When Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas decided to negotiate, he stated it directly and did not follow the rough road taken by Damascus’ diplomacy at present. He did not meet with the AIPAC organization which defends Israeli interests in Washington and was not forced to wait under the burning sun in the hope that someone from the State Department would meet him. He made the decision, stated it frankly, and started his negotiations.
Syria is more important and greater and will receive more interest than that shown to the Palestinian presidency if it is frank in its plan instead of beating around the bush which cast doubts on its seriousness and intentions. What we are seeing is a courting on Syria’s side. The Syrian ambassador is lecturing about his country’s desire to end the state of war with Israel at a meeting with the Peace Now group. Syrian envoys a revisiting the Israeli lobby in Washington and there are repeated positive statements by Syrian officials at every conference and foreign meeting.
All this did not and will not give the Syrian officials much because their efforts look more like a flirting project rather then a serious marriage proposal, at a time when it is possible for Syria to do less and take more when the relationship becomes legitimate and transparent.
Even the Syrian-Israeli negotiations are full of defects. They are indirect under the umbrella of Turkey, the non-influential state, which renders them not serious even though Syria did hold direct negotiations in the past and therefore does not have an excuse.
If Damascus is serious about changing its policy, then it is much easier for it to say so and ask for interaction with it. If it is serious about escaping from the Iranian circle, then it must also prove it is serious. But if it wants to keep two relationships at the same time, an Iranian and an Israeli one, then it is easier for it to be clear so that it does not find itself back in square one, blockaded and pursued. If it does not want peace or to abandon Iran and its sole aim is to get out of the tribunal’s crisis, then everything it is doing is going to cost it more than what it will reap.
It is true that the Syrian steps have become clearer but its intentions remain unknown and herein lies the problem. Syria started by asking friends in the United States to mediate and then involved the Turks to open the indirect negotiations with Israel. It drew up the Doha agreement, allowed the election of the [Lebanese] president and then the government’s prime minister, and agreed to sit with the Israeli prime minister at the Mediterranean conference as brokered by the French president. It also backed the calm in Gaza with Hamas, completed a series of positive measures in Lebanon which led to the exchange of prisoners between Hezbollah and Israel and probably an embassy in Beirut, and then moved from Paris to implement a public relations campaign in Washington with the American Jews and peace groups. It has become clear that the White House is the ultimate aim.
All these are exciting and encouraging steps as they are a deviation from the Syrian line. This prompts us to ask: Why Damascus cannot be clearer about whether it wants peace and to escape from the Iranian lap? What we are seeing looks like just a public relations campaign that is not enough to cancel the Security Council’s resolutions, will not stop the tribunal, and will not protect Syria from the region’s upheavals and dangers.