Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Obama and Israel/A Syrian track?

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Update from AIJAC

July 17, 2009
Number 07/09 #08


As readers may be aware, US President Obama had a meeting with key leaders of the American Jewish community on Monday, in which the main topic was US policy toward Israel and peacemaking.While the meeting was largely well-received by most of those leaders, some of the things Obama said have been criticised both by Jewish leaders and mainstream Israeli commentators. This Update focuses on some Israeli reactions to Obama's policies.

First up, the Jerusalem Post comments on the meeting and what the paper's editors believe the Jewish leaders should have told President Obama. The editorial is particularly concerned about the focus on a settlement freeze, the President's reported contention that US public disagreements with Israel are a useful thing in the pursuit of peace, and his reluctance to clearly state that a future peace will likely leave some major settlement blocs in Israeli hands, something past administrations have made clear. The paper argues that Obama risks losing the Israeli "street" and urges him to embrace the two state peace plan put forward by Israeli PM Netanyahu at Bar Ilan University. For the paper's full argument, CLICK HERE. Interestingly, Haaretz, a paper whose left-leaning editors wholeheartedly support Obama's position on settlements, also calls for the US President to do more to communicate his policies to Israelis. A recent poll, which shows that only 6% of Israelis view the US administration as pro-Israeli against 50% who see it as pro-Palestinian, lends support to the contention of both papers that Obama risks alienating the Israeli public.

Next up, Yoel Marcus, one of Israel's most popular columnists and by no means one associated with the political right, also takes on Obama's failure to connect to the Israeli public with his plans. He complains that Obama has visited many places, but refuses to visit Israel, and has criticisms of some of his approaches to the Middle East as naive. He is particularly critical of Obama's efforts to explain Israel's right to exist solely in terms of the Holocaust, ignoring the historical Jewish national connection to the land of Israel. For Marcus' complete argument, CLICK HERE.

Finally, the British-Israel Communication and Research Centre (BICOM) has a useful backgrounder on current US efforts to restart the dormant "Israeli-Syrian track". The piece looks at recent meetings and statements from the US, but also at the differences between the Israelis and Syrians about where the talks should begin and how they can be conducted. It also raises the key problems with any talks - will Syria be able to achieve many of its objectives merely by the appearance of negotiating, without intending to reach agreements, and will Syria be willing to sever its links with Iran and Hezbollah as part of an agreement?  For this important piece on where the prospects of Syria talks stand, CLICK HERE. A prominent Israeli academic expert on Syria, Moshe Maoz, urges that there is a chance to sever the Iran-Syria link. Meanwhile, the BBC reports on Syria's economic loosening up - without any expansion of human rights.

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Editorial:What he needs to hear

THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 14, 2009

Whenever American Jewish leaders are invited to the White House to talk about Israel - as 16 were on Monday evening - the prime purpose of the invitation is not to give the machers an opportunity to sway the leader of the free world, though their views may be genuinely sought, but for the administration to diminish the prospect of them lobbying against the president's policies.

While none of Israel's leading Christian supporters - likely to sound a discordant note - was invited on Monday, the heads of relatively marginal groups lobbying for an American-imposed solution to the conflict were there, on a par with the leaders of mainstream political, religious, fraternal and philanthropic organizations.

Jewish personalities have been legitimately criticizing this or that Israeli policy since the 1950s, long before the "occupation" and settlements. When the settlement enterprise got under way after the 1967 war, American Jewish leaders were not enamored. But so long as the Arabs were perceived to be in a zero-sum conflict with Israel, Diaspora discomfiture over settlements was mostly muted. That changed when the perception became one of an emerging moderate Palestinian Arab leadership genuinely committed to a two-state solution.

Various administrations have since found it easier to pressure Israel into concessions by dissociating the pro-Israel community from Israeli West Bank policies, and by promoting American pressure as being in Israel's own best interest. Today, we are witnessing a "perfect storm" of diffuse US pressure on Israel.

Begin with the unyielding opposition to the settlement enterprise of every administration since Richard Nixon's. Add the growing sense among establishment figures that non-strategic settlements are an obstacle to peace. Consider that the overwhelming majority of American Jews have never once visited this country and have no understanding of the topography of the West Bank, or of Israel's legitimate security needs. Then throw in the emergence of self-proclaimed pro-Israel groups - stridently ideological, highly mobilized and well-funded - advocating an American-imposed solution to the conflict.

Never has criticism of Israel been less nuanced and more unhelpful to fostering peace.

Who can blame Barack Obama for exploiting this political environment to put the screws on Israel? Answer: Those who realize that the settlement-freeze issue is something of a red herring; that the non-zero-sum nature of Palestinian intentions is far from assured; and that it is the Palestinians who are inhibiting progress on a two-state solution.

AT MONDAY'S meeting, according to The Los Angeles Times, Obama told the Jewish leaders that public disagreements between the US government and Israel were useful leverage in the pursuit of peace. The AP synopsized Obama's position this way: Eight years of demanding Palestinian concessions produced no results; it was time to try a different tack.

If these accounts are accurate, it is depressing that Obama's words did not elicit respectful dissent. Rather, as one rabbinical attendee told reporters, he was keen to let the president have a go. Obama claimed that the media tended to play up disagreements with Israel while ignoring his demands of the Arabs. If so, that's probably because the administration's calls on Israel are public and strident, while those on the Arabs are hushed and diplomatic.

We're not suggesting that Obama is substantively less pro-Israel than most of his predecessors. But we are concerned over his refusal to embrace the 1967-plus strategy enunciated by his predecessor, at a time when his administration is demanding a freeze even to Israeli construction in Jerusalem areas captured in 1967. The furthest he seems willing to go is to hint that changes which have occurred since 1967 will inevitably influence final-status negotiations.

IF THE administration feels it faces no countervailing pressure, it will go on deepening the erroneous perception that settlements are the obstacle to peace. This alienates Israel's majority, which is willing to make painful territorial concessions, yet believes that ill-tempered calls for an unconditional freeze everywhere only encourage Palestinian intransigence.

Pro-Israel Americans should caution Obama not to lose the Israeli "street" as he seeks favor with the Arab one.

They need to say, loud and clear, that the principles enunciated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at Bar-Ilan University - essentially supporting Palestinian statehood within parameters that do not endanger Israel - deserve the administration's strong backing.

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Obama has spoken about us, but not to us

By Yoel Marcus,

Haaretz, July 16, 2009

"Letter on the way, start worrying." This saying came to mind in the wake of the discussion between U.S. President Barack Obama and a group of Jewish leaders last week, with its implied warning that Israel is liable to lose its special status in America. The truth is that our discourse with Obama is not as intimate as our discourse was with former president George W. Bush. Obama aspires to accelerate the peace process and is behaving as though everything starts and ends with the question of whether Israel will or will not freeze construction in the settlements.

Sixteen years have passed since the Oslo Accords, and we have gotten nowhere, except for the fact that the Palestinians turned us into moving targets during the intifadas and suicide attacks. Without any connection to the accords, former prime minister Ariel Sharon evacuated 21 settlements, 17 of them in Gush Katif, and the Palestinians, instead of turning the area that was evacuated into a tourist mecca, as the Egyptians did in Sinai, turned it into a base for launching Qassam rockets. And since there is still no serious partner on the Palestinian side, it is hard to get excited by the optimism of Obama, who expects a quick peace treaty not only with the Palestinians but with Syria as well. Optimism reminiscent of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales.

The year 2010 is in the offing. That is the year in which the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the Senate will be going to elections. About 20 percent of the Democratic members of Congress are Jewish, and the Republicans, who lost their majority in both houses, are looking for a way to restore it. The subject of peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not affect the half-term elections. The president who invented the slogan "Yes We Can" will be judged on internal problems: the economy, the unemployment situation, the collapsing auto industry, the thousands of university graduates who cannot find work, the situation of mortgages, the banks and social security. In short, things that are not solved by rhetoric.
 
Among those affected are quite a number of Jews, and as American citizens they will judge Obama first and foremost by his success, or his lack of success, in extricating America from the economic and financial crisis. That is more complicated than killing a fly on a live television broadcast.

Dizzied by his historic victory as the first African-American to achieve the presidency, Obama believes in his ability to change the world. A man with all-embracing good intentions: He is committed to leaving Iraq within two years and it is important to him to strengthen the Sunnis in the Islamic world to prevent the Shi'ites from taking it over. He is aiming at some kind of regional conference that photographs well, with himself in the center as orator.

With all of Obama's goodwill and all-embracing ambition, there is something naive, not to say infuriating, about his policy of rapprochement and about the whistle stops he has chosen on his travels dealing with our issue. He spoke in Turkey, he spoke in Egypt, he appeared before students in Saudi Arabia, in Paris, in England, in Ghana and in Australia. Even there the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was mentioned. His plan to begin rapprochement with Iran, which openly threatens to destroy Israel, and to reassure its fanatic leadership, which cruelly suppresses any attempt by the younger generation to get rid of the regime of the ayatollahs, is delusional.

The only place where he hasn't been as president is Israel. He has spoken about us, but not to us. That was precisely what the Jewish leaders complained about in their discussion with him last week. Obama assumed he did a great thing when he spoke in Cairo about the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. What is infuriating about these appearances is the implied distortion: that we deserve a state because of the Holocaust. Although, as a believing Christian, Obama is familiar with the Bible, his disregard of our historical connection to the Land of Israel, and obscuring the fact that the Palestinians are unable to overcome their passions and to be worthy partners to a peace agreement, is extremely annoying.

The Holocaust took place 65 years ago. The foundation for a Jewish state, on which the United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947, was the historical connection of the Jews to this part of the world. As David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, said to the Peel Commission in 1937: "The Bible is our mandate." We deserve to have a sovereign Jewish state with secure borders, without their threatening to flood it with Palestinian refugees with the excuse of the right of return, but with the clear objective of destroying it from within.

Just as the election of Obama brought historical justice to his people, who were exploited as slaves in America for hundreds of years, we expect that, as a leader who aspires to solve the problems of the world through rapprochement, he will come to Israel and declare here courageously, before the entire world, that our connection to this land began long before the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Holocaust; and that 4,000 years ago Jews already stood on the ground where he is standing.

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BICOM ANALYSIS: THE US RETURN TO THE SYRIAN TRACK

July 14, 2009

Key points
  • A new chapter in US-Syrian relations owes itself to President Barack Obama's policy of engagement with President Bashar Assad's regime.
  • The thaw in bilateral relations has created an opportunity for the administration to pick up the mantle of the Israeli-Syrian peace track. US official Frederic Hof, author of a recent policy study on making peace between Israel and Syria[i], is this week meeting leaders in Jerusalem and Damascus.
  • Syria has political and economic interests in rapprochement with the US and a long held desire to get back the Golan Heights. However, these interests are juxtaposed against long-standing links with Iran and various Islamist and radical regional elements.
  • The key issue for Israel is about whether Syria can and will make the ‘strategic realignment' which it and the US, as well as western-friendly Arab states, all seek of it: an abandonment of the Iranian-led anti-western bloc.
Introduction

In a Sky News interview on Sunday, when asked about an informal invitation issued by Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier this month, US President Barack Obama chose his words carefully: diplomatic contacts had just ‘started', it was up to Syria to act now and respond to his outreach.  Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg was brusquer when speaking to the Lebanese press, asking how Obama could conceivably pay a visit whilst Syria was continuing to arm Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical groups, and interfering in Lebanese affairs.[ii]  Nonetheless, a new phase in US-Syrian relations has been on the cards ever since Obama was elected, given his desire to engage with countries that the US has been at odds with in recent years, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.[iii]

Consequently, key questions in Israeli discourse have been whether warmer US-Syria ties would facilitate a revival of Israeli-Syrian peace talks and whether this, in turn, will enable progress with the Palestinians. A  senior US diplomat, Frederic Hof, is meeting Israeli and Syrian leaders this week. An Israeli press report claims he presented to the Israelis an outline for a Syria-Israel peace deal based on a position paper he published for the United States Institute of Peace earlier this year.[iv]  This BICOM Analysis looks at the underlying interests in US-Syrian rapprochement, focusing on its implications in terms of Israel and the peace process.

US interests in reviving US-Syrian relations

From the moment Obama entered the Oval Office, US-Syria relations could only go one way.  The Bush administration had appended Syria to its ‘Axis of Evil', along with Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea.  Bilateral ties reached rock bottom when the US recalled Ambassador Margaret Scobey, following widespread suspicions of Syrian complicity in Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's February 2005 assassination. Obama's series of diplomatic overtures reflect the seriousness of his administration's desire to change the approach.

Diplomatic moves began with the US Department of Commerce's reversal of a long-standing policy to approve a license to sell Boeing 747 parts to Syria and authorisation by the US Treasury Department to transfer funds to a Syrian charity associated with Assad's wife, Asma.[v]  Since then, Syria's Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha has visited the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem shook hands and exchanged words in Sharm el-Sheikh, and senior US military commanders and political officials have travelled to Damascus for meetings with Syrian counterparts.  On 13 June, Obama's Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell became the most high ranking official to meet with Assad, and the US has subsequently announced that it will appoint a new ambassador (though Scobey's successor is not expected to arrive until September).[vi]

American reengagement with Damascus fits into the strategic policy framework which President Obama is determined to pursue in the region, including exiting a stable Iraq, advancing the Middle East peace process, and engaging Iran.  The renewal of interest in the Israel-Syria peace track spotlights the debate about ‘linkage' between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region's other multiple conflicts and tensions.[vii]  At present, many Israelis remains unconvinced that an aggressive regional approach will resolve the Palestinian issue.

Nonetheless, a US Embassy statement released in the wake of Mitchell's meeting with Assad referred to Syria's ‘integral role to play in reaching comprehensive peace.'[viii]  For some time, many observers have argued that owing to ongoing Palestinian disunity, the Israeli-Syrian track is more amenable to US mediation, following the four rounds of Turkish-brokered talks last year.[ix]  But Syria is also perceived as a key player on the Israeli-Palestinian front too, which the Obama administration wants to advance in parallel.  Assad has unique leverage over Hamas, whose political chief, Khaled Meshaal, resides in Damascus.  The US is keen for Syria to help facilitate Palestinian reconciliation, which has not emerged despite months of Egyptian efforts.  Washington hopes this would pave the way for Palestinian elections and, above all, help create ripeness for the comprehensive peace it wants to advance.

How the US approach to Syria unfolds will depend on how Syria responds and acts in practice.  In Obama's words over the weekend, ‘[t]here are aspects of Syrian behaviour that trouble us and we think that there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of ... issues.'[x]  Most pressingly, the US has a particular interest in Syrian cooperation as it tries to stabilise and pull out of Iraq, where Jihadist fighters have habitually been permitted access via the Syrian border. The US is also concerned by Syria's ongoing support for Hezbollah and Hamas.[xi]  In addition administration officials express concern about Syria's refusal to comply with IAEA inspections at al-Kibar (the clandestine nuclear facility destroyed in 2007), its undermining of Lebanese sovereignty and the worsening human rights situation within Syria itself.[xii]  Freedom House gives Syria its worst rating on political liberties, with dissidents routinely rounded up and the large Kurdish minority oppressed, often violently.[xiii]  But the overriding US goal is to coax Assad into a strategic reorientation that will help the US advance its goals in the region.

The Syrian interest: playing a double game


Syria has demonstrated its interest in rapprochement with the US through a number of accommodating moves vis-à-vis Lebanon and Iraq.  Significantly, it has appointed its first ambassador to Lebanon after having established formal diplomatic relations last year, and permitted parliamentary elections in June to proceed relatively free of intimidation of anti-Syrian ‘March 14' coalition candidates.  It has also made some progress towards tightening the Syria-Iraq border.  Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem visited Baghdad and pledged ‘whatever help is necessary' for a successful US withdrawal from Iraq.[xiv]  Washington will observe closely, given that Syria has served as a key ally of the Sunni insurgency since its beginnings.[xv]

Syria will likely show outward signs of cooperation with Washington in its efforts to re-launch peace talks, too.  Regaining the Golan Heights has been a key Syrian strategic goal for decades, but the negotiations process itself is an asset to Damascus as it seeks to enhance relations with Western powers.  In particular, engaging in peace talks might help Syria to withstand pressure over allegations of involvement in the Hariri assassination.  More generally, although Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, it still seeks influence there as a national priority, and would like an arrangement that enables it to preserve its interests in Lebanon.

Syria also has economic incentives to respond favourably both to direct US engagement and the peace talks.  Even though other countries can help mitigate Syria's fiscal crisis, only a massive injection of US aid and US-orchestrated investment could hope to set it on a firm path to recovery.[xvi]  Syria's specific goals include the lifting of US sanctions and accession to the World Trade Organization, which the US blocked in 2001.  These could form part of a peace dividend that would help Syria develop its economy, but it needs to make profound strategic choices.

From Syria's perspective, there is a considerable gulf between working with western countries for political and economic self-gain and turning its back on long-standing regional allies.  Assad's primary objective, of course, is to keep his minority Alawite regime intact.  As Middle East analyst Mohamad Bazzi argues, ‘For decades, Syria has portrayed itself as the ‘beating heart of Arab nationalism - the torchbearer of resistance and defiance to the West.'[xvii]  This has lent legitimacy to the regime and granted it the inflated regional significance it enjoys.  Therefore, if the Israel-Syria peace track gets off the ground, Damascus will be keen to advance negotiations on recovering the territory it lost in 1967, whilst avoiding steps that would compromise its identity as a beacon of resistance, such as relinquishing support for Hamas or Hezbollah.

Israel and the Syrian track


There has for some time existed a debate within Israeli policy circles regarding the advisability and prospects of success in negotiating with Damascus. President Shimon Peres said last week that Israel would not hand over the Golan Heights to Syria on a ‘silver platter' whilst it maintained its ties with Iran and Hezbollah.[xviii]  Peres's remark reflects how, both in the US and Israel, the ‘land for peace' discourse has been overtaken by that of ‘land for strategic realignment' in terms of Syria's regional affiliations.[xix]  Most Israelis recognise that Israel has to give up control of the Golan to make peace with Syria. A string of Israeli prime ministers since Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s have entering into serious negotiations with Damascus, broadly on this basis.[xx]  The key question is whether what Israel would get in return would be worth the deal: will Syria be willing to sever its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas - the forces which most threaten the Jewish state?

Supporters include Amos Gilead, head of the Israeli Defence Ministry's Political-Security Bureau. He believe that an agreement with Syria is possible, necessary to prevent ‘collision', and desirable because it would stop the delivery of arms to Hezbollah, lead to the expulsion of terror headquarters from Damascus and weaken the hostile coalition in the region.[xxi]  Others, such as chair of the National Security Council Uzi Arad and former NSC head Giora Eiland, remain dubious of the strategic and security benefits of withdrawal.[xxii]  Sceptics tend to point to the long-standing alliance which has endured between Iran and Syria since the early 1980s, and are circumspect about whether it can be cracked.  Some Syria specialists doubt whether Assad could sever relations with forces of anti-Israel and anti-western resistance without losing control of his regime.[xxiii]

Beyond these concerns, however, US determination to advance peacemaking efforts will demand that both Israel and Syria prepare their negotiation portfolios. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to resume peace talks between the two countries from 'point zero,' which is to say without preconditions. Assad has said they should resume from the point at which they froze with Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. There is also the issue of whether to continue negotiations under Turkish auspices, as Syria demands, or to insist on US mediation.  The US appears now to be addressing these pre-negotiation hurdles.

Conclusion

If, when, and to what extent Syria will reconfigure its strategic alignment is impossible to know at this stage. Its ally Iran itself is in a state of some disarray following the botched presidential elections it held last month and the United States is still in the preliminary stages of its engagement policy. But the US-Syrian relationship and the opportunities which arise from it could prove a useful gauge for the Obama Middle East team on whether its regional approach to peacemaking is the optimal strategy.

The tempo and nature of US engagement with Syria will be contingent upon how Damascus chooses to act.  The US has a long list of grievances which it wants Syria to address, from its support for destabilising forces in Lebanon, to the Palestinian Territories and Iraq. It also has good leverage, in the form of both carrots and sticks, which it can deploy. Only when the US has created real policy dilemmas for Damascus, will it be clear whether Syria intends to make peace with Israel and realign itself away from the anti-western alliance in the region.

 Notes

[i] Frederic C. Hof, ‘Mapping Peace between Syria and Israel', United States Institute of Peace, March 2009.

[ii] ‘U.S.: Cabinet Internal Matter, Obama's Visit to Damascus Conditional on Non-interference in Lebanon', Naharnet, 4 July 2009.

[iii] The Assad regime was explicit about its preference last November.  For a more detailed discussion, see David Schenker, ‘Decoupling Syria from Iran: Constraints on U.S.-Syrian Rapprochement', Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vo., 8, No. 15, 3 December 2008.

[iv] ‘American Envoy Trying to Resume Negotiations with Syria', Yediot Ahronot, 13 July 2009. [Hebrew]

[v] ‘Syria Says U.S. Permits Money Transfer to Charity,' Associated Press, 15 February 2009; David Schenker, ‘The Obama Administration Reaches Out to Syria: Implications for Israel', Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vol. 8, No. 23, 18 March 2009.

[vi] ‘U.S.: Cabinet Internal Matter, Obama's Visit to Damascus Conditional on Non-interference in Lebanon', Naharnet, 4 July 2009.

[vii] See Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, ‘Myths, Illusions, and Peace', New York Times, 8 July 2009.

[viii] Statement by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell', Embassy of the United States of America in Damascus, 13 June 2009.

[ix] See, for instance, Paul Salem, ‘Syrian-Israel Peace: A Possible Key to Regional Change', Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2008.

[x] Obama Interview with Adam Boulton, Sky News, 12 July 2009.  Other comments by senior US figures echo these sentiments.  For instance, in March, Hillary Clinton stated, ‘We don't engage in discussions for the sake of having a conversation.  There has to be a purpose to them, there has to be some perceived benefit accruing to the United States and our allies.'  Sue Pleming, ‘Clinton says two U.S. officials to hold talks in Syria', Reuters, 3 March 2009.

[xi] Jonathan Spyer, ‘Analysis: Syria's goose lays a golden egg', Jerusalem Post, 28 June 2009.

[xii] ‘Acting Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman's Meeting With Syrian Ambassador Imad Mustafa', US Department of State, 25 February 2009; Robert Burns, ‘US to prod Syrian envoy on terrorism, nukes', Associated Press, 20 February 2009.

[xiii] David Schenker, ‘Opposition in Syria is dying with dissident', Los Angeles Times, 10 March 2009; J. Scott Carpenter, ‘Can the al-Asad Regime Make Peace with Israel?', Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 1508, 21 April 2009.

[xiv] Andrew J. Tabler, ‘Will Mitchell's Trip Bypass Damascus', Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 1506, 13 April 2009.

[xv] Jonathan Spyer, op. cit.

[xvi] Andrew J. Tabler, ‘Talking to Syria: An Important Test for Damascus', Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 4 March 2009.

[xvii] Mohamad Bazzi, ‘Everyone gains if Syria returns to the centre of the Arab world', The National, 18 June 2008.

[xviii] ‘Peres: Syria won't get Golan on a ‘silver platter'', Haaretz, 6 July 2009; See also: ‘We want the Golan on a gold platter', Jerusalem Post, 7 July 2009.

[xix] John Hannah, The Washington-Beirut-Damascus Triangle (Part I)', Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 1493, 17 March 2009.

[xx] Former Israeli ambassador to Washington and head of the Israeli negotiating team with Syria, Itamar Rabinovitch, assesses that only Ariel Sharon adopted a divergent stance.  Itamar Rabinovitch, ‘On Golan ‘deposits' and withdrawal', Haaretz, 14 July 2009.

[xxi] Roni Sofer, ‘Amos Gilad: Only peace can avert collision with Syria', YNet, 2 March 2009.

[xxii] Ibid.; Ari Shavit, ‘There is no Palestinian Sadat, no Palestinian Mandela', Haaretz, 11 July 2009.

[xxiii] See J. Scott Carpenter, op. cit.; Eyal Zisser, ‘The Mouse and the Lion: Syria Between Passive Resistance and Active Resistance to Israel', Institute for National Security Studies, Strategic Assessment, Volume 12, No. 1, June 2009.

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