France Champions Syria While US Says Differences with Damascus are “Profound”

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad at the Elysee Palace in Paris November 13, 2009.
France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy greets Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad at the Elysee Palace in Paris November 13, 2009.

[Landis analysis] France is getting ahead of the US and Israel in championing Syria and possible peace with Israel. Feltman says US differences with Syria are “profound.” This is the same language I have heard from the Syrians. They love the new demeanor of the Obama diplomats but doubt the “structural problems” between the US and Syria can be overcome. Why? It’s Israel stupid. Syrian support for Hizbullah and Hamas make it a terror loving state in the eyes of America. Syria, naturally, views its support for resistance to occupation as a fundamental right supported by international law.

The number of conservative journalists who have taken the time out of their day to pen attacks on Syria has gone way down in general since the Obama administration started to improve relations with Syria. In the last week or so, however, a small but perceptible spike in articles employing anti-Syrian trash talking seems to have taken place. Lee Smith, Michael Totten, David Shenker and Barry Rubin have put their shoulders to the wheel this week. God bless them. The explanation? Possibly the right is worried that the US will make some sort of demarche toward the Syrians now that the Palestinian track is dead. Washington could heat up the Syrian track or at the very least give a push to Sarkozy’s diplomacy. This seems to be what Sarkozy and Assad are hoping for. Netanyahu has headed it off at the pass by blowing his “no preconditions” love kisses. In Syria’s lexicon, “No preconditions” means, “We aren’t giving you back any land.” Assad is not biting; he wants the Golan — all of it.  I don’t think the conservatives have much to worry about. Netanyahu has outflanked Obama at every turn.

All the same, Syria has gotten more or less what it needs from the US, which is a pass on the sanctions front. Syria does not need the US to lift its sanctions, which congress will not do so long as Syria objects to Israel occupying its land. It just needs the US to stop intimidating international companies and foreign banks from investing in Syria. The one major ticket item that US sanctions does impede the sale of is airplanes, but Europe seems to be reevaluating its refusal to sell Airbuses to Syria, despite their having 10% US content. The world is big enough in the Twenty First Century so that if the US wants to lock itself out of Syria, Damascus can afford to turn the other cheek. Many countries are making this calculation as US influence in the region declines. This is why US efforts to sanction Iran will not work. Turkey, India, Russia, China and Brazil are beginning to discount Washington’s ability or willingness to punish them over sanctions. America is still big enough and powerful enough that they say “yes” — but in most cases, they mean “no.”

US policy in the Middle East remains linked to Israel by golden handcuffs. Israel’s enemies are accepted as America’s enemies. This prevents the US from recalibrating its relations in the region. It is no longer preventing other Middle Eastern countries and emerging world powers from recalibrating their relations to countries like Syria and Iran. The result of Washington’s inability to ween itself from its constricting and destructive relationship with Israel, will be that the US increasingly isolates itself. More and more friends will defect from its interpretation of “security” in the region. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are complaining that they are becoming irrelevant. Turkey and Brazil announced warm relations with Iran in an effort to inoculate themselves from an impending US-Iranian crisis. India and China have already done so. They cannot afford to have their energy prices increased by further sanctions on Iran. The US is boxing itself in.

Feltman Says Differences with Syria are Profound Naharnet

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was eager to cooperate with the Hariri Cabinet, but warned that arms export from Iran to Hizbullah “puts Lebanon at great risk.”

“The United States is looking forward to cooperating with the new Lebanon government in a spirit of partnership in various fields after it obtains confidence,” Feltman said in an interview published Sunday by the daily An-Nahar.

His remarks were translated into English by Naharnet.

Feltman said he congratulated Prime Minister Saad Hariri on his new post and denied accusations by some Lebanese political leaders who charges that the U.S. administration had intervened in the government formation process.

He accused Iran of continuing to export arms to Hizbullah and hoped that the Lebanese government would realize the “risk” of Israeli attacks in response to firing of rockets from Lebanon into the Jewish state.

Feltman said delay in the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador to Damascus was due to “political and bureaucratic reasons.”

While acknowledging that a visit to Washington by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad was “positive and constructive,” he described the differences between the U.S. and Syria as “profound.”

Feltman said peace efforts have so far not led to find the “key to open the door to negotiations in order to reach constructive talks between Syria and Israel.”

“But we are committed to achieve peace,” he said, adding that there was a “high degree of cooperation” between the U.S. and France on peace in the Middle East.

Damascus Revels in Its New Allure to Investors
Syria, a Former Pariah State Whose Isolation Sheltered It in the Economic Crisis, Sees New Gains in a Western Embrace
CHIP CUMMINS, NOVEMBER 17, 2009, WSJ

DAMASCUS, Syria — From the corridors of Syria’s stately central bank to the capital’s winding, barrel-vaulted souk in the heart of the Old City, it is hard to remember that 18 months ago Syria was a diplomatic and economic pariah state.

Growth is expected to come in this year at a respectable 3%, despite a big knock from the global financial crisis. European tourists spill out of recently renovated boutique hotels in the capital’s Old City. American accents boom across the dining room of the Four Seasons. In the tony Maliki neighborhood nearby, tourists, foreign businessmen and fashionably dressed Damascenes sip $4 lattes at one of several bustling cafes.

Central-bank chief Adib Mayaleh is practically giddy about Syria’s new allure to foreign investors. Amid warming ties between the West and Syria, executives from two French banks recently dropped by his office to talk about opening branches here. The same French bankers “previously said they would have nothing to do with me,” he says, gloating.

“We see more and more banks coming here to investigate the market,” Mr. Mayaleh says. “Syria is virgin territory to explore.”

In fact, Syria’s still-isolated economy protected it from the worst of the global financial crisis. Banks here haven’t been hit by defaults. Tourism receipts dipped but are recovering again. A recent private-sector-led investment boom in real estate shows no signs of the bust felt in other regional markets like Dubai.

Earlier this year, real-estate adviser Cushman & Wakefield listed Damascus office space as the eighth most expensive in the world. That is behind Paris and two spots ahead of midtown Manhattan.

“The only Syrians that can buy houses are those that can sell one first,” says real-estate agent Ayman al-Saman, from his closet-size agency in the center of town. Residential real-estate prices have tripled since 2004, he says.

On top of all that, the West’s recent embrace of Syrian President Bashar Assad is translating into a booster shot of economic optimism.

Bassel Hamwi, deputy chairman of Bank Audi Syria, one of the largest private banks in the country, said the barrage of U.S. sanctions the Bush administration slapped on Syria starting in 2004 never was a real barrier to economic growth. But warming ties with the world’s largest economy can’t help but make a difference. “Syria used to be a ‘frontier’ market,” the Texas- and Harvard-educated banker says. “As of 2009, I personally consider this an emerging market.”

It has been a long road, with plenty of obstacles still ahead. When Mr. Assad took over here after his father’s death in 2000, he kept tight control of the state, suppressing dissent. But he also ushered in economic overhauls. Lower import tariffs allowed foreign goods from China and Europe to flow in. In 2003, banking reform opened the door to a handful of private lenders. The overhauls brought with them galloping inflation, but everyday Syrians embraced the new consumer culture.

“We have lots of industry in Syria that produces everything we need, but people prefer things from abroad,” says 27-year-old shopkeeper Manhal Moujarid, in a packed appliance store full of Chinese-made heaters, tucked into the mountainside souk of Damascus’s poorer Muhajireen neighborhood.

Shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq, Washington accused Mr. Assad of allowing fighters across the border to battle Americans, and in 2004 imposed sanctions. In 2005, the U.S. held Syria accountable for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and pulled its ambassador. (Syria denies both allegations.)

The sanctions didn’t directly affect much business here since American companies weren’t that active anyway. But U.S. Treasury officials suggested European firms risked being frozen out of the U.S. banking system if they didn’t play ball.

“Foreign banks were intimidated by the American sanctions,” says Mr. Mayaleh, the central banker.

Then, in what could be one of the most significant diplomatic rehabilitation acts in recent memory, Mr. Assad turned the tables. Last year, he agreed to indirect peace talks with Israel. He also helped to broker a deal between warring Lebanese politicians. Earlier this year, U.S. commanders traveled to Damascus to discuss Syria-Iraqi border security cooperation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited Mr. Assad to Paris in the summer of 2008 and flew to Damascus later that year. Mr. Assad traveled to France again on Friday.

President Barack Obama made outreach to Syria a plank of his campaign. This summer, he promised to reinstate an ambassador and ease some economic restrictions. Washington has stopped short of offering to lift sanctions outright. And there has been little recent movement on naming an ambassador, triggering grumbling among Syrian officials.

Still, the thaw has boosted confidence here, as shown by the sudden rush of Western bankers calling on Syrian officials. In an interview in his marble and wood office, Abdullah Dardari, Syria’s deputy prime minister for economic affairs, gestures to two business cards left on his coffee table by executives representing big U.S. financial firms.

“Finally,” he says, “we put Syria on the map for foreign investors.”

Israel, Syria, Turkey and France
Judah Grunstein | Bio | 16 Nov 2009

“… Sarkozy has been criticized for shifting the traditional French pro-Palestinian alignment towards a more Israel-friendly approach. But all of his moves since taking office, including the engagement with Assad, suggests he has put his eggs in the Syria basket. The two-state solution… is by now both universally accepted and close to dead. In any event, the negotiations no longer benefit from France’s support for the Palestinians, and France no longer has much to gain from investing too much in it. Syria, on the other hand, is a doable deal, and France’s contacts in all the major areas in play make Paris a good fit to help the process along.”]

Sarkozy tried in vain to replace Turkey as peacemaker
Zaman

It has emerged that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had planned to bring together the leaders of Israel and Syria in Paris in an attempt to revive a peace process between the two countries which collapsed early this year, but his efforts failed when Syrian President Bashar Assad, who insists on Turkish mediation to return to peace talks with Israel, opposed the idea.

The Syrian president was in Paris on Friday, two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the city and said he was ready to meet the Syrian president anywhere, at any time, without pre-established conditions, to re-launch talks over the Israeli-Syrian dimension of the broader Mideast peace process.

Sarkozy, who apparently wanted to steal the show in the Middle East process, tried to arrange the two leaders’ visits to Paris at the same time. This way, even if he could not succeed in gathering Assad and Netanyahu together, he would be able to introduce their simultaneous presence in Paris as “France’s great role in peace efforts.” However, Assad said he would not land in Paris until Netanyahu’s plane departed the city, spoiling Sarkozy’s plans.

Moreover, following talks with Sarkozy, Assad highlighted on Friday the importance he attaches to Turkey’s role in any new negotiation process with Israel — an emphasis which pleased Ankara. “If Mr. Netanyahu is serious, he can send his teams of experts, we will send our teams of experts to Turkey. They can then talk, if they are really interested in peace,” Assad said following talks with the French leader. In an interview broadcast on Friday evening, Assad said France “should support the role of the Turkish mediator and persuade Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Turkish mediator,”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, said on Sunday Turkey would not be an “honest broker” in any renewed peace talks with Syria. He said he preferred direct talks, but “if a mediator is involved, he should be impartial. The Turkish prime minister has not reinforced his image as an objective, unbiased mediator,” he was quoted as saying…”

The Leveretts at RFI

“The Obama Administration remains attached to a delusional sanctions policy.”….

Moscow may well end up supporting another Security Council resolution expanding the existing sanctions regime against Iran—giving just enough to keep the United States from taking the issue out of the Council and forging a “coalition of the willing” or of the “like-minded”. Beyond its interest in keeping the Iranian nuclear file in the Security Council, Moscow is not happy with Tehran’s ambivalent reaction to a proposal that Russia helped to develop and advance, to refuel the Tehran Research Reactor using a significant portion of Iran’s current stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Conversations with Russian officials suggest that Moscow may also be looking for ways to show displeasure with alleged Iranian slowness in making payments for various weapons purchases and (perhaps) on the Bushehr nuclear reactor project.

Furthermore, while Russia does not want to see a military confrontation between the United States (or Israel) and Iran, Moscow also does not want to see an overly rapid rapprochement between the United States (or Europe) and Iran. Among other considerations, Russian policymakers and the leadership of Gazprom are keen to prevent head-to-head competition between Russian and Iranian gas, especially in Europe.

These considerations notwithstanding, it remains highly unlikely that Russia will support proposals from the United States and its European partners to go beyond exclusively proliferation-focused sanctions and target key sectors of Iran’s economy….

Haaretz: IAEA deepens Syria nuclear probe over uranium traces
2009-11-16

Last update – 21:21 16/11/2009  IAEA deepens Syria nuclear probe over uranium traces  By Reuters  Tags: Israel news, IAEA      Syria’s initial explanation of uranium traces U.N. inspectors found at a Damascus atom research reactor is unconvincing …

The fortnightly Middle East International has just been re-launched, under the stewardship of some very able editors and advisors. Some of you may recall the highly-regarded magazine during its first run from the early 1970’s up until 2005. Well, it’s back, and I have to say that it looks very good.

Cover of MEI

Cover of MEI

The first issue is available for free download on the website. Beginning next week, you’ll have to pay for a subscription. I wager that it will be well worth it, judging from the quality of the contributions. (There are pieces by several very smart journalists and analysts, including Jim Muir, Omayma Abdel-Latif, Graham Usher, Nick Blanford, Abigail Fielding-Smith, and others.)

Report: Syrian official helped Mossad kill Mughniyeh
Roee Nahmias, 11.14.09

Western diplomat in Damascus tells Alrai newspaper former Syrian customs official would leave border unsupervised for hours at a time, allowing for infiltration of Israeli agents responsible for assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh

Did a Syrian customs official assist the Mossad in the assassination of Hezbollah’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh ? A report published Saturday in Kuwaiti Alrai newspaper claims so.

According to a western diplomat stationed in Damascus, the official received large sums of money to leave the border unsupervised, which allowed for the entrance of Israeli agents.

Israel has denied any involvement in the Hezbollah operative’s assassination.

According to the report, which cites the diplomat as a source, the Syrian intelligence opened an investigation after the February 2008 assassination which led them to former head of the customs authority in Syria, Hassan Makhlouf, who holds a rank similar to brigadier-general.

The investigation focused on suspicions that Makhlouf received around one million dollars in exchange for opening the border crossings with Syria to smugglers for a number of hours at a time without supervising or overseeing activity at the site.

According to the source, the Israeli Mossad was aware of this, and used it to get to Mughniyeh by infiltrating cells including Israeli agents of Iraqi descent. The agents reportedly carried Iraqi passports, spoke perfect Iraqi Arabic, and officially entered Syria a number of times during hours where only one clerk was stationed at the border.

Did official know who he was assisting?

The Syrian intelligence’s investigation focused mainly on whether Makhlouf gave the agents information on Mughniyeh or his movement from Lebanon to Syria and within Syria itself.

According to the diplomat, after the assassination, Makhlouf directed most of his staff to only one border crossing – a move which some believe was meant to ease the flight of the assassins from the Syrian border.

The report, which has not been confirmed by official sources, does not mention whether Makhlouf was aware of the fact that he was assisting Israel or doing so unknowingly.

Makhlouf, who was terminated from his position following bribery charges, held hundreds of millions of Syrian pounds as well as dozens of houses and real estate plots in various locations around Syria.

The diplomat said that in the times when Makhlouf left the border unsupervised, the agents carried out a number of activities in Syrian territory, including surveillance of the al-Kibar site near Deir ez-Zor where, according to foreign reports, Israel attacked a Syrian nuclear plant.

Al Manar, via the Silver Lining, via FLC
“Hezbollah knows everything about the IDF’s activities”
by Hanan Awarekeh, al manar

12/11/2009 One day after Hezbollah General Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel not to try to launch any aggression against Lebanon, promising it with humiliating defeat; Israeli media revealed Thursday that Hezbollah knows every single detail about the activities of the Israeli occupation army.

Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said it has got a document confirming that Hezbollah knows every detail about the activities of the Israeli army and the command of the northern area and brigade 91 in the border area.

The Israeli paper says in its report issued Thursday morning, “The bulletin shows to what extent Hezbollah intelligence succeeded in penetrating into the Israeli army, and proves that Hezbollah has enough sources of information.”

According to Yediot Aharonot, “the bulletin consists of 150 pages, and describes in detail the deployment of the Israeli army, and its land, naval and aerial activities.” The Israeli daily quoted an officer who was occupying a senior position in the so-called northern region leadership as saying, “I was shocked when I read the information that came in the bulletin.”

The Israeli officer added that it dealt with information on the “binoculars monitoring, surveillance cameras, aerial alarm systems, land alarm systems, and an abundance of information about the drones, those aircrafts which we thought were working in complete secrecy.”…..

“Israel jolted by Hezbollah intelligence ‘infiltration'”
by Mohamad Shmaysani, al manar

” …. Perhaps the most pressing concern for the Israeli command is that Hezbollah might have been able to infiltrate sensitive security services thus acquiring top secret documents and data.

“Israeli experts and retired servicemen who served in the north have said that the data gathered by Hezbollah by means of the document was highly sensitive and that part of it had been cloned by Hezbollah from secret documents belonging to the 91st brigade. Hezbollah might have gathered the data by means of spies or by infiltrating into the Israeli side to take pictures,” Ronen Bergman, an Israeli expert in intelligence affairs told Israeli television Thursday….

“There is no doubt that Hezbollah knows the weapons used in every Jeep of every patrol. They even know the diameter of every mortar in the Jeep and the time of every patrol, including the documents that are usually sent from the division chief to the brigade chief. In fact they have information that cannot be seen through binoculars, so how did they get it?” an Israeli Channel 10 commentator asked.

The former head of Israel’s National Security Giyora Eiland admitted – after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s speech on Wednesday – that Israel will undoubtedly fail in any coming war. He added that the outcome will not be different than that of the 2006 war ‘because Israel and Hezbollah’s capabilities have improved in parallel.

“Should the Third Lebanon War erupts tomorrow, it will not be different than the Second Lebanon War despite of all the improvement in the army. Israel cannot win over an organization that possesses thousands of missiles on the other side of the border. If we want to win, the war should instead be waged against the Lebanese government and its infrastructures of which Hezbollah has become part of,” Eiland told Israeli television…”

Syria unveils new gas, oil production plant
15 November 2009

Damascus — Syria has opened a new oil and gas processing station to help boost the country”s production capacity, local media reported Sunday. The Hayyan station opened Saturday near the city of Palmyra, some 200 kilometres north-east of Damascus. It has the capacity to process 600 barrels of oil per day and 650,000 cubic meters of gas. Oil Minister Sufyan al-Allawi said the cost of the project was about 450 million dollars, The German Press Agency “DPA” quoted the local media as saying. Another new station with a production capacity of 3.7 million cubic metres of natural gas is scheduled to open in 2011, officials said.

Syria turns to France to defuse tensions
by Phil Sands in The National, November 14. 2009

DAMASCUS // Increasingly frustrated by US unwillingness to take a tougher line on Israel, Syria is looking to France for help in defusing regional tensions, politicians and analysts in Damascus say….

In the WSJ

“U.S. Air Force chief of staff General Norton Schwartz called on the Arab states in the Persian Gulf to coordinate defense strategies to counter the threat from Iranian missiles. “All Gulf council states need to have a mechanism to share more information and net together an integrated air defense,” General Schwartz told reporters at a conference ahead of the Dubai Airshow. “The U.S. could play a role in that.”

General Schwartz said it is “accurate” to describe the U.S. as concerned about Iran’s ability to strike with ground launched missiles. Iran test-fired on Sept. 28 its Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 1,240 miles, far enough to hit Israel and Arab sheikdoms in the Persian Gulf that control vast oil reserves.

General Schwartz’s comments come a day ahead of the Dubai Airshow where leading U.S. defense companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), Boeing Co. (BA), Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Raytheon will market their latest weapons in the region.

U.S.-based Raytheon Co., the world’s largest producer of guided weapons, signed last year a $3.3 billion Patriot missile defense contract with the United Arab Emirates, the region’s second-largest Arab defense spender.
Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait and three other Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council have already jointly established an aircraft identification and tracking system known as Hizam Al Taawun to help them monitor the regions skies for threats….”

Commentary: Damascus Reverts to Form
2009-11-16 by Toten

Well, that didn’t last long. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced he would resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, but now he suddenly says it’s impossible. “What we lack is an Israeli partner,” he said, …

[Lee Smith wrote much the same article for “The Conservative” magazine.]

Transparency International 2009 Corruption Index (Table)
2009-11-17, By Giovanni Salzano

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) — Following is a table ranking 180 countries according to the perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts.
Syria 126
Tanzania 126
Honduras 130
Lebanon 130
Libya 130
Maldives 130
Mauritania 130 ……
Russia 146
Sierra Leone 146
Timor-Leste 146
Ukraine 146 ……
Iran 168
Turkmenistan 168
Uzbekistan 17
Chad 175
Iraq 176
Sudan 176
Myanmar 178
Afghanistan 179
Somalia 180

Comments (69)


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51. norman said:

Resuming the Turkish track

By Haaretz Editorial

Tags: Israel news

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s harsh criticism of Israel for its policy in the territories in general and in Operation Cast Lead in particular unjustly changed Turkey’s status from that of a close friend to that of an almost-enemy. Israel attributed Erdogan’s criticism to the pan-Islamic slant of Turkey’s ruling party, the country’s growing ties with Iran and the aim of Turkey and Syria to replace their Western allies with Arab ones.

In a single moment we forgot the fact that it was Turkey that managed to renew the dialogue – albeit indirect – between Syria and Israel; that despite its extensive commercial ties with Iran, this Muslim state has no intention of damaging its own relations with Israel; and that ties with the West – including Israel – are part of Turkey’s strategic concept.

The Turkish criticism is no different in essence from that being heard in some European countries or on American campuses. If it is sharper, that is partly because of the personal insult felt by Erdogan, who a few days before Operation Cast Lead hosted then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and even conducted an indirect phone conversation between Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan’s request to attempt to mediate between Israel and Hamas was rejected; instead, the Turkish premier was forced to deal with the fallout from a violent operation in Gaza.
Advertisement

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is trying to put an end to the public account-keeping between Israel and Turkey. He proposes that Turkey resume its mediation between Israel and Syria. This is an appropriate proposal, one that testifies to a realistic approach that aspires to put aside the criticism, out of an understanding that peevish anger cannot be the basis for relations between two countries that attach strategic importance to the ties between them.

The Turkish side, too, apparently wants to move past the disagreement and restore relations with Israel. The words of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu testify to that. On the other hand, the harsh words being hurled in Turkey by his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, are hurting more than they are helping.

Israel’s interest lies in restoring relations with Turkey, just as it does in renewing the Syrian track. If Turkey is the catalyst for that, we should avail ourselves of its good services.

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New Mideast plan
Ray Hanania, American-Palestinian, married to a Jew, running for PA presidency.

Shalit on the table
PA negotiation officials for Gilad Shalit deal arrive in Syria to discuss finalizing deal.

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November 25th, 2009, 1:22 pm

 

52. Akbar Palace said:

WD –

GLAD you find it reasonable. I do too. I’ve read a little bit about this fellow Ray Hanania, and he seems to be a fairly sharp person.

His plan is fairly similar to what was proposed around Camp David 2000 with some interesting changes, like allowing Jews to live in Palestine, etc. The Israelis and Palestinians should get back to where they were 9 years ago.

Norman,

The Syrian and Palestinian tract are totally separated. Since the Palestinians aren’t arming the West Bank with missiles from Iran, so I guess negotiations with them may be easier. Moreover, Abbas has wisely denounced a continuation of “armed struggle” (aka “resistance”). I am GLAD the PA recognizes that although they don’t have everything they want, violence certainly isn’t going to improve anyone’s situation.

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November 25th, 2009, 11:18 pm

 

53. norman said:

AP,
without the Golan , any plan is a non starter , Syria will do anything it can to get her land back and rightfully so.

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November 26th, 2009, 2:31 am

 

54. why-discuss said:

Norman
I guess the Golan negotiations are in better shape now that Israel is mending its relationship with Turkey. I doubt the Israelis would humiliate Erdogan a second time.

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November 26th, 2009, 2:51 am

 

55. norman said:

WD,
look at this , you are right , the question is , will Turkey agree to Israel’s condition , they seem to always want others to do things for show their Neutrality or their support for their action while they continue to starve the Palestinians in Gaza
I say it is time for Israel to show some humanity and lift the sanction and show the Palestinians that they care about them so the Palestinians can show similar concern to their safety,revenge and counter revenge will bring death and despair to everybody , it is time to do to others what we like done to us ,

AZG DAILY #216, 26-11-2009

International Update: 2009-11-26 00:29:27 (GMT +04:00)

ISRAEL WANTS TURKEY BACK ON BOARD AS MEDIATOR WITH SYRIA

Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, is expected to propose to Turkey that it resume its mediation role in peace talks between Israel and Syria, in exchange for a return to more cordial relations between Israel and Turkey, according to sources in Tel Aviv, almanar.com.lb reported.

The sources said that the policy was coordinated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry in advance of Ben-Eliezer’s departure on an official visit to Turkey Sunday evening.

The sources say that Ben-Eliezer will stress that Israel will view Turkey as a mediator with Syria, but Turkey must first demonstrate a return to the normal relations that existed with Israel before a deterioration in ties at the beginning of the year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The normalization will have to be shown through declarations and deeds, they say. Among such gestures, Ben-Eliezer will propose that Turkish President Abdullah Gul pay a visit to Israel and meet with President Shimon Peres.

In the course of Ben-Eliezer’s visit, he will attempt to return economic, military, strategic and diplomatic ties to normal. The official reason for the minister’s visit is the annual Turkish-Israeli economic conference. In the course of his trip, Ben-Eliezer will meet with the Turkish agriculture minister as well as the defense minister, who heads the Turkish delegation to the conference. Efforts have recently been underway to arrange a meeting with a high-level Turkish political figure. In the absence of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is abroad, a possible meeting with President Gul or with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is being explored.

“I hope my economic and political talks will make it possible to get the important relations between Israel and its Turkish strategic partner back on track,” Ben-Eliezer said, adding, “Turkey has special ties with Israel, and as a regional and democratic-Muslim power.”

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, Turkey found it difficult to restrain its criticism of Israel in the face of pro-Palestinian public opinion in Turkey. This was followed by public pressure, backed by Erdogan, to halt cooperation between Israeli and Turkish companies.

In October Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected a Turkish proposal, conveyed through Spain, to resume mediation efforts with Syria. About a week later, Turkey canceled Israeli participation in air force exercises on its soil. The anti-Israel Turkish policies have been led by Prime Minister Erdogan, while President Gul is considered a pro-Israeli figure in the Turkish leadership.

In reaction to recent declarations by Netanyahu regarding his readiness to negotiate with Syria without preconditions, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s senior political advisor, Bothaina Shaaban, said over the weekend that Syria’s position on opening negotiations with Israel is clear: Israel must first recognize Syria’s rights in the Golan Heights and present guarantees that it will withdraw. From Syria’s standpoint, she said, it is not a matter of preconditions but of rights that it cannot relinquish.

At a lecture in Syria, Shaaban said the meeting between Assad and French President Nicolas Sarkozy about 10 days ago dealt with the peace process, the Iranian nuclear issue and Turkish relations with Syria. She said Syria is insisting that Turkey serve as mediator in any negotiations with Israel, and Turkey is an important country that had a central and rational role in the indirect negotiations with Israel. Negotiations under Turkish mediation, she said, proved to the world that Syria wants an agreement and Israel is hindering it.

AZG DAILY #216, 26-11-2009

2009-11-26

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November 26th, 2009, 3:38 am

 

56. Shai said:

WD,

I’m not sure Turkey will quickly become broker again between Israel and Syria. Israel sees Erdogan has having gone out of his way to articulate his anti-Israeli messages and, to be honest, it is doubtful he or his government can serve as “honest broker”. It is a shame, because Turkey really can be the perfect 3rd party here, if Washington isn’t taking that role.

Norman,

I still fail to see why Syria is insisting on hearing those words (The Golan is yours) in public, before heading to direct negotiations. It makes it ever more difficult for Netanyahu to lay the groundwork for eventual withdrawal. Few today will support this announcement in advance, even though everyone knows this is the price for peace.

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November 26th, 2009, 5:21 pm

 

57. norman said:

Shai,
Two things ,
1_ about Turkey and Erdogan , I do not think that he said anything more than what you said at that time , you were one who felt terrible about what Israel did and called for the ending of the attack , at least that was what i understood , that you felt for the Palestinian people , was i wrong ?.

2_ About the Golan and that Syria wants to recognize Syria’s rights there ,
It is like Syria refusing to recognize the existence of Israel and the right of the Jews to live there , would Israel negotiate it’s existence or come to the table if that is something to negotiate about ,
You also should remember that Syria was burned by your leaders before , remember Rabin’s deposit only to see Netanyahu denying it and refusing to be bind with it , then came Barack who tried to cheat Syria and President Clinton when he gave him maps that do not include the shores of the sea of Galilee after he gave assurances that the maps will show the 1967 border , Syria kept it’s part of the bargain on the Golan without incidence for forty years , I think that Syria is more trust worthy than Israel and it’s leaders , Syria does not want to be fooled for the third time , you should not blame Syria or it’s leaders , they were fooled twice already .

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November 26th, 2009, 8:53 pm

 

58. Shai said:

Norman,

First, I’m not passing judgement over what Erdogan said. I’m merely stating that in the way that he said what he said, he will have great difficultly “convincing” Israel that he can serve as honest broker, that’s all. Of course I was against the attack as it was. I wasn’t against the idea of fighting Hamas as long as they kept shelling Israel. We have no choice but to continue to fight them until we make peace with them. I’m for talking to Hamas immediately, but if they shell Israel, we have to also fight them. But absolutely not the way we did in Gaza in 2008/9.

Second, I’m not “blaming Syria or its leaders”. I’m suggesting that Netanyahu is the closest you’re going to get to an Israeli PM that can deliver the Golan and, therefore, you must try not to create conditions under which he is less likely to deliver – such as preconditions that make it extremely difficult for him to show up for negotiations. It’s exactly the same if Netanyahu would demand, in advance, to hear Bashar Assad announce that Syria will completely alter its relationship with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Bashar cannot do that, even if there’s every likelihood that something along those lines will happen after Israel withdraws from the Golan.

Lastly, I think trying to get Netanyahu to announce Israel’s readiness to give back the Golan, in advance prior to negotiations, simply based on previous “deposits” or agreements or promises, is overly simplistic and unrealistic. Much in the political climate of our region has changed over the past decade (since Bibi was in power), and you cannot expect Bibi to be able to say and do the same things today as he did back then. Today, Israel is far more to the Right than it has ever been. To remind you, in Rabin’s days, Labor had 40 seats, out of 120 in Knesset. Today, Labor has 13! Meretz has 3. “The Left” in Israel is 16 seats out of 120. And the “leader of the Left” (Barak), okays further building in West Bank settlements. So Bibi cannot say certain things right now, that maybe he could have back in 1998.

We must come to realize that now it is all about psychology of the masses, not about mastering diplomacy. Assad must give Netanyahu the “tools” he needs to convince his hawkish masses that Syria is serious about Peace. And Netanyahu must find the way to give Assad the “tools” he needs to move forward with direct negotiations. Syria would be wise to find a way to speak to the Israeli people, and in so doing help Netanyahu market the Golan soon afterwards. But not before negotiations take place.

Look at what’s happening now, with his announcement about freezing settlement activity (in most of the WB, but not all). They’re starting to crucify him on the Right, including within his own party. An extremist member of Likud yesterday called out to “throw Bibi to the trash of History…” Imagine what they would do, if he suddenly announced Israel was ready to give back the Golan. His government may collapse in an instant, bringing about new elections. And who’ll win this time around? Kadima? That Tzipi Livni who couldn’t be Prime Minister, when offered to her twice? First time on a silver platter, without even going to elections. And second time, to share the PM’ship with Bibi. She’ll make peace with Syria, when she can’t even reach an agreement with Shas (the religious party)? Barak? The recent poll shows him getting Labor 6 seats out of 120! 13 isn’t low enough for him.

So the bottom line is – if there is a chance for peace now, it’s only with Netanyahu. Syria should understand that Netanyahu needs her help. It’s that simple.

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November 26th, 2009, 9:33 pm

 

59. why-discuss said:

“The last thing that should interest us is the Palestinians’ concern. Before the Palestinian issue, what should interest us is our friends in the world,” Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio. “We spoke to them and most said ‘help us to help you’.”

What a great way to show that Israel wants peace!! What Israelis wants is to stop the US and Europe to pressure them. They are giving in symbolic stuff that they know are unacceptable by the Palestinians just to please their masters and have Obama take his Nobel award with some meat to show, they are cheap and pathetic.
Shai, if this is a democracy with inept and weak leaders who manipulate the masses and lick the feet of the international leaders to stay in power, frankly i prefer a dictatorship with intelligent leaders and at least some pride.

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November 26th, 2009, 10:02 pm

 

60. Shai said:

WD,

I never claimed there weren’t also advantages to dictatorships… 🙂

In a recent poll about corruption, the two most corrupt politicians were Avigdor Lieberman, and Eli Yishai (Shas). So don’t think Lieberman is viewed as any real authority in Israel. He is under multiple investigations, there is a good chance he’ll soon make his declarations behind bars, and that his party will soon thereafter evaporate. I’m not claiming he’s meaningless, but give it a few more months. The Police is super-determined to see him in jail. That’s at least one powerful aspect of our democracy.

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November 26th, 2009, 10:47 pm

 

61. norman said:

Shai, W D ,

For all the above reasons you mentioned , I agree , Syria should help Netanyahu move for peace by making it costly for him to stay in the Golan as they did in Gaza and south Lebanon , Israel only understand force , it never left without that and if Rockets are coming from the West bank , or the Golan , they would have left long time ago,

I do not know why would netanyahu give back the Golan if it is not costing him anything ,

The most Israel should hope for in a peace treaty with Syria is for Syria not to be a staging ground against Israel , when Israel breaks it’s relation with the US you can who supplies Israel with massive amount of arms and financial support every year , then and only then Israel can ask Syria to break it’s relation with anybody or any state ,

I am more pessimistic than ever that peace can be achieved with strong Israel , it’s people will not let happen , they have to suffer first and feel that their existence is at stake,

during the civil rights movement Martin Luther King got the civil rights act first then when he asked President Johnson for the voting act , Johnson told , i can ask Congress for more now , we just passed the civil rights act , If you want it you have to make me and show the congress , the next day there were demonstration in many big American cities for the voting act which made it easier for president Johnson to ask Congress for the voting act to avoid a civil war .
for any Israeli leader to seek peace he has to be able to sell it to his people and without pain these people are not seeking peace ,

Political , economic , Legal or military pressure is needed for any Israeli leader to justify peace seeking .

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November 26th, 2009, 11:32 pm

 

62. why-discuss said:

Norman

I agree with you that Israelis are happy with the statu quo. They are not receiving rockets from Gaza, and the Lebanese and Syrian front are quiet. Israelis are enjoying skiing and drinking wine on the Golan, settlers are happy occupying Palestinians homes with the muteness of the international community, why in the hell they would want a peace treaty with all the unknown and the ‘sacrifices’ they will have to do?
The only pain in the neck is the Obama administration, the trouble maker who is influencing Europe to take an unusual stronger stance against Israel. The strategy of Israel is now to neutralize this “idealistic parasite” while making apparent ‘sacrifices’ that are well covered by the media to show how Israel is cooperating in an ‘operation charm’ with the international community, especially after the embarrassing Goldstone report.
I am sure the Jewish lobbies are using all their energies to make sure Obama and the democrats will not be elected for a second mandate. They may go to dangerous extremes. I worry for Obama’s life.
If I don’t advocate military force against Israel, I advocate more precise threats on Israel. Iran remains the strongest military threat and, using existing internal dissensions, it is been quietly demonized by the media in the hope that its regime will fall. I am not surprised Khamenei is accusing the international community , using Israel sympathizers, to plot a replacement of this regime by one who would be less threatening to Israel.
The accession to nuclear weapon capability by Iran would be the trigger to have Israelis worry seriously about happily continuing their aggressive policies. I just hope Iran will reach that stage soon. I just don’t see anything significant happening before that event.
By the way, the Lebanese ministry declaration imbeds a statement refusing settling permanently the Palestinians in Lebanon.

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November 27th, 2009, 3:12 am

 

63. Shai said:

Dear Norman, WD,

I understand the frustration you feel as you look at us Israelis, living in a so-called Democracy, able to vote in and vote out any leader we want, and yet we enable inept politicians to continue to rule over another people and their land, while we claim we’re a peace-seeking and loving nation. I feel the same frustration, but from the other side.

And like you, I too ask myself endlessly what must happen to change this situation. Must we have another 1973? Are we really that intoxicated with our power, that we’re right back in those terrible years between 1967-1973, when we thought we were invincible? Must we continue to push every Arab nation (and especially the Palestinian people, Syria, and Lebanon) to the corner, to the point where only another regional war could be the way out? Like you, with each day that passes I’m tempted to say “yes”.

But unlike you, I still have faith in my people. Wars have always had a similar affect on Israelis – they’re united us like never before. If right now there are probably 70% of Israelis against returning the Golan, if Syria were to attack tomorrow morning, there would be 95% against it. It would take a number of years, maybe more, before we’d start changing our mind. There is no guarantee that Bashar would do what Sadat did in 1977. What if 1973 occurs again, but 1977 doesn’t?

We know how wars begin, but we don’t know how they end. And the next war in our region could be catastrophic. Are we ready to take that risk? I’m not. Not as long as I know we haven’t tried everything. And because I know that Syria can be infinitely stronger if it targeted Israelis directly with PR and not with rockets, I can’t say everything has been tried.

You are looking at the glass only through your end, not through ours. You see your frustration with Israel, but not Israel’s fears and suspicion of the Arab world. You deduce that Israel cannot fear the Arabs, because if it did, the reasonable thing to do would be to make peace (I agree – that would be the logical thing to do), but people and nations don’t always act rationally. Further, we may indeed fear you, and at the same time know that we are stronger. We know your old Mig-29s are no match for our F-15i’s, but we still fear Syria’s intentions (certainly when we hear of a possible nuclear installation somewhere in the Eastern Desert). And because there exists no trust between Syria and Israel, most Israelis suspect you, and are afraid to give back something which they consider strategic, and believe can further endanger them if used by Syria against Israel.

If you want us to understand you, your concerns, and more importantly your legitimate rights, you need to be ready to understand ours. You don’t have to agree with them, but you should listen and if possible address them. And that’s they key, I believe. If you can address our fears, directly not through some BBC interview, or Turkish newspaper, then I’m sure you can begin to create trust amongst Israelis. We had that trust only 14 years ago, during Rabin’s days. I believe we can achieve it again, and even surpass it, if Syria speaks to us directly.

This is the only thing you haven’t tried, short of all-out war. Don’t you think it’s worth trying, before you choose the horrific way out?

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November 27th, 2009, 6:35 am

 

64. why-discuss said:

Shai

I can understand the anxiety of the Israelis because all they see about the Arabs are the threats from spoliated people asking for justice and revenge and from extremists as noisy as yours.
They are also encouraged to transpose the past fear toward their European persecutors onto the Arabs.
When I read AP, I realize that many Israelis have totally evacuated from their mind the slightest idea that wrong and injustice was done to the Palestinians when Jews took their lands by force to create Israel.
Can you explain to me why Israel who was compensated largely by the European countries who spoliated them, NEVER offered to compensate the Palestinians for the lands they confiscated and the harm they have done to families? It is as they feel it is not their problem, and hell with the people they kicked out! Let someone else take care of them!
I feel as if the Israelis are brainwashed not to feel any guilt, am I wrong?
They seem also kept in a deep parananioia of denial, fear and suspicion. This is deeply engrained and cannot change just by arabs showing understanding. Understandng for what anyway? Arabs did not massacre Jews, Europeans did it. You are asking the Arabs to feel for the Jews who suffered the holocaust while whole Palestinians families were reduced to refugees and live in insecure conditions. Sorry, Shai, it is to the Israelis to show understanding, but obviously stuck in their own fears, selfishness and brainwhashed from youth, they can’t.

Contrary to Egypt’s peace negotiations where issues were mostly of lands and security arrangements, with Syria and Lebanon there are millions of Palestinians whose destiny is at stake.
There was also no issues like Jerusalem’s status. These are much more sensitive issue both for Arabs and Israelis.
I don’t think Bashar will make any move, unless he perceives a real willingness to tackle issues not of land only but of people.
Unless Israel shows a sign that it accepts its guilt and responsibility for the state of these refugees, there is not much that can be done.
Do you think that Israelis could revisit their attitude if they feel they may loose the US and the international community support or like Iran, it may make them more defiant?

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November 27th, 2009, 8:17 pm

 

65. Shai said:

WD,

“They seem also kept in a deep parananioia of denial, fear and suspicion.” Yes, unfortunately this is true. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle ahead of most Israelis.

The “understanding” I was talking about referred to empathy, not necessarily sympathy. I don’t expect you to sympathize with my family’s loss during the Holocaust. I do hope you’ll understand why Israelis suspect Syria. Syria didn’t massacre millions of Jews, true, but it did launch two wars against Israel, the first out of rejection of the UN Partition Plan, and the second out of attempt to retrieve the Golan. In both cases, Israel felt its existence was at stake. When Israelis see Syria embracing an Iranian regime that is calling for Israel’s annihilation (I don’t want to get into whether it’s “Israel the nation” or the “Zionist Entity”), or arming our enemies with offensive capabilities, or allegedly developing a nuclear program, our fears and suspicions grow.

As for the Syria-Israel peace negotiations, I seriously doubt they ever included Jerusalem. I’m sure Right-of-Return was discussed, and if I’m not mistaken, Syria did offer to naturalize her Palestinian refugees (after they receive compensation, etc.) Obviously, this is not the case with Lebanon. My guess is that when Bashar spoke of the “20% left (to close the deal)”, he was referring to Land issues more so than the people ones. I imagine Israel and Syria have pretty much agreed that the Comprehensive peace agreement we were all hoping to achieve would not be a prerequisite to peace between us.

If Israelis felt suddenly that they were “losing the U.S.”, there’s a good chance many would try to understand why, and not only in private, but also through public discourse. But I doubt we’re anywhere near that day. Obama seems to want to always satisfy everyone. I can’t understand how he plans to bring peace to the Middle East at the rate he’s moving.

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November 27th, 2009, 9:18 pm

 

66. why-discuss said:

Shai

Thanks for the reply. I do feel sorry for all the pain and traumas the Holocaust has caused the Jewish people and your family. I saw a documentary on Norman Finkelstein. His mother who was a holocaust survivor until her death was still trying to make sense of what hapenned to her. Having lived the persecution, humiliation and the sense of powerlessness is a terrifying and traumatic experience that lingers for generations and very difficult to heal. I am not surprised by the psychological state of mind in Israel.
Yet, while the cult of power and the use of violence has allowed the Jews to try to live a normal life in Israel, it seems to have become a second nature and maybe it is very hard for Israelis to feel compassion and show generosity for fear of appearing weak. Bullying seems to be the normal way of dealing with people. I do not know if this aggressivity is visible in everyday life among the Israelis but I won’t be surprised if it is.
Simple gestures of compassion and humanity from Israel may open many doors to the heart of the arabs. Bullying and threatening with an attitude of superiority is bound to close these doors.

I agree that Obama appears lost but I think it needs time to figure out a way in the labyrinths of the ME. I give him the benefit of doubt and wait.

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November 28th, 2009, 5:34 am

 

67. Shai said:

WD,

“Simple gestures of compassion and humanity from Israel may open many doors to the heart of the arabs.”

You are so right, and it is so basic. It is a universal truth, applicable everywhere, to all people. But the problem seems to be, that my people truly don’t feel they’ve victimized anyone – they feel the victim. Though I’m no psychologist, I claim that we really haven’t dissociated ourselves yet from the horrific results the Holocaust had on our grandparents, and as a result on their children, who are our parents. My generation is the first one in our history that really had a chance to grow up without seeing the results of the Holocaust first-hand.

My parents grew up in a home that had Holocaust survivors – people that saw, experienced, lived through, and miraculously survived one of the most horrific episodes in human history. All of their brothers and sisters, parents, uncles, aunts, everyone were sent to concentration camps, and left them through gas chamgers and chimneys. Imagine (my parents) growing up with parents who survived this hell. Thankfully, I grew up differently. I also spent a good part of my life abroad. I have a very different perspective from most Israelis. I know what Arabs are really like, not only the ones that are shown on our TV sets in Israel, or that play certain roles in our books as we grow up. Arabs had a very different part in our national ethos, than the one I saw whilst abroad.

It is truly a catastrophe, that a people that were a victim of one of the worst crimes in history, would soon afterwards use their newly acquired power to rule over and victimize another people, who have no less basic human rights than any of us did, or do. But most Israelis still do not understand this. As I’ve said to Akbar a few times before, when we are in the 7-day period of mourning after a person has passed away (we call it the “Shiv’a”), Jewish tradition has us cover up all mirrors in the house – so that we would not be tempted to think about ourselves during this period. I said to Akbar, that after 62 years, it is time we took off the covers. It is time we looked ourselves in the mirror.

But WD, though we are the stronger nation in the region, we are still very weak in many ways. I doubt we will be the first to exhibit emotional courage, and to apologize to the Palestinians for what we’ve done. Sadat must have realized this, when he decided not to wait for the Israelis to wake up, and got on a plane and came to Jerusalem. While I understand that Bashar doesn’t want to seem like another Sadat, and that indeed the situation is different today, I do think Syria is far stronger than it thinks, and should find a way to “help us help ourselves”. It should talk to us, the Israeli people. It should allay our fears, or at least spell out its own hopes for a peaceful future. The direct-contact is what’s terribly missing in our conflict. We’ve only met on battlefields, and on TV-screens where reporters and politicians delivered their interest-driven information to us. How can either one of us allay our fears, remove the distrust and suspicion, even just long enough to negotiate a peace treaty?

No human is born a bully. And few bullies really want to be bullies. It is the psychology of nations and their histories that is at play here, not some innate character that cannot be treated or changed. Recognize the bully’s fears (rational or irrational as they may be), address the bully’s fears, and see the bully become a non-bully. I know Israelis, WD, and I know that while we do fear for our Jewish existence, we don’t want to rob another people of their freedom. We do understand what it is like to be persecuted. Give us hope and tell us that we mustn’t fear you, and we will let down our emotional and physical barriers. We will reciprocate. I am confident of it.

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November 28th, 2009, 12:43 pm

 

68. why-discuss said:

Shai

Your reply brought tears in my eyes. Your analysis is so true.
I do feel more than sympathy for Israelis when I see movies about their lives, their anxieties and talk to some on individual basis but I feel frustration and rejection when I see what their governemnt is doing, hear their politicians or read these american-jewish neo-con journalists defending blindly Israel’s actions.
Maybe Israeli artists are the only effective ambassadors, and should move on the scene, instead of staying in the background.

I guess we are both emotional and are inherently compassionate, it is a matter on meeting half way and this seems to be the hardest thing to do, both sides have resentments, grievances, psychological hang ups.
How to break that, I don’t know, but I think letting the common israeli realize that arabs are not inherently hateful people and that gaining their hearts is what counts and it is not as difficult as it appears.
I hope it happens, Shai, for the good of our generation and the next one.

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November 28th, 2009, 2:46 pm

 

69. Shai said:

WD,

Indeed we are both an emotional and inherently compassionate people. We are much closer to one another, than to so-called “Westerners”. Anyone who knows both Israelis and Arabs knows this to be true.

I don’t think we need to truly meet halfway. I think we just need to meet, to get close enough to begin to empathize. To begin to see how different we are, from what we’ve always been taught to believe. How this “brainwashing” has caused us to do things against all rational thinking. How our own, often irrational or exaggerated fears and suspicion led to hatred, and robbed us of peace for decades.

I really do hope Syria can find a way to talk to Israelis, directly. If tomorrow evening Bashar Assad is interviewed on Israeli television, by 3 Israeli journalists, all sitting at the Presidential Palace in Damascus(!), this will be the kind of “shock therapy” that we need. And I promise you, it will have a tremendous effect within Israel. I really hope we can see this day soon.

Because if it’s not that, then Syria and Israel will both be gambling on Netanyahu’s real plans. Is he interested in simply holding on to the throne for another few years, and going down in history as another Shamir, or is he planning to be the one to end the Israeli-Arab conflict. Are we ready to gamble on the latter, or are there other things we can do as well?

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November 28th, 2009, 7:52 pm

 

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