Analysis: Assad now wants Golan – plus a slice of Sea of Galilee shore

In his interview in Dubai on June 2, president Bashar Assad raised his price for a peace deal with Israel, debkafile‘s political source note. The Golan, which Syria’s invading army lost to Israel in the 1967 war, is not enough; Assad is also demanding a strip of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which Damascus considers demilitarized territory held by Israel against international law.
The last round of peace talks eight years ago broke down over this very demand. The Syrian ruler told the Gulf newspaper al-Khaleej: “But if the question of water is intended for us to give up the 1967 borders that stretch to Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), then there will never be a compromise on the 1967 borders.”
The strip Assad referred to is crowded with the Israeli kibbutzim, Ha’on, Tel Katzir, Shear Hagolan and Massada, which in the 1950s and 1960s lived under constant Syrian shelling from the Golan plateau overhead. These attacks often blew up into major Israel-Syria clashes and aerial dogfights.
debkafile‘s sources comment that Assad published his expanded demands on the day Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Washington for talks with the US president and top officials. The message he was broadcasting from Dubai was addressed to George W. Bush’s successor in the White House in the hope that the next president opts for diplomatic talks with Tehran and Damascus. The Syrian ruler therefore made a point of mentioning that serious peace talks with Israel would not start before next year and Washington would need to take a hand in the process.
Jockeying for position ahead of these talks, Assad made it clear that he was also challenging Israel’s control of the Sea of Galilee, the main source of its national water supply. “As for water,” he said. “There are international rules that govern these matters and are usually referred to.”
Damascus has always claimed that the sources feeding the lake are Syrian and Lebanese and Israel therefore does not have exclusive ownership.

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