Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Peace Talks Charade

I wish the propects for peace between Syria and Israel were real.

As history teaches us, lasting peace can only be achieved with long-term confidence building measures and a more equal balance of power.

Israel, with American backing, still has the upper hand militarily but feels more insecure than ever before. Israel fears not so much Iranian nuclear missiles (which America would presumably shield it from) but the proliferation of nuclear technology in the Arab world in response to the growing Iranian threat.

So what are Israel's motives in talking to Syria? Prising Syria away from Iran, even if it were possible, might slowdown Iranian encroachment on Israel's northern borders but would not eliminate the Iranian threat altogether or ensure non proliferation of WMD in the Middle East. So that cannot be the main motive. Restraining Hizballah and Hamas while building Israel's capacity to fight guerilla wars is one possible reason. Diverting the attention of the Israeli public away from Olmert's problems is another. The Israeli public is extremely sceptical and fearful of cedng any territory. It simply does not trust the Syrian government and can see that it can no longer deliver on Hizballah or Hamas. The two beasts have outgrown their old master and now take their orders directly from Tehran. Olmert cannot possibly deliver a peace treaty.

Syria's motives are clear; the nation wants the whole of the Golan back and the government is internationally isolated and in deep trouble economically. The Syrians do not trust Israel because of its apalling treatment of the Palestinians, its illegal settlements and indirect fanning of the fires of fundamentalist Islam (to secure the tacit sympathy and protection of the Christian world) and because Syrians have been programmed to hate rather than engage with Zionists.

Syrian public opinion would not stop Bashar Assad signing a peace treaty but his regime thrives on oppression in the name of security. The regime would not be able to survive if peace broke out because it would lose its raison d'etre. Assad knows any peace talks between his unrepresentative regime and Israel will be protracted and almost certainly humiliating, so he cannot be serious about peace either.

Yet, it is better to talk than fight and let the Israeli and Syrian public get used to the idea of regular contact, albeit on false pretences :)

It will be pure theatre and quite amuzing to see the same play again, this time with a touch of amateur dramatics.