The Syria-Israel Negotiations: Who Is Telling the Truth?

VOL. 29


No. 2
P. 65
Special Document
The Syria-Israel Negotiations: Who Is Telling the Truth?

On 8 December 1999, President Clinton announced that Syrian-Israeli negotiations were to resume "where they left off" and "on the basis of all previous negotiations between the United States and Syria -- I mean between Syria and Israel and with the United States" (see Doc. C). The president's statement did not, however, give any detail as to what the two sides had actually agreed to when the talks ended in March 1996, including Syria's contention that Prime Ministers Rabin and Peres had committed Israel to full withdrawal from the Golan to the 4 June 1967 frontier. It is for this reason that the following account of the negotiations, by Asad's biographer Patrick Seale, is so important.

Based on American and Syrian sources, Seale's article is the most extensive and comprehensive account of the Israeli "commitment" ever published. First delivered as a lecture at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, on 23 November 1999, it was published in three installments in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on 21,22, and 23 November and was immediately picked up in the Israeli press; Yedi'ot Aharonot published large extracts in its four-page spread on the report. It is noteworthy that neither Prime Minister Barak nor former prime minister Peres denied the veracity of Seale's account. Barak simply stated, "The Americans, the Syrians, and the Israelis are aware of what took place," while Peres limited himself to commenting, "I endorsed everything that Rabin committed himself to."

Patrick Seale, a British writer and Middle East expert, is credited with having a role in restarting the process following Prime Minister Barak's election, carrying a series of "messages" between Barak and Asad in June 1999.

The text was slightly amended and shortened with the approval of the author.