The Syrian decision to respond positively to the American initiative in July 1991 and to participate in a peace conference-under the joint chairmanship of the United States and the Soviet Union-was either received with surprise or, at best, with mixed feelings. The key question was whether that decision constituted a radical change in the Syrian position regarding Israel or was merely a tactical move by the Syrian regime to protect itself in the aftermath of the war against Iraq in 1991 by the international coalition. Corollary to this was the question of to what extent Syria had accommodated itself to changes in the regional and international strategic environment since the end of the Cold War.
Under the above two principal questions, a set of secondary ones can be subsumed. Had Syria really become so vulnerable as to shift to accommodation instead of confrontation with Israel? If it has responded to new regional and international factors, is there a basic transformation in the orientation of Syria's foreign policy or simply a minor modification to suit unforeseen prevailing conditions? Does Syria truly believe in peaceful coexistence with Israel? What exactly is its conception of a peaceful settlement? And to what degree has it been modified whether in substance or in form? This paper will illustrate that since 1970- 71, when the present Baathist regime under the leadership of President Hafiz al-Asad assumed power, Syria's position towards Israel and its conception of peaceful settlement has gone through incremental alterations over time. Whereas the fundamental point of departure, namely, the acceptance of the reality of Israel within its pre-1967 borders and a comprehensive settlement, has remained consistent, the road to reaching a settlement, its shape and modalities, has been subjected to variations under the pressure of changing internal, regional and international conditions.
SPECIAL FACTORS DETERMINING SYRIAN ATTITUDES
The Syrians, like other Arabs, share the general perception of Israel as a foreign and expansionist entity implanted in their midst by the ex-colonial powers of Britain and France, with the assistance of the United States and the Soviet Union. The historical and religious claims advanced by Israel are deemed irrelevant, since the Palestinian Arabs have been in continuous possession of the land of Palestine for over a thousand years.1 Even the legality of the U.N. Partition Resolution 181(11) of 1947, which created the legal basis of Israel as a state, was questioned by the Arabs and was ascribed to American pressure to obtain a majority vote.2 However, three special factors have given Syrian perceptions and attitudes certain distinguishing characteristics.
(a) The historical factor derives from the unfulfilled aspirations of establishing the independent state of Syria, including Palestine and Lebanon (Jordan did not exist at the time) "within its natural boundaries," in accordance with the resolution of the General Syrian Congress of March 8, 1920.3
(b) The Syrians in general, and the ruling Baath party, in particular, regard themselves as the standard bearers of Arab nationalism. Moreover, the Baath party considers itself the inheritor and successor of the Arab nationalist movements which flourished in Syria and Lebanon in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.4
(c) Since the October war of 1973 and with the gradual enhancement of its military power, Syria has become more assertive in the Levant and on the Arab level overall. This transformation in the standing of Syria, from being an object in the inter-Arab politics of Egypt and Iraq, to an influential and major Arab regional power, has endowed it with a commensurate sense of responsibility for leading the struggle against Israel, particularly after the peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979.5
The above special factors in tum produce three important outcomes that affect Syrian attitudes:
(1) The Syrians view the conflict with Israel in long-term perspectives, owing to the disadvantageous distribution of power in favor of Israel. This view is not only confined to reaching a settlement that meets Arab conditions, but is also related to the ultimate resolution of the conflict in the strictest sense. Such a stance obviously puts Syria at odds with the Palestinians, who are the principal victims of the situation. Time is not on their side.
(2) The Syrians also enjoy a feeling of confidence and self-righteousness over the conflict; consequently, they are dismissive of both Arab criticism and Western opinion regarding their behavior. This attitude has caused much dispute with other Arabs over priorities in Lebanon or during the Iran Iraq War and the Gulf War.
(3) In general, the Syrians also do not see any contradiction between using force against certain Palestinian armed groups and fighting Israel, since the Palestinians are considered to be part of the Syrian ''family.'' However, there is a deep feeling of sympathy towards ordinary Palestinians who are made to suffer, as happened in Jordan, Lebanon and, more recently, Kuwait.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SYRIAN POSITION
Until the 1967 War, the overwhelming majority of Syrians, like all other Arabs, adopted the same rejectionist attitude towards the reality of Israel as a state. The main feature of the 1948-67 period was the wide gap found between the overall objective of destroying Israel and the lack of means to achieve it. Various rationalizations were put forward to explain away the "disaster." Nevertheless, at the time, this gap forced Arab regimes to respond to highly emotional and irrational popular attitudes of total rejection. This behavior led to the incorrect accusation by Israel and the West that the Arab governments of the time were exploiting the Palestinian problem for legitimizing purposes, in particular the Arab authoritarian regimes.6 The fact was, and remains, that the Palestinian problem and the Arab-Israeli conflict deeply affect the hearts and minds, and the very social fabric of every Arab society, especially in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
It should be clear from the bloody history of the conflict that the issues at stake go beyond the nature of the regimes in power. Domestic political needs help explain Arab behavior regarding initiating wars and challenging Israeli deterrence regardless of the rational calculus of military balances.7
From the Arab point of view, Israel strikes at the heart of their intrinsic interests and values whatever their political hues. The wars of 1947-49, 1967, 1969-70 and 1973 proved the correctness of this explanation. Insofar as Syria is concerned, certain developments took place in 1964 that were to trigger a chain of events paving the way to the 1967 War. The Baathist regime was faced with Israeli plans to complete the diversion of the Jordan River waters at a time when it was militarily incapable of challenging them. In fact, it was an acute dilemma for a revolutionary regime that advocated in its slogans the radicalization of Arab societies in order to destroy Israel. At first, Syria called on other Arab states for assistance, in particular, President Nasser of Egypt. However, as none were interested in a confrontation with Israel, the Syrian regime raised the slogan of' 'the popular war of national liberation." Thereby it found a partner among the Palestinians, mainly the Al-Fatah group, which began sending infiltrators across the Syrian-Israeli borders in January 1965. Thus the regime thought it was proving its credentials and responding to domestic needs. The chain of infiltrations and Israeli reprisals eventually culminated inadvertently in the war of 1967, when Nasser miscalculated his moves, believing that he was able to deter Israel from threatening Syria without a war.8
The 1967 defeat, which was named the "second disaster," was instrumental in the ascendance of President Asad, although it took him a great deal of further political maneuvering to assume office in 1970. Asad's rise to power occurred against the backdrop of a fundamental change, at least among the majority of Syrians, in their perception of Israel. Even though the change took hold gradually among the politically articulate, three important conclusions were arrived at:
First, the technological gap between Israel and the Arabs had become so wide in every sphere that it made the thesis of the annihilation of Israel an absurd proposition. This conclusion was further reinforced by the development of Israel's nuclear capability.
Second, in spite of Soviet support for the Arab side, the international community, particularly the superpowers, would not countenance the decisive defeat of Israel let alone its disappearance.
Third, the slogan that '' Arab unity,'' based on the so-called "revolutionary regimes" was a pre condition to defeating Israel, was discredited.
The 1967 War has been generally regarded as a watershed in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, since it was to transform a zero-sum game into a non-zero-sum one that combines both conflict and cooperation.9 More important, on the psychological level, the defeat corrected a dissonance in the Arab perception, although not overall, at least in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and among the substantial majority of Palestinians. Before the war, there was a gap between their rejection of the reality of Israel and their lack of means to obliterate it. The paradox is that while the war confirmed Arab suspicions of an expansionist Israel, it was to move the Arabs to accept the fait accompli.
Undoubtedly, such transformation in the Arab and Syrian psyches enabled Asad to embark on a process of limiting the foreign policy objectives towards Israel. First, he rejected the concept of ''the popular war of national liberation" as being an effective strategy and returned it to its proper place in classical, military traditions as an auxiliary strategy to conventional war.10
Second, he gradually introduced the notion of separating the political and military aspects of the conflict from its ideological dimension, namely, the antagonism between Zionism and Arab nationalism.
Third, he maintained that the urgent task was to contain Israeli expansion by liberating Arab territories in 1967. This was to signal his readiness to then accept U.N. Resolution 242 in 1971 and 1972.11 In doing so, Syria actually limited its objectives in the October War, which was launched jointly with Egypt in 1973.
Fourth, on the Arab level, he improved Syria's relations with other Arab states in pursuance of ''Arab solidarity'' by discarding the division between "revolutionary regimes" and "conservative ones."
Following the war, Syria agreed to U.N. Resolution 338, which implied acceptance of Resolution 242. It also accepted the resolutions of the sixth Arab summit in Algiers in 1973, which defined the phased objectives as: the liberation of the occupied territories since I967, which included Arab Jerusalem, and the restoration of the national rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the decisions of the PLO, its sole representative.12 Even though from 1974 onwards the Baath party congresses have endorsed these objectives, it still retained the phrase ''the liberation of all the land of Palestine" in its resolutions. It was only dropped from the resolutions of the 7th and 8th Regional Congresses of 1979 and 1985 respectively, although in the last (13th) National Congress held in 1980, the phrase was kept .13 The significance of omitting the phrase from the Syrian regional congresses is that even ideologically Syria is now prepared to coexist with a "Zionist" state and conduct the ideological facet of the conflict by peaceful means until there is a final resolution of it. In the distant future, this resolution could take various forms, such as a binational state or a regional community.
Such a step should not be dismissed lightly, since it does represent real progress on the road to finding a symbiosis between Zionism and Arab nationalism. This is the only way for a full and true peace to replace antagonism, in contrast to the formal and cold peace established between Egypt and Israel that set aside this thorny problem and ignored the Palestinian dimension. A case in point was when, in 1975, Asad hinted of signing a peace treaty14 and then had to retract it later on, as the 12th National Congress (1975) rejected recognizing Israel and signing a peace treaty with it.15 Henceforward, the official line was that only in return for full Israeli withdrawal would there be an end to the state of belligerency. In addition to the above-mentioned steps, Syria also agreed to the resolutions of the 12th Arab summit in Fez (1982), which endorsed the concept of two states in the land of Palestine.16
JOINING THE PEACE PROCESS
If Syria has been incrementally internalizing the idea of peaceful coexistence with a Zionist state, it has been adamant, until recently, on the procedural conditions leading to a settlement. In 1973, it accepted the concept of an international conference under a joint American-Soviet chairmanship with the active participation of the United Nations; however, it did not attend the Geneva Conference of 1973, as no disengagement agreement was signed (it was signed by Syria only in 1974). Although the United States continued its efforts to convene a further conference in 1977, it was to no avail, as the Israeli government wrecked the joint Soviet-American agreement of October 1977 on holding the conference.17 Consequently, Egypt went ahead on the path of a separate peace.
Syria was infuriated by what it considered an act of treachery. Although the ensuing ostracism of Egypt from the Arab fold is past history now, the rationale behind Syria's opposition throws light on the present process. The raison d'etre of an international conference was that the Arabs lacked the negotiating power to compel Israel to agree to their demands; therefore, they needed an international balance to complement the regional one in order to compensate for their weakness. Moreover, a separate peace not only undermined Arab negotiating power, it also failed to address all the issues involved, particularly the core one, i.e., the Palestinian problem with all its ramifications. In a situation where there are refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, a satisfactory solution must be found for their status; hence Syria has always insisted on a comprehensive settlement.
On the signing of a separate peace between Egypt and Israel, Syria reverted to what is aptly called "tactical rejection."18 It signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1980 and called for restoring the destabilized regional "strategic balance" by adopting the doctrine of "strategic or military parity."19
Added to the misfortunes of Syria, the Iran-Iraq War erupted in 1980, shattering what was left of Arab solidarity. To further exacerbate the situation, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and clashed briefly with Syrian forces, which suffered heavy losses, partly because the leadership misread Israeli intentions, whereby Syrian forces were not redeployed and augmented for defense. The situation marginally improved when Syria scored a victory in Lebanon in 1984 and thereby destroyed the Israeli-Lebanese Peace Agreement of 1983, forcing Israel to withdraw to the occupied security zone under the pressure of Lebanese, and partly Palestinian, resistance. Despite this, Syria was still in no mood to talk peace, seeing itself in a very vulnerable position, besieged on every side. Salvation arrived in 1988, when the Iran-Iraq War came to a halt and Asad could mend fences with other Arab states. Simultaneously, the United States showed interest in resuming contacts in response to the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories.
Parallel to these developments, the Cold War was disappearing from the world's horizon and with it the international balance on which Syria had so far heavily relied to prop up its strategic position. The Soviet Union under Gorbachev decided to redefine its regional interests in the Middle East and to move from confrontation to cooperation with the United States. Gorbachev also advised Asad to seek a ''balance of interests'' in place of ''the strategic balance," a piece of advice which was not happily received.20
In response, Asad had to adjust; in 1989, he revived his favored, regional axis of Saudi Arabia-Egypt-Syria. This alliance has served a range of Syrian interests, restoring good American-Syrian relations, as in the 1970s, and restraining Israel, even though it burnt its fingers in Lebanon in 1982-5. But more significantly, it has undermined Iraqi attempts to isolate Syria in revenge for its pro-Iranian stand during the war, when it assisted the Lebanese Christian leader, Michel Aoun. Furthermore, Asad's conjecture was correct that the Iraqi regime was financially desperate and feared military discontent at home after the disastrous war and consequently decided upon a foreign adventure, the invasion of Kuwait. This gave Syria the opportunity to cement the triple axis, and considerably improve American-Syrian understanding over Lebanon. It was also able to seek a settlement with Israel from a more favorable, though not ideal position.
Indeed, no sooner had the war against Iraq ended than in March 1991 President Bush put forward his initiative for a modified version of the international peace conference. The initiative met some of the Syrian demands for a comprehensive settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of' 'land for peace.'' It also recognized the legitimate, political rights of the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, it was a far cry from what Syria previously insisted on with regard to the procedural role of the conference. The United Nations was relegated to observer status, and the conference was just an umbrella for bilateral negotiations with no preconditions accepted by Israel. Yet it would have been futile to insist on a conference empowered with forcing a settlement since the Soviet counterweight had become virtually meaningless.
Asad hoped to gain a balanced American position by exploiting the newly developed Arab-American nexus based on the coincidence of interests forged out of the coalition against Iraq. It is clear that Syria agreed to the initiative under the pressure of regional and international changes that could not be manipulated to its advantage. In other words, the optimal conditions regional and international balances conducive to a settlement-simply could not be realized for the time being. Instead, Syria exploited the new factors and pinned its hopes on American "goodwill," a move that ran counter to the underlying principle of a balance of power based on equilibrium. What are, then, the chances of achieving a settlement in the context of a "new world order?"
SYRIAN AND ISRAELI NEGOTIATING POSITIONS
When Syria joined the current peace process, it expressed the view that it did not have illusions about its chances of success in the short term. It also considered the negotiations to be another battle in the long-term struggle to contain Israeli expansion and restore Arab rights.21
It should be borne in mind that the process began when the Likud government was in power in Israel. Despite the election in June 1992 that resulted in a Labor coalition government, the Syrian reaction was still not very optimistic.22 This stems from the general opinion in Syria that both sides of Israeli politics are two faces of the same coin, though such an outlook was recently modified by Asad.23
In the three interviews which Asad gave prior to the Peace Conference in 1991, however, he made it clear that the peace process had a chance of success, even though it might take time. His prognosis was apparently based on the international (mainly American) and strong regional interest in achieving a settlement to stabilize the region. Moreover, while he insisted on full evacuation from the occupied territories and a comprehensive peace, he also maintained the prospects of reaching "a peace agreement" in the end. In the interim, confidence-building measures could be examined on their merits but should exclude partial withdrawal as sufficient for full peace.24
When the new Israeli government accepted that Resolutions 242 and 338 were to be the basis for negotiations, the Syrian side tabled a position paper in September 1992, which was heralded as a breakthrough in the process. Although the paper has not been officially published, most of its key elements have subsequently been revealed via Syrian sources. The paper outlines the Syrian position that Israel must withdraw from all the occupied territories of 1967 in accordance with an agreed timetable, and recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and security. In return, Syria would sign a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the state of belligerency and provide for mutual recognition of sovereignty and the international borders between the two sides.25
With regard to the normalization of relations, namely, full diplomatic and economic links, Syria's view has not changed, in that Resolution 242 does not require such an obligation to be fulfilled. This position explains why Syria still uses the term "peace agreement" instead of "treaty." However, it must be emphasized that the objective of normal, peaceful relations is not completely ruled out. Syria simply considers that such a situation would only result when Israel commits itself to full withdrawal and implements it in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, and when the Palestinians are in full control of the West Bank and Gaza and a satisfactory solution for East Jerusalem is accepted.26
Israel has not yet accepted the principle of full withdrawal and has only alluded to partial withdrawal. But judging from the latest statements issued by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israel would consider full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for a full peace by declaring "the geographic dimension of withdrawal" being dependent on what Syria would offer and that a peace treaty should not be "linked to other negotiations."27 Rabin's signal is quite obvious: if Asad were to opt out and disengage Syria from the Palestinian problem, he might then obtain his objective, as Egypt has. At this juncture, it is worth noting that Rabin has shifted his priority to Syria, in contrast to his pre-election campaign, when he stated that he would first concentrate on Palestinian autonomy. Subsequently, he has admitted that he had underestimated the problems involved.28 At the time, Syria repeated its usual position by demanding a complete settlement, although this position would not exclude progress at varying rates on the different fronts owing to the nature of the issues involved.29
EVALUATION OF THE PROCESS
One useful method of evaluating the prospects for reaching a settlement is to compare and contrast the present process with what happened in the case of Egypt and Israel. Professor Stein has proposed an explanatory model which can be helpful in segregating and understanding the role of various factors required for concluding a peace agreement. Primarily, she maintains that there are two environmental variables: the intensity of competition among the external powers and an aversion to war, and a third variable derived from the bargaining theory-the function of the United States as a mediator.30 Further on, she adds a fourth variable, being economic pressure, although she is not certain of its impact.31
In fact, Stein has actually overlooked two important variables which played a crucial part in facilitating an agreement between Egypt and Israel. First was the advantage that accrued to Israel from concluding a separate peace treaty with Egypt, which weakened the bargaining power of the other Arab parties. The second variable was the comparative value of the Sinai Desert as either a buffer zone or an early-warning span.32 If one evaluates all these factors to find out whether they operate and what their function is, the chances of success in the current negotiations might be deduced.
First, Stein maintains that when Sadat cut the Soviet Union out of negotiations, he managed to extricate the Egyptian-Israeli strategic relationship from the competition of the external powers. This thesis is supported by Professors Cantori and Spiegel in their generalization that ''. . . it is easier to impose conflict than cooperation upon the members of a subordinate system" by the powers of the prime system.33 In addition, Professor Buzan also asserts that ''. . . competing external powers will therefore generally reinforce rather than change the existing pattern of local hostilities.'' However, he cites an exception when ". . . external powers resort to direct overlay of the local [security] complex" to change these patterns, and he offers the example of peace between Egypt and Israel to illustrate this point.34 If this is taken as the logical conclusion of the argument, then it is highly unlikely that Syria would accept full American domination as a price.
The main question here is whether such generalizations are valid in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and since the rivalry of external powers has died down with the demise of the Cold War for the time being at least, does this help the peace process? The problem with all such generalizations is that they do not take into account the special and complex characteristics of the conflict:
(i) There is a built-in Western, and particularly American, bias in favor of Israel, owing to their cultural links.
(ii) In general, the Arabs are regarded as hostile, or potentially hostile, to Western interests. There are certain cases of coincidence of interests which mitigate this view, such as the Syrian-American understanding over Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War, which involved the West, the Arab Gulf states, Syria and Egypt against Iraq. Thus, the argument that Israel has lost its strategic value to Western interests is valid only insofar as the policies toward the former Soviet Union are concerned.
(iii) The Palestinian problem is not an inter-state conflict; it is an intra-state one between two peoples, where the Palestinians demand their natural right for statehood. This conflict is an essential part of the general Arab-Israeli one.
(iv) In the Arab-Israeli equation, the Arab side is weaker on the international and military levels. This has required it to have a counterweight so that it can negotiate on an equal basis.
Hence, it is too early to reach a definite conclusion whether the absence of rivalry on the part of the external powers in the Middle East is a causal factor that will bring about a settlement responsive to Arab demands. At best, one could argue that its absence might be an intervening variable, if the United States is willing to balance its interests.
Second, in regard to the aversion to war and the use of force in general, there is no clearly defined position. It must be noted that the Palestinians do not have the potential for a conventional war. The maximum threat they are able to pose is a type of war of attrition against which Israeli society seems to be bearing up quite well. Indeed, there have been even more demands to become more ruthless in order to suppress the uprising.
With regard to Syria, three Israeli positions can be identified. Some Israelis are not averse to having another war with Syria so that it might be forced to give up the Golan Heights once and for all. In contrast, some Israelis, particularly in the military establishment, do not consider that such an objective justifies the costs involved. In the middle, which seems to be the stand taken by the present government,35 the line of thinking is that if Syria is incapable of launching a war on its own now, Israel can afford to wait in order to extract the right concessions.
On the other hand, Syria, being weaker militarily, would prefer to achieve its objectives by diplomatic means. But there is a line which no regime can afford to cross. For Syria that is the return of all the Golan Heights.36 The alternative is of course the continuation of conflict, which carries the possibility of a future war. In light of Syria's continuing efforts to modernize and augment its military capabilities, it seems that the threat of force has not been completely abandoned as a strategy should the process fail. A limited-liability war to liberate the Golan Heights is not beyond the realm of possibility, even though the Russians are not currently providing the military hardware the Syrians require or are supplying it at a slower rate for hard cash pending settlement of past debts.
Whether the strategic doctrine is called "parity" or "defense sufficiency" is all the same. In the end, what matters is a certain order of battle relative to the objective with a favorable and supportive regional configuration of power. This situation could allow Syria to sustain a short war for up to a week, regardless of whether such a war would arrive at a decisive victory for either side. Thus, it is the possession of the appropriate capabilities and a willingness to resort to force by Syria that would paradoxically make Israel give up the Golan Heights. Thus, an aversion to war could then be engendered among a wide spectrum of Israelis. This is because there is a difference in the relative value assigned to holding this piece of territory. For Syria it is an intrinsic interest which it will tight for whatever the time-scale and circumstance, whereas for Israel it is an advantage for bargaining full peace regardless of the security and military considerations it claims to provide.
Third, the Golan Heights with its average width of 20 km does not offer a buffer zone, like Sinai, to absorb a surprise attack if Syria's intentions-provided it had the capability-were to attack Israel proper, i.e., within the l%7 borders. However, it is very doubtful that Syria possesses such a capability, or ever will, bearing in mind the technological gap between the two sides. The value of the Golan as a geographic early-warning distance is also very limited, unless it is completely demilitarized and sophisticated monitoring stations are installed, in addition to a barrier of multinational forces under U.N. command. Syria seems willing to accept the latter situation, although this factor is secondary to its real intentions regarding Israel. It has now reconciled itself to Israel's legitimacy and accepted equal and mutual security for both sides.
Fourth, the economic argument does not apply in the case of Syria, even if it was valid for Egypt. Syria does not suffer from overpopulation, and it has sufficient resources to support its 13 million people, not to mention its recent discovery of oil and especially natural gas. Syria suffers from a mismanagement and misallocation of resources, as is often the case in Third World countries, but not a lack of resources. It did endure a period of hardship in the middle eighties owing to drought, but it has since recovered considerably.37 In Syria the Palestinian problem and security considerations take priority over any economic factor, out of necessity and not choice, since they are at the heart of a conflict that directly affects its stability and security.38
Fifth, there is no possibility that Syria will succumb to the temptation of a separate peace, as in the case of Egypt, for interrelated ideological and domestic reasons. Asad has established his prestige and status as a defender of Arab rights against Israel, and any betrayal of the Palestinians would damage his stature on the Arab level beyond repair. Domestically, as indicated above, the Palestinian cause is an article of faith in Syria. However authoritarian the regime is, there is a limit beyond which a ruler cannot defy the national ethos of his people except at his own political peril. Besides, there are over two million Palestinians living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon who are an important factor in the stability of the three states in which their presence introduces an objective linkage to the conflict. Therefore, even if it does not stem from Asad's beliefs as an Arab nationalist, his regime's self-interest dictates that he cooperate with the other Arab parties to reach a comprehensive settlement according to their pledges.
One qualification to this argument is that the peace process is based on coordinating separate tracks. While this preserves the inter-connectedness of the issues, it still allows each Arab party leeway in the negotiations. They are tactically free to reach the same strategic objective. Hence, it could be assumed that if the Palestinians have attained the aforementioned phase, this would leave Syria in a position to conclude an agreement leading to full peace.
Sixth, the current role of the United States as a mediator is different from the Egyptian-Israeli case in many respects. In the latter case, both sides sought its influence and power to mediate, coerce and offer financial rewards. In the present case, Israel has reacted negatively to Arab calls for active American involvement. The complication of the Palestinian problem, on various levels and to all sides, might possibly militate against powerful American participation. Although, it might be possible in the case of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon if Israel were willing to entertain such a forceful role, this remains to be seen.
The Clinton administration has pledged to be a "full partner," which signifies "a powerful and an active role," and also to be an "honest broker," but it will not be an "arbiter" or try to "dictate" the terms.39 What this is supposed to imply on a practical level is obviously subject to circumstances. Asad, on the other hand, has reminded the new administration of the need to balance its interests in the region and praised former President Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, for their efforts to initiate the process.40 It is worth noting that there is a useful spinoff from the negotiations for American-Syrian cooperation on other regional issues.
It has been demonstrated that Syria has reconciled itself incrementally to accepting the reality of Israel and has shown its readiness to establish peaceful and normal relations. The latter will only arise if a comprehensive and just settlement is reached and a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon is implemented to ensure that the psychological balance is restored. To compare the current process with what happened between Egypt and Israel is rather misleading owing to the different factors and issues involved. The present negotiations are dealing with the heart of the conflict: the Palestinian problem and the occupation.
The pivotal question is whether the conflict is ripe for a settlement. The answer is a qualified yes. The reason for this conditional optimism is that the forces which support its achievement have gained enough in strength on the Arab side, although it might take some time to gather momentum in Israel and may possibly entail another war. The key factor is, when will Israel be prepared to divorce its maximal concept of security from its territorial dimension in exchange for full peace? Only then would the Arabs be more secure and therefore deprived of the motivation to persist with the conflict and intermittently challenge Israel's deterrence.
It seems that Israel's negotiating strategy reveals two interrelated objectives. First, to get the Arabs, who are in a vulnerable strategic state, to surrender on part of their demands; and second, to induce one of the Arab parties to defect and sign a separate peace. However, the fact remains that for Syria, and for the other Arab parties as well, full withdrawal and self-determination for the Palestinians are the sine qua non of permanent peace, notwithstanding the agreement between the PLO and Israel on an interim limited self-rule. Concessions on these two conditions would be politically costly for Arab leaders and regimes in time. It would be tragic if the more perceptive of Israeli leaders and strategists were to delude themselves with the temporary military weakness of the Arabs owing to the regional and international environmental changes. Relationships of power are dynamic. The issue is no longer the destruction of Israel but only of limited-liability wars that are not beyond the capability of the Arabs, particularly Syria. Hence, the price of failure in the process is the continuation of the conflict, which cannot be ended through military superiority alone. It is clear that Israel can still inflict limited military defeats on the Arabs, but, short of using nuclear weapons, it is not in a position to impose strategic surrender upon them.41 First, Israel cannot muster sufficient conventional military resources for such an objective; and, second, external powers with vital interests in the Middle East will not permit it. This margin of maneuver afforded by the Israeli security dilemma, a matter of which most Israeli strategists are aware, enables the Arabs to continue with the conflict.
Moreover, the main lesson to be drawn from previous Arab-Israeli wars is that they did not necessarily happen within the context of the rational analysis of military balances. The prime motivating factors were the pressure of domestic political constraints and perception of Israeli threats to intrinsic Arab interests, bearing in mind the cultural bias that affects to some extent the rational calculus of cost/benefit.
In conclusion, a peaceful settlement cannot materialize as long as Israel strongly adheres to the notion that the status quo is optimal for its security. A settlement needs to break out of the security dilemma between the two sides arising from the Israeli concept of maximal security, which in tum causes Arab insecurity. Thus, general deterrence and reassurance can provide stability and conflict management on the road to the resolution of the conflict.42
The signing of the "Declaration of Principles'' between the PLO and Israel on September 13, 1993, on negotiating interim self-rule for the Palestinians, to be fully implemented as a first step in the West Bank city of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, according to the Cairo agreement of May 4, 1994, has introduced a new twist in the course of the conflict.43 The document's acknowledgement of ''the legitimate and political rights of the Palestinians'' together with the accompanying mutual recognition between the PLO as "the representative of the Palestinian people'' and Israel constitute a significant step forward.44 However, the text is vague regarding the future of the occupied territories and the settlement of contentious issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders and relations and cooperation with other neighbors. All these questions are left to be negotiated later on [Paragraph 3 (Article V)].45 Hence, there is no built-in guarantee that Israel will fully withdraw from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and dismantle the settlements.
Syria, Jordan and Lebanon have complained about the lack of coordination on the part of the PLO and have reservations about the above vital issues that affect all of them.46 How this agreement will influence a settlement between Syria and Israel depends on the course of its implementation. It is possible to contemplate three scenarios: First, the implementation and negotiations could be conducted so smoothly as to satisfy the majority of the Palestinians, especially if they establish an independent state confederated with Jordan. In this case, Syria would be relieved and could eventually entertain the idea of establishing peaceful relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from the Golan Heights.47 Second, Israel, being the stronger party, might not meet all Palestinian demands, forcing the PLO to abandon the talks. The peace process would revert to square one. Third, a serious split might develop among the Palestinians between those who would accept any compromise achieved with Israel and those who would insist on a full Israeli withdrawal and the establishment of a state. This eventuality could be the most dangerous and would force Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to directly intervene in Palestinians affairs in order to contain the spillover consequences arising from fratricidal struggle among their factions. It would also damage Mr. Arafat's PLO leadership beyond repair. In such a situation, it is difficult to contemplate a smooth continuation of the peace process. With this could well come the risk of an Israeli-Syrian war.
With the signing of the "Common Agenda" agreement between Jordan and Israel on September 14, 1993, the prospects for emulation on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts have appeared brighter.48 Yet one can discern two diametrically opposed forces at work here. On the one hand, Israel has managed to separate the weakest part, the Palestinians, from the other Arab parties and may no longer be interested in a comprehensive settlement. On the other hand, as the United States has stressed the necessity of achieving progress on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, it may pressure Israel to reach an initial agreement with these states-similar to the one with Jordan-in order to maintain the momentum of the peace process.49 To date, Israel and Syria have not even reached agreement on principles of a common agenda, despite the fact that Asad made clear Syria's commitment to "normal peaceful relations" if Israel fulfills the conditions of comprehensive peace.50 With Jordan agreeing to pursue negotiations and with the meeting between King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin, Israel has managed to break Arab ranks further. At the same time, Rabin has recognized the strategic stalemate that conditions the Israeli-Syrian nexus.51 Perez has also signaled Israel's readiness to recognize Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.52 However, the gap remains wide: Israel wants full peace for full withdrawal from the Golan Heights only, whereas Syria will not enter full peace unless a comprehensive settlement on all fronts is in place.
1 See Y. Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel. Translated by Misha Louvish (London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1972), chs. 2, 3 and 4; and Walid Khalidi, Palestine Reborn ( London: I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., 1992), ch. I.
2 Henry Cattan, The Palestine Question (London: Croom Helm, 1988), ch. 6.
3 Peter Mansfield, A History of the Middle East (London: Viking, 1991), p. 181; and Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria, p. 27. This historical factor does not constitute an expansionist ideology as Daniel Pipes erroneously attempts to portray in his book, Greater Syria: A History of an Ambition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). Syria accepts the legitimacy of Jordan, Lebanon and the objective of a Palestinian state; and it is now engaged in the peace process to recognize Israel.
4 Rashid Khalidi, et al., eds., The Origins of Arab Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), chs. 2 and 3; and Hizb Al-Baath Al-Arabi, Al-Ishtiraki, Al-Qiyadh Al-Qawmiyh, Nidal Hizb AlBaath Al-Arabi Al-lshtiraki, 1943-1975 [The Struggle of the Baath Arab Socialist Party], (Damascus, 1978), ch. I.
5 M. z. Diab, "Syria's Objectives and Its Concepts of Deterrence, Defense and Security," in Regional Security in the Middle East: Arab and Israeli Concepts of Dete"ence and Defense, David Wunnser, ed. (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1994).
6 It is very peculiar to note that the advocates of this argument do not see the contradiction in their logic being that either Israel is besieged by a sea of hostility or not. The truth is that unless Israel does justice to the Palestinians and responds to Arab demands, neither democratic nor dictatorial regimes would be able to end the conflict.
7See Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, "Beyond Deterrence," Journal of Social Issues, vol. 43, no. 4 (1987), pp. 5-lS.
8 Professor Stein does not read this episode on the Syrian side in this way. She attributes Syria's resort to foreign adventure to the unpopularity of the regime. This mistaken view arises from inaccurate data. It is true that the regime was unpopular in the cities and among the middle classes, but it was very popular among the peasants, who formed more than 70 percent of the population at the time. Moreover, during that time the Alawites did not dominate the regime; it was in fact a coalition from all the rural regions. Lastly, the Palestinian infiltrations started in 1965 and not in 1966, in response to the Jordan River problem, a fact which Professor Stein completely overlooks. See Janice Gross Stein, "The Security Dilemma in the Middle East: A Prognosis for the Decade Ahead," in The Many Faces of National Security in the Arab World, Bahgat Korany. Paul Noble and Rex Brynen, eds. (London: Macmillan, 1993), pp. 62-7.
9 Thomas C. Shelling, The Strategy of Conflict (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 83; and M. Z. Diab, "A Proposed Security Regime for an Arab Israeli Settlement," in The Arab-Israeli Search for Peace, Steven L. Spiegel, ed. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1992), pp. 15 5.
10Hizb Al-Baath Al-Arabi Al-lshtiraki, AI-Qiyadh Al-Qawmiyh, Maktab Al-Thaqafh wal !dad AI-Hizbi, AI-Haraka AI-Tasshihiya: Min AI-Mutamar AI-Qawmi Al-Asher Al-lsthnai i/a AI-Mutamar AI-Qawmi AI Tha/ith Asher, 1970-1980 [The Corrective Movement: From the Extraordinary Tenth National Congress to the Thirteenth National Congress] (Damascus, 1983), p. 16. Hereafter the source is cited as The Corrective Movement.
11See Alasdair Drysdale and Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Syria and the Middle East Peace Process (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1991), pp. 105-6; and Moshe Maoz, Asad: The Sphinx of Damascus: A Political Biography, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1988), p. 85. Up to that time Syria was strictly adhering to the resolutions of the Khartoum Arab summit of 1967 which set out the "three no's:" "No negotiation, no recognition, no peace."
12 The Corrective Movement, p. 145.
13 I bid., p. 296. In the National Congress, the Syrian Baathists do not have an overwhelming majority since it is a pan-Arab congress.
14 Newsweek, March 3, 1975, cited in Maoz, op.cit., p. 98.
15 The Corrective Movement, pp. 190-91.
16 Survival , vol. 14, no. 6, (November/December 1982), pp. 282-83.
17 Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 2nd ed., (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), pp, 253-54.
18 Drysdale and Hinnebusch, op.cit., pp. 129--35.
19 See Efraim Karsh, "The Rise and Fall of Syria's Quest for Strategic Parity," in RUSSI & Brassey's Defense Yearbook, 1991, (London: Brassey's, 1991), pp. 197-216; Ahmed S. Khalidi and Hussein Agha, "The Syrian Doctrine of Strategic Parity," in The Middle East in Global Perspective, Judith Kipper and Harold H. Saunders, eds. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 186-218, and M. Z. Diab, op.cit.
20 Efraim Karsh, op.cit.; and M. Z. Diab, op.cit.
21 Hizb AI-Baath Al-Arabi Al-lshtiraki, AI-Qiyadh AI-Qawmiyh, Tamim no. 556 (Circular), October 26, 1991, pp. 1-2.
22 Tishreen, (Damascus), July I, 1992, p. 1.
23 Asad's interview, Time, November 30, 1992, pp. 41-2.
24 Asa d's interviews on July 29, 1991, in Newsweek, August 5, 1991, pp. l&-7; to ABC on September 19, 1991; in Al-Rayeh (Beirut), October 7, 1991, pp. 24-9; to CNN on October 27, 1991; and in FBIS, 91-209, October 29, 1991, pp. 44-8.
25 Al-Hayat , (London), October 30, 1992, p. 5; see also the joint statement by the Arab negotiating parties of July 25, 1992, in Al-Baath, (Damascus), July 26, 1992, pp. I, 10.
26 Al-Hayat , November 20, 1992, p. 5; and the Independent, (London), November 26, 1992, p. 14.
27 Al-Hayat, March 5 and 11, 1993, p. 5; and International Herald Tribune, (Paris), March 13 and 14, 1993, p. 3.
28 International Herald Tribune, February 17, 1993, p. 5.
29 Time, November 30, 1992, pp. 41-2.
30 Janice Gross Stein, "The Alchemy of Peacemaking: The Prerequisites and Corequisites of Progress in the Arab-Israeli Conflict," International Journal, vol. 38, no. 4 (Autumn 1983), pp. 531-55.
31 Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, "Preventing War in the Middle East: When Do Deterrence and Reassurance Work?" in Conflict Management in the Middle East, Steven L. Spiegel, ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 41-3.
32 Yair Evron, "Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Security Relations: The Idea of a 'Security Zone,' " in Emerging Issues: Middle East Security: Two Views, by Ahmed S. Khalidi and Yair Evron. Occasional paper no. 3 (Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, May 1990), pp. 38-40.
33 Louis. Cantori and Steven L. Spiegel, The International Politics of Regions: A Comparative Approach, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970), p. 33.
34 Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear, 2nd ed., (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), pp. 214-15.
35 Rabin's interview, Time, November 30, 1992, pp. 42-3.
36 Asad's interview, ibid., pp. 41-2.
37 Drysdale and Hinnebusch, op.cit., pp. 43-53.
38 Professor Moshe Maoz's argument that economic reasons made Syria accept the peace process is not valid, not only because of the reasons outlined above, but also because Syria receives economic aid from the Arab Gulf states to support its defense efforts; see "Syrian-Israeli Relations and the Middle East Process," The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, vol. 14, no. 3 (September 1992), pp. 8-9.
39 International Herald Tribune, February 22, 1993, p. 4; and AI-Hayat, March 5 and II, 1993, pp. I, 4.
40 Asad's interview, Time, op.cit.
41 Israel Tai, "Israeli Security in the Eighties," The Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 17 (Fall 1980), p. 14.
42 For these concepts, see Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, "Beyond Deterrence," op.cit., pp. 40-63; and "Preventing War in the Middle East: When Do Deterrence and Reassurance Work?" op.cit., pp. 29-53. However, the two authors do not make a distinction between the concepts of a settlement and conflict resolution, which is required in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict because of the ideological antagonism involved.
43 International Herald Tribune, September 14, 1993, pp. 1, 4.
441bid., September 10, 1993, p. 7.
45 Ibid., September 1, 1993, p. 5.
46 Interview with King Hussein, Al-Hayat, August 24, 1993, p. 6; statement by Crown Prince Hassan, ibid., September 9, 1993, pp. I, 4; interview with President Asad, Al-Akhbar (Cairo), September 20, 1993, pp. 4-5, 9; and remarks by the Lebanese and Syrian foreign ministers at the meeting of the Arab League Council, Al-Hayat, September 21, 1993, p. 5.
47 interview with Asad, Al-Wasat (London), May 5, 1993, pp. 12-20.
48 International Herald Tribune, September 15, 1993, pp. 1, 7.
49 1 bid., September 13 and 17, 1993, pp. I, 7 and 1-2, respectively.
50 International Herald Tribune, January 17, 1994, pp. l, 5 (during the summit meeting with President Clinton in Geneva).
51 Al-Hayat , June 23, 1994, pp. 1, 4.
52 Ibid., July 15, 1994, p. 5
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