SYRIA UPDATE….A couple of days ago Joshua Landis posted some notes from Simon McGregor-Wood, ABC’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, about a presentation by Alon Liel, the former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Liel has been secretly meeting with Syrian negotiators for the past couple of years and reports that he believes they are genuinely interested in rapprochement:

The Syrians, Liel says are serious about a full “reorientation.” The deal on offer is far more than an Israeli-Syrian deal over the Golan Heights. The deal would encompass a full engagement of Syria with the international community. No Hamas, no Iran, no Hezbollah. The Syrians are fully aware they won’t get the Golan if they remain within the Iranian axis.

They are willing to wait for the land until their change of heart is proven to be genuine and lasting. This is where the 5 or 15 year withdrawal timetable came from.They are completely inflexible on the question of sovereignty and the 4th June 1967 borders. They want all the land and swaps are a non starter.

The Syrians apparently wanted to begin formalizing the negotiations, but according to Liel, this was vetoed by the Bush administration. Brian Ulrich is puzzled:

If Liel’s perceptions are accurate, and I suspect they are, then American policy makes no sense, though since Dick Cheney was apparently in the loop of our involvement, that’s to be expected. The war drums focus is clearly on Iran. I doubt the Bush administration could plan a major confrontation with Syria during its two remaining years in office. What, therefore, is the point of stymieing negotiations?

Good question. Perhaps Cheney is afraid of a domino effect?