Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Syria and Israel Talk (Have Been Talking)

I'll admit up front that I have neither the knowledge nor the experience to give an informative analysis of the recent acknowledgment of ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. Basically I don't completely understand how diplomatic relations should work; I'm a relative tenderfoot when it comes to international relations. Even so what I can offer is some perspective on the situation, and a reminder of why it is foolish to pay any attention to what politicians say.
Lets think back to just a few days ago and formulate a few assumptions that would have seemed reasonable enough to hold back then. Firstly, as President Bush pointed out, it would have been apt to assume that those talking to "terrorists" were appeasers, at least in the eyes of this administration. Secondly, when considering Jimmy Carter's recent trip to the Levant, one would have been right in thinking that Israel had no interest, was even hostile, to the idea of negotiating with their enemies. The government of Israel was adamantly against the idea of Carter's talks in Syria, possibly leading to Shin Bet's - the Israeli secret service - refusal to coordinate security with Mr. Carter's security detail, an unprecedented snub. Lastly, the axis of evil rhetoric combined with condemnations of Syrian influence in Lebanon should have dissuaded most from considering Israel to be negotiating with their supposed adversary.
Today we all have become a little wiser to the reality of our crazy geopolitical world, where enemies become friends overnight and even terrorists are forgiven (and sometimes become powerful politicians). Not only were we foolish to scoff at the idea of negotiations in the future, we were naive to think that negotiations weren't in progress - for more than a year actually, in Turkey.
I'll admit that I wasn't entirely caught off guard by this negotiation revelation. There are plenty of examples of Israel, for example, talking to their most vilified enemies. Hamas was courted by the Israel Defense Force in the early naughties, and talks are most probably - and hear I am preempting our next negotiation surprise - ongoing.
Even the Bush administration is not above talking, funding, and arming the "terrorists" - defined, circa 9/11, as Sunni fundamentalists apposed to U.S. policy in the Middle East - as reported by Seymour Hersh and others.
What we must remember is that it is no good listening to politicians. They have their own agenda, and telling the truth is not on it. These latest peace talks could be good, but they also may not work. Prime Minister Olmert of Israel is in a precarious situation, with a corruption investigation nipping at his heals, a shaky coalition government and an unhappy populous. The talks might also work out, and then peace with Syria may be used as a leverage to get even more from the constantly demeaned Palestinians. Who knows what will happen. What we can be certain of is that for Syria a peace deal is coveted to shore up the ruling dictatorship of Mr. Assad, and for Israel it is meant to change Israel's pariah status with many of its neighbors, further isolate the stateless Palestinians and force them into compromises, and allow Israeli's to drive to Paris. This is a simplification but it is more than you will learn from any of the negotiating partners.

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