Monday, 2 March 2009

The Syria Temptation—and Why Obama Must Resist It

Bret Stephens
“Start with Syria.” Thus did Aaron David Miller advise the incoming Obama administration on where its Mideast peacemaking priorities should lie. Miller, a former State Department official who first made a name for himself as a leading American negotiator in the Arab-Israeli peace processes of the 1990’s, had lost his faith that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians was possible, at least in the near term. But he was more sanguine about the prospects of an Israeli-Syrian deal, and confident about the good that could come of it. As he put it in a Washington Post op-ed in November 2008: Here there are two states at the table, rather than one state and a dysfunctional national movement. A quiet border, courtesy of Henry Kissinger’s 1974 disengagement diplomacy, prevails. And there are fewer settlers on the Golan Heights and no megaton issues such as the status of Jerusalem to blow up the talks. Indeed the issues are straightforward—withdrawal [by Israel from the Golan Heights], peace, security and water—and the gaps are clear and ready to be bridged.

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