Syria-Israel Talks: Foreseen to Seal One Conflict and Unleash Several Others
The resumption of the Syrian-Israeli talks, though described by many as a healthy approach to a lasting peace in the conflicting Middle East, raises many questions and challenges to those involved, either directly or even indirectly. While Syria has its own reasons for a cheerful return to the negotiation table, Lebanon is trying to figure out its political worth and significance in respect to the talks. Palestinians as well, fear the impact of the talks' resumption on their own peace quarrel with Israel. Moreover, the talks and the foreseen signing of a peace agreement between Syria and Israel shall bring a precise answer to the lingering question: What will become of the Lebanese resistance, manifested in Hizbullah?
Not as if these questions and issues have fixed answers, although each party would like to see the future of peace constructed to fit its own needs and aspirations. Such a goal is difficult, if not impossible to achieve, not only because Israeli settlers' demands are the exact opposite of Hizbullah's goals, but also because militaristic and political influence are often what shape the outcome of any conflict.
Syria's demands are clear: Israel must withdraw from the Occupied Golan Heights. While the Syrian government sounds determined not to validate any agreement that denies a complete Israeli withdrawal from all land occupied during the 1967 war, Israel has vowed not to go that far. It is unquestionable that a serious Israeli pull back is going to take place. But its territorial and political significance is yet to be decided. Talk in Israel is surfacing that Ehud Barak's government is bringing to the negotiation table its willingness to discuss a withdrawal close to the 1923 international borders which run fairly close to the 1967 borders.
Yet, while Israel and Syria are quarreling over dates, proposals and security arrangements, Lebanon is striving to achieve some sort of political worth while preparing to join the heated talks. While both Lebanon and Syria have their eagerness to regain their occupied territories as a common denominator, Israel's occupation of parts of Lebanon is causing greater hurt to Lebanon's political stability than to Syria's. Lebanon, with a shattered political will -- between Syria's domination and Israel's aggression -- is hoping that any agreement will not force it to make more compromises. While Lebanon sees it as untimely to demand a greater share in its political struggle with Israel, controlled by Syria, it ceaselessly declares that its willingness to compromise should not be confused with accepting any further occupation regardless of its form or status.
Palestinians on the other hand, although they have little interest in the Syrian-Israeli talks' outcome, are worried that Israel's manipulative nature may lead it to play them and the Syrians off one another. These fears were directly stated in comments made to news agencies by Palestinian Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Nabil Amr. Amr who made it clear that Barak's foreseen agreement with Syrians, which must include what Israelis perceive as a compromise, will pressure the latter to harden its approach on the Palestinians. "Compromise in the Golan Heights would be at our expense," Amr plainly and confidently stated.
On the other hand, the Lebanese resistance itself, which proved to be a major player in the last a few years, is facing a consequential challenge. If the recent military operations conducted by Hizbullah were the resistance's way of summarizing their future agenda, will Syria and the Lebanese government allow such conduct to proceed? "The resistance is alert and ready to confront Israel," Hassan Nasrallah was quoted saying last week by the Lebanese daily, An-Nahar. It is evident that one of Israel's main goals, which it hopes to cultivate from peace talks with Syria and soon Lebanon, is the elimination of Hizbullah attacks, or the dismantling of their entire military base altogether. Such a demand might lead to political confrontation, or even worse, if Hizbullah refuses to abide by Israel's conditions. In fact, the Islamic resistance movement assured that they have no intentions to throw away their weapons, talks or no talks.
The Syrian-Israeli peace talks, which may be described as a substantial step toward a peaceful end in the Middle East, appear to be less promising than they are. Part of the problem was the failure of involved Arab parties to coordinate amongst each other before entering a field where Israel has proven very skillful. While that failure appears to be a repeated version of earlier shortcomings, if lack of accordance continues, the consequences shall be very costly.
Topics: Conflicts And War, Foreign Policy, Lebanon, Occupation, Syria