November 9, 2009 - A Depressing State of Affairs

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

November 12, 2009 - Talks to Begin With Syria

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with French President Sarkozy today. Reports from the Arab media stated that Netanyahu agreed to open negotiations with Syria. He supposedly promised that in return for peace Israel will agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Syrian President Assad is arriving in Paris tonight and will meet Sarkozy tomorrow. It would seem that Israel will be entering into negotiations with Syria. It looks like negotiations will be through the French, who will replace the Turks who have burned their ability to be intermediaries.

Negotiations are good for both Netanyahu and for Assad. In terms of Netanyahu engagement in a "peace process" it will deflect world criticism. The same for Assad since a Syrian leader engaging in peace talks will not be criticized for other actions. The process is good for both and hard decisions only have to be made at the very end of the process. There are not any intermediate steps or prerequisites such as stopping the settlements.

On the other hand, this is Palestinian leader Abu Mazen's nightmare to find that he wakes up and finds that Israel and Syria are deep into negotiations. The pressure on Israel to make concession is gone for the moment since the reality is no Israeli government can deal simultaneously with the Syrian and the Palestinian front. In any case as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza, a settlement with the Palestinians may not be feasible.

So is this good news? It depends on one's perspective. But, it certainly will feel like good news, and maybe that’s what it is all about.

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