Friday, January 11, 2008

Israel prepared to sell Lebanon to Damascus?

From Haaretz:

"The problem is not just that Israel does not understand how President Bush views success. It also seems unaware that some in the Bush administration believe Israel would undo that success in exchange for a Golan peace deal. In other words, members of the Bush administration think that Israel would not hesitate to "sell" Lebanon to Damascus in order to make peace with Syria, and therefore an Israel-Syria peace negotiation is too risky a proposition. Some in Washington see that Israel has not publicly disavowed this idea that it will sell out Lebanon as evidence that Israel would make a deal with Syria at Lebanon's expense, while it is also possible that Israel - beset with a myriad of other challenges - never thought this was an issue. Silence from Jerusalem on this question is often interpreted negatively in the U.S., and not as negligence.

While Washington and Jerusalem have worked closely together on a range of issues, few issues have been more problematic. Lebanon is one such issue and it has affected the way the U.S. views talks with Syria. It is sometimes carefully couched, so the U.S. can deny it is vetoing peace talks. When an Israeli reporter asked Bush about such a veto several months ago, Bush was careful to say that no such veto existed. However, as one senior Israeli cabinet official put it, "given Bush's tone, it was like a parent telling a child that if you want you can play in traffic. We didn't see it as a green light."

The voices calling for peace with Syria are mounting in Israel. Do they really have such a great interest in Lebanon that it will forsake ties with Syria to keep Beirut at bay?

Israel was content with Syria's imposed order on Lebanon for 15 years, it ensured the country was stable and quiet (apart from Hizballah).

Making peace with Syria, returning the Golan, and allowing Damascus to occupy itself with the problematic Lebanon would ensure Israel never hears a further sound on its northern borders.

Why wouldn't the Israelis sell Lebanon to Syria for peace?

To the frustration of certain Israeli circles, Bush has virtually vetoed any rapprochement between Israel and Syria in the last 18 months.

Will the Israelis wait until the new US administration kicks in to seek a deal with Syria?

Is the Middle East going to see peace in 2009?

We can only hope that this sentiment of dialogue in both Tel Aviv and Damascus is genuine.

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