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Friday, October 16, 2015

Report: Netanyahu was ready to cede Golan to Assad in 2011

Frederick Hof, who had the Syria portfolio in the Obama administration in 2011 and 2012, reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu was ready to cede the Golan to Bashar al-Assad in 2011 in return for 'peace.'
Although the regime’s corruption, incompetence and brutal intolerance of dissent were hardly state secrets, Assad was not universally associated by Syrians with the system’s worst aspects: “If only the president knew” was a phrase one heard often. Some Syria watchers believed that the Arab Spring would visit the country in the form of political cyclone. I did not. I did not think it inevitable that Assad—a computer-savvy individual who knew mass murder could not remain hidden from view in the 21st century—would react to peaceful protest as violently as he did, with no accompanying political outreach.
And as Syria began to descend into the hell to which Assad was leading it, I did not realize that the White House would see the problem as essentially a communications challenge: getting Obama on “the right side of history” in terms of his public pronouncements. What the United States would do to try to influence Syria’s direction never enjoyed the same policy priority as what the United States would say.
Back in early 2011, it seemed possible not only to avoid violent upheaval in Syria but to alter the country’s strategic orientation in a way that would counter Iran’s penetration of the Arab world and erase Tehran’s land link to its murderous Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Much of my State Department time during the two years preceding Syria’s undoing was thus spent shuttling back and forth between Damascus and Jerusalem, trying to build a foundation for a treaty of peace that would separate Syria from Iran and Hezbollah on the issue of Israel.
...
Assad, told me in late February 2011 that he would sever all anti-Israel relationships with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and abstain from all behavior posing threats to the State of Israel, provided all land lost by Syria to Israel in the 1967 war—all of it—was returned.
My conversation with him was detailed in terms of the relationships to be broken and the behavior to be changed. He did not equivocate. He said he had told the Iranians that the recovery of lost territory—the Golan Heights and pieces of the Jordan River Valley—was a matter of paramount Syrian national interest. He knew the price that would have to be paid to retrieve the real estate. He implied that Iran was OK with it. He said very directly he would pay the price in return for a treaty recovering everything.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interested. He was not at all eager to return real estate to Syria, but he found the idea of prying Syria out of Iran’s grip fascinating. And the negative implications for Hezbollah of Lebanon following Syria’s peace accord with Israel were not lost on him in the least. Although there were still details to define about the meaning of “all” in the context of the real estate to be returned, Netanyahu, too, knew the price that would ultimately have to be paid to achieve what he wanted.
But by mid-April 2011 the emerging deal that had looked promising a month earlier was off the table. By firing on peaceful demonstrators protesting police brutality in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, gunmen of the Syrian security services shredded any claim Assad had to governing legitimately. Indeed, Assad himself—as president of the Syrian Arab Republic and commander in chief of the armed forces—was fully responsible for the shoot-to-kill atrocities. Even so, he told Barbara Walters in a December 2011 ABC TV interview, “They are not my forces, they are military forces belong[ing] to the government . . . I don’t own them, I am the president. I don’t own the country, so they are not my forces.”
Before the shooting began the United States and Israel were willing to assume Assad had sufficient standing within Syria to sign a peace treaty and—with American-Israeli safeguards in place—make good on his security commitments before taking title to demilitarized territories. But when he decided to try to shoot his way out of a challenge that he and his first lady could have resolved personally, peacefully and honorably, it was clear he could no longer speak for Syria on matters of war and peace.
Knowing what 'everything' means (all the way up to the shores of the Kinneret), I find it astounding that Netanyahu would make such a deal. Sometimes fools are saved from themselves. Read the whole thing.

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2 Comments:

At 12:48 AM, Blogger Hutzpan said...

OR, it could be that the entire story has been fabricated specifically to discredit Netaniahu. Knowing BHO's hatred towards Bibi, I wouldn't dismiss this possibility...

 
At 1:17 AM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

That's silly. First off they could never be trusted. Secondly and more importantl everything out of the White House is a lie.

 

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