Assad’s Week of Triumph, Courtesy of Ehud Olmert



Iran's man in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad, has just had the best week of his career as dictator. Everywhere he cast his gaze, he was greeted by massive victories.

Most were courtesy of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his colleagues in Kadima, the Labor Party and Shas.

On the morning of May 19, it was already clear that the sun was shining on Damascus when Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon acknowledged that in direct contravention of the government's own binding decision, the government is conducting negotiations with Iran's Palestinian proxy, Hamas.

The day after Ramon's announcement, Defense Minister Ehud Barak went down to Egypt to conclude a cease-fire agreement with Hamas through the group's Arab sponsor — Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. The terms of the accord require Israel to stop fighting Hamas. Hamas has pledged to decrease the number of rockets, missiles and mortars it shoots at Sederot, Ashkelon and surrounding communities. During its bombing hiatus, Hamas will build its army, and bring in even more weapons and fighters from Iran through Egypt.

Since Israel has now accepted Hamas as a legitimate force, it will have no call for arguing against Fatah doing the same. Hamas will maintain its military control over Gaza, and then expand its control over Judea and Samaria.

Things got even better for Damascus on Wednesday. On that day, Syria regained effective control over Lebanon and was restored to its position of honor in the Arab world.

Syria's road to Beirut was paved by the Lebanese government's official surrender of power to Hezbollah. In the so-called "agreement," Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora ceded control over the Lebanese government to Hezbollah, which now has a Cabinet majority. Hezbollah has acted as Damascus's chief defender in Lebanon since the now defeated democracy movement forced Syrian troops out of the country in March 2005 after Damascus masterminded the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Just as the Lebanese government was signing its unconditional surrender to Hezbollah, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office released word that Israel is negotiating the surrender of the Golan Heights to Syria through Turkish mediators.

Members of Assad's ruling clique bragged that Israel's acceptance of Assad as a legitimate negotiating partner makes it impossible for the Sunni Arab states and America to boycott Damascus.

The argument for moving ahead with this idea in recent years has been that by offering the Golan Heights to Syria, Israel will pull Syria out of Iran's sphere of influence. Opponents of negotiations such as Mossad chief Meir Dagan have argued that such negotiations will have just the opposite effect.By negotiating with Syria while it is firmly entrenched in the Iranian axis, Israel has not moderated the regime. It has legitimized Syria's presence in the Iranian axis.

In Israel, news of Olmert's embrace of Syria was greeted with derision by the public. According to a Channel 2 poll conducted after Olmert's office announced its negotiations with Syria, 70 percent of Israelis oppose surrendering the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Some 58 percent believe that Olmert is only conducting negotiations to divert the public's attention away from the latest corruption probe being carried out against him.

It is deeply frustrating that Olmert — who led Israel to defeat in war in 2006 at the hands of Hezbollah; who has allowed southern Israel to become a free fire zone for Hamas; who is under five separate criminal investigations for financial corruption and influence-peddling; and who is conducting talks with Fatah toward the surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem — is now is pushing an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights to Syria.

All the more depressing is the fact that he's getting away with it!

Olmert's announcement of his talks with Syria, synchronized with the release of new details of his alleged criminal activities, made reporters snort. The opportunism was too blatant to ignore. And yet, the Israeli left defends him because he's doing what they want him to do.

Shas, the religious party that could bring down Olmert's coalition, isn't going anywhere either. Olmert makes sure of that by keeping the flow of patronage dollars to Shas institutions.

So Olmert and his associates remain in power, and all of Israel suffers. But at least Syria's happy.

Caroline Glick is a Jerusalem-based columnist.


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