Eyal Zisser, a top Israeli expert on Syria, says that Ehud Olmert and Bashar al-Assad appear serious about talking peace. The latest sign is Asad’s comment to the Qatari daily al-Watan Olmert has given him a commitment to return the entire Golan Heights.
In an analysis published through the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv U, Zisser describes that the most likely reason for Assad to reveal Olmert’s commitment, which was delivered via Turkey:
…the Syrians may have wanted to test Olmert’s seriousness, to check whether the message delivered to them was reliable, and whether Olmert would be capable of weathering the inevitable criticism from portions of the Israeli public. The fact that the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declined to deny the news of the commitment has been understood as a tacit confirmation of its veracity.
The peacemaker here is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Israel’s closest ally in the region. The obstacle is the leader of the United States:
…achieving real progress in the Israeli-Syrian peace process will require active American participation. So far, the US has not reacted officially to the latest Olmert-Bashar exchange. However, it concurrently revealed information regarding the Israeli attack in northern Syria in September 2007 against a nuclear facility under construction with North Korean assistance. To be sure, the revelation was not designed as a response to the incipient resumption of Syrian- Israeli negotiations. Nevertheless, it served as another reminder of the low point that Syrian-American relations have reached in recent years, and the lack of any readiness in the Bush administration to change its attitude towards Syria.
I should stress that the single most significant improvement in Israeli security was arguably the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, which elimnated the possibility of a strong Arab coalition going to war against Israel. It also completed Egypt’s switch from a pro-Soviet to a pro-Western orientation. Some "pro-Israel" activists in the U.S. have never forgiven Jimmy Carter for his role in that achievement.
Now we have at least a glimmering of an opportunity to remove Syria from the threats against us, and cut it loose from the Teheran-Hizballah alliance. But the roadblock on the path to peace is a large white structure on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. At least until the tenant changes.