Thursday, May 1, 2008

The struggle for Syria

Israel's offer to return the Golan is a ruse betraying ulterior agendas.

By Hassan Nafaa
Al-Ahram Weekly

"The Struggle for Syria is the title of Patrick Seale's 1965 book in which he reviews internal and external Syrian developments from 1946 up to its merger union with Egypt that gave birth to the United Arab Republic on 22 February 1958. In retrospect, the book's accounting of Syria's regional situation and the modalities of its interaction with the surrounding international environment turned out to be nothing short of prophetic......

Israel's overture towards the Syrians comes at a time when Palestinian-Israeli and Palestinian-US talks are stalled. It is highly unlikely that any progress will be achieved on the Palestinian track before the end of Bush's term. Even more remarkably, Israel has been building settlements at an accelerating pace since Annapolis, without a word of protest from the US. Meanwhile, various Arab mediators have been actively trying to reconcile the Palestinians in order to lift the blockade and provide a more favourable climate for peace talks.

Israel, in my opinion, is simply trying to distance Damascus from Iran, the Palestinians, and perhaps Hizbullah. The Israelis are feigning readiness to give up the Golan and to sit down and discuss all details. The whole exercise is designed to neutralise Damascus while Israel and US ponder strikes against Iran and Hizbullah.

No one can ask the Syrians to turn down an offer to get back the Golan. But one must question the sincerity of the Israelis. Even if they are sincere, they will inevitably ask Damascus to give up supporting Hizbullah and Hamas. Are the Syrians, with their well-known pan- Arab record, willing to play along?"

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