Israeli Doubts over Syria Peace

[BBC News] Jonathan Marcus - The central issue in the Israel-Syria peace process is the fate of the Golan Heights, which today has become Israel's vacation playground. In addition, some 20,000 Israelis live on the plateau. If opinion polls are anything to go by then few people seem to want to give up the Golan. "Nobody in their right mind in Israel, whether he is a right-winger or a left-winger, will agree to the idea that you have to step-down from the Golan Heights in order to see there the next morning an Iranian intelligence-gathering operation or missile launchers," Israeli Middle East expert Ehud Yaari told me. "It's not going to work." "The main purpose of the negotiations so far is to make it easy for President Assad not to retaliate for the Israelis knocking out his nuclear reactor at Kibar on the Euphrates on 6 September 2007," Yaari said. Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former head of Israel's foreign ministry, said, "For the Syrians, there is only one agenda - the Golan Heights....The Israelis also have other agendas, like the Syrian involvement in Lebanon in support of Hizbullah, Syrian support for Hamas in Gaza, and the Syrian-Iranian relationship." "The Syrians are not interested in talking about that. So I can see here a deep gap not just in positions but also in what the negotiations are going to be about." So how likely is it that Syria would be willing to break with its foreign policy of the past 20 years and end its close alliance with Iran? Avineri believes this is unlikely because of Syria's weak position in the region. "Syria is very much in the corner of the Arab consensus and I think the Syrian-Iranian relationship is very fundamental to the present regime in Damascus. That's why the Syrians are not going to be ready to give it up, even in return for the Golan Heights."

2008-07-15 01:00:00

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