Israel Appoints "project manager" for Syria Talks
For readers in Canada, A half-hour talk show on Canadian Broadcasting C. that I recorded with Afshin Molavi, who wrote the excellent book, The Soul of Iran, will air on the Sunday Edition across Canada (and border states) on CBC Radio One, right after the 9 a.m. news. We talk about the Iran-Syrian relationship and how people in both countries view the Lebanon war. It also airs across North America on Sirius satellite radio, channel 137 (at a different time, but people with satellite radio should have the schedule). People can also listen live online by clicking here
FM Livni appoints envoy for possible Syria talks
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed a special "project manager" for possible negotiations with Syria. Yaakov (Yaki) Dayan, who until recently was head of the diplomatic desk in the Foreign Ministry, met last week with Tel Aviv University President Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, who headed the Syrian negotiations team under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s.The Syrian Ambassador to Kuwait too a rather different line than President Asad in calling for Arab Unity.
Dayan is scheduled to meet shortly with Uri Sagi, who held the same post under PM Ehud Barak in the late '90s. Dayan has been asked to present Livni and Foreign Ministry officials with a document detailing the chances for resuming the diplomatic dialogue with Syria in the light of Syrian and Israeli positions on substantive issues such as borders, security and normalization.
Ido Aharoni, Livni's media adviser, confirmed Saturday Livni's appointment of Dayan but said there is no reason to infer from his appointment that Livni advocates resuming talks with Syria.
Israeli experts are divided when it comes to analyzing Syrian President Bashar Assad's intentions. Military Intelligence officials emphasize Assad's recent military threats, while Foreign Ministry officials take seriously his call to renew the peace talks.
People in both camps have expressed concern about the growing relations between Iran and Syria as well as their increasing support for Hamas. The declaration last week by Defense Minister Amir Peretz advocating the creation of conditions for talking to Syria followed a series of talks with Syria hands. Associates of Peretz say he has become convinced of the need to examine Assad's intentions. They see he views the Syrian president as an important factor in preventing a renewal of fighting on the northern border and in enforcing the arms embargo on Lebanon.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opposes any deviation from his strict policy of boycotting Syria as long as the U.S. keeps it on its list of states that support terror. After the outbreak of hostilities in the North, Washington began considering a more conciliatory approach to Damascus. Israeli officials, however, do not expect to see a change in American policy before the Congressional elections this November.
Massoud Derhally writes in Arabian Business (20 August 2006) that the Lebanon war has:
lessons for the Arab world as well. For those of us who believe in democracy it is now all too clear that we cannot rely on untrustworthy friends like the US or for that matter Britain. No one knows that more than the embattled Lebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora, who was eagerly courted by Washington when it suited its purpose during the so called "Cedar Revolution," last year, only to realize he and his nation are nothing more than an expendable asset. If anything France's stance has been most honorable and a barometer of what others should have done.Addendum: Here is Farid Ghadry's response to Israel's opening the door to dialogue with Syria sent in an email circular. He is the head of the Washington based Syrian Reform Party:
For the impotent Arab governments that stood idly by and watched, as Israel callously butchered innocents, their behavior is reprehensible and despicable. The ineptitude of Arab nations will only serve to confirm the perceived mendacity of regimes among their citizens and portentously add to the political malaise that pervades the region.
The present leadership of Israel is weak and inexperienced. Faced with adversity, it is buckling under the pressure. It believes that Assad will become a civilized man suddenly and will, once he collects back the Golan Heights, refrain from attacking Israel using the plateau as a military point to finish what Iran started in the Middle East: The destruction of the Jewish State. The present Israeli leadership simply do not understand that once the Golan Heights is returned, Assad's nationalism and raison d'être will, eventually, break down his system of tyranny. Assad does not want the Golan Heights back. He just screams for it to gain more popularity. The only way Israel can have peace is when real democratic changes take place in Syria after the fall of the Assad minority-led regime.Arab Foreign Ministers are meeting in Cairo today (Sunday) to agree on a plan to rebuild Lebanon: ``This is a war over the hearts and mind of the Lebanese, which Arabs should not lose to the Iranians this time,'' said a senior Arab League official. Kuwait has offered 800 million dollars.