A letter from Alon Liel / Chairman of the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society

Dear Alex,

My name is Alon Liel. I am chairing these days the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society that I helped found exactly one year ago. I am an ex-Israeli diplomat and a university lecturer today, who strongly believes it is high time that Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and normalize their relations.

I am writing you because I’ve been following “Syria Comment” and “Creative Syria” over the past year, and was impressed by the level and quality of discussion reached by your readers and writers.  Your topics are interesting, important, and very relevant to Syria, as well as to the region as a whole.

It is precisely at these turbulent times in our region, when Arabs and Israelis are once more engaged in a renewed wave of violence, that I wish to turn to your readers.  While most people today may feel that the continued suffering of so many is only further evidence of an impasse that can only be resolved by force, there are some who still believe otherwise. Not all the opportunities have been explored, not all the suggestions have been seriously contemplated.

Seeing the devotion and sincerity of your readers, I would like to introduce to them some of the ideas that were brought forth at past and recent opportunities, and ask for their opinion. As we believe that Syria is one of the key players in our war-torn region (perhaps THE key player), it could be of great benefit to receive honest and constructive feedback from Syrian citizens about existing and potential initiatives.  I understand that there may be an innate reluctance to interact with Israelis, even online, but I strongly believe that the best way to influence our future is to engage one another in open discussion, and to try to bring about ideas and solutions that are long overdue.

I’m attaching an article written by me some months ago and published in Bitterlemons (a Palestinian-Israeli journal), which outlines some of the ideas that were brought forth at our Track II discussions.  This can serve as a starter for the discussions I’m hoping to engage your readers in.  I want to also extend a very warm invitation to anyone visiting your blog, to also visit our own website (www.is-peace.org/EN), and to participate in discussions there as well.  We have so much to learn from one another, and perhaps it is time we do so.

Article Link: http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/previous.php?opt=1&id=169#690

Alon Liel.

Comments (298)


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251. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

HP,
I know and appreciate your position. But that is not that position of over 50% of Palestinians that want a literal right of return to their villages. They will not accept anything else. You could force a solution on them but it will not stop them for putting together new Hamas like organizations.

I am not against what you propose in principal but I have heard enough from the other side to know that it will not be perceived as “justice” and that what you propose is not what they envision as the solution.

And here is the paradox, if the Palestinian state is a democracy it will not be able to control Hamas like factions that will be disillusioned with the agreement, and if it is a dictatorship, it will need an outside enemy and that will be Israel.

There will not be peace until there is some fundamental change in the Arab world that will take decades.

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January 29th, 2008, 8:41 pm

 

252. T said:

Shai,

I’m not angry. Just in a very big hurry and low on time. I am not a full-time diplo so I cant be on SC for hours. I have to cut to the chase- and not ramble on about red herring issues.

Mind Junk works. Look at this thread. Almost 250 postings and the real issue has not even been mentioned- the Proposal itself:

1. “Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.”

2, “Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.”

And the bottom line: US-Israel have veto power over everything:

3. “A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.

Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.”

Who monitors Israel to ensure they have changed their orientation? I reiterate my former contention. If Israel, you and the other Peace Parkers are honest, you will respect what your Arab neighbors have repeatedly begged you to consider. The Arab Peace Offer. And it could integrate some sort of Peace Park into its agreement. The Arab Peace Offer is an excellent one and comprehensive. The Iranian or Saudi offers give you everything you purport to want vis a vis security. (But we know security is not the core obstacle.)

I respectfully vote that Alex and Joshua also post the Arab Peace Offer on SC for discussion as well. Mr. Liel and the Israeli FM can give feedback. That would be great!

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January 29th, 2008, 8:55 pm

 

253. Shai said:

Dear T (I hope you’re not the famous “Mr. T” from the 80′s…),

I do not believe that a comprehensive peace is possible at the moment, given the situation within the Palestinian people. There is no one to talk to right now, as the PA is neither representative of the majority of Palestinians, nor able to enforce its agreements with Israel. But, if a comprehensive peace is not going to take place in the next 1-2 years, is that to stop us from considering and seeking peace with Syria? Is such a thing possible? I believe it is and, in fact, I believe it is the KEY to solving our conflict with the Palestinians. Israel doesn’t seek to isolate the Palestinians, and to broker separate peace agreements with other Arab nations, that’s just the reality of today. Perhaps if Arafat was still alive today, it could have been the other way around – peace first with Palestine, then with Syria.

If you accept that we should still seek peace between Israel and Syria, how do you see talks restarting? I understand very well the reluctance to accept any preconditions – that makes sense. I also understand the concerns of Syria that it should become isolated, unimportant, and a US-puppet in the region. These must not occur. So the formula must take into account Syria’s needs also within the region, not only vis-a-vis Europe and the U.S. So what CAN be put forth which will be acceptable to Syria, and at the same time speak to the concerns of the average Israel, such as were mentioned earlier by Alon?

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January 29th, 2008, 9:21 pm

 

254. Honest Patriot said:

AIG,

We don’t know the percentage of Palestinians who want the literal right of return. Those who do – and who won’t settle with a generous financial compensation and an offer to return to a new Palestinian state – are part of the rejectionist camp fueled by Hamas and Iran. Here Hamas and Iran do not (by any reasoned analysis) reflect the majority of the people living under their jurisdiction. People are people. They want a good life for themselves and their families. If it were not for the dire misery and hopelessness of their condition they would not be swayed by extremist positions. If a measure of relief and even comfort is provided for them and hope is created, I maintain that the intensity of the fanaticism and the insistence on literal return would have the wind taken out of them. There will always be fanatics – of one kind or another. Belonging to the Middle East implies the inevitable entanglement with its history of religious fanaticism. The postponement of the hope for a settlement to the 50+ years span or the “decades” you talk about simply amounts to advocating the failure of our generation to have the courage and vision to make things right and leaving a load of crap for our children to deal with. As hopeless and difficult as things may seem, I would not want to take the attitude of “Bah.. too difficult, let the kids and their kids deal with it!” That’s a copout. The cycle of proving that rejectionism doesn’t work has run its course in the Arab world. The majority are ready for a real compromise. They just need a courageous and willing partner. And it can’t be a weak partner. It’s got to be the AIGs and the APs who come forth with the full force of their skepticism.

The world has changed. The world is flat. Technology has changed our lives. The youth of the Arab world – if they are not disenfranchised and thrown into utter misery and despair – are aware and alert enough to understand how to frame the future. The time is now.

Even granting all your arguments – I don’t see how the status quo can hold until things change. The rate of population growth is exponential. And the coefficient in the exponent is a large number. I just don’t see it working.

Peace

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January 29th, 2008, 10:21 pm

 

255. T said:

Shai,
I see you are not serious about peace, and I’m busy. But Good will & Best of luck to you anyhow!

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January 29th, 2008, 10:34 pm

 

256. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

HP,

I would also not want to take the attitude of “Bah.. too difficult, let the kids and their kids deal with it!”

That is why I am working to better education in Israel and advance technology companies here. My children’s generation will be far richer than my generation and more technologically advanced. This is a clear trend in Israel.

I don’t see how population growth is an issue for Israel. So what if the number of Syrians and Iranians doubles or triples? How is that a threat to Israel? It is technology and economy that make a difference, not the size of the population. In fact, a large poor and frustrated population would weaken Syria and Iran.

I guess after the second intifada and what is happening in Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq, I am very skeptical. I don’t know. Give me a few more years, maybe I will regain some trust. It just looks to me that the Arab world is growing more radical and not less radical and not moving at all towards democracy.

The solution for the Arab youth by the way is not related to Israel. Peace with Israel will not change their situation fundamentally just as Israel’s peace with Egypt did not help Egyptian youth much (at all?). The real change needs to come from within the Arab world but I just don’t see a viable process.

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January 29th, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

257. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,

Of course T is right. You come and tell him how wrong Israel is and then put the onus on the Arabs to do something because your fellow countrymen are stupid or mean and just don’t understand.

Maybe you should reconsider your strategy and become less useful (to the rejectionists and enemies of Israel).

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January 29th, 2008, 10:50 pm

 

258. Honest Patriot said:

AIG,

I understand you arguments and good job on pushing technology and R&D forward. The issue I raise with population growth has to do primarily with the population growth at Israel’s border – of people who believe you stole their land. There will be more and more of them, and if they get more and more desperate, they will be led and brainwashed by the evil philosophy of suicide attacks. Sure Israel can develop coping measures but here this is just going to be an escalating game of measures and countermeasures. At the same time, however small the Arab minority within Israel is now, it will grow, well, faster than the non-Arab Israeli population. By the time your 50+ years or decades have passed, Israel will be more technologically advanced but no closer to real peaceful existence for its citizen. I may be wrong but that’s how I see it. You saw the power of the people in the first Intifada. More to come. You don’t have to trust anyone blindly. Like President Reagan used to say, quoting a Russian saying: Trust but Verify.

Anyway, I do understand your views and your points, and, having experienced as I was growing up life in the ME environment (in Lebanon with its plethora of conflicts and contradictions) I fully appreciate how one can develop quite pessimistic views of the potential for peace with the Palestinians. At the same time, there is a certain wisdom that comes with age and distance, and, importantly, with the exercise of empathy when one tries to put oneself in the shoes of anyone of many Palestinians and what they have to endure. Maybe my distance is clouding my ability to see clearly but I sure hope that’s not the case and that what I view as a real possibility for peace is seen by more and more of both sides and moves forward against all odds.

Be Well

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January 29th, 2008, 11:28 pm

 

259. Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

People like AIG, and many others like him, are only able to look at the glass through their eyes. They really cannot do so through their neighbors’ points of view. They believe their truth is the absolute truth, and cannot accept responsibility on their own. They are blind to the time-bomb that is the population increase on our borders (especially Egypt), not fearing the rise in extremism and fundamentalism, and its corresponding exponential threat to Israel’s security. If out of 60 million poor people you recruit 1000 young men and women ready to commit suicide, out of another 60 million, you might recruit a further 3000. And, as time passes, the kind of terrorist acts that could be committed are only getting more sophisticated, and more dangerous. These AIG’s are so sure that time is on their side, that they calmly type their words onto this forum, badmouthing certain people (liberals), fantasizing about democracies, and in general depicting themselves as irrelevant. They wonder how an Israeli can admit to certain faults and responsibility, yet ask the other side to help Israel. It sounds to them contradictory. But that is because they are also incapable of accepting responsibility, while realizing that they cannot, at the moment, do much to fix the damage they/we have caused. I recognize that Israel has, and continues to cause much damage, yet I don’t see the majority of Israelis agreeing to this right now. So what do I do – do I sit there like an AIG telling the other side to first change, become democratic, become nice and huggable, or do I ask the other side to market their strategic decision of making peace with Israel in a different way, in a way that might change public opinion here? We’ve mentioned the term CBM (confidence building measures) many times in this forum. Alex came up with an idea – of allowing Syrian Jews to come back to Syria, to see and visit the places they used to live in, or their families. I added to that idea bringing the Israeli media to cover such a historic visit. That’s an idea that could certainly assist in building confidence. That would certainly help convince a certain amount of Israelis that Syria is serious about peace. Is it enough? Probably not. We probably need something else. Perhaps Eli Cohen’s remains would be considered very substantial. Or, other ideas that we were hoping to bring up here in this forum.

But yes, unfortunately, I do find myself in a funny position – of admitting to doing wrong, yet asking the other side to help me “help myself”, or to help the majority of the Israeli public to change its views, its skepticism, its innate distrust. I wish I didn’t have to ask this of our neighbors, but if I thought we could make those changes on our own, here in Israel, I wouldn’t be spending the time on this forum. I really do have better things to do with my life as well, T. Incidentally, if I wasn’t serious about peace, why am here? I’m not an AIG, or an AK, who are experts at telling people how not-to-do something. I’m here to consider any idea that would bring us closer to peace. T, if you’re not able to hear ideas that are different from yours, why are YOU here? Are you sure YOU’RE serious about peace?

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January 30th, 2008, 1:10 pm

 

260. ghat Albird said:

Thats rich. That CBM thing. Followed by ….. allowing Syrian Jews to come back to Syria, to see and visit the places they used to live in….a historic visit [no less].

What would really be richer would be a more definitive CBM …. allowing Palestinian refugees to return to the places they used to live in before Israel was created by the UN in 1948.

If there is truly, and there must be, because too much destruction and suffering as well as untold deaths of thousands of innocent people needlessly a serious beginning to peace can only be had with justice. And justice can only come about if its fairly applied.

The time is possibly right for a blind Solomon.

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January 30th, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

261. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
What you don’t understand is that I do see through the Arab’s eyes. ghat Albird response is the typical one. We have to accept that what we view as “justice” is not what they view as “justice”. See my responses to HP.

I am not demanding anything from our neighbors. My honest analysis is that there will not be peace until the Arab countries become democracies. I am aware this may take decades or never. If they do not want to change or can’t change, they won’t.

You are beginning to understand how weird your position is. Let’s go to the next step. If you can’t convince your fellow countrymen, why do you think you can convince Arabs about your position? Your RESPONSIBILITY is to convince me and others like me in Israel that what you say makes sense. It is not the Arab’s responsibility to do it. It is yours. You are making very strange demands of them and avoiding your responsibility.

The flip side of that is that you are making a pragmatic argument. You are telling the Arabs that they are right but that your hands are tied and that for pragmatic reasons they have to make CBMs. Here, you yourself are doing exactly what you accused me of doing. You are not listening. The Arabs say time and time again that they are not moved by pragmatic arguments. They seek “justice”. They want “justice” before peace.

There is ONE way to get Asad to Jerusalem. It is to make it clear to him that if he doesn’t come, there will be regime change in Syria. That is not exactly a peace plan and I am against it, but frankly this is the logical conclusion of your initiative, if we really want to be pragmatic as you want to be.

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January 30th, 2008, 3:22 pm

 

262. ghat Albird said:

The Oracle AIG has spoken.

Until and unless he and his associates determine that the Arab nations have become “democratic” according to what he defines what democracy is they better forget about peace.

An added problem of the Arabs as AIG and his associates see it is that they are hard of hearing. They do not listen to what AIG demands from them as a minimum and therefore are not pragmatic.

The wanting of “justice” as a precondition to peace according to AIG is an emotional and childish effort and besides his kind of “justice” is copyrighted and lawful while the Arabs sense of “justice” well again its churlish as well as childish and besides they are not democratic according to AIG’s standards. Which in many instances mean not only being a citizen of Israel but also its arc-angel far away in the so-called New World.

Again it could be time for AIG and crew to define what they consider to be justice and then have the opposing team develop their version of justice and say let the International World Court refine the proposed essence of a just
peace.

That would be not only the most pragmatic way but the most honorable way to a universal sense of justice and eventually peace.

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January 30th, 2008, 4:06 pm

 

263. Alex said:

AIG,

That is not very accurate.

As I explained in my comments above, it is not that Syria does not want to be pragmatic, but for now there are too many negative environmental conditions and there is little trust between the Syrians on one side, and all the others who did indeed work, to the best of their abilities, to get rid of (or totally weaken) the current Syrian leadership … and believe it or not that includes Israel … if Israel won the 2006 war and destroyed Hizbollah, events would have led to total chaos in Lebanon that would have lead to chaos in Syria … so it is not accurate to say that Israel is preventing the United states from overthrowing the Syrian regime as you and others claim sometimes.

What is needed is enough CBMs from the United States, Israel, and the “moderate Arabs” towards the Syrians … to show them that they are finally ready to accept Syria’s regional role … this is the starting point.

It will take a visit by the next American president to the Middle East .. a visit to Tel Aviv, Cairo, Riyadh, and Damascus… back to respecting the balance of power in the Middle East, not rearranging it to the liking of the United States and Israel.

When in Damascus, the next American president will need to say in very clear words that he/she is committed to comprehensive peace in the Middle East and that Syria has an essential and positive role to play in the various conflicts in the countries neighboring Syria.

That would be something the Syrians can count on … not the other statements that change on a daily basis (like the ones coming from the French the past few months)

THEN … Syrians know that THEY have to do their share of CBM.

But it is not Syria’s turn … Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel, and France need to show that they are committed beyond any doubt to respecting the regional balance of power that we had in the 90′s … Syria ad Egypt will not be marginalized in favor of Saudi Arabia and Israel exclusively.

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January 30th, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

264. Shai said:

Alex,

That’s simple enough to understand. Isn’t it, AIG?

I do agree with you Alex, but I still ask myself, if it is indeed “our turn” (Israel, US, France, etc.), but nothing happens, then what? Are we all just so nice and sure that time’s working with us, not against us? Are we patient enough to always wait for the other side? After all, many Israelis, including AIG, are waiting for things to occur first on the Arab side. The Arab side, is waiting for us. We’re assuming, and hoping, that a new administration in Washington will look at Syria very differently. Chances are, that this will happen. But what if it doesn’t, or at least not for a year or two? How do we move forward still? Or, do we just give up for now, and wait? You see, that’s the one approach I’m having a difficulty accepting – the wait-and-see approach. If I thought there was a chance in the world to convince these AIG’s that it is WE that have to show CBM’s towards our neighbors, I would be willing to yell it all day and all night. But I honestly believe that they are incapable of changing. They’re not flexible, they’re closed minded. They KNOW what’s right for this region, for the Arabs, for Syria, for you, for me, they’re got it all figured out. But since they’re helpless in making things happen, all they’re left with is criticism, of others. They’re not trying to open things up to discussion, they don’t believe in new ideas, they don’t want a compromise between what they’d like to see, and what the other side is willing to give. I’m not capable of accepting that stance. To me, it is the biggest form of surrender possible or, worse, a patronizing approach to the whole conflict (WE know what’s best for YOU).

Alex, I understand you want to see “our side” creating CBM’s towards Syria. And I think that by knowing that Sharon was receiving constant updates from Alon following each meeting, the Syrian leadership understood that Israel is serious about peace, and is still searching for that “magic formula” that could change public opinion here. What other CBM’s does Syria need from Israel, before it would consider ideas such as the ones you mentioned earlier, which could have a very significant effect upon many Israelis?

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January 30th, 2008, 6:40 pm

 

265. Sami D said:

Mr Alon Liel

Just realized that I hadn’t commented on your proposals for Syrian-Israeli peace. It is easy to get drawn on this forum into the usual tsunami of side arguments, forgetting in the process the main post in question. Below is my answer to your main points. But first an answer to your question in the more recent post above:

Liel:

Please tell me Sami (and the other Syrian citizens corresponding with us) how do you feel about Ahmet Dinagad’s statements about the need to wipe Israel off the map?. Do you support it? Did you hear these statements in Syria? Do you feel he is a rational player? a positive regional player?
Do you really think all he is doing is really to help the Palestinians?

If Ahmadinejad’s statement was about wiping the country Israel and its citizens off the map, then it is indeed repulsive and un-acceptable. However, Iranian experts from professor Juan Cole to professor William Beeman, who are fluent in the language, agree that what Ahmadinejad really said was a “an end to the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem” not the extermination of Jews as implied by Western/Israeli media; somewhat like Reagan’s calling for the end of “the evil empire” didn’t mean a call to genocide or ethnic cleansing of its people. But the main answer to your argument was in my earlier response to you. Quoting myself: “Iran’s religious mullah, lead by Khamenei, who, unlike Ahmadinejad, have real power in Iran, have stated more than once that they agree with and will go with the Arabs when they sign a peace treaty with Israel based on the international consensus (1967 borders, refugee rights, etc)” and “Mullah influence inside Iran will wind down once the US and Israel leave them alone. A menacing posture, on the other hand, strengthen Islamist influence in Iran and everywhere.”

The Mullah rule in Iran is, further, the product of US-Israeli support of the dictatorial Shah before him (while surely crying for democracy and freedom), and toppling of Iranian democracy by the US and Britain. Does Ahmadinejad (or even Hamas) help the Palestinians? I don’t think so, not much at least; but Israel can certainly use him/Hamas as excuse to deepen its repression, starvation and robbing of the latter. Does, on the other hand, Israeli aggression and conquest help the Palestinians (or Israelis for that matter)?

But surely it is not Ahmadinejad’s fiery rhetoric that is making Israel continue its on-going conquest of Palestinian land, is it? (not least because it preceded Ahmadinejad and the Mullah’s rise to power). Israel can stop its massive violations of human rights now. Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, like the Arab countries’ lack of democracy, serves mainly as smokescreens by Israel’s (by contrast) “rational” leaders to carry on with their dispossession.

Furthermore, if we view the Mullah’s/Ahmadinejad’s public rhetoric as irrational (and often rightly so), how should we view Israel’s implicit and explicit threats to bomb Iran, backed (unlike Iran’s) with real ability to wipe Iran off the map? Is that rational? (Even the late Ze’ev Schiff complained about Israel’s repeated threats against Iran, way before Ahmadinejad’s rise, and how Israeli leaders would announce, every time Israel receives new fighter planes shipment from the US, that these planes “can reach Iran”).

I would pick fiery rhetoric over actual destruction and “wiping off the map”, any day, like the one Israel carried out in Palestine, Lebanon, the Golan, while speaking rational and gentle yearn-for-peace rhetoric. (Rabin bragged once during 1992 campaign against Shamir, that Labor can build settlements better than Likud, because Labor does that quietly, not in-your-face, like the Likud).

In short, what matters is not what people SAY (eg, Arab leaders’ tough and menacing rhetoric), but what those with real power DO (eg, Israel and its continued conquest, starvation, destruction, and threats). The Arab leaders’ big rhetoric is usually a reflection of their impotence, while Israel’s “peace” rhetoric hides behind it real power to conquer and force its will on others, as Israel has been doing, while crying peace (“tearful assassins”, Gideon Levy once so accurately described Israeli killers).

Response to your Israel-Syria peace proposals:

Liel:

Israel announces that sovereignty on the Golan Heights will be Syrian. Syria simultaneously announces that it is severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria and ceasing in any way to assist the insurgents in Iraq. Actual withdrawal from the Golan does not start before these changes in Syria’s policy are fully introduced. A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.

“Israel announces Syrian sovereignty on the Golan” has no real meaning beyond PR when Israel intends to keep its forces (until Syria obeys all Israel and US demands). Regarding “severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria”: Hezbullah and Hamas are the product of Israeli conquest, colonization and domination. A serious proposal for action would be on the part of Israel, to cease and begin ending its conquest and colonization forces of Palestinian lands, robbing the resources. In other words, first the cause must end, then the effect will follow: Israel must begin to end its colonization/occupation THEN Hamas and Hezbullah will have no reason existing.

Liel:

Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.

Translation: Once Syria has “changed its regional orientation” into accepting Israeli denial of Palestinian and Syrian rights, turning its back on any form of resistance to such, and accepting US hegemony (not meddle in US conquest of Iraq, end relations with Iran) then Syria will be “honored” for obedience, a-la Abbas, Mubarak and Abdualla, all with photo ops with Bush and Olmert, and endless “negotiations” in some fancy resorts — negotiations that will be “aimed at” Israeli withdrawal “within five to ten years”.

Starting to sound like Oslo “negotiations” where Israeli colonization accelerated under the “dove” Rabin, and the goal was to nurture an Arab leader who will accept Israeli dictates, and agree to use his army to police his people on behalf of the occupation, and in return earn crumbs and pats on the back. And when the people don’t like those “generous offers” by Israel, then the 5-10 years might become 20-30 years, coupled with bombardment and starvation, until the next round of “negotiations” and “process” begin, or is set back “on track” to borrow from the plethora of Orwellian vocabulary the accompanies US-Israeli “peace”.

Liel:

The sides agree that most of the Golan becomes a nature reserve. Israelis and Syrians are not allowed to reside there but are able to visit for tourist purposes and to work in those tourism, agriculture or industrial projects that both sides agree upon.

“BOTH sides agree” on the fate of the Golan?? From “Syrian sovereignty” a couple of paragraphs above to “BOTH sides” have to agree regarding the fate of the Golan? So even after Israel withdraws its army perhaps in “5-10 years”, Israel has to give its permission on what Syria wants to do with ITS Golan? Syria has to accept to turn the Golan to a nature reserve and deny Syrians, especially the ones Israel forced out, to live there and rebuild the villages Israel wiped out (while “yearning for peace” for sure) anymore? So now not even the right of return for Syrians into the Golan, to live with their families or other Syrians to live there. I have a better idea: How about “both sides agree” to end the forced Israeli Judaization of Palestine, the ejection of Bedouin (Israeli citizens) and killing of their crops, theft of water, conquest of the West Bank and denial of refugees’ right to return? It’s not good for Zionism, I understand, but it has the added advantage of being in line with international and humanitarian law.

Liel:

The entire area of the Golan Heights is fully demilitarized.

Yes, and the same for the Israeli side of the border, starting with nuclear inspection for both.

Liel:

Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.

Israel must “not [get] deprived” of the water it currently “takes” from the Syrian Golan Heights?? The picture of this “peace” proposal is slowly materializing: Not only does this further mock the “Syrian sovereignty” concept, it also says that Israel can continue to rob the area of its water for Israeli use, only now with Syrian “acquiescence”. Implied too is a low IQ for Syrians or who read this. (The quotation marks in my response, necessary to pry reality out of the Israeli propaganda manipulation, are a hint at what “peace” with Israel really entails.)

Liel:

Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and establish full diplomatic ties aiming at complete normalization of relations between the two countries and peoples.

Normalization with the Syrian people, like that with the Egyptian or Jordanian people, would ultimately come about only when Israel is honest and sincere about peace with the Palestinians, the core of the conflict, as well as peace with Syria. Your comments here say this is faaaar from happening and that a “peace”of the victors is really the goal.

Liel:

Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.

How about Israel “looking into the possibility” of standing on the side of international law and the right of people to return to their land? And why should “the international community” take responsibility for Palestinian refugees and not the people who forced them out, took over their lands, homes, shops, villages, bank accounts, crops, lives, everything, taking some responsibility?

Liel:

The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open. No less important is the fact that the Palestinian window looks tightly closed. The newly beautified Hamas government still does not show any sign of readiness to recognize the existence of the state of Israel.

Israel exists, and has the most powerful army in the region, nukes, and full backing of the world’s only superpower, regardless of whether (the almighty) Hamas recognizes that or doesn’t. In other words, Israel does not really care whether Hamas, largely locked, hunted and starved along with the civilians in the jar of Gaza, recognizes that or doesn’t. This “recognize the existence” issue is largely for propaganda consumption inside and outside Israel. But what does “recognize the existence of Israel” really means for Israel other than for the dispossessed natives to cry “uncle” — to accept and surrender to the loss, and continued denial of their land and basic human rights? Furthermore, Hamas’ leadership on more than one occasion said they are willing to agree to peace if Israel withdraws to the 1967 border (Israel ignored that, sine it doesn’t fit with Israeli propaganda and might embarrass Israel to stop its conquest with the pretext lost).

Most Palestinians have accepted that Israel exists on “only” 78% of Palestine, ie Israel inside the 1967 border. But Israel continues to slowly conquer beyond those borders, starving and imprisoning an entire population. When anyone complains, Israel points to “refusing to recognize the existence” issue; before that, in case one forgot, it was the “Hamas Charter”; and before that it was “Arafat must renounce terrorism”; and before that “We won’t negotiate with terrorists”; and before that “the Palestinians don’t exist”, etc, as Israel rejected many peace overtures and offers by the Arabs over the past 3 decades, all while the Israeli bulldozers and tanks were –are– busy at work pushing out the natives and taking their resources. For the sake of argument: Which borders for Israel is Hamas expected to recognize Israel within, the 1967 ones or the continually expanding ones, now hosing close to half a million Israelis? Is Israel first willing to recognize the 1967 borders, before asking the people it conquered to “recognize its existence”? It is the stronger party, Israel, that has to recognize the existence of weaker (or to just stop trying to erase that existence for now), not the other way around.

Almost the entire presentation of Mr. Liel requires that Syrians commentators accept the Israeli propaganda portrayal of the conflict, which necessitates a reversal of cause and effect: That Israel came in peace, but that the Palestinians and Arabs are the aggressors, perhaps out of “their anti-Semitism.” Not only that, but a continuation of Israeli theft of water resources is expected to be respected and abetted by Syria!! “The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open” indeed, and has been since the beginning, to bow to Israeli conquest and US hegemony. And Syria might just do that, an indication of weakness.

The Israeli window of opportunity for real peace, on the other hand, has also been open for quite some time. Israel has the opportunity to make real peace by stopping its conquest and quest to dominate the region, on behalf of itself and the United States. Another important thing on the path of peace is for you Mr Liel, as for genuine peace-loving Israelis to, at minimum, respect the intelligence of the adversary.

Exchanging Israeli control and domination for a different means to achieve the same Israeli control and domination, using the required Orwellian language (“nature reserve” and “not depriving” Israel of Syrian water, etc) is not only an affront to peace, but an insult to the intelligence of the Syrians people. You make no obligations on Israel to stop any of its aggression, even basic gestures like ending its denial of Palestinian rights. In other words, what you propose is occupation in sheep’s clothing.

To achieve real peace there has to be basic parameters that both sides will agree on: Namely, basic human rights and international law – nothing novel about that. Occupation and subjugation of another people must end, land must get returned to its owners, resource theft ceased, right of return for refugees granted. We can’t dismiss these basic parameters as “impractical” or “not pragmatic” just to allay Israeli people’s insecurity, real or imagined, while in the process watching Israeli state conquer and take other people’s land and resources – the original reason of its supposed insecurity.

P.S. Dear Shai, I regret that I don’t have the time to respond to what you wrote. There is an avalanche of issues/writers and one has to pick and choose to try to address the different points in the limited time available. Maybe in a future discussion.

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January 30th, 2008, 8:28 pm

 

266. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If the minimum I am willing to sell a car is for $1000 and the maximum you are willing to pay for the car is $800, then no matter how creative we are, we would not be able to make a deal.

With the Palestinians most Israelis have a fundamental disagreement with what a just solution will look like. Until this changes, all peace deals will be farces and will HURT the Palestinians. Imagine for example an agreement with Abbas that does not include the right of return. It will never work.

So ghat Albird, I make no request of any Arab and certainly do not ask them to be pragmatic. Also, I do not jusdge them for their positions. All I can do is determine what I think is best for Israel to do to advance its interests.

As for Syria Alex, I think there is no going back to the nineties. The US is too committed to the March 14 forces in Lebanon. It is highly unlikely that the US will sell them to Syria. In a year things will be worse for Syria, because of the tribunal, no matter what adminstration is in power. If it is McCain, things will be worse for Syria than with Bush. If it is a democrat things will not be better. Pelosi has already met Asad face to face and supports Bush’s policy versus Syria. In addition, since you believe that there must be a comprehensive peace for Syria to agree, what I say about the Palestinian issue is applicable also to peace with Syria.

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January 30th, 2008, 10:04 pm

 

267. Alex said:

AIG,

Don’t worry about Syria’s position next year. Syria will be just fine.

Waiting for Syria to be weaker next year has been an ongoing exercise since Syria opposed the Camp david accords in 1978.

I see you are still waiting with high hopes.

As for your first point about the difficulty in reaching a mutually acceptable “price” for finishing the deal.

The options are

1) You force us to lower our price.
2) We convince you that the $1000 asking price is worth it.
3) No deal.

I think there is a chance for option two. You prefer options 1 or 3.

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January 30th, 2008, 11:03 pm

 

268. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,

No, I prefer option 3 because otherwise one side is forcing the other and the deal is not “just” and will easily be disowned.

You mean the Syrian regime is just fine. Yes, that is true. But the statistics show that Syrians are not doing well. And yes, one should always have hope that the Syrians will replace their oppressive regime to one that allows them to achieve their potential and from Israel’s point of view allows a peaceful middle east. Asad has made many mistakes over the last few years and he is not playing his card well regarding the tribunal. Dictatorships fall with a crash and it is hard to predict when they fall. But the odds are that Bashar will not die in his bed like Hafez.

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January 30th, 2008, 11:18 pm

 

269. Alex said:

Shai said:

“Alex, I understand you want to see “our side” creating CBM’s towards Syria. And I think that by knowing that Sharon was receiving constant updates from Alon following each meeting, the Syrian leadership understood that Israel is serious about peace, and is still searching for that “magic formula” that could change public opinion here. What other CBM’s does Syria need from Israel, before it would consider ideas such as the ones you mentioned earlier, which could have a very significant effect upon many Israelis?”

Shai,

I will try in every opportunity to write about my suggested CBM (festival celebrating Syria’s Jews). And I really hope Syria goes for it regardless of what Israel does. I don’t see it as part of a negotiation process. It would be a wonderful thing to see them back in Damascus and Aleppo … Syrians love to brag about how their country respects and protects all religions … this is not something Israel needs to reciprocate… they still call themselves “Syrian” jews.

But on the other hand … some work needs to be done to convince some milder cases of AIG that the $1000 asking price (Syria’s) is reasonable. For that I will repeat what I said two years ago (and many laughed at me):

You can’t have peace as long as most Israelis perceive Syria as a weak country … about to get even weaker next year.

Not to mention the “evil Syria” perception… who wants to reward an evil and weak adversary?

This is not a CBM .. this is part of a solid foundation for a negotiated agreement between two equals. Israel is “a democracy” (for Jews at least) … so it all depends on public approval.

The Israeli public forgot that Syria is perfectly sticking to all international agreements … in the 90′s they heard it from Prime minister Rabin. Today, all they hear is “Syria is supporting Hamas”.

So the starting point of a process that needs to take few months (in my opinion) is to undo the effects of the extensive media campaign that targeted Syria the past three years.

otherwise, as AIG said … $1000 is too much for Syria.

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January 31st, 2008, 1:07 am

 

270. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
You forgot that Syria is also funding and equipping Hizballah and that is a close ally of Iran. These are things Israelis do not like also.

The media reflect the facts, they do not create them, except in dictatorships of course. Syria looks bad to Israelis because of what it is, not because how it is portrayed.

The Syrian panic about the tribunal and its isolation in the Arab world are clear indicators that Syria is in trouble. Also the inability of Syria to do anything after the Sep attack is another strong indication. Syria is weak because it cannot build and be constructive, it can only destabilize its neighbors through destructive activities and by supporting terror organizations. Such a regime should never be rewarded.

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January 31st, 2008, 2:37 am

 

271. norman said:

Can sombody tell me , What is CMB , and Alex , What are you selling for 1000.00$,

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January 31st, 2008, 3:27 am

 

272. Alex said:

Norman,

CBMs = “confidence building measures” : )

AIG,

As I said … Keep dreaming.

And as I said (part II): “some work needs to be done to convince some milder cases of AIG that the $1000 asking price (Syria’s) is reasonable.”

You, and another 20 to 30% of Israelis (or New Jersey Likudniks in your case) are not easy to convince through logic.

So let’s see … you want us to devaluate Syria’s “price” because Israeli planes successfully destroyed a building by the Euphrates, but we can not apply the same logic to Israel which lost the 2006 month-long war against a few thousand Lebanese militiamen?

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January 31st, 2008, 4:41 am

 

273. Shai said:

Alex,

See my comment to AIG in the forum on the Lebanese singer Fayrouz. It sums up what I think he’s all about.

You’re definitely right about the damage that was done through the media to Syria’s image. Incidentally, funny that characters like these AIG’s should suddenly support Israeli media with “… the media reflects the facts, they do not create them…” They’ve been anti-media for eons here in Israel, claiming the media is heavily biased towards the Left. I guess this is what you call “selective hearing”?

I couldn’t agree with you more about a need to depict Syria as a strong nation, and one which very much influences our region. We must engage Syria as an EQUAL partner, not as an inferior one. We might have better planes, and tanks, and nukes, and whatnot, but we still cannot and will not have peace in this region without Syria’s participation. Syria is very much capable of making this come true, and also of making sure that it won’t.

As a general note, and this perhaps is the key to all of our problems in the region, I believe that we must learn to once again respect one another. By respect I don’t mean the kind of respect one general has towards his adversary on the battlefield. That kind of respect leads the sides to fear each other. I mean the kind of respect human beings have towards one another, in accepting the most basic rights we all deserve. In respecting that we also have the right to see things differently. In respecting each other’s right to live not only in peace, but also in dignity. The Palestinians have a right not only to their own nation, but also to feel respected amongst the nations of the region, and of the world. Same goes for Israelis. We want to be respected (not feared) in this region. To know that we mustn’t be ashamed of being either Jews, or Zionists who wanted a land for the Jews. We must find the way to put aside our miserable history, and focus on building a future comprising of peace and mutual respect. It all starts and ends with respect.

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January 31st, 2008, 7:44 am

 

274. norman said:

Does anybody have any idea how this will impact Syria?.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-barak_greenberg_thursjan31,0,6258470.story

chicagotribune.com
World ISRAEL’S POLITICAL FUTURE
Israel’s Barak back in pivotal role
His next move could be decisive for the governing coalition — and efforts toward a peace deal in ’08
By Joel Greenberg

TRIBUNE CORRESPONDENT

January 31, 2008

JERUSALEM

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister whose push for Mideast peace failed eight years ago, is waiting in the wings, the fate of the Israeli government in his hands.

The burly defense minister and Labor Party leader is in a pivotal position after Wednesday’s release of an official report harshly critical of the performance of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government during Israel’s war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Barak, 65, a decorated former army general who succeeded the discredited wartime defense minister last June, has been positioning himself for a bid to return to the prime minister’s office, which he occupied in 2000 when peace talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat broke down and were followed by a violent Palestinian uprising.

His next move after Wednesday’s report — possibly pulling out of the government, thereby toppling it, or calling for Olmert’s resignation — could be decisive for Israel’s governing coalition and President Bush’s last-ditch attempt to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact by the end of this year.

While Olmert’s allies argued that the report was not as damning as expected, Barak has to decide whether to make good on a promise to seek Olmert’s replacement or new elections once the Lebanon report is issued.

A moral dilemma

Barak had no immediate comment on the report Wednesday; his aides said he was studying it. Eitan Cabel, a Barak ally and the Labor Party whip in parliament, said Barak had to decide whether to make Olmert personally accountable for his conduct of the war.

“Barak’s dilemma is first of all a moral one: He has a chance to set things right in the eyes of the public,” Cabel said. “There cannot be a situation where there is no responsibility and no one sets a personal example. My sense is that at the end of 2008 there will be elections.”

A former commando and army chief of staff, Barak lost popularity after his failed talks with Arafat and the outbreak of the uprising. Some Israelis accused him of trying to give away too much, while others said he was too unyielding.

After losing the 2001 elections to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Barak went into business for several years, making handsome profits, before returning to politics and regaining the leadership of the Labor Party last year.

Now Barak is poised to shake up the Israeli political map, or, if he chooses, he could grant Olmert a grace period to pursue the revived peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But even as Olmert’s political future hangs in the balance, recent events in the Gaza Strip have raised questions about Barak’s qualifications for leadership.

A Stanford-trained systems analyst, Barak has a reputation for methodical thinking, and is said to like taking apart and repairing clocks. But critics accuse him of serious miscalculation in his policies toward Gaza, where Hamas militants last week blasted open the border with Egypt, undermining an Israeli blockade that had all but stopped the supply of food, fuel and medicine.

Days earlier, Barak had vowed to apply “pressure and more pressure” on Gaza, tightening the blockade with the aim of pressing Hamas to halt rocket attacks on Israel. But the policy backfired and the border was breached, creating new security headaches for Israel and giving Hamas a substantial boost.

‘Pressure cooker’

“Whoever thought that you could put all the people in Gaza in a pressure cooker and they would sing the tune we dictate to them, thought wrongly,” Efraim Halevy, a former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, told Israel Radio.

Matti Steinberg, an expert on Palestinian affairs who served as an adviser to two chiefs of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, said of the blockade policy: “You have no deterrence if you drive people to the point where they have nothing to lose.”

Barak’s acquaintances say he is not one to admit failure easily. After his push for an agreement with Arafat failed at Camp David, he cast the blame on the Palestinian side, saying Arafat was not ready to make a deal.

A few days after last week’s border breach in Gaza, Barak declared that he was sticking to his blockade policy. “The crossings on our side will remain closed,” he said, “except for the transfer of humanitarian items.”

A lackluster tenure

Barak’s seven-month tenure as defense minister has been lackluster, aside from a mysterious Israeli bombing raid in Syria in September that he has said nothing about. The raid, according to some accounts, was on a site that Israel believed housed a facility linked to a nascent Syrian nuclear program.

After the raid, Israel’s military intelligence chief said that Israel’s deterrence, tarnished by the inconclusive war in Lebanon, had been restored. But ordinary Israelis have been more preoccupied with the rocket barrages from Gaza, which have traumatized residents in the border town of Sderot.

“Barak came to the Defense Ministry with the idea that Israel needs him, hoping to renew his public legitimacy,” said Ofer Shelah, a political commentator and journalist. “But he is not gaining prestige as defense minister. … He needed to create a success in Gaza, so he was dragged into desperate measures without thinking them through.”

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

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January 31st, 2008, 2:42 pm

 

275. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
You can determine whatever price you like given what you understand the situation is. When people differ on their evaluation of what the future will bring the solution is usually to wait for the future. And that is exactly what I am advocating.

The fact that Israel was not at its best in 2006 highlights even more the weakness of Syria. Knowing that Israel was less than brilliant, Syria was still too afraid to retaliate against the Israeli attack in September. What was Asad afraid of? I guess it shows what Asad really thinks about Israel’s strength and Hizballah’s “divine” victory.

If you are so sure about Syria growing stronger why are you so concerned about a peace deal with Israel? Let’s all wait patiently.

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January 31st, 2008, 3:00 pm

 

276. Alex said:

I agree AIG, we will need to wait. I just think the waiting will last a year to two max. Then there will be an attempt to settle the Syrian Israeli conflict .. it might succeed, it might not.

Syria will get stronger politically, not militarily.

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January 31st, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

277. Alex said:

Dear Alon,

I think the simplest way to understand Syria’s position is to realize that it really does not change.

When the Syrians feel stronger, they do not start adding more extravagant demands. When they get weaker, the Syrians do not “compromise”

They just wait.

Even in the early days of 1973′s war when the Syrian army was advancing in the Golan, Hafez Assad was going to stick to recovering the Golan Heights, the full Golan Heights and nothing more. He knew what “the international community” was going to tolerate and what they would never tolerate (entering Israel).

Similarly today, even if Palestinians in Damascus call for a Palestine “from the river to the sea”, Damascus is sticking to the classic UN resolutions 242 and 338… nothing more and nothing less… I think the Arab peace plan (ignored by Israel so far) is the most universally accepted, reasonable, and comprehensive compromise.

What parts of the Arab plan do you feel uncomfortable with?

Peace Park:

Assuming Damascus is happy with the Peace Park arrangement in the Golan. Israelis will be allowed to enter the Golan without a Visa and they will have all the privileges they need in the Golan.

Then that means one of two things

1) Israelis will be allowed to go all the way to Damascus (or Deir Ezzore) without a visa.

2) There will be a Syrian / Golan border! … The Golan will not be part of Syria .. the border is still to the east of the Golan.

If option one is the case, then will there be reciprocity? … will Syrian citizens be allowed to enter Israel without a visa? … free trade between the two countries? Israelis who enter the Golan (and Syria) can bring goods to sell in Syria duty free perhaps?

If you want to see how Syrians see the Peace Park idea, here is the discussion from Rime Allaf’s blog. She is the daughter of the late Mouaffak Allaf. There are 114 comments in that post. Most commentators there are not “baathist” at all.

Iran:

I agree with Sami’s analysis in that part. Iran is not the threat that Ahmadinejad is trying hard to build through words.

When Israel wanted to Attack Syria in Deir Ezzore, its leaders sent messages to the Syrians to reassure them that there will be no Israeli attack. If Iran was to really attack Israel, it would be stupid to tell the entire world about it every week for a couple of years, like Ahmadinejad has been consistently implying.

There is no increased Iranian threat. But there is Iranian “disrespect” to Israel and the current American administration… and there are many negative statements towards Israel and towards Zionism.

This was an expected reaction to the “axis of evil” language in Washington.

I believe they will both disappear next year… no need for Syria to deplore Ahmadinejad’s statements, and no need for Israel to deplore Bush’s statements.

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January 31st, 2008, 4:36 pm

 

278. Shai said:

Norman,

You needn’t worry too much about Barak right now. The last thing he’s going to do is push for new elections – at least not now. His popularity is extremely low, he’s been conducting his own polls, and knows he’s got zero chance at becoming Prime Minister if elections were held tomorrow morning. He’s already started sowing seeds of “responsibility” by suggesting the government should not be dismantled now. He may, at best, pressure the ruling party, Kadima, to consider replacing Olmert with someone else (Tzipi Livni? our young and fairly inexperienced foreign-minister). That could actually be quite good for Barak, as he will remain in a very strong position, and will be able to influence things much more with a new, weaker Prime Minister. If he does go for early elections (as he basically promised to do should Olmert not resign, but that was many months ago which, in Israeli politics, is like 1000 years ago), he’ll be risking not only losing out to Bibi Netanyahu, but perhaps not even being a part of the new government. He’ll become a “no-one” in a matter of months, and knowing what he thinks of himself, I doubt he’ll risk that…

If, however, Tzipi Livni does somehow, by some miracle, become Prime Minister, I would certainly not rule out renewed talks with Syria. She’s far more pragmatic than Olmert, isn’t tainted yet with failures like Barak or Netanyahu, and can actually try where others are afraid today. If she’s smart, she’ll put a halt to the current talks with Abu Mazen, and focus her energies where there’s a more realistic chance for peace – Syria. I imagine the next few months will tell whether Olmert is staying in power, or not. If there’s enough public pressure for him to take responsibility for the failed war in Lebanon, and step down, he might have no choice.

Alex,

I hope you’re right, though I fear that time is not on our side. There’s tremendous pressure building up here, especially with everything going on in Gaza, and the continued shelling of Sderot. A kindergarten has already been hit and, thank-god, no one was killed. If just one child dies in future shelling (which is a daily thing), very little could stop the already weak government from ordering a large-scale operation into Gaza. Then, we’ll be right back in summer 2006, except much tougher. And, if we end up killing a few too many Palestinian civilians (which quite often happens when we get involved in these operations), who’s to say Hezbollah won’t get involved again? And when Israel starts fighting on multiple fronts, we’ll be at war, not settling the Syrian-Israeli conflict (not peacefully, at least)…

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January 31st, 2008, 4:57 pm

 

279. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Really? Syria’s position does not change?
In 1967 Syria was for war. After the war it was against negotiations, the famous meeting of the Arabs in Khartoum:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khartoum_Resolution
After 73 Syria changed its mind again and gave up taking the Golan by force. It also changed its strategy and made the Golan border a very quiet one.
The Syrians wanted to stay in Lebanon but changed their mind and left because of international pressure.
The Syrians change their mind when you apply pressure to them. That is what history teaches. The Syrians react opportunistically to the prevailing international conditions and change their mind often.

In 73 the Syrians stopped because thier logistics lines were getting too long and they were leaving the protection of the SAMs. It was not because they had taken the Golan and were happy with what they had.

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January 31st, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

280. Alex said:

AIG,

Syria in 1948 was not the same Syria in 73, and not the same Syria in 67 when Nasser was “the decider” in the Arab world.

Syria in 1973 did not intend to go beyond the Golan Heights. You can analyze as you wish, you can google and find supporting New Jersey Likudnik analysis online. But Assad was not a dreamer… SAM coverage or not, he did not intend to throw the Jews in the sea.

Read Kissinger.

The Syrians “changed” in 1991 when they decided that the only way they can recover the Golan was through peaceful negotiations. That was a limitation of available options (no war option). But their goals did not change in any dramatic way since Assad came to power in 1970.

Any apparent changes were tactical negotiation tools. Long term (the past few decades) … no real change… What Hafez Assad wanted from Kissinger in 1975 is the same more or less that Bashar wants today.

As for leaving Lebanon … for your information, their army was already leaving Lebanon gradually … the number was 60,000 troops at its peak, when the Syrians were “forced” to leave .. they had less than 15,000 soldiers.

If they were not forced to eave, I think by 2010 they were going to be out anyway… they were removing about 4000 troops per year the last few years.

But in both cases they did not change the basics: They are not allowing Lebanon to be ruled against Syria… Syrian army in Lebanon or not.

And one last thing … they never annexed Lebanon when they had the 60,000 troops and everyone in Lebanon was under their control and President Bush Sr. was friendly to them… unlike Israel which annexed the Golan, and Saddam who annexed Kuwait.

They don’t change their strategic objectives … they do change tactics… even the United States changes tactics under pressure.

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January 31st, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

281. norman said:

Shai,

That is an interesting analysis.

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January 31st, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

282. Shai said:

Here’s a question to George Ajjan,

There is a chance that the Republicans will win the next US elections (small perhaps, but still a chance). If McCain wins, what do you think are the chances he’ll do a complete 180 with regards to Syria? If the Democrats win, can Hillary heal some of those wounds? I know Obama plans to, but I guess having Bill Clinton be the “First Husband” probably suggests that she will get close to Syria again… right? As a Syrian-American, do you also prefer to wait until 2009, or should Israel and Syria try to come up with a formula during the current administration that would work for their “puppet-master”, George W.?

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January 31st, 2008, 7:41 pm

 

283. SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Israeli-Syrian Peace: From Dialogue… to Details & Diplomacy said:

[...] Thanks to all of the excellent participants on Syria Comment for generating a stimulating debate about the prospects and shape of a future Israeli-Syrian peace deal. [...]

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January 31st, 2008, 8:10 pm

 

284. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

[I said "read Kissinger"]

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January 31st, 2008, 8:56 pm

 

285. norman said:

Shai,

Syria and Israel should negotiate a deal for the Mideast between Israel on one side and Syria , Hamas ( Palestine ), Hezbollah ( Lebanon )and Iran on the other side now and ASAP and then present it to the world , It should not be step after step but bold with a full meeting of the parties to sign , probably in Jerusalem .and immediate implementation , no more waiting for the US or any body else ,They have no interest in peace between the Arabs and the Hebrews.

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February 1st, 2008, 4:27 am

 

286. Shai said:

Norman,

Interesting idea I must say. But I have a feeling that Iran will not be interested. Syria may, but would Lebanon agree to have Hezbollah represent it and Palestine have Hamas in such talks? I also don’t see Israel agreeing to anyone except Syria, Lebanon (not Hezbollah), and Palestine (via Fatah).

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February 1st, 2008, 11:35 am

 

287. norman said:

Shai ,
The weak ( Lebanese Gov, Fatah Palestinian authority ) will sign on for the deal when the strong and the ones caring the banner of deffending the Palestinians and the Arab interest sign on ,as for Iran , Syria will convince Iran after a full deal is reached to sign on for the deal to be a go, That is the only way i see for Israel to live in peace and prosperity.

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February 1st, 2008, 2:30 pm

 

288. Shai said:

Norman,

While I do agree that the only way Israel will live in peace in the region (and the rest of the nations around her as well), is for Iran to also be in the equation. I just don’t see Iranian and Israeli leaders meeting anytime soon to discuss anything… I do, however, see Syrian and Israeli leaders meeting, and in fact signing a peace treaty. Once the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finished, with the creation of Palestine on most of the West Bank, Gaza, and E. Jerusalem, only then do I see the possibility for Iran to start looking at options. The Syrian-Israeli track, however, is not dependent on the Palestinian progress. At least from what we understand.

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February 1st, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

289. norman said:

Shai,
Israel needs to make peace with all of them together .The every body will declare victory.

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February 1st, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

290. Baruch Shalev said:

Dear Mr. SamiD -I reffer with deep respect to some of the comments you made to Mr. Alon Liel.I am not here to argue, I am seeking deeper understanding of your points,some very well structured points,and I did receive insights from a number of your comments.I did pay atention to you coment about cause and effect and the necessity to go beyond.To target the root causes. How about going one step even farther, and understanding the root causes beyond the arguing, and adress issues from a joint insight- in a pragmatic way. Is this possible in yout understanding ? Since the interconectedness between us people in this region, (and I am a genuine Israeli ) is much more than the political dimension. The issue of the water,for instance, it is not only a political issue with aspects of control or justice, if we do not seek the good of all,no one can survive or bee hapy in a region. Win-win situation is a realistic expectation.To mention another point that you reffered to -the same goes about achieving peace with several neighbouring countries,Sirya and the Palestinians. In order to have real peace, it is needed to work for it actively, like a gardener watering and weeding, it is not sufice to have peace agreements.Therfore, it is not an issue of who should do what first,who is to be blamed most,as we are in this suffering together as well as in the benefits of coexistence,mutual respect and peace. The much needed transformation in thinking is necessary,so I am seeking it first of all as a chalenge for myself ,which demands constant reexamination of the changing realities. Glad that this place enables ud to do this.

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February 13th, 2008, 11:13 pm

 

291. Baruch Shalev said:

Mr Yaman
Your comments were beneficial to my better grasping the Syrian point of view. If I understand you corectly, you see peace initiatives as an atempt to interfere in the independence of Sirya ?
This certainly is a very sensitive issue and I do need a better understanding of the current situation.
Please continue to share your insight, I am very interested in your original way of thinking – and to better understand the needs of Sirya. Please continue the tread of your toughts,this provides genuine material for better unerstanding. Without understanding -there is no hope.And hope ther is, even in difficult and stressfull times.

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February 13th, 2008, 11:49 pm

 

292. Sami D said:

Dear Mr Shalev,

Thanks for your comments. They are well taken, and as with Shai above, your sincerity is much appreciated – if not essential to reach a resolution.

Although I agree with the spirit of what you wrote, there are some parts that are either vague or too general. Everybody wants peace; the question is on what/who’s terms. When Israel would like to have peace AND simultaneously increases its control of resources/lands/ borders/air space/policies of its neighbors, then there’s going to be a problem.

“Mutual respect and peace” sounds perfect, except that if we don’t truly address the reason these are lacking then there won’t be a true, honest and long lasting resolution. If we don’t talk about causes and effects, we won’t be able to identify and focus on, and try to stop the cause – where the problem lie— hence making a remedy elusive.

Every grievance that the Palestinians/Arabs have against Israel falls in the “cause” category. Israel is asked to stop taking the West Bank water, to stop taking more and more land, to stop building on occupied territories, to stop humiliating and harassing people at checkpoints, to stop demolishing homes, to stop denial of equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens. On the other hand, every grievance Israel has against the Arabs/Palestinians fall under the “effects” category: Syria must close its Hamas office, Hamas must stop firing rockets, Hezbollah must stop katiousha rockets – all are responses to Israeli conquests and rejection of offers of peace.

When you say that “it is not an issue of who should do what first,who is to be blamed most,as we are in this suffering together” you imply a balance of two sides. Suddenly an oppressed and an oppressor, a victim and victimizer, raped and rapist are on the same level: both have been wronged (semi) EQUALLY. Nor on the power level is there balance: the victimizer has the power, the oppressed is powerless. While that thinking of “balance” is a welcome improvement over “the Arabs are the victimizers, Israelis victims,” it is still far from reality. Furthermore, experience tells me that whenever Israel speaks of the parties’ need to be “pragmatic” or about the “changing realities”, I know this means that Palestinians are asked to relinquish fundamental, basic rights to accept the fait accompli Israel created on the land, from colonies (settlements/outposts) to judaization to control of resources. I don’t imply that this is what you had in mind when you used that word.

I understand most Israeli people want peace (and think of themselves as victims), like the Palestinians and other Arabs. This is not true of Israeli governments and their policies, however, unless one can reconcile two opposites: Israeli government’s on-going colonization/Judaization of the land with peace. Of course I won’t come as close to implying that Arab governments are angels; but their internal dictatorial rule, desire to stay in power and their weak armies make them much more willing to compromise – to the degree that they are often willing to sell short their people’s basic rights.

I regret that I don’t understand what you mean by a “transformation of thinking” or “going one step further [beyond root causes],” outside of what I elaborated above. We can transform our thinking all we want and go beyond arguing, but so long as the conqueror continues the conquest and oppression, while we’re busy trying to transform our thinking, no peace will ever take place. The issue is simple: is ISRAEL willing to share the land it conquered in 1948 with the natives of that land? Is it willing to equally share the resources? Is it willing to stop the conquest, the oppression? Is it willing to treat people equally, not give Jews preferential treatment and treat non-Jews as a “demographic problem”? Is IT willing to accept the Palestinians’ right to exist in Palestine??

On the other hand, are Hamas and Hezbollah willing to stop their attacks on Israel? Noting that these organizations sprang as a response to Israeli policy and lack of alternative means to address legitimate grievances, then once the cause is gone, the effect will have no reason or support for existing. Palestinians and Lebanese don’t just shoot at Israel because they enjoy the ensuing Israeli destruction of their cities, infrastructure, suffocation, death, cluster bombs. They do it because they have pressing rights and livelihood that’s encroached and trampled upon all the time.

Unless we understand and accept the basics, and try to resolve the problem starting with these basics, then I regret that “transformation in thinking” or “mutual respect and peace” will have little substance. Sorry if any of what I wrote sound uncompromising; it only reflects how much injustice has been and continues to be inflicted by Israel on the natives of the land.

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February 15th, 2008, 9:29 pm

 

293. Baruch Shalev said:

Dear Mr. Said D,
I read carefully your comments,and then read them again.
I re-read recently a wonderful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Dr. Martin Luther King. Thich Nhat Hanh has written several books on root causes, and the interconnectedness of all things which he calls interbeing. His writings express much better my own feelings.

Call Me by My True Names

This is his brief introduction to his poem from: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by him:

In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.
There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.
When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.
After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call me By My True Names ,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Call Me by My True Names
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

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February 19th, 2008, 9:55 pm

 

294. Stephanie said:

This web site indicates exactly why a peace deal with Syria is so hard. The people on this web site who write expect a one-state or binational solution that will undermine Israel as a country with a Jewish majority. The two-state solution is a two-state solution. Any resolution must be made on the basis of the Oslo Accords and Roadmap for Peace. Also, it is the fault of Arab countries that there were wars before 1967 and again in 1973. To argue that is the fault of Israel is ridiculous.

The purpose of maintaining an Israeli presence in the Golan Heights is to protect borders and maintain security. The status must be negotiated fairly for Syria but the problem had to do with deadlines for a military pullout that couldn’t be reached. The two-faced Syrian government funds militancy in Lebanon and Palestine. They also line military tanks at their border with Israel. That is not peace-making and has nothing to do with self-defense. It is a game of self-serving oneupmanship to approach the peace process with respect to total blame for the other side.

Also, Israel’s land belongs to itself. They legally purchased the land from the Ottoman Empire. The Palestinians as such didn’t own land. You need a land deed for land. One doesn’t own land because one lived on it 100 or 500 years ago. How it was obtained doesn’t even matter. There is Eskimo land in Canada owned several thousands of years ago and now there are people living on it with land deeds, houses and mortgages. I suggest adjusting one’s concept of land usage and ownership to the realities on the ground in the modern age and the parameters of the law in regards to private property rights. Only Marxist-Leninist societies recognize collective land rights.

They also have the U.N. vote to back their existence. Palestinians rejected their own state and started a war against another. If they had accepted the partition in ’47, they’d have a state. Instead they allow the myth of al-Nakba (which denies the creation of Israel and the 850,000 Jewish refugees ousted from Arab lands) to fuel their self-destructive political mentality. It is unfortunate but forces both sides to fight. The stance of the P.L.O. on refugees, borders and land distribution has prevented the Palestinians from getting a homeland as well as militancy and the recent election results.

International rejectionism, religious fundamentalism and racism led to this state between Israel and Palestine. Granted, the creation of a Palestinian state of its own, separate from Israel, with East Jerusalem as a capital, the removal of settlements past the 1967 border and fair deals on land and refugee compensation for both sides is desirable and just. Still, Israel will act in its self-defense as long as it has to. This tragic cycle must end but it begins with Palestinians abandoning militancy and a change in the Palestinian leadership. The occupation is a tragedy and it imposes so many restrictions on their livelihood, prosperity, education and success. It would be nice to end it.

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March 9th, 2008, 2:37 am

 

295. wizart said:

Stephanie,

This sounds a lot more like fiction than a true account of history.

The Ottomans didn’t even belong there in the first place much less be authorized to cash in and hand out deeds on land where Palestinians actually lived or farmed their olive trees and other produce for ages.

Perhaps you can also produce a film showing those Deeds being handed out in the presence of fair dealing international lawyers.

This would not make peace but perhaps a new Hollywood production.

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March 9th, 2008, 4:56 am

 

296. norman said:

Stephanie,

Israel should be Jewish only state if we can have the US and the EU as Christian only states , The Jews then should be treated in the US as the Christian and the Muslims are treated in Israel , that is only fair , don’t you think ,or as always you think that what is for the Jews is only for the Jews and what for everybody else we have to share with the Jews ,

Looking at what is going on in the Mideast makes it clear that Israel only responds to force , The border between Israel and Syria has been the most secure for Israel , still Israel is not leaving the Golan Heights , It is clear that as long as keeping the Golan is not costing Israel anything in blood or money they will stay there,

About blaming the Palestinians for the Ills that they are facing from the Israeli occupation is laughable as i do not remember Israel saying any thing about caring for the Palestinian people whom it made homeless in order to bring settlers from Europe to be an unsinkable Aircraft carrier for the West .

About the Turks giving permission for the Jews to migrate and buy land in Palestine , That did not happen , actually that was one of the good things that the Ottoman did , we all know that the Jews sided with British against Germany and Turkey in the first world war in return for the Balfour declaration.

Please correct you info , we are not naive on this blog.

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March 9th, 2008, 5:29 am

 

297. Israeli Mom said:

Fascinating post and even more fascinating responses – some outright scary.

I need some time to mull things over, but I hope it’s ok if I can quote parts of Alex’s comment here -
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=575#comment-105966
as it relates to some issues I mentioned on a recent post on my blog and which I’d like to develop further.

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May 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm

 

298. Samir S. Halabi said:

Almost my entire family were murdered in Aleppo Syria in the 1947 pogrom. We have never lived in Israel although we have family members living there since the 1930s.

To state a fact that Arabs were not involved in Hitler’s extermination of european Jewry and not forgetting members of the Jewish faith from Algeria and Libya who also suffered the same fate as the european Jews did by ending up in Hitler’s death camps in Poland together with their Jewish european brethren.

Yes unfortunately there was many Arabs whom willingly participated including the Arabs of Palestine to do Hitler’s bidding, including the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem himself the late Haj Amin al-Husseini who was the Uncle to the late Yasser Arafat (who’s real name was Abdel Rahman Abdel-Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini) The Grand Mufti as you know was the Guest of Adolh Hitler from 1941-45 in Berlin Nazi-Germany. during that period he visited several death camps where they were genociding Jews and other non-desirables on a daily industrial basis. Husseini was extremely impressed with the methods used to eliminate these people from the face of this earth and wanted to employ the same methods of annihilating all middle-eastern Jews as soon as the war ended with an axis victory.

Please don’t brag how wonderful the Arabs treated their Jewish citizens, I can only say that the jews of the arab world lived a dhimmi existence sometimes good sometimes bad, depending on who their ruler was. I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of the few Jews living in Yemen today, the teacher of the Jewish children was gunned down in the street because he didn’t convert to Islam as ordered to by an ex-pilot in the Yemeni airforce, Jewish girls were abduced from their parents and forced to marry old-tribesmen and convert to islam by force. Please don’t forget that many Arabs also moved to palestine in the late 1920s 30s & 40s as the conditions there somewahat improved as more Jews developped the infrastructre, economy, buiding, and health etc. Today well over 50% of the population including 1.3 million Arabs are comprised of the jews and their descendants who were forced out or fled in terror from the Arab-World after the inception of ‘The State of israel’ however today in the Arab world there remains only around 6,000-7,000 Jews at the most which is down from 1,000,000 in 1948 that is what you call ethnic-cleansing and not the other way around.

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March 17th, 2012, 6:33 am

 

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