Ignatius says the late Hafez Assad expected to sign that agreement in March 2000. It would have included a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a critical piece of real estate captured by Israel during the 1967 war. But Assad backed out at the last minute when President Clinton offered less than a complete Israeli handover of the Golan.
“U.S. and Syrian officials agree that the modifications the Israelis wanted in 2000 were trivial and not worth busting the accord,” Ignatius writes. Oh? Then why did Papa Assad walk away so quickly, if he was really interested in peace? He could at least have opened talks with Israel. Instead he walked away, and Ignatius blames Israel for destroying a deal Assad probably never intended to sign.
And even if he had signed, would that really have moved the “peace process” forward? Ignatius goes on to suggest that, “As a gesture of good faith, the Syrians should immediately withdraw to the Bekaa Valley, as they were supposed to do two years after the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement.” In other words, Syria has been in violation of a peace agreement since 1991. That’s 12 years and counting.
Why should Israel, or anyone, believe the Syrians are really interested in striking another deal, if Damascus ignores deals it made more than a decade ago? And why would Ignatius conclude Syria could be interested in peace? Simple: Because they say they are, and he wants to believe them.
True, lasting peace is a worthy goal, one we should all work toward in the Middle East and everywhere else. But true peace is based on actions, not mere talk. Let’s make sure that when the fog clears, we’ve forged a true, lasting peace, not a false one that will dissolve into more violence.