Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The secret channel between Tel Aviv and Damascus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The news leaked recently by Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, and then confirmed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, about secret negotiations conducted between Tel Aviv and Damascus over the past few months in order to reach a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement is worthy of our contemplation.

We all know that, ever since the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, there has been a backdoor channel of communication between Damascus and Tel Aviv, conducted via the military intelligence apparatuses of the two countries.

This secret channel has operated efficiently and regularly regardless of the nature – or complete lack – of overt relations between the two countries, and regardless of the level of tension between Syria and Israel. This channel has proven to be “highly efficient and of extreme importance to the security of both sides”, after it was first consolidated during the Syrian-Israeli negotiation marathon that took place in Washington under US auspices during the era of President Bill Clinton. At the time the Syrian negotiation team was led by the then Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara, who is the current Syrian Vice President.

On Saturday, Israeli sources revealed that the aim of such negotiations with Syria was to attempt to drive a wedge between Syria one the one hand, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other, and that these negotiations were conducted under the auspices of the US State Department. In my opinion, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that such negotiations are doomed to failure in that regard, and that they will only serve to keep the al-Assad regime “afloat” and buy it more time.

In my opinion, over the course of these negotiations, Tel Aviv and Washington will have quickly discovered that Bashar al-Assad’s personal, psychological and security links with the Iranian regime are far stronger than any political flirtation with Washington, or any security yarn spinning with Tel Aviv.

These negotiations have been conducted at a time when the Arab Spring revolutions are posing a real burden for Washington, after they once represented the stuff of dreams for the American decision-maker. These secret communications have also been conducted at a time when Ehud Barak, the Israeli Minister of Defense, has been developing his plans to separate Gaza from the West Bank, and subsequently separate the West Bank from the Jewish state. Barak fears the emergence of an internationally-backed project, working on the assumption that a two-state solution is impossible, proposing the establishment of one state that incorporates all Israeli and Arab nationals; whether Jews, Muslims, Christians or Druze.

Here we must contemplate the following question: If all Washington’s regional projects suffer from repeated failures, who will pay the price in the long run?