Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back to the Syrian Track

Award winning Israeli Journalist Jackie Hugi sent this through. It is by a colleague and is an important overview of a changing situation:

Ma’ariv (p. 2) by Ben Caspit -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has completed his “feasibility study” on the possibility of holding negotiations between Israel and Syria, and he is now leaning toward going for the Syrian track and to begin preparations to this end. Olmert is considering including this in a reserved Israeli affirmative reply to the Saudi peace initiative. In the meantime, he is waiting for the results of the Labor Party primary, in the hope of Ehud Barak winning, who is meant to become the prime minister’s strategic partner in this step.
Sources close to Olmert say that in the last few days the prime minister “ripened” and became convinced that negotiations with the Syrians and a possible peace agreement between the two countries would substantively change the strategic situation in the region and help isolate Iran and solve the Hizbullah problem, mainly in light of the collapse of Abu Mazen’s Fatah and the fact that there is no chance of a peace process with the Palestinians in the near future.
Recently a number of foreign emissaries visited Damascus with questions from Olmert. Based on their information, the prime minister made an in-depth discrete examination of the issue. At the same time, Israel appealed to the US through various channels, and the Americans were persuaded that negotiations between Israel and Syria also conforms to their interests in the region.
Moreover: The voices in the security establishment calling to open a diplomatic track on the northern front are constantly increasing. All the security ranks, except for the Mossad director, now enthusiastically support this: the chief of staff, his deputy, the director of IDF Intelligence, the chairman of the National Security Council, the Political-Security Staff in the Defense Ministry, along with the staff ranks. Military sources say that continuing the current policy will, almost certainly, lead to some sort of deterioration in the situation on the northern front, which could turn into a war within a very short time.
There has also been a change in the position of Mossad Director Meir Dagan, which is described by informed sources as “strategic.” Dagan still believes that Syria has no intention of abandoning the axis of evil, of cooling its relations with Iran, of cutting off its ties to Hizbullah or of expelling the terror organizations from its soil. Nonetheless, in a written document that Dagan sent recently to a secret forum, a dramatic change was noted in his position relating to the Arab world: until now Dagan contended that the axis of moderate Arab countries was opposed to negotiations between Israel and Syria and that these countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, would view this as “sticking a knife in their back” by Israel. Dagan, who is responsible for the ties to these countries and specializes in what goes on there, now states that the moderate Arab countries have been persuaded of the necessity of negotiations between Israel and Syria, and view such negotiations as an important way of undermining the terror axis and stopping the approaching Shiite-Islamic revolution. Israel, in this assessment, earns the blessings of the moderate Arab states—Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Jordan and others—for a possible diplomatic step with Syria.

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