Like a busybody parent, Condi Rice wagged her finger at wayward Israeli leaders who proposed that Israel begin exploratory talks with Syria on the heels of informal diplomacy between former Israeli diplomat Alon Liel and a Syrian representative. Condi would have none of it:
The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.
In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington’s view on the matter.
The American argument is that even “exploratory talks” would be considered a prize in Damascus, whose policy and actions continue to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and the functioning of its government, while it also continues to stir unrest in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. presence there…
According to senior Israeli officials, the American position vis-a-vis Syria, as it was expressed by the secretary of state, reflects a hardening of attitudes.
When Israeli officials asked Secretary Rice about the possibility of exploring the seriousness of Syria in its calls for peace talks, her response was unequivocal: Don’t even think about it.
If this statement from Haaretz is true, then I have to say this is one of the lamest, stupidest moves I’ve heard from the Bush Administration in the recent past. The idea that she would weigh in so forcefully on a matter that concerns Israel’s security is troubling, though not surprising considering the amount of meddling engaged in by this Administration.
I tried to figure out who would be the source of this report. It doesn’t seem like it would be Olmert who seems to be playing the good poodle:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far adopted the strict American position not to respond to the Syrian feelers.
But it most decidedly might’ve originated with Amir Peretz:
On the other hand, at the Foreign Ministry and within the defense establishment, there is a greater degree of openness to the offers, and the overall view is that the door should not be closed entirely to the Syrians. Similarly, many believe that the Syrian offers should be tested for their sincerity.
Among the leading individuals supporting this view is Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
It seems that Ehud Olmert is intent on driving Israeli policy toward Syria over a cliff and Condi’s providing the road map (pun intended). The idea that a failed Israeli leader is taking policy directives from a nation whose own foreign policy is such a shambles is instructive.
Haaretz recently reported that Syria is upgrading its weapons systems. Though I doubt Bashar Assad would pull a Sadat and attack Israel there is always that possibility:
Three Syrian political analysts and politicians were interviewed on national television and denied the report on Syrian arms procurement and testing of ballistic missiles. However, all three emphasized that if there is no progress toward peace with Israel, then it is the “natural right” of Syria to take other types of action in order to liberate the Golan Heights.
Not to mention the pressure Syria can exert through proxies like Hezbollah or Hamas. How does it hurt to talk??