This essay examines the stalled Middle East peace process, focusing especially on the Israeli-Syrian track. It argues that for ideological and strategic security considerations the Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unwilling to abide by the "land for peace" formula established in the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. Also, Mr. Netanyahu and his foreign-policy advisers assume that the return of the Golan Heights is a lesser national priority for Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad. Syria, however, will not agree to any territorial compromises on the Golan Heights and refuses to endorse any separate deal between Israel and Lebanon. Future prospects for a lasting peace in the Middle East are in doubt without vigorous U.S. involvement along with a meaningful European role.
On October 23, 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman Yasser Arafat signed at a White House ceremony, witnessed by President Clinton and King Hussein of Jordan, the Wye River Memorandum. The "Wye Agreement," as it is commonly referred to in the press, represented a considerable investment in time and effort on the part of President Clinton and his senior foreign-policy advisers to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace track and gave hope that the Middle East peace process could be resuscitated after almost two and a half years of hiatus.1 However, the agreement suffered a series of quick setbacks: the Israeli cabinet added conditions for implementing the pact, and the Knesset decided to hold general elections in the spring or early summer of 1999. Thus the implementation of the Wye Agreement is on hold at least until after Israel elects a new prime minister and a new Knesset.2 The peace process is again frozen.
BACKGROUND: NETANYAHU'S FIRST TWO YEARS
The election of hard-line Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel on May 29, 1996, profoundly changed the tempo and direction of the Middle East peace process. Netanyahu's disdain for the Oslo agreement reached between the previous Labor government and the Palestinian Authority, his attempt to separate the Lebanese-Israeli peace track from the Israeli-Syrian track, and his insistence that the Israeli-Syrian negotiations be resumed with no preconditions and irrespective of progress made between the Syrians and the Labor government negotiators have effectively frozen the peace process between Israel and its two neighbors to the north. The current deadlock, based on deeply-held ideology, sovereignty claims and national security considerations, is not likely to loosen without the continued direct personal involvement of the president of the United States, with perhaps a role for the European community.3 Vital U.S. interests in the Middle East are in jeopardy if a comprehensive peace process, begun in Madrid in 1991, is not successfully concluded.4
The process had its roots in U.N. Resolution 242, which, following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, recognized the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and the need for the "establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East." These aspects of U.N. 242 became popularly known as the land-for-peace formula that led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace based on the Camp David accords of 1979. It was also the basis on which the Madrid Conference of 1991 was convened, which resulted in an Israeli-Palestinian Agreement in 1993 and an Israeli-Jordanian full-peace treaty in 1995. Furthermore, the "land for peace" formula generated a strong momentum toward regional peace as relations between Israel and several Arab states began to normalize. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear during the election campaign and after his victory that he rejects the "land for peace" formula and will seek instead "peace with security." He has vowed never to return the Golan Heights to Syria, accept Palestinian statehood, or compromise the sovereignty of Jerusalem.5 Having made clear what he will not do, he called on the Arabs to negotiate peace with no preconditions.
A two-day Arab summit in Cairo in late June 1996 produced a communique in which Arab leaders representing 21 nations "called on Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab lands and to permit the Palestinians to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital." They warned that if Israel is to delay or proceed differently this would "compel all the Arab states to reconsider steps taken in the context of the peace process."6 In a written statement issued by his office, Mr. Netanyahu responded, "One-sided demands that harm security are not reconcilable with peace talks. In order for the process to continue successfully and fruitfully, such demands must stop."7
With the hardening of positions on both sides, former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher traveled to Israel for meetings with the new prime minister to explore ways in which the peace process could continue. Press reports following their meeting on June 25 suggested that Mr. Netanyahu "refused to yield on his hard-line stands that have raised fears of a slowdown in Arab-Israeli peacemaking ... and [d]espite Christopher's lawyerly effort to skirt points of contention, Netanyahu stood firm on several points that, if maintained in negotiations, would differ markedly from what the United States has been promoting in the Middle East for the last several years ...."8 Still, many analysts advised then that Mr. Netanyahu needs to be given a chance to develop his foreign-policy priorities. The logic of the advice was that campaign rhetoric will eventually give way to the responsibilities of governing. As one Israeli investment manager who experienced the economic benefits of peace with the Arabs has stated, "People are a little afraid of what he [Netanyahu] says. But between what he says and what he does there is a difference - at least I hope so."9
In the two months following the Arab summit in Cairo, a flurry of high-level meetings and diplomatic activities has taken place. These included the well-publicized Netanyahu visits to Washington July 9-10, when he met with President Clinton and addressed a joint session of Congress, and to Cairo July 18. Press and analysts' reports were mixed, but most suggested that no substantive progress toward resumption of the peace process was made because of these meetings. In fact, in Washington,
Despite royal treatment, Netanyahu made no concessions to U.S. peace policies .... Specifically, [he] did not embrace the U.S. land for peace formula or agree to curb settlements, to lift the closure of the Palestinian territories, to withdraw troops from Hebron or the Golan Heights, to meet Yasir Arafat or to recognize Palestinian statehood. Instead he emphatically asserted that Jerusalem would forever be Israel's capital. His unabashedly hard line must have come as a surprise to many Americans, who have been assured by much of the U.S. media that he is simply a "pragmatic politician" whose views will be "tempered by high office."10
On the other hand, the respected Jordanian weekly Shihan, quoting special sources in Washington, reported that Netanyahu offered to the "U.S. Administration to revive the secret forum between Israel and Syria as an irreversible Israeli condition if Syria wants to join real talks that could culminate in its recovery of the Golan Heights and secure Israel against any future Syrian military threat."11 The report went on to detail the elements of the Netanyahu proposal including (1) the decoupling of the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, (2) complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for guarantees for its security along certain lines including the stationing of 10,000 American troops in the Syrian Heights to monitor a demilitarized zone between the two countries, and (3) a fair distribution of common water sources.
The substance of this Israeli offer, according to the source, should have been acceptable to Syria; however, the breakdown of the talks had to do with mechanics rather than details. "The Syrian leadership sensed that the Americans and Israelis would be setting a trap for them if they proceed with the secret talks, without bringing in another world power, like Russia, that would strengthen Syria's hand in the negotiations and hold the Israelis and Americans to the provisions of the treaty."12
If Prime Minister Netanyahu made such an offer to the U.S. administration, this would explain why U.S. peace-process coordinator Dennis Ross was dispatched to the region in late July 1996 to revive the peace talks. One would assume that if Netanyahu's secret offer to the Syrians was as inflexible on the Golan Heights as his public statements, then Mr. Ross could have had little basis on which to rekindle the talks. In short, there were mixed signals on the future of the peace process and specifically the Israeli-Syrian track.13
Between the time of Netanyahu's election and the meeting at the Wye River Plantation, there were many attempts to move the peace process forward. However, despite many meetings between regional leaders, trips by several U.S. and European envoys, and the floating of new and fresh proposals, the peace process was no further along than it was when Netanyahu took office in May 1996.14 For in this time period, Netanyahu's hard-line stances were designed to change the basis on which the peace process was predicated. On the Palestinian track, he objected to the Oslo agreement entered into by the previous government as endangering Israeli security, and gave the green light for the building of a new settlement on Har Homa in East Jerusalem. The decision to build this settlement was the primary reason for the freezing of the peace process.15
On the Israeli-Syrian track, Netanyahu declared that negotiations must begin anew and not proceed, as the Syrians demanded, from where they left off with the previous government. Netanyahu also proposed the "Lebanon First" option - a non-starter for the Lebanese and Syrians, who considered it a trick designed to split the Lebanese-Syrian tracks and therefore weaken the negotiating position of each side.16
Finally it was Britain's Prime Minister Blair who invited Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Arafat to meet in London in May 1998 in an effort to restart the process, at least initially on the Israeli-Palestinian track. The London meeting succeeded only in revealing a rift between the United States and Israel over the American proposal of an Israeli withdrawal from an additional 13.1 percent of the West Bank. Arafat had before the London meeting accepted this proposal, but Netanyahu offered to withdraw from 9 percent only.17 American diplomacy did eventually reach a deal with Mr. Netanyahu on the size of the withdrawal that was also acceptable to the Palestinians. That deal was of course the Wye Plantation Memorandum. This agreement, however, while an important step forward, is hardly the key to "unlock the door to the long-elusive regional peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors," as Vice President Gore hoped.18 The key to regional peace remains a comprehensive land-for-peace formula.
The remainder of this essay will focus on the Israeli-Syrian peace track. In this context, little difference exists between what Mr. Netanyahu says and what he does. The same should be true of any Likud successor to Netanyahu. The reason, besides traditional Likud ideological arguments in favor of retaining captured lands, is that Netanyahu (Likud) and his foreign-policy advisers hold certain assumptions about Syria whereby the return of the Golan Heights is a lesser national priority for President Asad. In addition, Netanyahu seeks to benefit from the policy of istifrad - a rich Levantine Arabic term meaning isolation, separation, seclusion - that could weaken Syria and leave it with virtually no bargaining options vis-a-vis an Israeli government that values security above peace. Finally, Israel's hand is further strengthened through its 1996 military agreement and alliance with Turkey. This has created a new regional geopolitical reality in which Syria has become encircled by hostile states.19
The United States faces solemn challenges in trying to move the peace process forward in the current circumstances. It is difficult to assess how President Clinton's domestic political problems will affect his ability to be fully and personally engaged in the peace process. Equally uncertain are the results of the 1999 Israeli elections and the choice of prime minister. Still, even if U.S. diplomacy, during the remaining time of the Clinton administration with all its attendant arsenals of economic and military aid, succeeds in convincing the Israeli government to return to the land for-peace formula, the size of the aid package and the domestic political pressure the administration will have to endure may be too great a price to pay.
THE GOLAN HEIGHTS AND ISRAELI-SYRIAN RELATIONS
The Golan Heights as an area of friction and contention between Israel and Syria dates back to 1949 when the two countries signed a U.N.-brokered armistice agreement to end the state of hostilities following the 1949 Arab-Israeli war. Relations between the two countries over the Golan issue could be divided into two periods. The first is the period before 1967 when the Heights were under Syrian control. The second period, from 1967 to date, is characterized by Israeli occupation of about 1,250 of the 1,750 square kilometers that comprise the Heights, and Syria's attempt to regain sovereignty over them.
During the first period, Israeli-Syrian relations involved border incidents often culminating in major military clashes. According to Muhammad Muslih,
At issue was the DMZ, an area of less than 100 square miles stretching from above Lake Huleh to south of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias). The zone was composed of three separate sectors of land along the Israel-Syria border. The northern sector was formed by Syrian, Palestinian and Israeli villages, while the central and southern sectors were more important from a strategic point of view because they were heavily populated and straddled the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and Lake Huleh.20
From the beginning Israel sought to have exclusive control over the Sea of Galilee for settlement and economic purposes. Israel, acting under the counsel of its legal advisers as to the legal status of the DMZ, began to implement a carefully planned policy whose quintessence was the imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the DMZ. The objective was to drain the Lake Huleh marshes, win exclusive control of the Sea of Galilee, and complete Israel's Natural Water Carrier, a project whose aim was to divert water from the Jordan River to the northern part of the Negev desert in the south.21
Syria, therefore, was determined to check Israeli encroachment that involved such measures as the planting of mines and minefields, the erection of fortifications, the extension of Israeli cultivation and the restriction of the movement of U.N. military observers - all viewed by Syria as creeping annexation of the DMZ, which from a Syrian legal viewpoint was under neither Syrian nor Israeli sovereignty. Thus both sides have come to regard the region as important economically and militarily for their national interests. Numerous incidents took place during the period before the Six-Day War of 1967 that demonstrated the value of the area to each side.
The second period in Israeli-Syrian relations began in June 1967 after Israel captured the Golan Heights and the high point on Mount Hermon (2,224 meters) from Syria. Acquisition of the Golan has given Israel the tremendous strategic advantage of having its army stationed only 35 kilometers from the Syrian capital of Damascus, allowing it to install highly sophisticated eavesdropping devices on Mount Hermon, giving it control of water sources including the Banias River - a major tributary of the Jordan River, feeding it with 14,000 cubic meters of water every hour - and providing opportunities to create new Jewish settlements in the area.22
From a Syrian perspective, the loss of the Golan Heights makes it extremely vulnerable to an Israeli land attack, as the Heights formed a critical natural defense against Israel. Their return is a vital geostrategic objective. Furthermore, the Israeli occupation of the Golan has had other costs, control of the water sources being an obvious cost, given the significance of water issues in a situation of increasing shortages.23 Israeli occupation has also meant that Syrian citizens on the Golan are left unprotected and subject to abuse. Because of Israeli policies, only 16,000 people in five Arab villages remain, compared to 130,000 people in 139 villages in 1967. Additionally, Syria regards the 15,000 Israeli settlers in some 35 Jewish settlements to be intruders on Syrian sovereignty.24
Compared to the first period, the post- 1967 period in Israeli-Syrian relations has been largely characterized by the lack of border incidents on the Golan, with one major exception. Syria has used the surrogate Hizbollah in south Lebanon as its main military weapon against Israel. The exception was the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war during which Syria attempted a surprise attack to recover its occupied territories. That war ended with the return of a small strip of territory in 1974 and the establishment of a U.N. patrolled buffer zone between the two armies as a result of Henry Kissinger's mediation efforts.25
For the Israelis, the occupation of the Golan poses a serious dilemma which is reflected in the division among the Israeli public over this issue. To some, the Golan offers the opportunity to trade captured territories for real peace with Syria (and by extension with Lebanon) thus ending the 50-year Arab-Israeli dispute. Apparently the previous Labor government was moving in this direction, having concluded that President Asad had indeed made a strategic decision to enter into a lasting peace with Israel. Consequently, the Rabin-Peres governments were prepared to trade land for peace. To other Israelis, however, the Golan should never be given up, for its possession affords Israel the best security guarantee against any future Syrian attack. Finally there are those who take a somewhat middle position arguing for partial withdrawal as the price to be paid for peace with Syria.26
The late-1997 news regarding a Mossad agent who fabricated reports on Syria is likely to add an intricate dimension to Israeli-Syrian relations. Spy master Yehuda Gil, responsible for watching Syria, apparently provided false information for several years that influenced key Israeli decisions on Syria, nearly causing two wars. It was Gil's information portraying the Syrian leadership, and especially President Asad, as opposed to making peace that played a role in Rabin's decision to emphasize the Israeli-Palestinian track as opposed to the Israeli-Syrian track.27
THE ISRAELI POSITION TODAY
The current Likud government's position regarding the Golan is largely shaped by Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dore Gold - formerly Netanyahu's principal national-security adviser and director of the U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Project at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University.
Gold's writings are largely centered on operational and tactical considerations as the principal factors to be met according to Israeli security requirements. In turn, these requirements constitute the only bases for the peace process. In addition, the U.S.-born and educated Gold argues in favor of settlement arrangements with the Syrians that would preclude the stationing of American troops as peacekeepers on the Golan. Of course this is a very popular stance in the United States, especially among members of Congress, who are loath to place American troops in what might be harm's way. Consequently, Israel must retain significant portions of the Golan to guarantee its security. Similarly, operational and tactical factors require that Israel not withdraw completely from the West Bank. The Oslo Agreement that the previous Labor government concluded with the Palestinian Authority is viewed with extreme suspicion by Gold and the Likud government.
Gold's starting premise is the existence of two types of structural asymmetries between Israel and its Arab adversaries that seriously imperil Israeli security. The first is the wide disparity between Israel's Jewish population and the populations of its Arab neighbors: The Arabs can maintain relatively large military establishments. The numbers imbalance becomes more significant considering that the bulk of Israeli forces are in reserve units, while Arab armies consist of standing active-service units.
The other asymmetry pertains to the potential for coalition formation. Within the region and despite inter-Arab rivalries, Arab militaries have managed to form multistate coalitions against Israel in every Arab-Israeli war. By contrast, Israel has no regional allies save for cooperative ties with "periphery states" such as Iran under the shah and recently Turkey.
The net effect, as Gold sees it, is that "these asymmetries mean that the central strategic challenge for Israel is countering the potential conventional military superiority of its Arab state adversaries individually, and especially in coalition."28 To overcome the strategic challenge posed by the conventional military power asymmetries, Gold argues for Israeli military control of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as these occupied territories afford Israel three important security advantages. The first is denial. Syrian forces can no longer threaten the Sea of Galilee from the Golan and are denied the ability to control the sources of the Jordan River. Control of the West Bank denies the Arabs (Palestinians and/or Jordanians) the ability to threaten the coastal plain, where 70 percent of Israel's population dwells and its principal industrial plants are located. It also increases the distance between the Mediterranean and the pre-1967 border, the narrow 10-mile waist that made Israel vulnerable to Arab attack.29
The second advantage is an early-warning capability. In the case of Syria, Israel can detect military activities as far as Damascus. The loss of the Golan has, of course, denied Syria comparable surveillance of the Galilee region. In the West Bank, Israeli deployment of air defense units reduces the threat of air attacks by Arab forces originating from the direction of Jordan or Iraq. Control of West Bank airspace "is vital for the defense of the skies of Israel against Arab war coalition aircraft."30
The last advantage is defense, because of Israeli control of topographically favorable terrain. The Golan Heights and the West Bank provide Israel with an excellent shield against conventional military attack. They also improve an Israeli counteroffensive capability that traditionally has emphasized mobile warfare with the objective of taking the war to the enemy's heartland.31
Gold concluded his essay by positing the dilemma facing Israel: "....to hold on to all the 1967 territories and make Israel more defensible or give up these territorial barriers and reduce the enmity of its neighbors?" Put differently, the security choice is between military- strategic considerations and diplomatic-political arrangements. The answer depends on the nature of the Middle East at any given time. Gold opines, "peace between Israel and the Arab states could not be superior to the relations between Arab states themselves."32 Therefore, and with respect to Syria, Syrian intentions and capabilities are critical elements for a peace arrangement with Israel. They are, however, difficult to measure. Consequently, Israel will require agreed-upon limits on Syrian offensive capabilities in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Golan territories. Syria may not, however, agree to any force-structure reduction, since it can claim threats to its security from other quarters. An alternate consideration might be a demilitarized Golan Heights. This, according to Gold, is unacceptable; unlike the Sinai, the Golan does not provide a deep enough buffer against Syrian forces, who will remain within close striking distance to Israel.
On the other hand, Gold believes that although the Palestinians are not a military power, Israel must have access to the West Bank as defense against a potential Arab enemy from the east. His conclusion: "....Israel will have to take a conservative approach to outstanding territorial differences with its neighbors. Premature Israeli withdrawal, while the basic elements of Middle East instability persists, [ethnoreligious conflicts, frontier disputes, serious economic differences] would destabilize the region and could increase the chances of war more than continuation of the status quo."33 It is the desire to perpetuate the status quo that is the key to Netanyahu's attitude and policy toward the peace process. The military strategic considerations are buttressed by Likud's ideological inclination to claim the occupied territories as part of the historical land of Israel, which belongs to the Jews .34
Since coming to power, Netanyahu's government has purposefully pursued a policy of not accommodating the "land for peace" formula at the heart of the U.S. sponsored peace process. The alleged assumption is that such a formula does not guarantee Israeli security. But what about the use of U.S. forces on the Golan Heights in a post-land-for-peace settlement as a buffer between Syrian and Israeli forces? Gold provides the arguments about why such a proposal is unworkable or at least undesirable.
In a Jaffee Center memorandum, Gold argued that U.S. forces on the Golan, for reasons already stated, would likely have to perform peacekeeping and peace enforcing activities. The former involves monitoring activities similar to the Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO) in Sinai. Peace enforcing would involve early warning and possibly acting as a deterrent force in case of Syrian hostile intent, and as a defense force in case of a Syrian attack. Gold carefully weighs each of these peace-enforcing functions and notes that their performance by U.S. forces, beside negating longstanding Israeli national security doctrine by making Israel dependent on the Unites States, is likely to lead to friction between the two countries that could alter their strategic relationship. The conclusion he reached was that
...the presence of a large American force on the Golan Heights would, in the final analysis, be disadvantageous for Israel's security. Beyond the risks associated explicitly with the deployment of a substantial American presence on the Golan, there are a number of domestic American political factors that in any case reduce the chances that such a presence would be accepted by the US.35
It should be evident that Gold's arguments are at the heart of the Netanyahu policies regarding the peace process. Israeli security is very important and could only be achieved by direct Israeli military-strategic advantage. Peace agreements that diminish Israeli military strategic advantage or the presence of surrogate forces such as those of the United States as guarantors of peace are unacceptable alternatives. Given the general conditions of the region, it would be unrealistic to expect Israeli-Arab relations to be superior to existing ArabArab relations. Consequently, the status quo with its attendant Israeli military superiority is, for the time being, an acceptable option.
The security arguments of Dore Gold are not Likud's only supporting arguments. There are the arguments of Daniel Pipes, who at one point argued that Asad was primarily interested in absorbing Lebanon. The implication is that he is willing to reach a deal by which the Golan Heights are "traded" for Lebanon.36 Later, Pipes argued that Asad was not truly interested in achieving a settlement on the Golan; his goal, for reasons of regime survival, "is not peace but a peace process." 37
There were, furthermore, the arguments of Professor Beres and Ambassador Zalman Shoval (Israeli ambassador to the United States) that beyond the immediate security concerns, withdrawal from the Golan Heights would "uproot 32 Golan Jewish communities and threaten a third of Israel's water supply."38 These arguments simply fuel the propensity of Likud to hold on to the Golan. The Times (London) recently reported that the number of Jewish settlers on the Golan is increasing and continues to rise. The central thesis of this report was that "Israel is consolidating its presence on the occupied Golan Heights to the extent that leaders of the Jewish settlers here no longer fear the land being handed back to Syria as they did before the 1996 election."39
To the above discussion could be added the observation that in the post Soviet world, the perpetuation of the status quo on the Israeli-Syrian front clearly favors the Israelis. With Syria lacking a superpower patron, and Israel having forged a military alliance with Turkey, the gap between Israeli and Syrian military strength is widening. The longer the status quo continues, presumably, the less able Syria will be to negotiate a favorable peace settlement. Both Israel and Syria must have arrived at this realization. It would explain Israeli government stalling tactics and Syrian eagerness for the resumption of the negotiations on the basis of the land-for-peace formula.
THE SYRIAN POSITION
The geostrategic environment of the region in the aftermath of the Gulf War provided the United States the opportunity to cooperate with the Soviet Union and convene the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference based on the land-for-peace principle. Syria, which until then had depended on the Soviet Union for political and military support, concluded that relations between the two superpowers were changing rapidly; blanket Soviet support was no longer assured. Madrid was a viable option for achieving peace. After all, Syria and several Arab states had participated in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq and could now hope for a vigorous and evenhanded peace role by the United States.
Syria's approach to the Madrid Peace Conference was based on two conditions: all lands occupied by Israel in 1967 were to be returned as a precondition for any agreement, and the peace should be comprehensive. This meant that Israel must agree to withdraw from all the lands occupied in 1967. Indeed, Israel's participation in the Madrid conference meant acceptance of land-for-peace as the basis for future negotiations. Syria also preferred that a comprehensive peace agreement be reached simultaneously settling all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians. Such an approach would strengthen the Arab negotiating position in addition to salvaging what remained of Arab solidarity after the Gulf War.
Syria's approach to the peace process and a detailed accounting of its negotiations with Israel was recently revealed by Walid Al-Moulalem, ambassador to the United States and head of the Syrian delegation to the peace talks.40 Ambassador Al-Moualem made it clear that Syria would never negotiate with Israel if it was not understood that Israel was willing to withdraw from the entire Golan to the June 4, 1967, international boundary.41 In other words, the purpose of the negotiations was for Syria to regain sovereignty over all of its territory in exchange for peace and normalization of relations with Israel. He claimed that Prime Minister Rabin understood this point and committed Israel to withdrawal. The Syrian ambassador stated:
From Madrid onward, the only issue we would even consent to discuss was full withdrawal. Under Likud, of course, it was a dialogue of the deaf - I think Ben Aharon, the head of the Israeli delegation, was following to the letter [former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Shamir's instructions to continue talking for ten years without result. After Rabin became prime minister in June 1 992, we still insisted on discussing withdrawal only. When Rabin finally realized that the Syrians . would not move a step ahead in discussing any of the other elements of a peace settlement before being convinced of Israel's intention on full withdrawal, he made the opening.42
After Rabin was assassinated, Peres made the same commitment. An agreement was not reached then, however, because Peres decided to call for elections. Al-Moualem made it clear that precisely because the Israelis had accepted the principle of land-for-peace, i.e., withdrawal, negotiations were progressing on the other elements of a peace agreement including normalization, security arrangements and the timetable of fulfilment.
Al-Moualem also noted the negotiating strategy of Rabin, which was designed to separate each of the peace tracks that Israel was engaged in. Consequently, when progress was being made on the Israeli-Palestinian track in 1993, "he [Rabin] informed us through the Americans that he could not proceed on the Syrian track because the Israeli public needed time to digest the Oslo accord. So he suspended our talks." Peres, by contrast, wanted to "enter the elections with a Syrian-Israeli agreement in his hand. He wanted to 'fly high and fast.'"43 The Syrians, however, were not prepared to move that fast, since the issues to be settled with respect to the other elements of a peace agreement were complicated and time was needed to sell the agreement to the Syrian public. Still, Peres called for elections less than three months after taking office; talks were suspended in 1996.44
Syria has made its position very clear to Netanyahu's government. First, peace is a strategic choice. Second, negotiations must be resumed from the point at which they were interrupted. All understandings reached between the parties concerning withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan and agreements about security arrangements must be considered valid. Third, the Syrian and Lebanese tracks are inseparable.
The Syrian option for peace was stated clearly by President Asad during a joint news conference in Geneva in January 1994 following meetings with President Clinton. He said, "Syria seeks a just and comprehensive peace with Israel as a strategic choice that secures Arab rights, ends the Israeli occupation, and enables all peoples in the region to live in peace, security and dignity, and in honor we shall make peace." 45 This statement, made for the benefit of the Israelis and international mediators, especially the United States, was meant to convey the sincerity of the Syrians in reaching a final settlement with the Israelis if the Golan Heights are returned to Syrian sovereignty.46 Pragmatically, Asad' s "strategic choice" was the only choice left for him under the circumstances. As a realist, "driven not by ideological considerations but by raison d'etat ... Asad is very aware of his strategic predicament vis-a-vis Israel." 47 Lacking a superpower patron, Syria is unable to effectively balance Israel's power or contain it. Consequently, the peace option as a 'strategic choice' exposes his weakness and, therefore, vulnerability.48
A major difference separates the Syrian and Israeli positions. Netanyahu believes that negotiations should be resumed without any preconditions so that "both sides would be free to raise any negotiating demand they wish ...."49 He justifies his position on the strength of the argument that "there is no contractual mechanism between the two states with regard to a peace arrangement. He has [Netanyahu] asserted that the United States understands it and agrees that issues discussed in talks conducted by the previous government are not binding on Israel."50 Put differently, Netanyahu would honor signed agreements entered into by the previous government, but is not obligated to accept his predecessor's bargaining positions. In yet another statement attributed to him, the Israeli prime minister suggested that he was in no hurry to conclude a peace treaty with Syria: "We are not on the verge of war with Syria and the road to peace with it has not ended. There are obstacles on the way, but we will achieve peace. We will work for it during the current phase (phase ending in the year 2000), otherwise in the next (2004)."51
Syria, on the other hand, insists that agreements reached in negotiations with the previous government, including Rabin's willingness to withdraw to the June 4, 1967, line, should be the starting point for the resumption of talks. Syrian negotiator Al-Moualem claims that the Israeli offer to withdraw from all of the Golan was given in writing. This was also confirmed by Defense Minister General Mustafa Tlass.52 To go back to square one, as Netanyahu demands, means, in the words of the Syrian Vice President Khaddam, that "the negotiations could last another century ... since every time there is a new Israeli government we have to return to point zero."53 Accepting Netanyahu's position would also mean accepting his harder line, giving the false impression that Syria might be willing to make territorial concessions.
Syria's hegemony over Lebanon has become its surest weapon against the policy of istifrad. If Israel could be denied the option of a separate peace with Lebanon, then Israel will have to continue its involvement in the increasingly unpopular "security zone" on its northern border. It also means that the goal of achieving peace between Israel and all of its neighboring states will be only half fulfilled. Not surprisingly, therefore, the relatively recent Israeli proposal to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 (calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon) met with strong Syrian condemnation. This is because the Israeli withdrawal plan would take away an important Syrian weapon: Hizbollah.
The Israeli proposal offered to comply with Resolution 425 if Lebanon takes steps to insure security along the border. In Netanyahu's words, "There is no policy of unilateral withdrawal, because in our assessment that would increase Hezbollah [Hizbollah] attacks into the Galilee .... If the government of Lebanon will join us in establishing the proper security arrangements in southern Lebanon, we will be happy to get out of Lebanon in the framework of implementing U.N. Resolution 425.54 For Syria (and Lebanon) Israeli withdrawal must be unconditional, as called for by Resolution 425. The Syrian message is clear, security on the border and peace in Galilee is obtainable once Israel agrees to withdraw simultaneously from south Lebanon and the Golan Heights.55
Finally, and with respect to the broader issue of alliances and "encirclement," it is not surprising that Syria's response has been an attempt to balance Israel's alliance with the United States and the more recent Turkish-Israeli alliance. Since the United States is viewed by Syria as biased toward Israel, Syria has vigorously advocated a European role in the peace process, especially after Netanyahu came to power. President Asad believes that, given the stalemated peace process, the European Union and particularly France should become part of the peace process, "not to replace the Americans, but to have a role along with the Americans in pushing the peace process forward."56 It remains to be seen what Europe can do, considering "Israeli animosity toward French and European diplomatic intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict." 57 The Turkish-Israeli military alliance has worried Syria enough that President Asad traveled to Iran in July 1997 to bolster Syria's relations with that country, and has even taken steps to establish contacts with former enemy Iraq. "Together with them, the Syrians could face Turkey and signal the Americans that they still have partners in spite of attempts to isolate them."58 The Turkish-Israeli military agreement concerns not only Syria, but also most nations in the region. This has led to the emergence of "a front led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.”59 It remains to be seen, however, if the new realignments will endure and effectively balance one another.
The above discussion discloses why the Israeli-Syrian peace track is deadlocked. The problem is the inverse relationship between the defining elements of the stalemate: the Syrian demand for sovereignty and the Israeli quest for security. If American diplomacy is to succeed in moving the Israeli-Syrian peace track forward, it must do so based on proposals that can accommodate these conflicting claims.
OBSERVATIONS AND POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
On May 6, 1998, Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking to a group of Arab and Israeli teenagers, said that creating a Palestinian state is "very important for the broader goal of peace in the Middle East."60 Not surprisingly, this statement touched off criticisms of the first lady in many pro-Israeli quarters. However, it is precisely this realistic future assessment of the region that is required if the United States is to secure its long-term vital interests. One such interest is a lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace. On the Israeli-Syrian peace track, a comparable realistic assessment is the fact that Syria will not make territorial concessions on the Golan Heights and will not waver in its demand for full sovereignty over its occupied lands. Additionally, there is no reason to believe that any post-Asad government will accept anything less.
The longstanding U.S. commitment, by word and deed, to the security and well-being of the State of Israel was a major factor in bringing the Arabs to the realization that Israel is in the region to stay. Today, no responsible Arab leader or citizen harbors any false hopes that Israel could be eliminated from the political landscape of the Middle East. Arab willingness to recognize and negotiate with Israel since the Madrid Peace Conference attests to this fact.
Similarly, the United States must now dispel any false hopes entertained by the current and any future Likud government and some Israeli citizens (and their U.S. supporters) that they could permanently annex all or some of the Golan territory, just as the first lady's statement helped dispel the notion that somehow Palestinian national aspirations could be negotiated away. A realistic assessment of future regional conditions by the principals involved in the peace process is the prerequisite to breaking the deadlock. As the major mediator between the parties and also as the sole superpower with vital interests in the Middle East, the United States must publicly endorse the reasonable and legitimate demands of the parties: Syrian sovereignty over its occupied territories and Israeli demands for security in the Galilee and northern Israel.
With the dawning of a new post-Cold War era a new reality has emerged in the Middle East: the linkage between the various subregions of the area. Saddam Hussein vividly proved that connection when he fired Scud missiles on downtown Tel Aviv. There is also an inter connectivity between the various tracks of the peace process. The failed Doha economic conference of 1997 showed how failure on one track (Israeli-Palestinian standoff over the proposed settlements on Har Homa) can affect another. As a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs warned, "The United States is making a dangerous mistake by focusing its efforts in the Middle East peace process solely on Israel and the Palestinians, without also involving Syria and Lebanon.”61 The impression that the Israeli-Syrian track is deliberately being put on hold reinforces the Syrian belief that the United States is less than an "honest broker" assisting in the Israeli tactic of istifrading and encircling Syria.
In the Arab street, the image of the United States as an "honest broker" continues to deteriorate. Anyone who follows the Arab press and is in touch with Arab elites is constantly reminded of this fact. The most common charge is that of double standards: the United States is willing to look the other way when Israel stands in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions but insists on the strictest compliance by Iraq.62
The negative image of the United States forces Arab governments, including friendly ones, to distance themselves from U.S. policies. In years past, Arab governments were in a far better position to influence and shape public opinion in their countries through their control of the media. But since the migration of the leading Arab print media (e.g., the influential dailies Al-Hayat, Asharq alAwsat, and magazines as Al-Watan al-Arabi and Al-Wasat) to Paris and London and the establishment in London of the influential Middle East Broadcasting (MBC, regarded as the CNN of the Arab world), local governments find it extremely difficult to continue molding public opinion in their countries. This "immigrant" and popular Arab press addresses itself to a wider Arab audience and focuses on broad regional issues.
Hence, for example, the reader in a Gulf state is likely to be as informed and concerned about the intricacies of the peace process as the average reader anywhere else in the Arab world. The rapid spread of the Internet and satellite dishes enhances this phenomenon and the inter-connectivity of the region as a whole. In short, the traditional local press with its focus on the alleged accomplishments of the state and the antics of rulers and their progeny is rapidly becoming irrelevant.
The prevailing trend toward regional linkages and inter-connectivity of issues can potentially destabilize regimes in the area friendly to the United States. Arab governments are made aware of this trend by the increasing public pressure to adopt policies more in line with popular sentiments. Ironically, these developments are unfolding while the United States is scaling down its diplomatic efforts. The U.S. Information Agency, whose primary mission is to foster an understanding and appreciation of U.S. foreign policy among overseas nationals, is being eliminated, part of a plan to restructure the foreign service establishment.
The success of U.S. foreign-policy objectives in the Middle East hinges on the outcome of a peace process that is stalled. Although President Clinton is understandably reluctant to undermine his high approval ratings at home by pursuing a Middle East policy contrary to the wishes of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby, he is in a unique position, not having to face reelection, to move the process forward. The president, who is likely to survive a Senate impeachment trial, must personally become once again engaged in the process and offer a role to the European Union in the search for a final settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A European role as a mediating partner with the United States, at a time when Europe is emerging as potentially the world's strongest economic power, would send clear signals that the western alliance with whom Arabs and Israelis have extensive economic and political relations is serious about a final just settlement.
On the Israeli-Syrian track this means pressuring the Israeli government to accept concessions made by the previous Labor government in its negotiations with the Syrians. To argue that such a recommendation ignores the results of the 1996 Israeli elections (or the 1999 elections if Netanyahu is returned to power) and that only the Israeli government can decide the parameters of its security requirements is to argue in favor of abandoning the peace process and U.S. interests in the region. In this regard, it is time that congressional leaders realized the anomaly of allowing their institution to be used by a foreign leader to pressure a U.S. president against his better judgment of America's long-term interests.
In return for Israeli concessions, the United States should offer additional security commitments including the possibility of stationing U.S. troops on the Golan Heights for a period of time. Similarly, the United States and Europe should see to it that every phased Israeli withdrawal from the Golan is reciprocated on the Syrian side by confidence-building measures and concrete steps toward normalization of relations between the two countries.
Finally, Dore Gold's arguments, notwithstanding, it is only on the basis of the land-for-peace formula that Israel could be transformed from a nation in the Middle East to a nation of the Middle East. And pressuring for a final settlement, the United States transforms itself into a responsible mediator. A successful peace process will insure the long-term interests of the United States in all of the Middle East.
1 For a complete text of the Wye Memorandum see The New York Times (Internet Edition), October 24, 1998. President Clinton's involvement included his personal participation in the negotiations at the Wye River Plantation and his subsequent historic visit to Israel and Gaza to give impetus to agreement. See Deborah Sontag. "Clinton. Despite Hurdles, Sets Up Crucial Salvage Mission," The New York Times (Internet Edition), December 14, 1998. Also in mid-December I 998, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence), who traveled with President Clinton to Israel, went to Damascus and delivered a message to President Asad from Prime Minister Netanyahu indicating Israeli interest in resuming peace talks with Syria. and also a message from President Clinton urging Syria to reach agreement with Tel Aviv on resumption of peace talks. See Al Hayal (London, in Arabic). December 18, 1998, p. 7.
2 See Lee Hockstader, “Israel Puts Pact in Doubt,” The Washington Post, November 12, 1998, pp. Al, A27.
3 At the time of this writing the situation has been made much more complicated by the impeachment of the president and his pending trial in the Senate. Given the president's high approval ratings. and despite his likely censure by the Senate, President Clinton can exert tremendous leverage on any new Israeli government to move the peace process forward.
4 See The White House, A National Security Strategy for a New Century, October 1998, p. 52.
5 See George Joffe, "Israel After the Elections: What You See is What You Get," Jane’s Intelligence Review, Vol. 8, No. 8, August 1996, p. 365.
6 The New York Times, June 24, 1996, p. 1.
7 Ibid., p. A 8.
8 The Washington Post, June 26, 1996, p. A 23.
9 The Washington Post, June 25, 1996, p. A 11.
10 Donald Neff, "Netanyahu gets the royal treatment in Washington," Middle East International, July 19, 1996, p. 4. In Cairo, President Mubarak and Prime Minister Netanyahu held a joint press conference following their meeting in which they indicated their desire to pursue the peace process, widen the circle of peace, and fulfill commitments already made. For the full text, see Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS)-96-140, July 19, 1996, pp. 13-17.
11 Shihan (Amman, in Arabic), 20-26, July 1996, p. 13. See FBIS-NES-96-141, July 22, 1996, p. 12.
12 Ibid., p. 14.
13 Mixed signals have continued since Mr. Netanyahu 's visit to Amman in early August. It may be recalled that King Hussein had, a few days earlier, visited Damascus for talks with President Asad. Press reports indicated that the king was "very optimistic and very reassured" that negotiations will continue until there is comprehensive peace. Netanyahu stated that the deadlock on how to proceed with the peace talks with Syria could be broken at once "if there is goodwill on the side of Syria." The following day, however, Syria rejected resumption of talks with Israel arguing that the Israelis wanted to discuss south Lebanon without making any commitment to trade for peace on the Golan. The editor of Syria's state-run daily Tishrin stated the next day that Netanyahu rejects realistic terms for peace - trading land for peace. See, The Washington Post, August 6, 1996, p. 1/1 l, and August 7, 1996, p. A 24. Also, President Asad stated that "the Israeli government wants 'to resume the peace process without any foundation or ground for action,'... I don't think that this will lead to any results." The Washington Post, August 8, 1996, p. A 26.
14 For example, see David Makovsky, "Israel-U.S. face-off looms, as Ross goes home empty-handed," Ha'aretz (Internet Edition), March 31, 1998.
15 See "Israel's Bad Decision on Har Homa," Chicago Tribune, February 28, 1997, p. 22; Joel Greenberg, "Ending Silence, Palestinians Battle Israeli Units," The New York Times, March 21, 1997, p. Al I; Rebecca Trounson, "Netanyahu Shrugs Off East Jerusalem Furor," The Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1998, p. 14; and Aliza Marcus, "Israel asks bids for building site in E. Jerusalem; Har Homa plan angers Palestinians," Boston Globe, November 13, 1998, p. A2.
16 See Ilene R. Prusher, "Israel's Tough New Peace Plan Forces Syria Into Hard Choice," The Christian Science Monitor, August 8, 1996, p. 6.
17 See Barton Gellman, "A Gamble On Forcing Israel's Hand," The Washington Post, May 7, 1998, p. Al; and Lee Hockstader, "U.S. Effort Is Rebuffed By Israeli," The Washington Post, May 11, 1998, pp. Al, 14.
18 The Washington Post, May 4, 1998, p. A I.
19 For a detailed discussion of this point, see the excellent article by Alain Gresh," Turkish-Israeli-Syrian Relations And Their Impact On The Middle East," Middle East Journal, Vol. .52, No. 2, Spring 1998, pp. 188-203.
20 Muhammad Muslih, "The Golan: Israel, Syria, And Strategic Calculations," Middle East Journal, Vol. 47, No. 4, Autumn 1993, p. 613. I shall rely almost exclusively on this source to highlight the two periods involved in Israeli-Syrian relations on the Golan.
21 Ibid., p. 615.
22 See Robert I. Friedman, "Ceding the High Ground," Harper's Magazine, April 1995, pp. 66-67.
23 According to one estimate, Israel uses .500 million cubic meters of Golan water per year, or approximately one found of its annual water needs. See Ali Said Badwan, "The Golan Heights: Its Strategic-geographic· riparian Importance," Asarq Al-Awsal (London, in Arabic), January 29, 1997, p. 15.
24 For a full discussion of the Syrian position and Israeli actions on the Golan, see Muslih, op.cit., pp. 625ff., and Tayseer Marai and Usama R. Halabi, "Life Under Occupation in the Golan Heights," Journal of Palestine Studies, XXII, No. I, Autumn 1992, pp. 78-93.
25 For a full exposition of these positions, see Muslih, op.cit., pp. 622-625. Also, for a discussion on the modalities of peace between Israel and Syria, see Alon Ben-Meir, "Israel and Syria: The Search For A 'Risk Free' Peace," Middle East Policy, Vol. 4, No. 1 & 2, September 1995, pp. 140-155.
26 Muslih, Ibid.
27 See The New York Times (Internet Edition), December 7, 1997, and Ha'aretz (Israel, Internet English Edition), December 7, 1997.
28 Dore Gold, "Fundamental Factors in a Stabilized Middle East: Security, Territory, and Peace," Gottesman Lecture Series, Washington, DC: Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, 1993, p. 6.
29 Ibid., p. 9.
30 Ibid., p. 10.
31 Ibid., pp. 8-12.
32 Ibid., p. 13.
34 This view is also held by Moshe Arens, former Israeli defense and foreign minister and Netanyahu's political godfather, who believes that Israel must retain the Golan Heights for security reasons. "We would risk paying dearly for giving it up. During the October 1973 war, the Golan was almost entirely reconquered by Syrian troops who could have gone on advancing right up to Haifa." Gresh, op.cit., p. 189.
35 Dore Gold, US Forces on the Golan Heights and Israeli-Syrian Security Arrangements, Memorandum No. 44, Tel Aviv University: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, August 1994, p. 48.
36 See Daniel Pipes, "Damascus and the Claim to Lebanon," Orbis, Vol. 30, No. 4, Winter 1987, pp. 663- 682. Dore Gold is also of the opinion that President Asad is interested in controlling Lebanon and that he might be "willing to forgo most of the Golan in favor of Lebanon...." See Ilene R. Prusher, "Israel's Tough New Peace Plan Forces Syria Into Hard Choice," The Christian Science Monitor, August 8, 1996, p. 6.
37 Daniel Pipes, "Syria's Peace Bluff: Just Kidding," The New Republic, January 8 & 15, 1996, pp. 18-19.
38 Louis Rene Beres and Zalman Shoval, "Why Golan Demilitarization Would Not Work," TVI Report, Vol. 11, No. 4, 1996, p. 12.
39 Christopher Walker, "Golan Boom Quells Settlers' Fears of Pullout," The Times (London, Internet Edition), March 9, 1998.
40 See interview with Ambassador Walid Al-Moualem, "Fresh Light on the Syrian-Israeli Peace Negotiations," Journal of Palestine Studies, XXVI, No. 2, Winter 1997, pp. 81-94. This was a rare interview by a Syrian diplomat which received wide attention in the international press. The Jerusalem Post wrote, " ....the interview, exceptional in its depth, scope and candor, could be the opening diplomatic salvo from Damascus in an offensive that is intended to lead to military conflict."
41 Even if Israel agrees to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace, it is likely to demand adjustments in the international boundary in order to avoid cross-border tensions and insure control of Lake Tiberias and other water resources. See Brian S. Mandell, "Getting to Peacekeeping in Principal Rivalries: Anticipating An Israeli-Syrian Peace Treaty," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 40, No. 2, June 1996, p. 243.
42 Iwalid Al-Moualem, op. cit., p. 84.
43 Ibid., p. 85.
44 For a detailed survey of the Israeli-Syrian interaction between 1991 (Madrid Peace Conference) and the suspension of the talks in 1996, see Helena Cobban, Syria and the Peace: A Good Chance Missed (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, July 7, 1997).
45 "The President's News Conference With President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria in Geneva," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 30, Iss. 3, January 24, 1994, p. 92.
46 A few months later, the Syrian minister of defense, General Mustafa Tlass, amplified on this position indicating Syria's willingness to cooperate with the U.S. initiative and to adhere to "the resolution of international legitimacy." See General Mustafa Tlass, "Syria and the Future of the Peace Process," Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 9, September 1996, pp. 412-13.
47 Hisham Melhen, "Syria Between Two Transitions," Middle East Report, Spring 1997, p. 4.
48 Syria's vulnerability was clearly demonstrated in October 1998, when Turkey threatened military action if Syria docs not end its support of PKK rebels operating against Turkey from Syrian territories. The initial Syrian reaction was to call Turkey's threat a plot with Israel to undermine Syria. However, Syria quickly sought Arab and Islamic mediation of the crisis that resulted in an agreement whereby Syria presumably acceded to Turkey's security concerns. See "Turkey Warns Syria Again Not To Support Rebel Kurds," International Herald Tribune, October 6, 1998; "Syria Calls Turkish Threat a Plot," The Washington Post (Internet Edition), October 2, 1998; Stephen Kinzer, "Syria Agrees to Stop Supporting Kurds, Defusing Crisis With Turkey," The New York Times. October 22, 1998; and "Turkish-Syrian Discussions," Al-Ittihad, (Abu Dhabi, in Arabic, Internet Edition), October 30, 1998.
49 Ze'ev Schiff, "Netanyahu Proposes New Syrian Formula," Ha'aretz, (Israel, Internet Edition), September 21, 1997.
50 See Jerusalem Qol Yura'el, (in Hebrew), August 28, 1997, in FBIS-NES-97-24, August 29, 1997.
51 See Asharq Al-Awsat (London, in Arabic), April 5, 1997, p. 3.
52 See Thomas Lippman, "Election Cited for Derailing Mideast Peace Move," The Washington Post, January 29, 1997, p. 6, and Al-Ittihad (Abu Dhabi, in Arabic, Internet Edition), April 12, 1998, quoting Tlass: "President Asad has a document signed by President Clinton indicating the willingness of the previous Israeli Labor Government to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 line."
53 Quoted in Al-Ittihad (Abu Dhabi, in Arabic, Internet Edition), February 17, 1997.
54 Joel Greenberg, "Israel Seeks Deal to Quit Buffer Zone in Lebanon," The New York Times (Internet Edition), March 2, 1998.
55 Lebanon's newly elected president, former Army Commander Emile Lahoud, has endorsed the Syrian position on Lebanon, emphasizing among other things the demand that Israel accept U.N. resolution 425 unconditionally, that Israeli withdrawal should occur simultaneously from south Lebanon and the Golan Heights, and that the Lebanese Army will not make its mission that of preserving the security of northern Israel. See Rafiq Nasrallah, "Lahoud Establishes The Policy Of His Country Toward Israel," Al-Ittihad_(Abu Dhabi, in Arabic, Internet Edition), December 12, 1998.
56 See "Interview of President Asad With French Television," Al-Ittihad, July 16, 1998. France has been actively seeking a role in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Syria, its former "colonies" under the old League of Nations mandate system, a role which apparently Syria and Lebanon welcome. See Pia Christina Wood, "Chirac's 'New Arab Policy' And Middle East Challenges: The Arab Israeli Conflict, Iraq And Iran," Middle East Journal, Vol. 52, No. 4, Autumn 1998, pp. 563-580.
57 Pia Christina Wood, ibid., p. 565.
58 "Syria Said To See Iran as Ally Against Israel-Turkey Front," Ha'aretz (in English), August I, 1997, in FBIS-NES-97-213, August 4, 1997.
59 Alain Gresh, op.cit., p 188.
60 The New York Times (Internet Edition), International Section, May 8, 1998. Several months later, the Clinton administration "informally asked Israel to consider accepting the principle of an eventual Palestinian state as part of a final Wye Plantation summit document..." See David Makovsky, “U.S. asks: 'consider' Palestinian state," Ha'aretz (Israel, in English, Internet Edition), October 14, 1998.
61 Edward P. Djerejian, "No Talks, No Peace," The New York Times, August 21, 1997, p. 32.
62 See Alain Gresh, op.cit., p. 188.