Sunday, December 12, 2004

Israeli Peace Plan with Syria and Lebanon

Naharnet sent the following article around on an Israeli plan for peace with Syria and Lebanon which will be discussed tomorrow in Hertzliya. It has some interesting new twists because it includes land swaps with Jordan. Sharon is not keen on it, but it is good to see some new creative thinking.

Israel is discussing a comprehensive plan for peace with Syria and Lebanon under which the Jewish state would relinquish the western and northern fringes of the Golan Heights as well as the Shabaa farms, keeping in hand the major water resources on the eastern flank of the strategic plateau plus a corridor to Mount Hermon.

The plan, which will be tabled for detailed discussion at the annual Israeli "Hertzliya Conference" on Monday, focuses on a triple land swap between Israel, Syria and Jordan. The Shabaa Frams, which Israel captured along with the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war, would be turned back to Syria, not Lebanon.

According to the plan, which would be put forward in the context of a peace treaty with Syria, Israel would maintain its control over the eastern edge of the Golan Heights above the Sea of Galilee and the lake's water line.

The size of this territory is about 250 square kilometers, in which 10,000 of the Golan's 16,000 residents live. Israel, the plan states, would continue to control the water resources and an access route to Mount Hermon. The portion returned to Syria would include all Druze- populated villages.

Syria, under the plan, would receive land from Jordan along their common border, equal to the size of land it conceded from the Golan Heights. Israel would compensate Jordan with a portion of land south of the Dead Sea plus significant financial restitution.

Mount Hermon would be turned into a "recreation center in heavens," complete with the most advanced skiing courses and winter resort hotels. It will be collectively exploited by Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

The new plan was drafted by Dr. Uzi Arad, a former senior Mossad official and advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, Professor Gideon Biger and Dr. Shmuel Bar.

It has already been introduced to American and Syrian officials who expressed interest in the plan. Soon-to-be U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said it was a "creative plan."

However, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not appear to be overly enthusiastic. It is estimated all his efforts are currently focused on the disengagement plan.

Bill O'Brien, a smart local Oklahoma reporter, has writing a good story on Syria, giving an overview of peace negotiations.

Bashar al Assad and those around him may see Syria’s conflict with Israel as an issue that serves to impede efforts to reform the Syrian economy. And the younger Assad’s government has been quietly seeking American support to regain the Golan Heights. Several months ago, an Israeli journalist reported that Bashar al Assad was willing to fly to Israel for the purpose of negotiating the return of land occupied by the Israelis.


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