At a time when Syrian President Bashar Assad is hoping to engage Israel
in peace talks, President Ehud Olmert has laid Israel's failure to
engage in peace talks on the doorstep of the American Government,
according to Jpost.com. While the Syrian president has relinquished
the precondition of the return of the Golan Heights, Olmert has claimed
the Bush policy to isolate Syria is one of the main obstacles in talks
between the two countries.
Just one month since the American public went to the ballot box and overwhelmingly sent a message that a solution has to be found for Iraq, the American president is disregarding the finding of the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, which determined long term solutions to peace in the Middle East, have to include Syria and Iran. The Iraq Study Group also linked a solution between the Palestinian and the Israeli crisis to a greater peace in the Middle East, which is critical to peace and security in the region, and also as a strategic defense decision by the United States.
The decision by Prime Minister Ohlmert to follow the lead of the American Government, and disregard the peace initiative, has caused a rift in his own cabinet. Haaretz.com has reported that a major disagreement has developed between Ohlmert and his Defense Minster Amir Peretz. Peretz believes the time is right to move on the Syrian initiative, and undocumented reports have indicated that Peretz and Syrian President Assad have both expressed a desire for secret talks in an attempt to talk peace but also not alienate their American support.
Historically, Israel, under Golda Meir, ignored a similar peace request by Egypt in 1973, which led to a war with Egypt in which Israel lost all of the Sinai peninsula, according to a Haaretz.com editorial commentary. Such an opportunity to resolve its issues with Syria, without loss of the Golan Heights, is proving tempting for the Israeli government and may cause a break on this issue between the United States and Israel. The United States has the power and prestige to ignore Syria, however, Israel, which still remembers its debacle in Egypt, feels that repeating history, could only prove detrimental to its long term strategic interests.