Last Friday afternoon, we worried that high tensions between Israel and Syria—most immediately prompted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s threats to Syrian leader Bashar Assad—could lead to violence. Well, fortunately, they haven’t so far, and hot tempers have appeared to cool over the weekend. Which can allow us now to focus on the broader question of Israeli-Syrian hostility.
That there is currently no peace is partly a function of Israel’s unwillingness to give up the Golan Heights. But, really, blame for the enmity can probably be primarily laid at the feet of Syrian intransigence. Problem is (as I mentioned last Friday), that intransigence toward Israel has not stopped its newly important neighbor Turkey from seeking closer ties. It has not even prevented the United States from attempting to cozy up to Syria—America, which hopes to send its first ambassador to Damascus since 2005, would love a Syria that is less in Iran’s orbit and is cooperative in trying to maintain stability in neighboring Iraq as U.S. military forces withdraw.
A Haaretz correspondent notes, “Syria is a key country along a new axis being formed in the Middle East, which includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. The backbone of this axis is economic, security, and diplomatic cooperation that would replace the old axis of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.” A smart Israeli leader would view the region in a more classically realist way, the correspondent adds, and work extra hard to achieve peace with Syria:
Israel, which is used to examining the region through a lens that counts Hezbollah’s missiles and Hamas’ explosive barrels sent to sea, and which considers the prisoner numbers in the Gilad Shalit deal the crux of the security threat, is blind to the region’s strategic developments. The expression “we want peace,” which is void of substance, cannot even begin to express the folly and shortsightedness of Israel, which is shrugging its shoulders at a chance to reach peace with Syria, if for no other reason than to prevent a damaging blow from this new axis.
To this end, we need a statesman, not a comedian. The leader who can make Israelis understand that peace with Syria does not mean eating humus in Damascus but is an existential interest, no less important than blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Earlier: Israel and Syria In Crisis