It is still early days but as long as the international community feels that Syria is cooperating in the US-Russia brokered deal to make safe Syria’s chemical weapons then Assad is likely to remain in power. Assad’s rule is also not threatened by the civil-war given a lack of unity and even fighting between opposition groups. It is ludicrous that Assad should remain in absolute power after the atrocities of his rule. An additional deal must be brokered to include a more encompassing, a broader, and a wider representation of the Syrian citizenship. I propose that any agreement to end the civil-war, to end the Assad regime and to rid Syria of chemical weapons should also engage Israel’s interests.
Israel’s interests go beyond that of ridding Syria of chemical weapons, of ending the radical Assad regime and of ending the civil war that has potential to destabilize the region. Israel’s long term interests include: 1) Recognition by Syria of the State of Israel, and its existence as the Jewish national homeland; 2) Recognition by Syria of the existing international border where the Golan is part of the State of Israel; 3) A full normalization of all relations between the two countries hence an open border; 4) Such an open border will enable the unity of the Druze; 5) Renouncing any third party activity in Syria against Israel and preventing any third party activity against Israel on or from Syrian territory, for example offices of Hamas, the presence of Hezbollah, and any alliance with Iran; and 6) the withdrawal of Syrian interference in the domestic affairs of Lebanon, including relations with Hezbollah. A Golan Roadmap needs to be prepared and implemented to ensure that Israel’s interests are engaged in any international attention and negotiation with Syria.
Both Israel and the Druze should take heed of the changing situation in Syria. Although Assad’s rule is not threatened currently by the civil-war, it is possible that as the civil war continues that more and more regions of Syria will come under the control of different opposition groups. Control of the border region with Israel may fall into the control of groups that may be friendly to Israel’s interests or may fall into the control of groups that may be adverse to Israel’s interests. If the former then a de facto situation may arise where Israel’s interests become reality without any formal agreement. If the later then Israel and the Druze may need to engage in combat to rectify the imbalance. A Golan Roadmap needs to be prepared and implemented for both eventualities.
The international community should take heed that the agreement to make safe Syria’s chemical weapons has very ambitious deadlines, and is somewhat naive. Syria is torn apart by civil war and the disposal process is likely to be fraught with difficulties. Incineration or neutralization will have to be undertaken locally by mobile units as transportation in a warzone or removal to another country and this during the winter months will be a daring task. Normally it would take a few years to consolidate the stockpile of chemical weapons that Assad has disclosed in his initial declaration. However the deadline envisaged by the terms of the CWC convention of nine months is mid-2014, next year. So a patchwork process may be engaged. Given this the international community should take heed that 100% success is not guaranteed and that Assad or the rebels have the latent ability to restructure and reconstitute chemical weaponry; as the components and ingredients are locally and readily available. A Golan Roadmap needs to be prepared and implemented for the eventuality that chemical weapons are used again necessitating international military attacks sending Syria into domestic bedlam.
It is still early days but the opportunity should not be lost to change the security of Israel’s northern border fulfilling all of Israel’s interests. The consequences of a peace treaty with Syria bring forth wild dreams but Israel can entertain them in debates with Turkey, NATO and the European Union. Peace with Syria means a continuous land link between Israel and Europe, via Turkey. The possibilities are endless. A different regime in Syria and peace between Syria and Israel will also change the situation in Lebanon. With this in mind the entire Eastern Mediterranean will be different. So NATO and the European Union should consider that their Mediterranean interests are indeed at vital stake with Syria, as they were with Libya. They should be more proactive against the Assad regime to create a peaceful and stable Eastern Mediterranean. The bottom line of any such activity and any such change is for Israel and the Druze to plan and to implement in detail a Golan Roadmap.
Dr Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.