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By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 7, 2008


The prophet wrote "and they shall turn their swords into plowshares." And when will that happen? When there is peace among neighbors.

Israel is trying to bring peace to the neighborhood called the Middle East. First there were overtures towards the Palestinians, now those overtures are being reformatted and put forth to the Syrians. What is Israel really up to? Is it the Palestinians or is it the Syrians? And is any of this realistic? Or is Israel making a public, ceremonial, wish before blowing out the candles on her 60th birthday cake?

Peace in the Middle East is certainly in the best long term interest of Israel and of the Palestinians and of the Syrians and of the entire region - it's in the best interest of the entire world, but the truth is that true peace is not exactly what Israel is pursuing right now.

Let's analyze the situation.

Israel is in a no win situation with the Palestinians. The two are at loggerheads. The Israelis are frustrated and discouraged. The more successful Israel is at fighting terror, the more successful Israel is at keeping the borders safe, the farther Israel is from peace with the Palestinians. It sounds counterintuitive and that's because it is a matter of Palestinian pride.

Israel, you see, has figured out how to keep terror down without the help of the Palestinians. This newfound security solution is in direct conflict with the accords signed in Annapolis and the testosterone levels of Palestinian leadership. The Israelis do not see the Palestinians as seriously combating terror. Israel wants Palestinian leadership to take charge and bring stability and a sense of normalcy to the Palestinian people and that, the Israelis feel, is best accomplished by providing a safe haven, literally and figuratively a safe home, for the Palestinians.

Clearly the Americans want peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And to that elusive end the United States is investing huge amounts of time, energy and money. The United States wants the conflict resolved and the United States wants it resolved by the end of 2008. Just as clearly, Israel does not want to disappoint the United States, their sponsor and friend. But progress on the Palestinian peace front is v-e-r-y slow and not even arm twisting and document signing has succeeded in moving the process along.

Israel's success at road blocks arrests and targeted attacks prevent terrorists from reaching their targets. Israel's success at arresting gang members breaks up the units that are plotting terror attacks. Israel's success at assassinating terrorist leaders knocks the tops off of terrorist organizational pyramids and disrupts the command and control of the terrorist network. And for the most part, Israel is doing it without Palestinian assistance. And that hurts Palestinian leadership pride.

So Israel has turned her diplomatic energy away from the Palestinians and aimed it in the direction of Syrian. It was not a difficult move. It required nothing more than sending a message to the Turkish prime minister who passed it to the Syrian ambassador who delivered it to the Syrian foreign minister. It is the ripple effect of that overture that is dramatic.

The Palestinians know that Israel can only move on one peace track at a time. Israel cannot pursue peace with Syria and the Palestinians at the same time and the Palestinians know that they have been sidelined. They are upset. The pressure is on.

The world is getting the message that Israel is interested in negotiating for peace. Israel is so interested in negotiating for peace that they are turning to Syria, one of the members of the evil access. That means that Israel is willing to make concessions. That means that Israel has changed and the first country to break the logger jam and join Israel in peace will reap the most rewards.

The United States is being shown, subtly but clearly, that Israel can make diplomatic decisions without consultation, without asking for or receiving permission from Washington D.C. It means that the United Stats must revaluate the power plays of the Middle East because perhaps, just perhaps, little Israel may be able to wrestle Syria out of the grips of Iran. It means that the United States has to accept Israel's overture to Syria despite any previous hesitations over just such an overture on the part of Israel.

And it all happened without Israel's ever sitting down with the Syrians.

In real terms Israel cannot possibly come to terms with Syria at this stage. But Israel can put pressure on the Palestinians. And Israel can engage in a diplomatic ploy to push off the pressure by the United States to pursue peace on the Palestinian front.

There are many reasons why countries make overtures towards peace, only one of them is to actually achieve peace.

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4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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