Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007
The Syrians, Liel says, are serious about a full “reorientation.” No Hamas, no Iran, no Hezbollah. The Americans vetoed any formalization of the track showing no interest in engaging the Syrians. The Israelis were too scared even to ask the US.
Simon McGregor-Wood, ABC’s bureau chief in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, sent along these very interesting notes of Dr. Alon Liel's presentation to the FPA forum held at the King David Hotel today at 11am.
Alon Liel was Director General or Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2000-2001 and carried out unofficial peace negotiations with a Syrian counterpart over the last several years. He answered questions about the Syrian-Israeli peace talk initiative. To read the Haaretz reporting on these "unofficial" peace negotiations click here.
An interesting briefing from Dr Alon Liel the former Israeli diplomat who was involved in the track 2 negotiations with the Syrians, that resulted in the non paper peace agreement recently reported by Haaretz.
Senior Israeli officials knew about the process as it happened. They were briefed at every turn.
The Swiss government sponsored the process. (Despite the negative fallout of the Geneva Initiative|) Most talks happened in the Bellevue Hotel in Berne. The Swiss are now very friendly with Damascus. They have established the trust of the regime and are frequent visitors.
Swiss diplomats checked every move in the process with senior regime officials in Damascus (unnamed). The Syrians were feeding into the negotiations with government approved ideas and suggestions.
The Israeli government did not.
The Americans vetoed any formalization of the track showing no interest in engaging the Syrians.
Olmert’s rejection is just a parroting of the US position.
The Syrians wanted to go up a notch with a Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, with an American official present in the room. The Israelis, according to Liel, were too scared even to ask the US. This happened 10 or 11 days into last summer’s war in Lebanon.
The Syrians, Liel says are serious about a full “reorientation.” The deal on offer is far more than an Israeli-Syrian deal over the Golan Heights. The deal would encompass a full engagement of Syria with the international community. No Hamas, no Iran, no Hezbollah. The Syrians are fully aware they won’t get the Golan if they remain within the Iranian axis.
They are willing to wait for the land until their change of heart is proven to be genuine and lasting. This is where the 5 or 15 year withdrawal timetable came from.They are completely inflexible on the question of sovereignty and the 4th June 1967 borders. They want all the land and swaps are a non starter.
They are prepared to be very flexible on other issues, namely Israeli access to the land, for tourism and work, and the security guarantees and demilitarization.
Liel believes peace with Syria is much easier than with the Palestinians now, and for at least the next ten years.The Palestinian internal crisis is so fundamental, it will take ages to resolve.
The Road Map is a joke and a cover up for a peace process. There is no point in talking to Abu Mazen. Palestinian society is completely splintered and a deal with Abbas would never stick. There is no partner for serious negotiations at the moment.
Both Senator Nelson and James Baker recommended opening negotiations with Syria. Nelson accused the White House of pursuing a failed, "ostrich" like policy by failing to talk to Syria. Read the following two stories: