The status of the Golan Heights is the main obstacle to Israeli-Syrian peace, which various efforts have failed to secure in recent years. In 2008, Israel and Syria conducted back-channel discussions facilitated by Turkey, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suspended the talks in protest over the January war in Gaza.
However, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who left office in late January, was optimistic that the talks would resume and eventually produce an accord.
"We started negotiations with Syria and... at the end of the day, we will be able to reach an agreement that will end the conflict between us and the Syrians," he said in a speech.
Hof envisions environmental preserve in Golan Heights
A key facet of the deal would involve shared water resources and the creation of a Jordan Valley-Golan Heights Environmental Preserve. While Israeli settlements would be dismantled, the plan envisions both Israelis and Syrians having free access to the territory for the purposes of tourism, among other things.
"In addition to mitigating Israeli concerns about the return of sensitive territories and providing a venue for informal people-to-people contacts, the Jordan Valley-Golan Heights Environmental Preserve approach would give the parties a good platform for practical bilateral cooperation even as the ink on a peace treaty is drying, allowing for a constructive, confidence-building start to the implementation phase of the withdrawal process," the report says, according to the USIP's website.
Israelis dampen expectations
Israeli officials have tried to downplay expectations over Hof's visit, noting that a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not on the schedule. Officials in Mr. Netanyahu's office have indicated that the emphasis should continue to be placed on reaching a two-state with the Palestinians.