Nour Chammas | Attorney Cleveland, Ohio
May 29th, 2008

Re: ‘Syrian Israeli Peace Process

The recent developments in indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel are a direct result of the failure of the Bush/Neo-Con Doctrine in the Middle East. The Syrian position has been clear and consistent throughout; namely that they have adopted peace as a strategic choice and that the Golan will be returned to Syria one way or another. Syria has consistently maintained an open door for any potential negotiations over a just peaceful settlement with respect to the return of its occupied land and the preservation of its national rights. Israel, with direct coordination with the US, has consistently turned down all Syrian overtures and has pursued a policy of no negotiations with the Syrians, for what they claim to be Syria’s support for “terrorist” organizations, namely Hamas and Hizballah. Israel was relying mainly on the belief that isolating the Syrian regime would reap benefits, as the regime would be bound to collapse under sustained and increasing US and European pressure. This policy, which is in line with the Bush doctrine regarding any and all countries not on good terms with the American administration, has proven to be an utter failure and has led to the weakening of Israel and of the US position in the region.

Two main events have contributed to the developments we are witnessing today. The first is the ability of the Iraqi Resistance to form a formidable opposition to US occupation of Iraq, effectively bogging down US troops in Iraq and preventing the US from expanding its war in the region. The second is the performance of the Lebanese Resistance against Israeli troops in the July War of 2006, in which Israel experienced a resounding defeat on the battlefield for the first time in its warring history. While the US continues to be trapped in the Iraqi quagmire, Israel finds itself in a very delicate situation, fearing that another failed war adventure would have serious and tremendous repercussions on its security and its standing in the region. This is why we saw the US and Israel become completely paralyzed as the Lebanese opposition routed America’s allies in Lebanon in short-lived skirmishes in early May, leading to the Doha Agreement, which recognized the exact terms that the Lebanese Opposition has been demanding since 2006.

Today, Israel realizes that it is no longer in the same position it had held since its very foundation, namely its ability to wage war on its neighbors with little to no consequences on its own well-being. It recognizes now that any war is bound to result in serious damages to Israel itself, which will shake the morale of both its citizens and its troops. Given that Israel is a purely artificial entity surviving on foreign powers’ (specifically US) assurances of its continued complete hegemony over the region, it realizes that the smallest mistake could very well mean the end of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. Therefore, it has shifted positions, with the blessing of the American Neo-Con administration, and has chosen a path of negotiations with Syria, contrary to its prior position of “regime isolation.”

With respect to the prospects of any actual peace, this will go back to Israel’s actual intentions in entering these negotiations. The reality on the ground is that Olmert is not in any position to give up the entire Golan unless he is able to receive tremendous benefits and to impose highly stringent conditions on Syria, an unlikely scenario in any respect. Olmert is currently very weak politically and will face great pressure by political forces within Israel opposing the return of the Golan to Syria and in fact opposing any negotiations with the Syrian regime. Thus, it is not very likely that we will see an actual return of the entire Golan to Syria out of these indirect negotiations, and therefore we are not likely to witness a historic peace between the two sides. In addition, Syria’s position, which has remained consistent throughout its struggle with the Jewish state, is that the Golan is to be returned without any preconditions, after which negotiations over an all-encompassing peace agreement are possible. For Israel to agree to these demands is improbable at best. However, what we can take out of the current shift in Israel’s behavior is that Israel’s position has weakened, as it can no longer rely on its superior military force to achieve its objectives, nor can it depend on the US’s continued military assault on the region. In conclusion, today we are in a new era, whereby Israel no longer enjoys the confidence of complete military hegemony over the region, and where Syria, through its creative military maneuvering and political wittiness, has established itself as a formidable regional power.

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