing images from the ceremony redesignating a U.S. consulate building in Jerusalem as the new U.S. embassy was the participation of two bigoted American preachers, Robert Jeffress and John Hagee, which reveals just how far removed the issue has become from any presumed effort to provide succor or shelter to a historically persecuted religious minority. Only dogma and raw power remain.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The costs of America’s “war on terror,” still spreading in the Trump era, are incalculable. Just look at photos of the cities of Ramadi or Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa or Aleppo in Syria, Sirte in Libya, or Marawi in the southern Philippines, all in ruins in the wake of the conflicts Washington set off in the post–9/11 years, and try to put a price on them. That number is not included in the $5.6 trillion that the “Costs of War Project” at Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates has been spent since September 12, 2001.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

President Trump is a very powerful boat with no rudder. Unfortunately, John Bolton is now his rudder. Which effectively means, when it comes to foreign policy, that it’s Bolton’s administration now.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Given the chaotic policymaking process in the White House, Iran policy will likely be implemented in an ad hoc fashion subject to the interplay between President Trump’s continued incoherence and a drive toward confrontation pushed primarily by John Bolton.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Donald Trump and the GOP are deeply indebted to anti-Iran deal billionaires who aren’t afraid to advocate for policies that push the country closer to another war in the Middle East.


RightWeb
share