The Israel-Syria negotiations - What went wrong?

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On 8 February 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria. The resumption of the talks aroused a wave of optimism for prospects of a breakthrough in the negotiations, even the possibility of reaching an Israeli-Syrian peace accord within a few months. However, no such breakthrough occurred. The peace talks ended shortly after they had begun, leaving Israeli-Syrian negotiations at an impasse. Moreover, following the Israel's unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in late May 2000, and the eruption of the Palestinian "Aqsa Intifada" in early October 2000, optimistic forecasts of an Israel-Syria peace agreement in the near future were quickly replaced by pessimistic warnings of a possible confrontation between the two countries What indeed happened between Syria and Israel and, of course, the United States? Why, against all expectations, did the Israeli-Syrian negotiations in early 2000 not yield the expected fruits - a peace accord between the two countries? These questions, which this article is trying to address, take on special significance against the background of the death of Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad on 10 June 2000, and the rise to power of his son, Bashshar. It is still too early to predict whether Bashshar's rise to power will lead to a breakthrough on the road to a peace agreement. In order to achieve such breakthrough Bashshar will need to prove his adherence to his father's legacy in order to gain legitimacy at home, but at the same time divorce himself from the problematic components of this legacy, which prevented his father from concluding a peace agreement with Israel. One must also remember that Bashshar will need an Israeli partner to make peace with, and the question is whether such a partner can be found, given the political turmoil in which it has found itself since mid-2000. All that remains is to wait and see what the new era in Syria under Bashshar will bring to Israel-Syrian negotiations?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-251
Number of pages27
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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