When I read How Israel Could Remove Assad Diplomatically and Bring Peace to Syria, I thought it’s kind of science fiction. I thought Bruce Riedel, [another] veteran former CIA officer and senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, to be going the extra non-reasonable and non-needed mile. He was basically proposing to offer the Golan Heights back to Bashar Al-Assad as the carrot, in return for Assad moving on, and allowing a democratic post-Assad Syria to start and flourish, away from the influence of Iran and Hezbollah.
In his view, Israel would be playing a ‘constructive role’ in the Syrian crisis in this way. I then dismissed the idea on the basis that Assad will exploit it against the opposition, and simply Israel wouldn’t do such thing, because they could have done it before with Al-Assads directly.
But then again, this idea was floated again today in Haaretz by Alon Liel, the former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry (quite official then). Interestingly, Alon Liel heads an Israeli organisation called ‘Israel-Syria Peace Society’. In his piece Forget about the Golan, Mr. Assad, Liel stated that Israel may want to keep its involvement limited to the ‘humanitarian help’ to the Syrians due to the obvious sensitivity issues. Anyway, I gave my view before on this humanitarian help; I treat any Israeli involvement in the Syrian crisis, directly or indirectly, with much suspicious. A weak Assad (and Syria) with a stronger sense of sectarianism in the region doesn’t harm Israel at all.
But there is a small bombshell in Alan Liel’s piece; he reminded us that when the Lebanese (mostly) anti-Syrian politicians were being assassinated in the period 2004 – 2006, and Hezbollah was accusing Israel of orchestrating them, and when Hezbollah was truly building its arsenal in the south and focusing its rhetoric and operations on the Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons and Shebaa Farms, Bashar Al-Assad was secretly sitting with the Israelis (probably in Switzerland) via the Turkish mediation. Here you go:
From 2004 to 2006, I was partner to secret and informal contacts with representatives of the Syrian regime, with the aim of examining the possibility of reaching a peace agreement. During the talks, which were held alternately under Turkish and Swiss sponsorship…
They did it publicly in May 2008 when Hezbollah was taking over Beirut, but I thought we don’t do secret talks. Enough ‘Resistance and rejectionism’ for today. Expect a series of denials soon?
Photo credit: Reuters