Olmert and Assad perform an odd dance around the fire of peace. Both sides intermittently hint at their readiness to reach a peace deal and yet denounce media reports of back-channel talks. Both offer peace and beef up their border contingents. Both publicize their efforts at peace and refuse to open negotiations. Each accuses the other of torpedoing the peace talks. Wherever Olmert offers to negotiate, Assad refuses, and vice versa.

It’s easy to sign a peace deal with Syria: take a pen and sign the agreement. The two sides’ positions are clear: Syria demands the Golan Heights and Israel (Lieberman included) agrees to relinquish them. The demilitarization of the Golan Heights is a non-issue: the place has in fact been demilitarized for the last forty years.

Syria’s support for Hezbollah has nothing to do with the peace deal: Hezbollah has no designs on Israel. Hezbollah evicted Israel from Lebanon and rested, except for isolated border incidents, which always happen between hostile states. Hezbollah’s military build-up is purely defensive: its rockets pose no strategic threat to Israel; Hezbollah doesn’t expect to prevail against the IDF in any offensive.

Syria’s support for Hamas is very limited, and is dwarfed by the aid Hamas receives from Egypt (which is at peace with Israel) and Iran. Hamas’ largest donors are not Muslims, but Jews and Christians who give money to Palestinians—Hamas’ voters.

Israel and Syria don’t sign a peace deal for a simple reason: they don’t need it. Both sides would gain nothing from peace. Israel and Egypt, at peace for forty years, have not reduced their armies, established meaningful commerce, or developed popular goodwill toward one another. Egypt plays nice with Israel only because of the IDF—as does Syria.

Assad would love to show his nation that he got the Golan Heights back from Israel, but the concomitant peace with the Zionist enemy would cost Assad dearly. In a similar situation, Sadat had a very hard time selling peace with Israel to common Egyptians.

Nations celebrate victories, not peace deals.