In a way, one might feel sorry for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as his weekend Arab Summit in Damascus was rampant with “no-shows”, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki of Iraq all boycotting it, to name a few. Some leaders, who did show up, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi seemed more interested in getting photographed, rather than making any outstanding contributions to improving things in the region.
For his part, Bashar al-Assad used the meeting to express his willingness to enter into talks with Israel, as long as Israel is willing to return to the June 4, 1967 borders, which includes the entire Golan Heights “down to the eastern shore of the Kinneret”. Assad emphasized this point that saying he is not willing to compromise “on even one square centimeter of the Golan Heights” which as far as most Israelis are concerned, puts the situation of a possible peace deal with Israel’s eastern enemy back to shit’s creek.
Despite Assad’s hard stance, it was revealed that Syrian officials are saying that a “line of communication” has been opened between Damascus and Jerusalem, and that they, the Syrians, now say that the ball is in Israel’s court in regard to actual negotiations between the two countries. The two day Summit ended with a call for Israel to accept an Arab sponsored peace initiative, most of which is completely unacceptable by Israel.
No high ranking American officials were present at the Summit. Meanwhile, Israeli government officials, meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have agreed to make life a bit easier for West Back Palestinians by proposing to remove as many as 50 roadblocks to make traveling by Palestinians within the West Bank as well as to Israel itself more easier. It has also been disclosed that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials have been meeting with Palestinian officials like Abu Allah in secret locations in and around Jerusalem; the purpose of which is to reach a peace deal by the end of this year.. These meetings, however, have not included any Hamas leaders, who are still confined to Gaza by both Israel and West Bank Palestinians.
Assad obviously has more than just national pride in mind in wanting to regain his lost territory. Like most other countries this region, Syria has a chronic water shortage that makes one of Israel’s main sources of fresh water look exceedingly attractive. The streams on the Golan, many fed by melting snow from Mt. Hermon, are one of the Kinneret’s important water suppliers. Syria would like to have the lake’s eastern shore back in it’s possession so it can simply pump water out of the lake like it did prior of June 4, 1967. With the present lake level already reaching the critical “redline,” even Israel may soon not be able have this important water supply available, let alone Syria.
So in the end, any proposed peace talks are not likely to have much chance of succeeding, unless Syria and Israel are willing to compromise.