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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Israel: "Syria Not Ruling Out Receiving Alternative Territory Instead of Entire Golan"

Israel: "Syria Not Ruling Out Receiving Alternative Territory Instead of Entire Golan"

Uri Jablonka:

Ma'ariv in Hebrew

January 15, 2007 p 4

Israel can reach a peace agreement with Syria without withdrawing from all of the Golan Heights, as long as it compensates the Syrians with alternative land of equal area -- this, according to messages that Prof Uzi Arad, head of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center  Institute for Policy and Strategy, received from Syrian sources.

Arad heads a team of researchers that in recent years has been charting creative paths to peace formulas with Syria. Ahead of the Herzliya  Interdisciplinary Center Institute of Policy and Strategy's Seventh Herzliyya Conference, scheduled to begin this coming Sunday, Arad, along with another researcher at the institute, Rahel Makhtiger, has prepared a comprehensive document specifying the possible exchanges of territory with Syria. Arad asserts that a chance exists for resuming contacts with the Syrians soon, with all of the formulas discussed in the document defining a situation in which Syria would allow Israel to continue holding onto about 20% of the Golan Heights, areas where about two-thirds of Israeli residents live.  Israel would evacuate about 6,000 Israeli residents from their homes, and in exchange for all the rest remaining -- about 10,000 people -- it would hand over to the Syrians alternative areas at a one-to-one ratio.

Last night, Arad said, "We no longer need to adhere closely to the old territorial formulas. There is no longer room to assume that the price of peace with Syria is a complete withdrawal from the Golan. The Syrians well understand that there are things Israel is incapable of ceding."

Arad said further: "I have moves underway with the Syrians, and when I presented to certain people there the main points of the territorial exchange plan -- they were not dismissed out of hand. They were also not necessarily accepted as they are, but the sense is that they were not immediately ruled out. There is a point from which it is possible to begin talking with them.

An agreement with Syria, according to the format presented by the Interdisciplinary Center's experts, requires the involvement of additional countries. Since Israel's only border with Syria is the one on the Golan, the Syrians would have to receive the alternative areas from the Lebanese or from the Jordanians -- who would be compensated for that by Israel. In each of the alternative scenarios Israel remains on a longitudinal strip in the western Golan Heights, an area of 250 sq km, while leaving most of the residents in their homes. In the context of the Lebanese option, Lebanon would hand over territory sharing a common border with Syria, and in exchange would receive from Israel areas of corresponding size along Israel's northern border with it. The Jordanian option defines an identical situation, whereby in exchange for areas in the Arava -- south of the Dead Sea -- that it would receive from Israel, Jordan would transfer territory on its border with Syria.

According to Arad, "this Israeli proposal, if it is offered, would enable the Syrians to receive the full amount of territory in terms of square kilometers. They won't get anything better than that, and they know it." Arad noted that all of the formulae require the Syrians to end its support for Palestinian terrorism and for Hizballah.

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