How many times have we seen the title “Assad: Syria ready to talk peace with any Israeli government” in Ha’aretz articles, in various Gulf newspapers, on BBC interviews, on CNN…? Here’s the latest one: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1069716.html
So why isn’t Israel jumping at the endless opportunities over the years? Surely Syria’s normal “enemy behavior”, as supporter of Israel’s other enemies (Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran) can’t be enough of a reason. After all, everyone knows you make peace with enemies, not with your buddies, right? So what’s the real reason – why are we continuously ignoring Syria?
Not long ago Dr. Alon Liel, former Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, career diplomat, and current head of the Israel-Syria Peace Society, told me that it has never been Israeli policy to turn down an offer to talk peace. “In our cadet school training,” said Alon, “each week they reminded us that if any Arab state is ready to talk to us, we must jump at the opportunity.” (Shai: This was even before Egypt and Israel began their own peace talks.) So what has been going on over the past few years?
While pondering this question, I naturally found some “quick answers”. These included the Bush administration and its destructive influence in Jerusalem, the lack of Israeli leadership on the scale of Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Rabin, as well as reasons echoed by many a hawks, who suggest that Israelis simply aren’t ready to give back the Golan to a “terror-supporting regime”. But these seemed too simple to me, and therefore not sufficiently convincing.
And then it came to me. Perhaps Syria is trying too hard! Could it be that when Assad says “Syria is ready to talk peace with any Israeli government”, while in the same breath saying “The right kills Arabs and the left kills Arabs…”, he is sending a message that, to some in Israel, may seem as near-desperation? And if Syria is perceived to be so “desperate”, then what’s the hurry?
I couldn’t help thinking of the similarity between such messages, and endless attempts made by a particular boy in class to woo a girl he likes, who inevitably rejects him because of his perceived desperate state. Is it possible that Syria is trying too hard? After all, if a relationship is to succeed, shouldn’t the courting stage be more balanced? In practical terms, shouldn’t Syria expect Israel to show more initiative and readiness on its own? Shouldn’t we see more articles titled “Israel is ready to talk peace with any Syrian government…”? (Or, of course, “… with any Palestinian government!”)
In the meantime, I’m not sure Syria isn’t marketing its strategic decision in such way, that is encouraging Israelis to think “So what if Syria wants peace…”