Did Israel offer Syria ‘negotiations for Iran’?

Posted: May 19, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Middle East, Peace Process, Syria
Tags: , ,

View of Syria from the Golan Heights According to numerous news reports, Israeli President Shimon Peres told his Syrian counterpart Israel would be willing to negotiate with Syria – as long as its President, Bashar Assad, cuts ties with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran:

Israel offered to engage in direct peace talks with Syria, provided Damascus cut ties with Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday.

President Shimon Peres had conveyed the proposal via his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev, Assad told the Lebanese Daily Al-Safir.

(Haaretz)

Last week, President Peres took part in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow. He asked Medvedev to relay a message to Assad, with who the Russian leader met two days later.

On the backdrop of the recent tensions and the calming messages, Assad replied: "Our answer is clear. Reality proves that Israel is not working for peace, so talks will not help."

(Ynet)

The President’s [Shimon Peres’] office denied he sent such a letter but stated his message was that Israel wants peace and not war with Syria.

Assad’s claim was supposedly delivered by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whom President Peres met in Russia nearly two weeks ago, but it is likely that something got “lost in translation” or Assad is trying a public relations gimmick to put pressure on Israel.

(Channel 7 News)

Mock IDF soldiers 'stands guard' at Syrian border IN THE PAST year, Syria’s Assad criticized Israel many times over for its refusal to talk to Syria, as well as claiming Israel was no partner for peace, in part due to its demands Assad cut ties with terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. As some critics pointed out, Bashar Assad cannot find a way out of current stalemate: he set the bar too high when he demanded Israel officially announce it gives up the Golan Heights for any type of negotiations to begin. As he now cannot backtrack without seeing his popular support drop significantly – not to mention possible assassination plots – Bashar sees only two options to pressure Israel to cede Golan. One is to use Lebanese Hezbollah group, which Syria currently arms and even provides some training for. This is probably the most effective method, as the move actually threatens Israel. The other move – displayed here today – is to slam Israel in the press, thus earning few cheap points among his population. Assad undoubtedly understands Israel barely notes such fishing expeditions, thus these statements are mostly made to affect the Arab people, as well as some Western diplomats.

Some critics and bloggers in the Arab world pointed out that Assad actually dodges the answer, which in effect illustrates his inability to break the stalemate. Here’s one example:

Assad did not actually “turn down” the offer, according to the interview in Assafir. He said that Peres offered him the Golan in exchange for severing his ties to Iran and various resistance groups, and responded by saying that “our answer was very clear, which was that the current reality proves that Israel is not working for peace.”

That sounds like a dodge to me. On the one hand, Assad does not want to send the message that he’s even willing to consider throwing anyone under the bus, but he also does not want to give more ammunition to those (in Washington, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere) who believe that Syria is nothing but a vassal state of Iran.

(Qifanabki)

Bashar Assad will not lead to peace between Israelis and Syrians. Israeli government may be a stubborn one – but it would have to go for concessions under pressure from the United States. Assad is just as stubborn – or even more – and under current situation he is unlikely to jeopardize his – and his father’s – legacy. It is hard to imagine better circumstances for Assad – with Obama pressuring Israel, Assad could make some serious gains. However, he is unwilling to look willing for compromise, as in the modern Arab world any ‘compromise’ is viewed as sleeping with the Great and Little Satans. This perception was thoroughly created throughout the Arab world, and with latter highly infested with radical elements, the perception isn’t likely to change.

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