Uri Savir Argues for Negotiations With Syria
URI SAVIR, Israel's chief negotiator with Syria from November 1995 to March 1996, says, "Say yes to Syria."
The war in Iraq, as well as the international struggle against terrorism, demands a fresh, strategic approach to the resolution of the conflict in the Middle East.
Incremental steps such as Israel's withdrawal from Gaza are important, but they will not fully reap the benefits that may result from the major changes taking place in the region as a result of the US's and Europe's (gradual) placement of the war on terror and political reform at the top of the international agenda.
This new agenda certainly puts pressure on Israel's neighbors.
Israel must thus take a new approach, one that emphasizes the Western demands of curtailing fundamentalism, terrorism, and totalitarianism in parallel with answering some of the legitimate demands of the Islamic and Arab world in relation to the end of the occupation and recognition of a Palestinian state.
Non-conditional negotiations with Syria would serve both to strengthen this approach and legitimize efforts for peaceful relations with the new Palestinian regime.
In addition, they would create a new atmosphere in the region that could translate into guiding principles for a second Madrid Conference....
There seems to be little doubt about the changing currents in Syria, yet many believe that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot wage a peace offensive on Gaza and Syria simultaneously.
Israel has, in the past, won wars on many fronts. In the future it should attempt to make peace on all these fronts.
The Middle East has moved in recent months from despair to hope. It is in Israel's best interest not to miss this window of opportunity.