Restitution for Jewish Refugees: Much has been made of Palestinian demands for financial compensation for Arabs who had resided in pre-1948 Israel. But hardly a word has been uttered on behalf of the estimated 850,000 Jews who, due to well-founded fears of discrimination and death, fled Arab countries after the establishment of Israel. Addressing and resolving this most basic issue of justice in the context of a Syrian-Israeli treaty would be one more sign of receding hostilities.

*     *     *         The culmination of an Israeli-Syrian agreement would bring four main benefits to Israel, the U.S. and the Middle East:

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● Israel would finally achieve a principal Zionist goal of reaching peace accords with all its Arab neighbors. (For practical reasons, a peace treaty with Syria would lead to similarly improved relations with Lebanon.)

● Syrian behavioral transformation should result in a weaker Iran, which would lose a key ally in its support of terrorism. A weaker Iran is more likely to negotiate a face-saving end to its nuclear buildup.

● American influence on Syria’s leaders would grow dramatically.

● Perhaps most important, Syria’s rejection of terrorism would weaken international terror networks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hinted broadly that he will follow President Bush’s lead on the question of resuming peace talks with Syria. With the Syrians appearing to signal a willingness to negotiate, the time seems ripe to test Assad’s sincerity.

The diplomatic ball is in President Bush’s court. He should run with it.

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