Middle East Watch

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© تموز (يوليو) 2022

Peace not wanted


Friday 19 ربيع الأول 1431, by Gideon Levy

All the versions of this article:

  • English

Israel does not want peace with Syria. Let’s take off all the masks we’ve been hiding behind and tell the truth for a change. Let’s admit that there’s no formula that suits us, except the ludicrous "peace for peace." Let’s admit it to ourselves, at least, that we do not want to leave the Golan Heights, no matter what. Forget about all the palaver, all the mediations, all the efforts.

Let’s face it, we don’t want peace, we want to run wild, to paraphrase an Israeli pop song from the ’70s. Don’t bother us with new Syrian proposals, like the one published in Haaretz this week that calls for a phased withdrawal and peace in stages; don’t pester us with talk about peace as a way to break up the dangerous link between Syria and Iran; don’t tell us peace with Syria is the key to forging peace with Lebanon and weakening Hezbollah. Turkey isn’t an "honest" broker, the Syrians are part of the axis of evil, all is quiet on the Golan - you know how much we love the place, its mineral waters, its wines - so who needs all the commotion of demonstrations and evacuating settlements, just for peace?

It’s not only the current extreme right-wing government that doesn’t want this whole headache, and it wasn’t only all of its predecessors - some of which were on the very brink of withdrawing from the Golan and only at the last moment, the very last moment, changed their minds. It’s all the Israelis - the minority that is really against it and the majority that doesn’t give a damn. They’d rather pretend not to hear the encouraging sounds coming out of Damascus in recent months and not even try to put them to the test.

Everyone would rather wave the menacing picture of Bashar Assad alongside Hassan Nasrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his partners in the axis of evil, with the hummus and the bulgur. That on its own should have made Israel try 10 times harder to make peace. But in Israeli eyes, the picture of the banquet, as one Israeli paper termed the "modest meal," is worth more than a thousand words. After that, do you really expect us to give up the Golan? Don’t make us laugh. We’ll make peace with Micronesia, not Syria.

When the Syrians talk peace, it is all "empty words," "deception" and a wily way of getting closer to the United States. But when Assad poses with the president of Iran, that’s the truth, that’s Syria’s real face. Even when he merely says, on the same occasion, that Syria must prepare for an Israeli attack, he is immediately accused of "threatening" Israel.

Do you want proof that we really don’t want peace with Syria? Well, there has not yet been one Israeli prime minister who has said that we do. Because, after all, the order would have to be the opposite of the usual Israeli haggling. A prime minister who really wanted to achieve peace would have to say one terribly simple thing: We undertake in advance - yes, in advance - to hand back the entire Golan in exchange for a full peace. But no, not one prime minister has declared readiness to leave the Golan - right up to the last grain of sand, as we did in Sinai - in exchange for a peace like that which we have with Egypt.

Why on earth do we always have to hold onto this card so it can be played last? And what kind of a card is it, anyway? What kind of end does it ensure? After all, if the Syrian reply is negative, nobody will make us leave the Golan Heights. And what if the reply is positive? Why not start off with a promising, invigorating declaration, one that will give the Syrians hope and thereby at least put their intentions to the test.

But we are not the only ones who don’t want peace. The United States has turned out to be a true friend that extricates us from every briar patch. It doesn’t want peace enough either, praise the Lord. It’s a fact: Washington is applying no pressure. Here’s another marvelous pretext for doing nothing - America isn’t pressing us and the redeemer will come to Zion, in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Yet we are the ones who have to stay in the dangerous and menacing Middle East, not the Americans; we should be more interested than anyone in preventing another war in the north, in creating a new relationship with Syria and then with Lebanon, and in weakening Iranian influence; in trying to integrate, at last. An Israeli interest, no? And what do we do to advance it? Half of nothing.

So what is there left to do? At least admit the truth: We do not want peace with Syria. That’s all there is to it.

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