Road to Damascus

The Obama administration seems to be dusting off old Clinton-era plans for peace between Israel and Syria, looking at the stumbling blocks last time around and checking for new ways to overcome them. Fred Hoff, an adviser to George Mitchell’s Middle East team, has been in Israel this week exploring the situation.

Clinton tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal in 2000, and there were indirect contacts between Syria and Israel last year, with Turkey acting as intermediary. Although the two sides have still not met face to face, the points of serious disagreement seem to be relatively few – which is encouraging.

I may write about this in more detail later but in the meantime there’s some commentary (mainly from Israeli sources) on Joshua Landis’s blog and on the Israel Policy Forum website (here andhere.)

A fuller exploration of the issues - and possible solutions - can be found in a report produced by the International Crisis Group. When published in 2002, the ICG described it as a “best assessment of what fair and comprehensive deals on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks should look like”. Even today, it’s probably still the most accurate picture of the shape a settlement would take. 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 17 July 2009