The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

New Israeli Book Confirms (Again) Why Syria Track Collapsed in 2000: Clinton lied and Barak got cold feet over the few hundred yards around Lake Tiberius

We have of course long had solid Israeli scholarship – and others – that supports the key thesis: There should have been peace in March 2000 between Israel and Syria, but Bill Clinton wasn’t committed and famously “fudged it” with a dying hafez assad (actions perhaps related as well to Hillary’s senate bid in NY State at the time) and Barak just could not give up the last few hundred yards of the NE shore of lake Tiberius.

The result would be, I would argue, the primary disasters afflicting the Mideast to this day.

But for a few hundred yards of shoreline:

1) Camp David would have likely produced a deal with the Palestinians as the final surrounding arab army opponent – Syria – would have gone to peace, as had Jordan and Egypt.

2) Hezbollah would have been disarmed over time (outgunned by 40,000 syrian troops and intel folks in lebanon) and integrated into a heavily syrian controlled lebanese state.

3) Israel would not have had the disasterous withdrawal under fire from south lebanon in May 2000.

4) The post 9/11 regional context would have been much more friendly to the US and would have at least mitigated the arguments and impatience surrounding a massive intervention in Iraq later on.



“…He is at his best when dealing with the diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially in 1999-2000 when Ehud Barak was prime minister. Barak was a former chief of staff, and his country’s most highly decorated soldier, but he was no diplomat. In a curious inversion of Clausewitz’s famous dictum, he regarded diplomacy as the pursuit of war by other means. For Barak, Syria was a major military threat to Israel whereas the Palestinians were not. By making peace with Syria, Barak hoped to change the entire strategic landscape of the region and to leave the Palestinian Authority so weak and isolated that it would have no alternative but to accept his paltry terms.

A peace deal with Syria was indeed possible but it carried a price tag: complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, which left the Syrians with access to the north-eastern shore of Lake Tiberias. A meeting between Barak and the Syrian foreign minister under American patronage at Shepherdstown, in January 2000, collapsed when Barak refused to pay that price. Despite this failure, Barak persuaded Clinton to do his bidding at a make-or-break summit with President Hafez al-Assad in Geneva two months later. It was a fool’s errand. Once again Barak got cold feet, fearing the electoral consequences of withdrawal from the Golan Heights. On the morning of the meeting, he gave Clinton a script that insisted on Israeli sovereignty over a 400-metre-wide strip of land between Syria and the lake. So the summit was doomed before it even started and themuch-vaunted breakthrough turned into a spectacular setback. Clinton discovered to his cost that there was no sweet-talking Hafez al-Assad.

Having implicated the US president in two entirely predictable failures on the Syrian track, Barak belatedly and grudgingly turned his attention to the Palestinian track, to “the other woman”. Once again, he prevailed on the US president to embark on a make-or-break summit, and once again the president tended to behave not as an honest broker but as Israel’s lawyer. Arafat warned Clinton that the positions of the two sides were too far apart, that more time was needed to prepare the ground, and that failure at the top would make matters worse. Clinton urged Arafat to come anyway and promised that, in the event of failure, there would be no finger-pointing…”


Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 31, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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