“Seek peace and pursue it,” the Bible says. Maybe Ehud Olmert should be reading a bit more Tanach in his spare time. That’s what Martin Van Creveld seems to be saying in his latest essay in the Jewish Forward about Syria’s military buildup. Spending most of his effort describing the buildup and what Israel can do to counter it, he ends with the most salient portion of the article, the overarching importance of seeking a negotiated, rather than military solution to the conflict:
…The ground forces have borne the main burden of fighting the Palestinian intifada over the past 20 years. Doing so has weakened their morale almost to the vanishing point…
Of all the problems afflicting the Israelis, this is the worst. So long as the occupation of the Palestinian territories lasts, it is anybody’s guess whether the men’s former willingness to fight and die can be restored.
Finally, Israel could try to forestall another war by reaching a peace agreement with Syria. As we now know, under Ariel Sharon secret Israeli-Syrian talks went on for two years.
No sooner had last summer’s hostilities in Lebanon ended — a war that was probably launched by Hezbollah without any consultation with Damascus — then leading Syrian personalities started saying they were interested in resuming negotiations and bringing them to a conclusion. But in the fall, Israel went out of its way to reject Syria’s overtures, partly because it wanted Damascus to stop assisting Hezbollah and the Palestinians and partly owing to American pressure.
Now, however, the Americans themselves are about to talk to Damascus, as well as to Tehran. Where the master leads, the follower cannot be far away — or else, Israel had better be prepared to take on the consequences.
Sobering advice from someone who’s spent his entire life studying military warfare in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. I know which option I’d prefer. How about you, Ehud? Give up the Golan or a few hundred more Israeli lives. Which seems more important?