Thursday, June 05, 2008

Article or Op-Ed
Israel, Don't Undermine Beirut
By David Schenker

...In Beirut, it's widely feared that an Israeli-Syria deal would come at the expense of Lebanon. This view has merit: many current and former Israeli officials and academics make no secret of their belief that an agreement could be facilitated by recognizing a return of Syria to Lebanon and by ensuring somehow that the Assad regime be insulated from the sanctions which would accompany the regime's implication by the International Tribunal in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri...
Negotiations alone stand to erode international support for the
tribunal, one of the few real levers of pressure held by the majority.
This is what the March 14 coalition fears, and of course, this is why
the Syrians are so interested in talking with the Israelis now....
By voluntarily taking steps to remove these pressures without
extracting a single concession, Israel is effectively strengthening
Damascus' hand at the negotiating table...
For Israel, peace with Syria no doubt has some allure. Given current
regional dynamics, however, it is all but guaranteed that the
collateral damage of these peace talks will be the March 14 coalition.
If the democracy argument does not sway the Israeli government,
national interests should. While the weak government in Beirut is not
by any means optimal, the alternative -- a Syrian and Iranian-backed
Hizbullah-dominated state -- is even less appealing. And when the talks
with Syria eventually break down - as they undoubtedly will when the
topic of strategic realignment is broached -- this is what waits in the

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