What if They Spoke to Each Other?

What does the National Security Council know about Syria's leader, Basher Assad, that others don't know?

What does the National Security Council know about Syria's leader, Basher Assad, that others don't know? Where does its decisiveness come from in determining that Assad's intentions to reach peace are serious? What does the American secretary of defense, Robert Gates, know when declaring that the diplomatic measures against Iran are progressing well? What did Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suddenly find in the Saudi initiative that makes her ready to adopt it as the new political horizon?

Indeed, no new or secret information reached these decision makers, no panicked telegram from Assad or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And the Saudi initiative has been around for five years. Thus, there is a creeping suspicion that the title "decision makers" is suddenly becoming filled with content. They are prepared to change reality instead of reacting to it, to push forward diplomacy instead of war.

But this is only a suspicion. There is a great temptation to raise an eyebrow or wink to indicate that "they can't pull the wool over our eyes" - especially after they tried to instill in the public the Pavlovian law that instructs Israel to quickly flex its military muscles every time a diplomatic rustle is heard on the Arab side. After all, Assad can only want war, Iran only wants to blow up the world, and the Arab initiative is aimed at placing the blame on Israel. This leads to the preordained consequences: regarding Syria - war in the summer; regarding Iran - bombing; regarding the Palestinians - more targeted killings, more tunnel explosions, and certainly no discourse with Hamas.

In all these cases, our enemies initiated the moves. In all these cases, the slogan was floated: "There is not only a military solution." But, immediately, more forces were sent to the battlefield. Another 35,000 soldiers were sent to Iraq, and additional naval forces were deployed against Iran. In Gaza, the IDF is already preparing for attack, and on the northern front it is "checking the deployment." The equation was "first we'll win and then we'll talk." Before moving to the alternative, we will fully explore the "there is no military solution." And this alternative, of course, has faded into the distance like the horizon.

Livni's visit to Cairo, the Arab League delegation due in Israel, the diplomatic effort vis-a-vis Iran and the reassessment of Syria's intentions are all liable to change this equation. But immediately the standard questions spring up: How will we respond to the Qassams? How will we respond to the Hezbollah threat and the concealed threat in Assad's words? What about Iran's nuclear capability? These questions also need to be replaced with new questions that sprout from the same initiative.

For example, how will Hezbollah respond if Israel enters into negotiations with Syria? How will Syria react if the U.S. conducts direct talks with Iran and reaches a tactical compromise? How will Iran react if Syria is no longer included in the axis of evil? And what will the gangs in Gaza say if a miracle occurs and Israel invites Ismail Haniyeh to talks and lifts the boycott on the Palestinian Authority?

The possible answers are that Hezbollah might not stop making threats, but it would lose its logistical support and no longer constitute a strategic threat. Syria would not cut its ties with Iran, but Iran would no longer be able to dictate events in Lebanon. Iran would not stop collecting nuclear technology, but direct talks with Washington, and perhaps an accord the talks might ultimately produce, would also affect the motivation to use this technology for attack.

The street gangs in Gaza would also continue to smuggle weapons, and the firing of Qassams would not cease, but the PA's realm of control would expand and the economic welfare of the Palestinian people would become a real political bargaining chip. Most importantly, the Arab initiative could be realized, turning these gangs into fringe forces that should be opposed for threatening the chance to establish a Palestinian state. This should be the new discourse of Israeli and American politics in the region if someone really plans to turn the military failures into opportunities and prevent the next war.