ISRAEL AND SYRIA….Has Israel been holding secret peace talks with Syria? Sort of. Haaretz reports that for two years between 2004 and 2006 discussions at an “academic level” were carried out “with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.” The meetings broke off last year after Syria asked for the negotiations to become formal:

The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry’s director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

It’s hard to say if this is meaningful. These were essentially private conversations with no direct participation by Israel, but the Haaretz article makes it sound as if Syria was prepared to make quite a few concessions regarding the Golan Heights, sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas, and its influence in Iraq. This probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s an interesting tidbit anyway. Stay tuned.