[Commentary from Dr. Aaron Lerner – IMRA:
“They are asking not only for the Golan Heights but a change in Washington that will break the Syrian isolation internationally,” said Mr. Liel. “But I also think they will not do it unless they are assured they have an alternative to Iran.”
The Iranians aren’t Syria’s drinking buddies or play partners. They are intimately involved in arming Syria.
So when Alon Liel says “an alternative to Iran” it is more guns than butter.
Why doesn’t Mr. Liel think that arming Syria to the teeth with made in USA weapons is a problem?
Simple: because he genuinely believes (or more appropriately “religiously” believes – since this is considerably more a matter of faith than logic) that once Israel completely withdraws from the Golan Heights Israel will enjoy utopian peace – just as retreat to the ’67 lines in the West Bank would bring utopian with the Palestinians.
Why then the efforts to come up with various security arrangements on paper?
That’s just to satisfy those unwashed Israeli masses and Neanderthal Israeli leaders who don’t share Mr. Liel’s appreciation of this ultimate truth.]

Syria ‘would break links with Iran’ if America steps in to help it By Carolynne Wheeler in Jerusalem Sunday Telegraph (UK) Last updated: 12:11 a.m. BST 06/07/2008 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/2253080/Syria-%27would-break-links-with-Iran%27-if-America-steps-in-to-help-it.html

Syria is ready to break off its close links with Iran if America gives it financial and military backing, a former Israeli diplomat involved in unofficial peace talks has revealed to The Sunday Telegraph.

According to the official, who has been engaged in low-key “second track” discussions with Syrian representatives for many months, Syria’s President Bashar Assad is increasingly open to a deal which would greatly weaken Iranian influence in the region.

Alon Liel, a former director of Israel’s foreign ministry, said the prospect of a peace agreement with Syria was growing, though it might require a new American president before a deal could be agreed. Syria’s support for radical groups including Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hizbollah, both also backed by Iran, has played a large part in fomenting trouble in the Middle East.

For any peace agreement to be struck between Israel and Syria, it would first be necessary to agree on the future of the Golan Heights – the lofty piece of territory claimed by Syria but occupied by Israel, which supplies much of that country’s drinking water.

“They are asking not only for the Golan Heights but a change in Washington that will break the Syrian isolation internationally,” said Mr Liel. “But I also think they will not do it unless they are assured they have an alternative to Iran.”

Israel and Syria resumed indirect negotiations in March, mediated by Turkey, and two days of meetings this week have ended with promises to reconvene at the end of the month. The Turkish foreign minister, Ali Babacan, said the meetings mark an “initial stage” in resumed diplomacy.

Now, all eyes will turn to next weekend’s conference of Mediterranean nations in France, where for the first time the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the foreign minister Tzipi Livni will sit alongside their Syrian counterparts, President Assad and his foreign minister, Walid Ali Muallim.

It has been speculated that Mr Olmert and Mr Assad may shake hands, an act of simple courtesy which would speak volumes about warming relations between the two, although Syrian officials have warned that Mr Assad is not yet ready to do so.

“I don’t think it matters. What is more important is that these discussions are going on,” said a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Arye Mekel. Mr Olmert called last week for the two sides to begin direct, face-to-face talks “very soon”.

“With the Syrians, we are talking seriously and in my estimation very soon the negotiations will have to be direct. They will not be able to continue in the mode in which they are currently being held,” Mr Olmert said.

The Syrian foreign minister, Mr Ali Muallim, said such a meeting would be “premature” but has not ruled it out.

Mr Liel said “months” of negotiation still lie ahead to overcome the gaps between the two sides. But there is believed to have been progress on the Golan Heights, as well as on claims to fresh water in the region.

Israel has been reluctant to withdraw from the Golan because of its strategic position above Syria, while many Israelis have been so taken with its wild beauty that they have built wineries and boutique hotels. The Golan front has also been quiet for years, providing little incentive to resolve the conflict.

“The Golan Heights is considered our Tuscany. Israelis fell in love with the Golan – and it’s a very easy conflict for us. That’s why it’s so difficult to convince Israel to withdraw,” Mr Liel said.

Syria, which demands the return of all of Golan, has promised to allow Israelis to continue to enter the western part without visas, though the future of Israeli businesses and towns there is uncertain.

More seriously, the Golan provides more than half of Israel’s drinking water and in this year of drought, the biblical Sea of Galilee – known in Israel as Lake Kinneret – is already at dangerously low levels, making Israel reluctant to give it up.

But Turkey is already said to have promised to supply more water to Syria, and possibly to the rest of the region, by drawing on the Euphrates, Tigris or Seyhan rivers. Syria has also demanded the building of a desalination plant in exchange for letting Israel continue to draw drinking water from the Golan.