Kerry's Middle East advisor wants to reward Syria

Martin Indyk served two stints as US Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton Administration.   He is one of the individuals that the Kerry campaign has identified as part of its Middle East advisory team, and many think he will return to a significant government job in the diplomatic arena, were Kerry elected. It is therefore of more than passing significance that Indyk last week argued that the Golan Heights belong to Syria, and Israel will not realize peace without surrendering it.

The Indyk statement received surprisingly little media attention.  The Kerry campaign has been struggling to maintain the traditionally large Jewish majority for Democratic candidates in Presidential elections this year, and the Indyk statement would certainly not be reassuring to the pro—Israel community, the segment of the Jewish voting population that is most likely to support President Bush in November, based on his very strong record of support for Israel. 

Then came the bombshell that the German newspaper Die Welt was reporting that Syria had sent a chemical weapons team to Darfur in the Sudan to test its chemical weapons capability. The 'tests' succeeded apparently in killing many black African victims, and incapacitated many others. The victims from this attack in Darfur, and all the others in recent months, are Muslims of course, but they are being killed because they are not Arabs.  It can be safely concluded that the Syrians and their Sudanese allies did not distribute nor receive informed consent forms before the 'tests' were conducted.

It is accepted wisdom in Israel, and in the US Defense Department, that Iraq transferred much of its chemical and biological weapons capability to Syria before the US invasion began in March, 2003. The presence of elite Republican Guard units on the border between Iraq and Syria as large convoys of trucks moved from Iraq to Syria at this time is strongly suggestive that the shipments were not merely a part of the huge oil for food scandal.  

The Kerry campaign has found it difficult to critique the Bush Administration on Israel. Strong pro—Israel Democrats, such as Joe Lieberman and Ed Koch, have applauded the President for standing firm for Israel, and helping to isolate Yasser Arafat.  The critique that has come out has been that the Bush Administration has failed to 'engage' to keep alive the 'peace process' between Israel and the Palestinians, and this has allowed the intifada to continue. The spokespersons for this rubbish include Madeleine Albright and James Rubin, among others.  The reality, of course, is that the Oslo peace process was a fraud and a failure, and that the Palestinian side never meant to conclude a deal with Israel that would end the conflict.  The Palestinians were happy to take control of any land from which the IDF withdrew, and any weapons they were provided by the Israeli government, (while smuggling in others from Egypt and Jordan) to prepare for the inevitable second  intifada which began in September, 2000.

Dennis Ross, in his exhaustive narrative of the failed peace efforts of the Clinton Administration, makes a determined effort not to place all the blame on the Palestinian side, but he can not hide the villain in the failed effort, Yasser Arafat. 

Martin Indyk was one of the strongest voices within the Clinton Middle East team for pressuring Israel to make broad concessions to the Palestinians. When Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1996, Clinton brought Indyk home to Washington to work in the State Department, fearing his inability to work with Netanyahu, a disease that also seems to have afflicted  Rubin, Albright, and to a large extent, Clinton himself. 

It has always been easy for American Presidents to work with left—of—center Israeli leaders, who promise to make peace with the Palestinians, and offer concessions to move a peace process along. It has been much more difficult for American Presidents to work with right—of—center Israelis governments, which are not so willing to trust in the good intentions of the Palestinians. This pattern has held for much of the last two decades for both Democratic and Republican Presidents. 

But George W. Bush has broken the pattern. Bush decided to work with and support Ariel Sharon in his effort to break the back of the Palestinians' vicious terror campaign.  That effort has largely succeeded. The construction of the security barrier, and the IDF strikes against terror group leaders have greatly weakened the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the slightly more secular (though no less deadly) al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and significantly reduced the terrorists' ability to strike at Israeli civilians. Seeing no partner on the Palestinian side, Sharon has chosen to begin a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza settlements that are difficult and costly to defend, and consolidate Israel's security position in the West Bank. 

For the peace processors, such as Indyk, this is unacceptable. Indyk has always behaved as if knows better than Israel what Israel needs to do to achieve peace.  Giving back the Golan to Syria is part of it. That Syria has just used chemical weapons on Muslims in the Sudan might seem a reasonable basis to reassess whether the high ground of the Golan should be given back to Syria at the moment.

Syria has allowed mujhadeen from all over the Arab world to travel into Iraq to kill American, coalition and Iraqi government forces.  Does Indyk think that this should be rewarded? As for the Palestinians, Indyk has called for a trusteeship for the Palestinian territories, with UN and American forces to stand between the two sides after Israeli IDF forces withdrew  . This did not work very well in Southern Lebanon, when Hizbollah would attack the IDF forces, and then retreat behind the UN's blue helmets.

Some Jewish Kerry supporters have argued that the Senator would be equally as strong for Israel as George Bush has been, but also get the peace process moving again.  If Martin Indyk is the agent of such strong support for Israel, and for a revived peace process, then  US—Israel relations are headed for  a rockier future in a hypothetical Kerry Administration.