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February 10, 1995 - Image 45

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-02-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Assad "can't appear
to be rushing to
embrace the
Israelis, because
that would hurt him
in the eyes of his
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Heart

— Eyai Zisser

Although the two sides are not
getting closer to an agreement,
they recently have made some
high-level contact. In December,
Syrian military chief of staff Hik-
met Shihabi and then-Israeli mil-
itary chief of staff Ehud Barak
met in Washington to discuss
possible security arrangements
on the Golan. "This shows that
Assad means business," said Mr.
Zisser.
But the talks bore no fruit, and
Syria's Shihabi flatly turned
down every compromise Israel's
Barak offered.
There is also a Syrian-Israeli
"back channel" between "senior-
level technocrats," added Mr.
Olmert, declining to identify
them. And after an absence of
more than a month, Syrian Am-
bassador to the U.S. Walid
Mualem returned to Washington
last weekend to resume negotia-
tions with his Israeli counterpart,
Ambassador Itamar Rabino-
vich.

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United States that he is in dan-
ger of "missing the train" for Mid-
dle East peace don't seem to move
the Syrian president in the slight-
est.
"Assad is ready to make peace,
but he's not dying for it. He can't
appear to be rushing to embrace
the Israelis, because that would
hurt him in the eyes of his peo-
ple," said Eyal Zisser, a re-
searcher on Syria at Tel Aviv
University's Dayan Center for
Middle Eastern Studies.
But surely Mr. Assad knows
about Israel's domestic political
situation: that Binyamin Ne-
tanyahu and the right are now
favored to topple Mr. Rabin and
the left in the November 1996
elections. Why isn't Mr. Assad
hastening to make a deal with
this government, knowing that
Netanyahu and Co. would likely
offer him little or no part of the
Golan?
"Assad is a leader. He can't af-
ford to make mistakes. What if he
reaches an agreement with Ra-
bin, but Netanyahu decides not
to keep it? I think this is bound to
be one of his considerations," said
Dayan Center's Zisser.
"Assad wants to show that he's
no Arafat," added Mr. Olmert.
"His view is that Israel is playing
around with Arafat, [and] look-
ing down at him."

45

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