by John Smith
Will the Arab world and Israel finally cave-in to years of pressure to formally sign peace treaties within the near future? How probable are these talks in actually coming to fruition? Or, will key players and organizations stay silent in the regionís best window to make progress in the last decade?
Over the years, the answer to these questions has always seemed to be a resounding and bitter, ďno.Ē Now, it seems as though former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his recent maverick trip to the Middle East has affected the answer to these questions. His trip coincided with news that Syria and Israel are perhaps willing to forget generationsí long differences in order to finally achieve peace.
It has been revealed that Israel would relinquish control of the Golan Heights, located in the northeastern part of the country (the area bordering northwestern Syria). The Golan has long been sought by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This week, the media reported that the United States urged a committed Turkish delegation to mediate talks between Israel and Syria. Undoubtedly, this is a plan Ehud Olmert wishes to comply with before his term in office ends. For Damascus, a change in policy towards the grave situation in Lebanon involving Hezbollah is a precursor to forward progress.
With history as a constant reminder to the Syrian people, it is a wonder that the parties could ever come to an agreement, let alone a historic one. Within the region, the development might possibly be the most noteworthy since President Anwar Sadat of Egypt made his landmark trip to Jerusalem. At Israelís Parliament, the Knesset, Sadat initiated the peace process between Israel and Egypt, which culminated in the signing of an agreement less than a year later in 1978.
The point, up until now, is that peace in the Middle East is almost regarded as an oxymoron. With Syria and Israel purportedly seriously discussing a land-for-peace trade, it is comforting news in a place where there is not a lot of hope.
Additionally, talks within the last month reveal that Hamasí leader, Khaled Meshaal, who is in exile in Syria (or as Yasser Arafat may have once exclaimed, in exile from exile), is ready to sit at the negotiating table with Israel, or at least with a third party. This debunks much of the hardline opinion within Gazaís hierarchy in eradicating Israel and, in Ahmadinejadís words, wiping it off the face of the Earth.
Hypothetically, if Syria is to receive the much sought after Golan in exchange for peace, Hamas may be next in line. Without risking civil unrest, Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) may soon aim to put the premiership of the Occupied Territories to a vote for Palestinians to decide.
Recent polls have stated that Meshaal is gaining in popularity for the leadership of the PNA, overtaking Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), its current leader. In reality, with the recent power shift and Abu Mazenís inability to police the Strip, it is no wonder that he does not have the wherewithal to make decisions.
This remains clear: it will take the levelheadedness of leaders like Carter, Olmert, Assad, Meshaal and Abu Mazen to right the wrongs of events past. However, without U.S. mediation, all talks are for naught. In order to achieve peace in the Middle East, all roads lead through Camp David, where heads of state are humbled, the impossible is realized and 11th hour concessions make the improbable, probable. Keeping friends close and enemies closer is perhaps sound advice in this arena as the road to diplomacy is long indeed. However, in the end, the credo of each country for itself will lend little impetus to a regional solution.