Gideon Levy, a senior Haaretz correspondent, paints a heartbreaking “what if” scenario regarding Israeli relations with Syria. What if, when a peace deal with Syria was dangled before Ehud Barak’s eyes in 2000, he had had the courage to go for it instead of getting cold feet and turning it down? What if the settler movement had not clouded the eyes of Israelis with patriotic Biblical fervor and Israel had ended the Occupation? And why does Israel seem to miss every opportunity thrust upon it to achieve peace with its enemies?
Ending the occupation could have prevented this unnecessary war. If Israel had returned the Golan Heights and signed a peace treaty with Syria in a timely fashion, presumably this war would not have broken out.
Peace with Syria would have guaranteed peace with Lebanon and peace with both would have prevented Hezbollah from fortifying on Israel’s northern border. Peace with Syria would have also isolated Iran, Israel’s true, dangerous enemy, and cut off Hezbollah from one of the two sources of its weapons and funding. It’s so simple, and so removed from conventional Israeli thinking, which is subject to brainwashing.
For years, Israel has waged war against the Palestinians with the main motive of insistence on keeping the occupied territories. If not for the settlement enterprise, Israel would have long since retreated from the occupied territories and the struggle’s engine would have been significant neutralized. Not that a non-occupying Israel would have turned into the darling of the Arab world, but the destructive fire aimed at Israel would have significantly lessened, and those who continued to fight Israel would have found themselves isolated…
Former-prime minister Ehud Barak criminally missed the opportunity to sign a peace treaty with Syria after he got “cold feet,” as witnesses said, and retreated at the last minute. That’s how it works with us. When the other side is quiet, why return territories? And when they do go to war, “there’s nobody to talk to,” and certainly not while we are “under fire.”
While we are ready to jump on any war bandwagon, as in this time, we endlessly procrastinate when it comes to peace negotiations. Now, too, when Syria, pushed around by the U.S., desperately wants to return to the “family of nations,” is an excellent time to try to make peace with it – but there are those who say now is not the time. What will the Americans say? They, after all, are against any deals with Bashar Assad of “the axis of evil.”
So, there it is, another excuse to miss a golden opportunity, another mendacious excuse. As in the case of the peace with Egypt, the move that has guaranteed Israel’s security for years far more than any war, and which was put together behind the America’s back, America would not be able to oppose a peace agreement with Syria. Now, after we’ve hit Hezbollah and ruined Lebanon, the prime minister of Israel should declare: the Golan for peace. That could contribute a lot more to our security than a thousand useless daring operations in Baalbek, but it would take a lot more courage than going off to fight another unnecessary and useless war.
Ehud Olmert, of course, does not have the vision to understand how critical such an agreement with Syria would be. Even Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and all previous Israeli prime ministers going back to 1967 did not understand the importance of this issue. It will take a far bolder politician than Olmert to understand what Levy is saying here. And that’s a shame because the wars will continue and the civilians and soldiers on both sides will die. All because no Israeli politician is willing to break loose from conventional wisdom and take a chance on peace.