Aluff Benn writes about an exchange George W. Bush reportedly had with Ehud Olmert last week in “Bush to Olmert: Why are you giving Syria the Golan for nothing?”
U.S. President George Bush believes that Israel is offering Syria the Golan Heights without getting anything in exchange, according to sources briefed on his White House meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week.
After Olmert updated Bush on Israel’s indirect talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the U.S. president demanded, “Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for nothing?” the sources said.
“It’s not for nothing,” Olmert insisted. “It’s in exchange for a change in the region’s strategic alignment.”
Bush persisted: “Why should you believe him?” And to that, Olmert did not reply.
More than six years ago, in his landmark June 24, 2002 speech, Bush invited Syria to join the right side in the war on terror:
Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. Every nation actually committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian suppoies to these groups, and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq. And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations.
After that, Syria (1) sided with Saddam Hussein just before the 2003 Iraq war, (2) provided refuge in 2003 and thereafter to Ba’athist extremists trying to undermine the new Iraqi government, (3) rejected multiple overtures during 2003-2005 from senior officials of the Bush administration, who repeatedly traveled to Damascus to meet with Asad, (4) was undoubtedly involved in the February 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, (5) supported Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel, (6) has been restocking Hezbollah since 2006 with double or triple the number of rockets it had before, in violation of the UN resolution that ended the war, (7) was building during all this time a secret nuclear facility with the help of North Korea, (8) still seeks nuclear power, (9) has been providing headquarters and safe haven for the leaders of Hamas, (10) has longstanding ambitions to dominate Lebanon, and (11) is ruled by a dictatorial leader who has forged an alliance with an Iran poised to establish hegemony over the region, once the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.
Syria is likely to view more Israeli and U.S. overtures as signs of weakness (and validation of its prior decisions), rather than as an opportunity to reverse a choice it made more than six years ago, and has confirmed multiple times since. And even if Assad were to make reversible promises of peace (or a “change in strategic alignment”), why would anyone believe him?