Itamar Rabinovich to Head Negotiations with Syria

One of Israel’s leading academic Arabists, Professor Itamar Rabinovich, will head its negotiating team in the peace talks with Syria.

Rabinovich’s appointment was announced by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. He takes over from Yosef Ben-Aharon, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s closest aide.

Rabinovich, 49, rector of Tel Aviv University, is a specialist in the modern history of the Middle East, with particular reference to Syria.

He is author of “The War for Lebanon: 1970-1985″ and “The Road Not Taken,” chronicles diplomatic efforts between Israel and the Arabs in the early years of the State.

Top government sources welcomed his appointment as “representing the changed thinking in Jerusalem on peacemaking.” These sources said he would introduce a “new tone” into the bilateral negotiations with Syria, which have failed to make tangible progress thus far.

Last week, official Israeli sources made a point of noting that the Syrians, together with other Arab leaders meeting in Damascus, had issued a statement that for the first time spelled out “peace agreements” as the goal of the peace process.

The Israeli response voiced the hope that this new Syrian position would receive tangible expression in the talks, which are now scheduled to reopen in Washington on Aug. 24.

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