Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking

Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking

Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking

Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking

Synopsis

This is the first book to deal with the most crucial case of war and peace in the Middle East. Moshe Ma'oz examines the history of relations between Israel and Syria throughout the Middle Eastern conflict. Drawing upon a variety of original sources, the author discusses still little-known episodes in relations between the countries such as Syrian peace offers to Israel in the early 1950s and the mid-1970s; American and Soviet involvement; the role of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and the PLO; Israel's contribution to the aggravation of the conflict with Syria, and the new Syrian diplomatic strategy since 1988 and the peacemaking process after the Madrid conference (from late 1991). The book demonstrates the crucial importance of Syrian-Israeli relations for the strategic posture of both countries, for the fate of the Palestinian problem, and for the prospects of an overall Middle East Settlement.

Excerpt

No Arab-Israeli war is possible without Egypt, and no Arab-Israeli peace is possible without Syria. This view, widely held among Middle Eastern analysts, has gained special importance since the late 1970s, when Egypt made peace with Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict became, in many respects, a Syrian-Israeli conflict. For, apart from Egypt, Jordan has maintained de facto peaceful relations with Israel for decades, and in October 1994 the two countries signed a formal peace treaty. Iraq has in practice departed from its conflict with Israel since 1980, when it became involved in two successive, devastating wars in the Gulf.

It is true that the Palestinian problem has been at the core of the Arab- Israeli conflict, although the Palestinians constituted only a political challenge to Israel, never a military threat. Their antagonism has greatly diminished since the PLO's recognition of Israel late in 1988 and the PLO-Israel agreements in September 1993 (Oslo) and in May 1994 (Cairo). Only Syria has manifested a consistent political and ideological hostility to the Jewish entity since the 1920s, and a military threat to Israel's security since 1948.

Israel, for its part, has considered Syria an implacable and brutal foe, publicly committed to its destruction. Syria has voiced anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish doctrines and has used the Golan Heights to harass Jewish villages and jeopardize Israel's water resources, all of which led to the eruption of the 1967 war. In reaction--sometimes without previous provocation--Israel launched vigorous military operations against Syrian positions, both before and after the 1967 war. That war consolidated the zero-sum conflict between Damascus and Jerusalem, leading, inter alia, to the 1973 war, which, in turn, deepened their mutual hostility and intensified their struggle over Lebanon and the Palestinians. Although Israel mended fences with Sadat's Egypt, during the mid-1970s it rejected several suggestions by Asad for a political settlement. In 1981 it formally annexed the Golan Heights which had been occupied during the 1967 war; and during the 1982 Lebanese war, it attacked the Syrian army in Lebanon without provocation. Syria was subsequently able to bring about Israel's departure from Lebanon by means of its Shi'i guerrilla surrogates and to establish control in Beirut. Simultaneously Asad, with massive Soviet military help, promoted his doctrine of strategic balance, aiming at . . .

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