One must search hard to find a credible motivation for Ehud Olmert's recent opening of negotiations with Syria. Even UN offficials in the region condemned Olmert for granting legitimacy to a pariah regime which destabilizes its neighbors, without receiving anything in return. Those of us who genuinely care about Israel's security, and fully understand the complex relations between Israel, Syria and Lebanon, find the decision that much harder to understand.
The only explanation I can think of that makes any sense, whatsoever, relates to the Iranian nuclear situation. If Israel in fact launches an attack on Iran, we can look forward to retaliation from not only Iran but also all of its allies. This includes Hizbullah and Hamas, but the capabilities of both groups are limited. Much more worrying is Syria, which has much larger arsenals including biological and chemical weapons, and which is allied to Iran. Perhaps the negotiations with Syria are intended just to prevent Syrian involvement in the inevitable attack and counter-attack. Syria keeps telling everyone it is not breaking its alliance with Iran. But when the moment of truth comes and it has to decide between its connections with Iran and Israel, hopefully it will be just confused enough to want to sit things out.
And when the negotiations inevitably fail due to "irreconcilable differences", we can console ourselves by saying that they had no chance in the first place. And in the mean time, hopefully the Iranian issue can be taken care of with a minimum of side effects.
2. The less hopeful part
The one thing that has comforted me and many other Israelis over the past few years of corrupt, defeatist, and rather anti-democratic governance in Israel was the certainty that if and when elections were next held, public disgust with the government would ensure that Netanyahu and the Likud were elected.
That certainty is equally certain now, but the sanity which we hoped would return to Israeli politics with the next elections seems more remote than ever. For it now appears that before Netanyahu is elected in Israel, Barack Obama will be elected president of the US.
While I have high expectations for Obama's domestic policy, his likely foreign policy direction is profoundly troubling. Despite the necessary platitudes he delivers, it appears that since his college days he has consistently held to a Marxist woldview in which the US and the West are oppressing the world's "rogue states", and if we just let the rogue states run things instead of us, everything would be a lot better and the world would be a lot fairer.
- Israel is seen as one of the worst such oppressors,
- the "rogue states" and organizations include most of Israel's enemies,
- "left-wing" leaders in the US in the past, in Europe now, and among Obama's closest advisors argue for forcing Israel to accept political arrangements its government may not want,
And by then - who knows how many thousand Israelis will have been killed, how many hundred thousand will have been expelled from their homes, how many million will be bombarded on a regular basis by rockets, and how much lower Israel's international standing will be as a direct result of all these sacrifices for "peace".