Over the past week, Ma'ariv has reported on two separate diplomatic initiatives that seem to be coming into line. First, there is the possibility that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will open negotiations with Syria on the surrender of the Golan Heights to Damascus. Second, the Jordanians are raising the possibility of forming a confederation with the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.
Any analysis of the reasonableness of these initiatives must begin with two questions. First, do the relevant parties share enough common interests to enable them to reach an agreement that will be mutually beneficial? Second, do the sides have leaders who are competent to properly identify those interests and to work to advance them?
According to Ma'ariv, "The prime minister has... become convinced that negotiations with Syria and a possible peace agreement will significantly alter the regional strategic situation and facilitate the isolation of Iran and a solution to the problem with Hizbullah.
"This is especially the case," the newspaper reported, "against the backdrop of the collapse of Fatah and of [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, aka] Abu Mazen, and the fact that there is no chance for a diplomatic initiative with the Palestinians in the near future."
The report added that the IDF's General Staff believes that Israel can avert war with Syria by negotiating the surrender of the Golan Heights to Damascus.
So Olmert sees three reasons to engage Damascus in negotiations about an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. He believes that doing so can prevent a war between the two countries. He believes that such negotiations will weaken Syria's protector, Iran. And he is interested in negotiations because he feels he needs to do something and he can't negotiate the surrender of Judea and Samaria with Hamas.
Unfortunately, all of Olmert's rationales for opening negotiations with Syria are based on false assumptions. A review of the results of the US's current, much-less radical bid to appease Syria in Iraq demonstrates this clearly.
The insurgency being waged against US-led coalition forces in Iraq today is directed by Syria and Iran. In an attempt to decrease the dimensions of the war, last month the Americans opened direct, high-level contacts with Damascus. First, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi paid a visit to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Pelosi, who supports a US retreat from Iraq, praised the Baathist regime and so ended the isolation Damascus has been relegated to since it ordered the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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