Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Importance of the Syrian Card | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It makes no difference whether France has become involved in the peace process, and particularly the Syrian – Israeli peace, in order to punish Turkey or not. What is important is the continuation of the peace process, and achieving peace between Damascus and Tel Aviv. This is something that I have written about repeatedly, the goal of this is not to ignore the Palestinian issue, but rather peace between Syria and Israel will enhance the chance of a Palestinian – Israeli peace.

The importance of peace between Syria and Israel is due to several factors which are in the interests of the region and the peace process as a whole. Firstly, Syria regaining the Golan Heights will serve to enhance the credibility of the peace process, and result in Damascus having a positive role in the region. This is because Syria will be keen to promote stability across the region in a practical manner, and not just with slogans.

This represents a gain for Syria, with the country being grouped with Egypt and Jordan, following the same path and sharing [mutual] interests. These three countries will be the countries that deal with Israel, and they will also be the countries who are at peace [with Israel]. They are supported by those countries that are united behind them; let us call them the political rational [countries] i.e. the Gulf States. These are led by Saudi Arabia, and all that Saudi Arabia represents with regards to its weight and position [in the region] as the driving force behind the Arab Peace Initiative.

The completion of a Syrian – Israeli peace will also facilitate the redrawing of the Syrian – Lebanese border, thus ending the problem of who has authority of the areas which are currently being occupied by Israel in Lebanon. Therefore with Israel withdrawing from these areas, Hezbollah will no longer have a pretext for arming itself, and this is a very important issue.

This will result in a [potential] crisis, or indeed an explosion, along the Israeli – Lebanese border being defused. It also means that a major impediment to social peace and stability in Lebanon will have been removed. Promoting Lebanese stability and ensuring that Lebanon stays away from regional maneuvering will be in Syria’s interests, especially when Damascus has an outright peace [with Israel] to maintain. It is enough that Damascus has succeeded in maintaining a thirty-year truce with Israel, so it will make sense that Syria will maintain peace [with Israel] as well, and this is something that will benefit the interests and stability of the region.

There is one other issue to discuss, and that is the Palestinian issue. In the event of peace being achieved between Damascus and Tel Aviv, inter-Palestinian reconciliation will be in Syria’s interests and national security. In this case, we will see whether Syria can influence Hamas, or whether [Hamas chief] Khalid Mishal will relocate to Tehran. In any case things will resolve [one way or another]. If Mishal goes to Iran, he will have destroyed his Arab playing cards, while if returns to Palestine, the Israeli – Palestinian peace process can get underway.

Finally there is the issue of Iran, and its interference in our region. One of the benefits of a Syrian – Israeli peace is that Damascus will no longer take ambiguous decisions [with regards to Iran] for its interests will be in supporting regional stability, from Lebanon to Iraq. Therefore the Syrians will by necessity have to take clear positions [on the Iranian interference], and this is something that it is difficult for Damascus to do today, and there is no blame on Damascus for this.

The final point here is that with all due respect to France’s role, Washington is far more capable than Paris of completing this Syrian – Israeli peace. If Obama wishes to achieve a genuine peace in the region, he must start with Syria. Washington should initiate this peace and it will then spread throughout the region.