The prospect of an accord between the Palestinians and Israel has prompted a large literature on the issues involved, the trade-offs involved, and the modalities of a settlement. In contrast, the possibility of an accord between Syria and Israel always appeared so unlikely, virtually no spade work has been done. But with President Hafiz al-Asad's decision of July 1991 to participate in direct negotiations with Israel, the time is nigh to consider what a settlement might look like.
Schiff, military editor of Ha'aretz, provides a brilliant start to the subject. His brief study gives the necessary background in a succinct but complete fashion, drawing three lessons from the past: the Syrian military has consistently out-performed other Arab forces on the battlefield; the Syrian-Israeli confrontation has steadily widened in terms of the forces involved and the issues at stake; and the two countries have successfully implemented a number of agreements, both formal and informal.
Turning to the future, Schiff sees Israel having two main priorities vis-à-vis Syria: guaranteeing water sources and keeping Syrian soldiers off the Golan Heights. Should Syria and Israel sign a treaty, Israel's "deterrence formula will change, relying less on the territorial component and more on mutually-agreed security arrangements." Schiff concludes with fourteen conditions that Syria must fulfill if Israel is sensibly to alter the status quo. Strategists in Damascus, Jerusalem, and Washington will be studying those conditions closely, and so too should anyone else wanting to understand the possibility of a Syrian-Israeli conciliation.