The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

Should the news that Is­rael and Syria are of­fi­cially to start talks fill us with hope or fear? Over the last 60 years, Syria has done noth­ing to prove it­self a trust­wor­thy part­ner for peace. It has long been a spon­sor of ter­ror and a con­duit for arms from Iran to Hizbol­lah. And even com­mit­ted peaceniks on the Is­raeli side have ex­pressed fears that this an­nounce­ment is merely a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion to dis­tract at­ten­tion from Ehud Olmert’s cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion for cor­rup­tion. All th­ese fears have some va­lid­ity. But low-level con­tacts be­tween Is­rael and Syria have been on­go­ing for more than two years. The pa­ram­e­ters of any deal — ter­ri­to­rial pull-back over the Golan, ter­ror groups booted out of Da­m­as­cus — have long been clear. And a per­fectly placed in­ter­locu­tor has been found in the form of Turkey, which en­joys good re­la­tions with both states as well as con­sid­er­able lever­age over Syria, whose wa­ter sup­ply it vir­tu­ally con­trols. That miss­ing piece of the puzzle, the United States, has in­di­cated that it would be will­ing to en­ter the process, de­spite its con­tempt for Syria, once ne­go­ti­a­tions have shown some re­sults. Of course, all this will take time. Is­rael oc­cu­pied the Golan Heights in six days, but — un­like the Gaza Strip — is un­likely to leave in the same time-span. Is­raeli farms and vine­yards may be al­lowed an en­tire decade to re­lo­cate. We are even a way off from an ac­tual face-to-face of­fi­cial meet­ing. But in the mean­time, this elu­sive peace may fi­nally be on the hori­zon, and we should al­low our­selves the lux­ury of hop­ing — if only fear­fully.

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