Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Two items below: Memri puts together the evidence supporting claims that Fatah al-Islam is controlled by Syria. Olmert and Bush downplay talks with Syria at the joint news conference.
Memri, June 20, 2007
By H. Varulkar*
Following the exposure of an affiliation between Fath Al-Islam and Syrian intelligence during the interrogation of Fath Al-Islam members, Syrian and pro-Syrian elements and media have been making efforts to deny this affiliation. Fath Al-Islam leaders with connections to Syria have suddenly disappeared, to be replaced by new leaders, claimed to be connected to Al-Qaeda. In addition, one of the organization's new leaders and a pro-Syrian Lebanese source have stated that Fath Al-Islam is under the command of Al-Qaeda, a claim that was firmly denied by the organization's previous leadership. (Read it all)
Talking to the press prior to their private meeting President Bush and PM Olmert said:
Q And I would like to ask you, the Prime Minister of Israel calls for negotiation with no precondition with Syria; so does President Assad of Syria, and he asks for U.S. mediation. Will you do it?
PRESIDENT BUSH: They can handle their own negotiations with Syria. If the Prime Minister wants to negotiate with Syria, he doesn’t need
me to mediate.
Q Do you think it’s a good idea?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s up to the Prime Minister. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about that. I don’t know if you’re putting words
in his mouth, or not. But I’m looking forward to having a discussion about Iran and Syria and the neighborhood. But this man is plenty
capable of conducting his own negotiations without mediation.
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: I will answer your question, right? We have been very, very attentive to the needs of the — humanitarian needs of Gaza and we will continue to provide everything that is necessary in order to meet these humanitarian needs. Israel will not be indifferent to the human suffering in Gaza. Israel will be different from the Palestinians, themselves, because the reality is that all this suffering is caused by Palestinians against their own people. What the Hamas was doing in Gaza is absolutely atrocious and intolerable. And I’m sure that many who had some hopes that maybe Hamas can be more reasonable and more restrained I think lost these hopes because of what they have been doing to their own people — killing innocent civilians, pulling out from hospital beds Fatah people that were wounded and dropped them off fifth story building to kill them in the street, and terrible other things.
We will not be indifferent. We already are taking care of many of the Palestinians in Gaza during the last few days, and we will continue to deal with it as it comes. Of course, they are not interested in staying in Israel, they want to be amongst Palestinians, and they will be treated in this manner.
Q So you will let them go?
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: So as I said, we will check every single case and we’ll see how we can help them and I’m sure that we will help them.
As for Syria, I’m afraid that you may have not have understood correctly what the Syrian leader said. The Syrian leader said that he is against any preconditions from the Israeli side, but he’s certainly for preconditions from the Syrian side. One of the preconditions is that he wants President Bush to work more than he does already in regional issues and to be the mediator. And the President said correctly, this is not the — I think — the job for the President of the United States. He’s got many other things to do. And I don’t think, if someone wants to speak directly, he needs the involvement of America in order to allow these negotiations to take place. I am not certain that the understanding of the President of Syria can lay the foundations for immediate discussions between Syria and Israel.
Here is the Jerualem Post coverage, "Bush, PM downplay hope of Syria talks":
Olmert said unequivocally that the US had never told him not to negotiate with Damascus.
"The US never said not to hold talks with Syria," he said. "and we've never asked for their permission. Israel will not ask permission to conduct peace talks if it feels it's right, nor defend itself if it feels it's necessary."
For his part, Bush said that Israel could decide for itself whether it wants to negotiate with Syria, that all options are still on the table regarding Iran, and that despite setbacks in Gaza, his vision of a two-state solution is still viable and should be pushed forward.
At a brief press conference in the White House's Oval Office before meeting with Olmert, Bush said the US had no intention of interceding between Syria and Israel.
"If the prime minister wants to negotiate with Syria, he doesn't need me to mediate," Bush said. "It's up to the prime minister. This man is plenty capable of having negotiations without me mediating."
Syria has let it be known in recent days that it would be interested in negotiations with Israel under a Quartet or US umbrella, something that Olmert said Tuesday was unacceptable. Syria's request for such a framework has been interpreted in Jerusalem as an effort to escape international isolation.
"The Syrian leader said that he is against preconditions from the Israeli side, but he is certainly for preconditions from the Syrian side. One of the preconditions is that he wants President Bush to get more involved then he already is in regional issues," the prime minister said.