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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

June 03, 2003

Something for Nothing

David Ignatius's "A Roadmap for Syria Too" demonstrates much of what is wrong with analysis of the Middle East. He starts with:
When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Damascus last month, sources here say, Syrian President Bashar Assad asked him a blunt question: "Where is our road map?"

That's a welcome sign, if Assad is indeed signaling that he wants to negotiate a settlement of the interlocking issues of Syria, Israel and Lebanon.
It means nothing. It is a sign that Assad wants America to pressure Israel over the Golan just like its pressuring Israel over Palestinian statehood. All Israeli "peace" negotiations with its neighbors amount to Israel making substantive sacrifices in exchange for some nice words.

The following is worse:
For the cautious Assad, just talking about a road map is a step in the right direction. Until now, his public comments have mostly been a reprise of the hard-line rhetoric of his father, the late President Hafez Assad. But he needs to embrace the full legacy of his father, who for all his tough talk came within inches of closing a peace deal with Israel in 2000, a few months before his death. Assad realizes that Syria needs change -- and that it needs the stability of a peace agreement to implement reforms.
On our recent trip to Israel I visited the Golan for the first time. Our tour guide said that the Golan amounts to 1/2 of 1% of Syrian territory. To claim that Syria would gain stability from acquiring the Golan is absurd. If it wants peace it can stop siccing Hizbullah on Israel.

And worse:

• Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This is the cornerstone of any deal with Syria, and successive Israeli prime ministers have privately signaled their willingness to cut such a deal. Hafez Assad expected to make precisely this agreement with President Clinton in Geneva in March 2000. But when Clinton offered less than the full restoration of the June 1967 prewar border, the prickly Syrian leader felt he had been misled and backed out.

U.S. and Syrian officials agree that the modifications the Israelis wanted in 2000 were trivial and not worth busting the accord. Haggling again would be a waste of time. If Israel wants a deal this time, it should withdraw to the 1967 border.
Here Ignatius is justifying Daddy Assad's obstructionism. If the few hundred yards were trivial then why didn't Assad agree? Israel should do nothing. How about this: require Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon and stop arming Hizbullah to show that it is serious about peace. Then it can work out a compromise with Israel on how much of the Golan it can get back. Let's not reward obstructionism.

Ignatius used to work for the WSJ; I don't know what's happened to him since he came to the Washington Post. He's become Thomas Friedman lite.

Crossposted at IsraPundit and David's Israel Blog