As prospects for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority look increasingly grim, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is saying he’s open to reopening negotiations with Syria. And Bashar Assad, Syria’s prime minister, is saying he’s willing to resume talks as well. Good news, right? Not so fast. The first problem is, the two leaders are insisting upon different conditions for negotiations, as the Istanbul-based journalist Yigal Schleifer explains in The Faster Times: Assad wants indirect talks mediated by Turkey, which hosted the last round of negotiations between the two countries (they stalled last year). Netanyahu wants direct talks mediated by any country but Turkey, whose government has been increasingly critical of Israel since the Gaza War.
It’s further complicated by the fact that would-be mediators aren’t readily letting go of the chance to play peacemaker. Turkey still wants the job, as does France—Nicolas Sarkozy officially expressed his interest earlier this week. Netanyahu seems amenable, but that, says Foreign Policy Watch, is because Sarkozy won’t insist Israel give Syria the disputed Golan Heights, and, moreover, does not have the muscle to make either side follow through on much of anything. The government that really ought to mediate, the news analysis site argued, is President Barack Obama’s, which is not currently offering to do so. On the plus side, Schleifer noted, mediation offers from Croatia and Brazil are still on the table.
Istanbul Calling: Are Israel and Syria Ready to Negotiate? [The Faster Times]
Choosing the Right Broker [Foreign Policy Watch]