Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Netanyahu ready to go to Damascus"

The Arabic press is buzzing with two items about Israel and Syria.

The first is that Syria has said that it is willing to accept a gradual withdrawal of Israel from the Golan Heights. Ha'aretz had this story, quoting Gabrielle Rifkind of the Oxford Research Group who met with Syrian officials in December:
According to Rifkind, who met the minister along with a group of conflict resolution experts, Muallem suggested that Syria was prepared to consider a phased approach to the return of the Golan Heights.

"There could be stages of withdrawal, the timing of which could involve a form of normalization," he reportedly said. "Half of the Golan could lead to an end to enmity; three quarters of the Golan, to a special interest section in the U.S. embassy in Damascus: a full withdrawal would allow a Syrian embassy in Israel."
While this story did not get much play in the Western press it has been quoted extensively in the Arabic press.

Asharq al-Awsat called up Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu's office and asked him for a comment, and the reply was that Israel is "ready to meet with the Syrians immediately and without preconditions" and that Netanyahu is "ready to travel immediately to Damascus to meet Bashar al-Assad, or to invite him to Jerusalem, or to meet him in a third country for this purpose."

While this is really not a new position, there seems to be some excitement in the Arab press over the issue.

The Western press, meanwhile, finally noticed the apples being exported from Israel to Syria that I mentioned last week.