For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
The Obama administration last week made a major diplomatic opening to Syria. It dispatched Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns to Damascus for talks, thereby elevating the level of diplomatic contact and further making good on a pledge to engage with countries that George W. Bush’s administration shunned.
Administration officials leaked to the media, on background, that the Burns visit was intended to “isolate Iran” by wooing Damascus away from Tehran and other allies, particularly Hezbollah and Hamas.
This strategy will not work. Indeed, it may be no strategy at all. Despite its eagerness to engage with Syria, the United States must avoid giving too much up until the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, makes verifiable and substantial concessions on key Washington demands, not least surrendering Syrian support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Otherwise, Assad may dictate the avenues, conditions and aims of the engagement process.
Why Syria, and why now? The Obama administration’s efforts to open a dialogue with Iran have been ineffective. To undermine Iran’s nuclear program, the administration must contemplate actions that will exacerbate relations with Tehran and might endanger the US withdrawal from Iraq and surge in Afghanistan. The administration has always regarded Arab-Israeli settlements as necessary to temper regional animosities. However, given its failure to restart Palestinian-Israeli talks, Washington believes the only alternative is to advance on the Syrian track.
Obama, as The New York Times has reported, also hopes to “benefit from a global perception” that he has “reached out to North Korea, Cuba and even Syria.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argues that the resumption of high-level contacts with Syria has proven the administration’s “willingness to engage.” But this begs the question: Which audience is Washington trying to impress? And how would these impressions actually further American interests in the Middle East?
Important actors in the region are unnerved by the fact that the administration appears incapable of hearing the most pressing concerns of its anxious allies.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"