The last thing Washington wants is a Syrian-Israeli treaty that would transform Mr. Assad from pariah to peacemaker and lend him greater latitude in promoting terrorism and quashing Lebanon’s freedom. Some Israeli officials, by contrast, see substantive benefits in ending their nation’s 60-year conflict with Syria. An accord would invariably provide for the cessation of Syrian aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, which endanger Israel’s northern and southern sectors.
More crucial still, by detaching Syria from Iran’s orbit, Israel will be able to address the Iranian nuclear threat — perhaps by military means — without fear of retribution from Syrian ground forces and missiles. Forfeiting the Golan Heights, for these Israelis, seems to be a sufferable price to pay to avoid conventional and ballistic attacks across most of Israel’s borders.
The potentially disparate positions of Israel and the United States on the question of peace with Syria could trigger a significant crisis between the two countries — the first of Mr. Bush’s expressly pro-Israel presidency. And yet, facing opposition from a peace-minded Democratic Congress and from members of his own party who have advocated a more robust American role in Middle East mediation, Mr. Bush would have difficulty in withholding approval from a comprehensive Syrian-Israeli agreement.
I'm not certain I understand how a peace agreement between israel and Syria harms the United States and our relationship with Israel in any substantial way, especially if such an agreement served to have Syria recognize Israel's right to continuing existence and forced Syria to stop supporting organizations devoted to Israel's withdrawal. It is simply hard to envision Israel signing a peace agreement with Assad and then watching as Syria overruns Lebanon, which Oren implies. As for unilateral Israeli action against Iran? I do not see how a peace agreement would make all that much difference, and such an agreement might in fact put Syria in the position of deterring Iran's fantasies. There must be something here that I do not see, but Oren's argument strikes me as an example of looking for a dark lining behind a silver cloud.