Olmert’s last attempt to promote peace process with Syria: myth or reality: Trend News Commentator

Olmert’s last attempt to promote peace process with Syria: myth or reality: Trend News Commentator

Arye Gut, Jerusalem-based Trend correspondent:

Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert will pay a working visit to Turkey on Monday to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appears as the mediator in indirect talks between Israel and Syria. In the past two weeks leaders of Israel and Turkey discussed via telephone the problems and prospects of peaceful settlement between Israel and Syria including the document, which Damascus transmitted to Turkey.

Several days ago Syrian President Bashar Asad communicated his version of future state borders through Turkish mediators. Syrian leader proposed to conduct the boundary along the coast of the Kineret Lake as a result of which the Golan Heights will occur under Syrian sovereignty. In the document, transmitted by Syria, inquires the opinion of Israeli leadership on six points including the northeastern shore of Kineret. The former Syrian President Hafez Asad, the father of incumbent president, refused to sign the peace treaty, according to which this section remained after Israel. Damascus waits for Israel's answer to this proposal, without straight dialogue.

As it was correctly noted recently in the article, published in the Middle East International magazine, "no one of the Syrians believes that "warm peace" is possible between Syria and Israel. There is too much bitterness and anger. It is necessary that the entire generation would pass, in order to overcome the hostility". Furthermore, there were too many difficult-to-solve problems in the Syria- Israel relations. One of them is the problem of the available water resources. The problem of water is appeared as the problem of boundary differentiation, so also the problem of safety. For establishing the peace between Syria and Israel it is necessary to solve the entire complex both of double-sided and regional problems.

Israel sets the following goals: control over Banias, where one of three basic sources of the Jordan River is found, complete Israel's control over the upper flow of Jordan River, Kineret Lake. Syria unlikely will agree to return Banias, even if it obtains hot sources in the El -Hamme to the southern to Kineret Lake, in exchange for this. In other words, this is the same position, which Damascus occupied also on the eve of the Six Day war 1967.

Possibly, sides will succeed to settle the complex of issues through the mediation of Ankara. Turkey has been attempting to peg the role of the main peacemaker in the Middle East. Ankara lays special emphasis on its unique ties with Israel, which can play important role in reconciliation of Jewish State with the Arabs. "Turkey is a unique country for the Near Eastern region. It can speak about 400 years presences in this region, about the secular country, major inhabitants of which are Moslems and which propagandizes respect for other cultures", Namik Tan, the Turkish Ambassador to Israel, said to Trend . According to the Turkish diplomat, Israel like the U.S., is the strategic partner of Turkey. "For us the completion of Israel- Syria conflict means that peace and rest will be established from Syria to Egypt. Then it will be possible to speak about acceleration of economic growth and about raise of trade", said Tan. The countries with completely different political device including Iran and Syria, entrust to Turkey. "On the other hand, we have managed the military collaboration with Israel for a long period, and the economic collaboration has been permanently extended. Over the last four years the double-sided commodity turnover was doubled and now it approaches $5bln", Tan said.

Many Israeli politicians consider that the permanent contacts of President Asad with the leaders of such organizations as Hezbollah, HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, and the fact that the Iranian President Ahmadinejad considers his duty to enlarge and strengthen political dialog with the leadership of these organizations during his visits to Damascus, does not make it possible to believe in proclaimed pacifism of regime in Damascus. There is practically unanimous opinion in the Israeli political establishment about the fact that the prevailing strategic partnership between Iran and Syria is incompatible with the idea of readiness of Syria to launch political dialog with Israel. A certain union was established, which combined the purposes of Syrian President Asad, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, political leader of HAMAS Mashal and leader of Hezbollah Hasan Nasrullah. They task is to create a belt of hostility around Israel.

It is impossible in this context to agree to transfer the Golan Heights to Syria as the important strategic bridgehead, the absence of which will seriously weaken the defense capability of Israel. If Israel agrees to the peace with Syria, then it will require the security guarantees of its northern boundaries, i.e., calmness in the south of Lebanon. Unlikely Syria will give guarantees to Israel, it is necessary to require the calmness from Iran, which opened and explicitly finances the Hezbollah movement and at the same time, and official Damascus. Syria theoretically can break ties with Iran, but in this case it will have to find a new sponsor, who will contain present Syrian regime. The beginning of Syria- Israel negotiations means for Iran as a minimum weakening its positions in the direction of Syria, since Syria demonstrates the nonobservance of the military-strategic agreement, signed by both countries in 2006. In the terms, when Damascus is the only strategic ally of Iran in the Near Eastern region, this step cannot but cause uneasiness in Teheran. This does not coordinate with the recently developed practice of double-sided contacts, which provided mutual information on the most important challenges.

However, the reality consists in the fact that the contemporary Israeli society is not prepared to these negotiations. Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of parliamentary opposition and leader of the Likud party and the future potential prime minister of Israel, commenting on the last contacts between Premier Olmert and President Asad, accused the head of government of criminal lightness. "The Golan Heights must remain in our hands. Otherwise we will obtain Iran on our northern boundary," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the last poll, 74% of the Israeli population does not believe in peaceful statements of Syrian President Asad. In this case only 40% agree to support the peaceful talks with Damascus if it is necessary to return at least a part of the Golan Heights, 48% opposes such negotiations. Moreover, only 10% of Israelis support complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights, but 44% agree to return no millimeter to Syria. Thus, the dispute around the Golan Heights, stopped up between four countries and locating in the center of conflict over sixty years, seems far from solution- after decades "of pulling of rope" between Israel and Syria. It is understandable that Ehud Olmert outgoing to take his last steps to make advance the peaceful process with Syria, before it will leave from the political arena of Israel. However, the Syria- Israel peace is not a matter that to be solved soon. Asad is not ready to break ties with Tehran, and he will never been in the tandem with Israel. This is the severe reality of the Near Eastern conflict.

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