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Syria and Israel: Paradox and Danger - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We are facing an odd political paradox in the region as Syria and Israel continue to flirt in hope of reaching a peace agreement, the price of which is costly for both parties since both sides want a victory that would exclude it from military confrontation, which seems inevitable.

Damascus wants the Golan Heights to be returned to it and to break the Arab and international isolation [that it is experiencing] in order to actualize a victory that it could benefit from both internally and externally especially since the Syrians have placed all their eggs in one basket, that is by allying themselves with Iran. Now they have no choice but to achieve peace with Israel and to regain the Golan Heights so that they could outmaneuver their opponents. If they do not accomplish peace then at least they would have benefited from the elapsing of time until the Bush administration leaves office.

Israel, in turn, also wants to escape the dilemma of unavoidable military confrontation that looms on the horizon. For the first time, and in an unprecedented situation, Israel finds itself surrounded by Iran from three directions. Firstly, there is the South Lebanon front, that is Hezbollah; secondly, there is the Gaza front, namely Hamas, an ally of Tehran; and finally, there is the Syrian front, especially that the Iranians exerted much effort in their preparations on Syrian territories, suffice to mention the Iranian listening stations set up in Syria to spy on Israel.

Of course, all these fronts do not mean that Iran will embark upon a direct war with Israel; rather these preparations are for the sake of Iranian wings in case of an American or Israeli attack on Iran. If the war does not take place, those preparations will transform into a reality that represents the expansion of Iranian penetration in Arab countries like the Hezbollah state in Lebanon.

The conclusion is that Israel wants to disengage the Syrian-Iranian connection even if the cost entails returning the Golan Heights or luring Iran towards committing a mistake so that a military strike on Iran would become unavoidable. Meanwhile, Syria wants to achieve one of two gains: the return of the Golan Heights or to pass time until [incumbent US President] George Bush leaves the White House.

Syria is unable to fulfill its role as the head of the Arab Summit as it ignores its icy ties with Arab states and refuses to give up Lebanon now because Hezbollah is an important negotiation card with respect to the Golan Heights issue.

The paradox that lies therein is that the party that seeks to hinder Syrian-Israeli rapprochement until now is not Iran, Hezbollah or Hamas; it is in fact America. It is evident that Washington is not enthusiastic about Syrian-Israeli peace now, as it wants to settle the Palestinian issue, not to reward the Syrians and their affiliates. Israel sees that by negotiating with the Syrians it would be freed from American pressure regarding the Palestinian issue until the Bush administration leaves [the White House].

The problem with everything that has been mentioned is that the prospect of war in the region has become more likely than the prospect of peace. The raising of expectations regarding a potential Syrian-Israeli peace agreement is a dangerous matter especially since America is tepid towards this peace.

Consequently, matters are heating up before the summer and we do not know where this will lead…Will the attempts of all parties result in a rushed war, an explosive collision or solutions?

Major events of a dangerous nature are in the making.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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