Considering efforts to bring Syrians and Israelis to the negotiation table, we said on 17 September:
To strengthen Ramallah’s hand at the negotiation table and to give a regional dimension for the Israel-Palestine talks, the Obama Administration is bringing in another strategy: Israeli-Syrian talks. These would serve both as a back-up measure to prevent radicalism and as an implicit pressure on both the Palestinians and Israelis.
We then asked whether this wass a "waste of time", given both Damascus' ties with Tehran and the US intention to use Syrian-Israeli talks as a tool for success of the Israeli-Palestinian discussions. We left the door open for a regional settlement as long as Damascus can get deal beyond return of the Golan Heights to Syra.
Following US special envoy George Mitchell's visit to Damascus on 16 September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will see Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York on Monday. "A comprehensive peace has to include the Syria-Israel track. It’s absolutely essential that Syria be part of this process," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman told reporters.
Yet there is another factor in play. On Friday, Hamas and Fatah representatives held a reconciliation meeting in Damascus. At the end of the meeting, Mousa Abu Marzouq of Hamas read a joint statement and said that the discussion was held in a positive atmosphere.
Steps are being taken in Syria which hint that the Assad family can play for the leadership of a new region with Mobarak's Egypt following a peace deal with Israel. As Washington works hard, urging Israel to extend the freeze on settlements for a couple of months and the Palestinians not to leave if they cannot get an extension, the incentives for Damascus can give a boost to the peace talks, shifting the ground from "micro" factors to wider regional considerations.