Could Syria become a force for peace?
Recent policy changes in Syria offer hope. Damascus could be a wild card in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
After decades-long hostility, Israelis and Palestinians are tiptoeing their way, at the urging of the United States, through talks toward a peace that has been as elusive as a desert mirage.
The goal is to provide security for Israel and nationhood for the Palestinians, ordered by boundaries yet to be defined and agreed upon.
Israel cannot be confident of its security as long as Syria: (1) continues its support, including weaponry, for the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, (2) enables the flow of jihadists and explosives into Iraq, and (3) maintains its coziness with Tehran, which may be on the brink of achieving a nuclear bomb and is bellicose in its attitude toward Israel.
There also needs to be settlement of the Golan Heights problem. Seized by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Golan now contains some 20,000 Israeli settlers. Should it be returned to Syria, an unfriendly regime in Damascus would be able to pour murderous artillery and rocket firepower into the whole of northern Israel.