John McCain says he won’t talk to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Barack Obama might talk to Syria, but he’s having nothing to do with Hezbollah and Hamas. I guess they know something that the Israeli government doesn’t.
Over the past couple weeks, it’s become increasingly clear that Israel is simultaneously, but separately, conducting talks with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
The Israel-Syria talks, involving two top aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are sponsored by Turkey. Haaretz, the Israeli daily, reported: “Two days of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria in Turkey ended Monday, Israeli and Turkish officials said, adding that the atmosphere was positive and the contacts would continue.” In India, where he arrived for a five-day visit, President Bashar Assad “said that India could play a ‘direct’ role in the ongoing talks between Syria and Israel.” Talks will resume next month, the Turkish foreign minister said, and according to the New York Times, “The Israeli news media have been rife with reports that the Israeli team will try to persuade the Syrians to have their leaders meet face to face in Paris in mid-July at the conference, organized by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, to establish a Mediterranean Union.” For Assad, the stumbling block for a face-to-face meeting is that he wants the United States to broker the deal, and the White House ain’t playing. Possibly for that reason, the French are insisting that a direct meeting isn’t likely.
Meanwhile, Israel is encouraging talks in Cairo sponsored by the Egyptian intelligence agency to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Reports Ynet:
The Hamas delegation, headed by the organization’s deputy politburo chief, Moussa Abu Marzouk, held several meetings with Egyptian intelligence minister, Gen. Omar Suleiman, over the past few days.
This following a similar visit by the head of Israel’s Defense Ministry Security-Diplomatic Bureau, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad.
Hamas’ prime minister says that he expects the talks to succeed. Though neither McCain nor Obama will endorse the Egyptian-sponsored talks, the Israeli national security cabinet has backed them. I guess it’s a good thing those militant, pro-Israeli Jewish voters in Florida can’t vote in Israel.
Meanwhile, it appears that a deal is close for a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah that could free the two Israeli soldiers captured in 2006, whose seizure sparked the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that summer. The two Israelis, wounded but presumably alive–although the deal could involve the soldiers’ remains, if dead–might be traded as early as Friday for captives held by Israel, though it might take longer. The deal is awaiting the approval of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
None of this means Middle East peace is breaking out. But perhaps the McCain and Obama campaigns ought to take note: even Hamas and Hezbollah are worth talking to.