Israel-Syria Essay, Research Paper
Next week’s peace talks between Israel and Syria are expected to focus on the future of the Golan Heights — strategic land that Israel captured from its Arab neighbor in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli and Syrian leaders agreed Wednesday to resume their negotiations, which broke off in 1996.
The talks are to pick up where they left off nearly four years ago. Analysts say Syria and Israel were close to agreement then.
During the renewed negotiations, Israel is expected to insist on security guarantees in its northern territory in exchange for the return of the Golan Heights. Syria might be called upon to demilitarize the area to ensure that goal.
U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the resumption of talks at a news conference Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa plan to meet for two days next week in Washington, before returning to the Middle East for more negotiations.
The breakthrough came after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Tuesday with Syrian President Hafez Assad in the Syrian capital of Damascus; she met Wednesday with Barak in Jerusalem.
Watch U.S. President Bill Clinton give his opening remarks at his Wednesday news conference (December 8)
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Listen to Clinton’s statement on the Mideast peace process
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Albright takes work break to stroll in Manger Square
Major issues in dispute between Israel and Syria:
How much territory Israel will relinguish. Syria demands all of the Golan Heights, a high ground overlooking northeastern Israel that Syria lost in the 1967 war. Syria also is seeking territory stretching to the Sea of Galilee.
Whether Syria will agree to normal diplomatic relations with Israel, including an exchange of ambassadors.
The timing of the Israel pullback and whether it will be undertaken in stages.
Security arrangements after a pullback. The Golan Heights have served as a protective barrier for Israel and it is seeking substitute arrangements, including an early warning system of imminent attack.
From The Associated Press
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Wye River Memorandum
The West Bank in Brief
A statement from Syria’s presidential palace said Assad welcomed the resumption in talks. And Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Nawaf Massalha said the “significance of this is that Assad intends to finish” an agreement.
“We are at a pivotal moment in the Middle East peace process,” Clinton said at the news conference, “one that can shape the face of the region for generations to come.
“History will not forgive a failure to seize this opportunity to achieve a comprehensive peace,” he said.
“Before us is a task as clear as it is challenging,” Clinton said, adding that Barak and Assad bear a heavy responsibility to bring peace to their people.
He also said that he hoped peace talks between Israel and Lebanon could be resumed, now that Syria and Israel had agreed to negotiations.
Clinton determined to pursue Israeli-Palestinian talks
On perhaps the most dominant peace issue in the Middle East — Israel and the Palestinians — Clinton also said he is determined to keep negotiations on track.
The talks bogged down this week over the issue of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
Clinton said Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are committed to their timetable to forge the framework for a final peace plan by February, with implementation in September. And he vowed to do what he could to help.
“I will spare neither time nor effort in pursuit of peace,” Clinton said.
‘Peace within grasp’
At his news conference, Clinton laid out an ambitious set of Middle East goals — provided the region’s leaders are willing to make “courageous decisions.”
“With a comprehensive peace, Israel will live in a safe, secure and recognized border for the first time in its history,” Clinton said.
“The Palestinian people will be able to forge their own destiny, on their own land.
“Syrians and Lebanese will fulfill their aspirations and enjoy the full fruits of peace.”
But it won’t be easy, Clinton said. “The road ahead will be arduous. Success is not inevitable.” Still, the opportunity is historic, he added.
“Peace has long been within our sight,” he said. “Today it is within our grasp, and we must seize it.”
Barak: ‘It’s time to make a decision’
Syria and Israel broke off peace talks three years ago after a wave of terrorist bombings killed scores of Israelis.
The main issue of contention has been territory: Syria has insisted that as a precondition for talks, Israel must withdraw from the Golan Heights. Syria says such a promise was made by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but Israel denies this.
Barak has never said publicly that he would hand over the territory, captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. He reiterated on Wednesday, however, that he was willing to make territorial concessions in exchange for peace.
Barak said Israel was a country full of energy that is no longer willing to sacrifice its young in conflicts with its Arab neighbors.
“We have so many other things to do, rather than to be deployed along the border for another generation or two,” Barak said. “It’s time to make a decision. I feel the opportunity is clear also to President Assad.”
Albright meeting with Arafat
Albright traveled Wednesday to the West Bank town of Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leader Arafat. Her visit to the region this week has focused on helping Israel and the Palestinians with their goal of forming the framework for a final peace accord by February.
“Each side needs to avoid taking steps … that embarrass the other and make negotiations more difficult,” Albright has said.
The issue of Jewish settlements was likely high on the agenda for the Albright-Arafat talks. Albright welcomed Israel’s decision not to issue new construction permits in Jewish settlements during talks with the Palestinians.
Albright will wind up her Middle East trip by traveling to Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
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