In Israel, US envoy maps peace with Syria
Frederic C. Hof, author of a March report suggesting an environmental preserve and other initiatives in the disputed Golan Heights, is meeting with Israeli officials.
The arrival in Jerusalem of a US diplomat with a longstanding interest in bringing about Israeli-Syrian peace is fueling speculation that the Obama administration is trying to relaunch negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus.Skip to next paragraph
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Frederic C. Hof, a conflict resolution expert and senior adviser to US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, arrived in Israel Sunday. He will remain through Wednesday, and is meeting with a variety of Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior military officers, before continuing to Damascus for talks.
Yediot Aharonoth, Israel's largest circulation newspaper, reports that Mr. Hof is in the process of presenting the draft of a plan for Israeli-Syrian peace that would find solutions to the two countries' dispute over the Golan Heights, a territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed. While Israeli officials have declined to comment on whether such a plan is being floated, Mr. Hof's vision was outlined in part in March when he published a report, "Mapping Peace Between Syria and Israel," with the United States Institute for Peace in Washington. (Click here for the full report in pdf format.)
An American embassy official in Tel Aviv confirmed that Hof was here exploring peace concepts with various officials in the region.
The status of the Golan Heights is the main obstacle to Israeli-Syrian peace, which various efforts have failed to secure in recent years. In 2008, Israel and Syria conducted back-channel discussions facilitated by Turkey, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suspended the talks in protest over the January war in Gaza.
However, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who left office in late January, was optimistic that the talks would resume and eventually produce an accord.
"We started negotiations with Syria and... at the end of the day, we will be able to reach an agreement that will end the conflict between us and the Syrians," he said in a speech.
Hof envisions environmental preserve in Golan Heights