Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Start from Damascus! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Washington has called the Palestinians and Israelis to [start] a new round, which aims at resuming peace negotiations; as usual Israel immediately welcomed this, and will set out to sabotage it in the future, whilst the Palestinians, as usual, are skeptical and will discuss their choices. This is the absurd situation that our region has been witnessing for a long time!

The question that must be asked here is: why does Washington not pursue another track in order to reach the desired peace, such as through Israeli – Syrian negotiations? The Israeli – Syrian peace process is much simpler than the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations, and could be a genuine key to achieving peace between Palestine and Israel. Whilst it is true that it is difficult to trust the promises of the Syrians, and that Damascus wants to impose its desires upon the world; let us look at the situation from a Syrian perspective, for what are their alternatives [to this]?

Would it be rational for Damascus to promote regional stability, refrain from supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, and distance itself from Iran, in return for nothing more than promises? From a Syrian position, this would be dangerous and indeed potentially disastrous. So what is the solution? It seems that the options are limited; the US must either achieve the Israeli – Palestinian peace, and even if we recognize that this is inevitable in either the short or long-term there is nothing to indicate that this will be achieved soon, or strike Iran in order to isolate its allies in the region, including Syria, however this is an option that has serious consequences. Alternatively, the US could try taking another track in order to reach peace, and that is via Damascus, however this will not happen without the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, and much depends on this issue.

If this were to happen, Damascus would no longer be able to support Hezbollah which is threatening to destroy Beirut today, or support Hamas which no longer has many option in front of it and either must join the peace process or transfer its political headquarters from Damascus to Tehran, which would be political suicide. It would also not be possible for Damascus to be an ally of Iran in the same manner that it is today. Some might say that if the Syrians are clever, they will take the Golan Heights back and then renege and not contribute to regional stability, however this is not true, for this would have a steep price [on Damascus and the region]. The least that Damascus could do [in this event] would be to enter a stage of lukewarm peace [with Israel] and this is better than pouring oil on the fire, something that Damascus excels at.

Therefore the Syrian – Israeli peace would facilitate the Palestinian – Israeli peace process, isolate Iran’s allies and clip Tehran’s influence in the region. Syria is the major intersection for all of Iran’s allies, from Iraq to Lebanon, and even Gaza; therefore a Syrian – Israeli peace would strengthen regional stability and enhance regional security and cooperation.

It is true that there are some who say: why should we reward Syria? However politics is the art of the possible; not the art of bickering. Some might also ask: do you trust Syria? The answer to this is no, however we don’t trust Israel and have granted it all of these opportunities [to achieve peace], why shouldn’t we give the Syrians a chance?

Therefore, if President Obama wants to create a genuine turning point in our region, he must try the Syrian track [to achieve peace] on the condition that these negotiations have a glass-ceiling, in other words ensuring that Damascus does not have the opportunity to manipulate the situation and Israel does not delay and procrastinate, something that it excels at, especially as the Israeli – Syrian file is not excessively complicated.

So, President Obama, try the Damascus track!