Publications - Articles

Israel could respond by reviving the Syrian track

For Israel, as for other actors interested in Lebanese affairs, the visit by Iran's president to Lebanon was more a matter of symbolism than substance. It did not reshape or deeply affect the realities of Lebanese or regional politics, but it did highlight and underline several important aspects of the Lebanese and larger Middle East scene: Hizballah's ascendancy in Lebanon, Iran's use of Hizballah as an extension of its own governmental machinery, Iran and Syria's ongoing collaboration in Lebanon, Iran's assumption of the leading role in the "resistance" to the US and Israel, and the weakness of the Arab world and in particular the major Arab states whose roles in Lebanon and in managing the conflict with Israel are being usurped by Iran.

Assessing the Obstacles to and Opportunities in a Future Israeli-Syrian-American Peace Negotiation

(The Brookings Institution, 31/05/2010)


In the ebb and flow of Middle East diplomacy, the two interrelated issues of an Israeli-Syrian peace settlement and Washington’s bilateral relationship with Damascus have gone up and down on Washington’s scale of im-portance. The election of Barack Obama raised expecta-tions that the United States would give the two issues the priority they had not received during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration.  Candidate Obama promised to assign a high priority to the resusci-tation of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and separately to “engage” with Iran and Syria (as recommended by the Iraq Study Group in 2006).

Israeli policy-makers, take note

(Bitterlemons, April 15, 2010 Edition 9 Volume 8 )

What General David Petraeus said in his testimony before the Senate's Armed Services Committee on March 16, and the manner in which his statement was quoted, represented and interpreted, must be understood within the context of the charged atmosphere in Washington regarding US-Israel relations and the Israel-Arab peace process. The president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel are in open disagreement over these issues. Recently, a respected academic raised the question of dual loyalty in his blog. Against this backdrop, a statement by one of America's most prominent generals--head of the Central Command, who holds military responsibility and authority for most of the Middle East--that points to a negative linkage between America's support for Israel and the success and safety of its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, is bound to become a controversial issue.

How not to negotiate with Syria

Jerusalem Post, Nov 25, 2008

The "Syrian track" - Israel's negotiation with Syria, actual and potential, about the resolution of their conflicts - is very much in the news now. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would like to have a fifth round of these indirect negotiations with Damascus under Turkish mediation. He would like to upgrade them into direct negotiations and possibly reach a breakthrough that could be seen as part of a legacy. His opponents and the opponents of Golan withdrawal have argued that even if he has the legal authority, he does not have the moral authority to commit Israel to far-reaching concessions in the twilight of his tenure. More quietly, the foreign policy team of President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton are drawing scenarios for the new administration's Middle Eastern policy. Some of them are known to favor the Syrian track over the Palestinian option. Their argument is two-fold:

The Greater Syria Plan and Palestine Problem

The Greater Syria Plan and Palestine Problem: Historical Roots, 1919-1939

Source: The Jerusalem Cathedra: Studies in the History, Archaeology, Geography and Ethnology of the Land of Israel, No 1, 1982, pp. 259-271.  

The emergence of a relatively stable and effective regime in Syria that is pursuing a dynamic foreign policy and acquiring influence over its neighbors --  Jordan and Lebanon -- as well as over the PLO has led in recent years to the assumption that President Hafiz al-Asad is seeking to set up a political entity in the territory of Greater Syria to be dominated by the Syrian state which he heads.

Syria at a Crossroads

(INSS, April, 2009)

The Ba'ath regime's primary concern is its own survival. After nearly forty years of rule by the Asad dynasty, it does not face any serious domestic threats, but it is fully aware of the underlying instability of a regime dominated by members of a minority community. Bashar al-Asad, who succeeded his father in June 2000 as Syria's president, is more sure-footed and in firmer control than he was a few years ago, but both his persona and the full scope of his ability remain enigmatic to Syrian and foreign observers alike.

Narrowing the Gulf

Narrowing the Gulf  - Haaretz 06/01/2008

For many years the most influential Western cultural institution in the Arab world was the American University of Beirut (AUB). Founded in 1866 as the Syrian Protestant College, during much of the 20th century it was both an important university and a hub of intellectual and political ferment. But, the collapse of Lebanon's traditional political system, the civil war of the 1970s and the lingering crisis, the roles played by Iran, Syria and the radical wing of the Shi'ite community have all served to diminish the AUB's standing and role.

What will happen after Bush?

What will happen after Bush?  Haaretz, 15/11/2007


In its latest issue, dated November 8, The New York Review of Books published in a prominent - if not screaming - manner a letter signed by eight famous individuals and addressed to United States President George W. Bush, warning him of the grave dangers inherent in a possible failure of the Annapolis conference.

Courting Syria

Courting Syria - Haaretz, 29/11/2006

A change in the United States' Middle East policy seems to be in the offing. The reasons for this expectation are the failure in Iraq and the defeat of President George W. Bush and the Republican party in the midterm elections, a failure that led to the immediate resignation/dismissal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Testing the "Israel Lobby" Thesis, The American Interest

The article was published in the Brookings Institute website on March/April 2008
As Israel’s Ambassador to Washington in the mid-1990s, I worked closely with the now all too famous Israel lobby. But this was not the “Israel Lobby” described by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. At that time, the right wing of what they characterize as a “loose coalition” of pro-Israeli groups, organizations and individuals was dead set on undermining the peace policy conducted by the government of Yitzhak Rabin in concert with the Clinton Administration. Meanwhile, the left wing of this “loose coalition” had its own notion of Israel’s and America’s best interests, also considerably at variance with the view of the Rabin government. The neoconservative critics were neither friendly nor helpful to our policies, and we did not perceive by any stretch of the imagination the Tikkun Community to be our supporters, not even when Hillary Clinton was speaking to Rabbi Michael Lerner about “spirituality.”