DATE=12/21/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=ISRAEL / MILITARY NUMBER=5-45075 BYLINE=MEREDITH BUEL DATELINE=TEL AVIV CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A new study says the balance of military power between Israel and Syria enables Israeli leaders to take calculated risks as they conduct negotiations on a peace treaty between the two nations. The study says Israel has an historic opportunity to make peace with its neighbors. Correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Tel Aviv. TEXT: An annual report on the balance of military power in the Middle East from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, says Israel has sufficient superiority in the region to agree to significant concessions to make peace with its neighbors. The chairman of the Jaffee Center, Professor Shai Feldman, says this year's study leads researchers to two major conclusions involving the recently renewed peace talks between Israel and Syria. // FELDMAN ACT // Essentially, Israel's overall strategic situation provides it with a window of opportunity to pursue the peace process. And the second, which is really a subsidiary to it, is that the specific balance of military forces between Israel and Syria allows the Israeli government to take calculated risks in conducting the peace negotiations with Syria. // END ACT // The report says Syria's military forces have considerably weakened in recent years in the air, on land, and at sea. The report concludes these weaknesses have resulted in a decline in Syria's ability to launch an attack on Israel and contributed to the Syrian government's decision to resume political negotiations. Professor Feldman of Tel Aviv University says the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union led to significant changes in the balance of military power in the Middle East. // FELDMAN ACT #2 // There is no replacement for the Soviet Union as an arms supplier in the terms that the Soviet Union supplied massive quantities of arms to Arab countries. And there is no substitute for the Soviet Union as a prime guarantor of Arab regimes to the same extent that the Soviet Union was able to guarantee the regime in Damascus. And therefore, the Syrians could know if they start a war and it goes badly the Soviets could intervene on their behalf and save the regime. The Soviet Union is no longer there and there has been no substitute for the Soviet role in the region. // END ACT // /// BEGIN OPT /// Mr. Feldman says there are still concerns about Iran and Iraq trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, but he says these efforts are not likely to affect the balance of military power over the next few years. /// FELDMAN ACT #3 // OPT ACT /// In the realm of ballistic missiles, in the realm of chemical weapons, in the realm of nuclear programs, these efforts have not developed as rapidly as people feared they would a few years ago. Therefore, one has to say particularly in terms of the ability to develop massive capabilities in ballistic missiles or in nuclear programs that the overall equation has not yet turned against Israel and the window is still open. // END ACT // END OPT // Mr. Feldman says the opportunity for Israel to make peace with its neighbors will only be open for a limited period of time. // FELDMAN ACT #4 // For now the region remains stable. There are no serious threats, no serious threats to Israel's survival and security and consequently the bottom line is that we have a window of opportunity there. The window of opportunity is not measured in weeks or months. It is probably measured in a few years. It is not going to remain indefinitely open and so it provides Israel with both an opportunity but also a sense of urgency to try to exploit that window as long as it remains open. // END ACT // Mr. Feldman warned that countries falling behind Israel could resort to other military responses such as purchasing surface-to-surface missiles, trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction, and supporting terrorism. But he says because of the current balance of power in the Middle East, Israel now has a chance to resolve peacefully the conflict with its Arab neighbors. (SIGNED) NEB/MB/GE/RAE 21-Dec-1999 11:16 AM EDT (21-Dec-1999 1616 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .