Posted by Joshua on Friday, July 16th, 2010
The Human Rights Watch report, “A Wasted Decade: Human Rights in Syria during Bashar al-Asad’s First Ten Years in Power.”
Syria’s Decade of Repression
By: Nadim Houry | The Guardian
What is clear from a review of Assad’s decade in power is that he has no true commitment to broadening public freedoms for Syria’s citizens, perhaps the most repressed in the entire Arab world. What initiatives he has taken have been limited at best; he removed a ban on independent publications, but the only two private newspapers allowed to cover political topics are owned by businessmen closely tied to his government.
On the surface, Syria is a less menacing place than it was in the 1980s. Visitors to Damascus – one of this year’s hot travel destinations – are likely to stay in smart boutique hotels and dine in new restaurants. But scratch the surface, something few foreigners do, and the reality is as bleak as ever. As a prominent dissident told me recently: “In the 1980s, we went to jail without trial. Now, we get a trial, but we still go to jail.”
Noam Sheizaf “Endgame,” Haaretz, 15 July 2010.
It’s an idea for solving the conflict that sounds like a vision of the end of days: Grant Israeli citizenship and equal rights to all the Palestinians in the West Bank. And who is proposing the one-state solution? Right-wingers and settlers…. Geneva Initiative’s Gadi Baltiansky – “The solution for the coming decades is the present status quo, with improvements of one kind or another.”
TABLET Magazine taken from Haaretz and via FLC
“… Netanyahu is speaking to a small group in the West Bank settlement of Ofra two years after stepping down as prime minister in 1999…..
“I know what America is,” Netanyahu replied. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.” He then called former president Bill Clinton “radically pro-Palestinian,” and went on to belittle the Oslo peace accords as vulnerable to manipulation. Since the accords state that Israel would be allowed to hang on to pre-defined military zones in the West Bank, Netanyahu told his hosts that he could torpedo the accords by defining vast swaths of land as just that.
“They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords],” Netanyahu said. “I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.”
Smiling, Netanyahu then recalled how he forced former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to agree to let Israel alone determine which parts of the West Bank were to be defined as military zones. “They didn’t want to give me that letter,” Netanyahu said, “so I didn’t give them the Hebron agreement [the agreement giving Hebron back to the Palestinians]. I cut the cabinet meeting short and said, ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, during that meeting, to me and to Arafat, did I ratify the Hebron agreement. Why is this important? Because from that moment on, I de facto put an end to the Oslo accords.”
U.S.-Israeli security ties grow amid diplomatic disputes
By Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post
This week, Israel successfully conducted a test of a new mobile missile-defense system designed to shield Israeli towns from small rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. When the “Iron Dome” system is fully deployed in the next year, about half the cost — $205 million — will be borne by U.S…
Syrian Envoy, Code Pink Take Jabs at Obama’s Israel Policy
By Jay Solomon
The State Department’s pointman on military affairs got a one-two-punch Friday, as the Obama administration seeks to mend a diplomatic rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The pugilists: Syria’s ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, and the left-wing activist group, Code Pink.
Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political and military affairs, gave an expansive speech at the Brookings Institution Friday morning that highlighted the deepening military ties between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government.
“Israel is a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments,” Shapiro said. He outlined how the Obama administration has approved more security-assistance to Israel — $2.8 billion for the current year and $3 billion for 2011 -– than any other American administration.
Shapiro’s words marked a sharp break from earlier comments by Obama administration officials that American soldiers in the Middle East were being targeted, in part, because of the failure to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The comments have fueled a debate inside Washington in recent months over whether Israel is a strategic asset or liability for the U.S.
Shapiro sought to use his appearance to silence the debate. “We believe that…there are real strategic benefits to that relationship,” he said.
Still, critics of Israel emerged quickly to challenge what’s seen by some in the diplomatic community as a significant softening by the White House towards Israel in recent weeks. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama and Netanyahu met at the White House, shaking hands and smiling during a photo op and emphasizing the close ties between their countries.
Moustapha, Damascus’s long-serving envoy to Washington, challenged Shapiro on why the Obama administration remains quiet on Israel’s assumed nuclear-weapons capability. “I’m always puzzled, why is it that whenever an American official will discuss the Israeli military prowess and the cutting edge of warfare technology that Israel possesses, they will always, always never, never discuss the Israeli nuclear arsenal that actually exists?” Moustapha said.
Shapiro ducked the question with a joke: “I’m not going to be the first U.S. official to discuss, you know, Israeli nuclear” capabilities, he said.
An activist from Code Pink later pushed Shapiro on why the Obama administration refuses to hold discussions with the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Again, Shapiro ducked directly answering the question.
“As I mentioned before, from the very beginning — from the very first days of the administration, has been committed to a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians which will lead to a two-state solution,” Shapiro said.
Sec. of State Clinton’s remarks At a Reception Hosted for the Jewish Community and Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
President Obama and I are determined to curb anti-Semitism and to work to prevent the isolation of Israel internationally. So we are sending Hannah all over the world. (Laughter.)
Syria PM says peace out of reach due to Israel stubbornness, violations
20:17, July 15, 2010
Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Otri on Thursday voiced pessimism over chances of achieving peace in the Middle East, saying peace became out of reach due to Israel’s stubbornness and violation of the international laws and charters.
Otri’ statements came during a speech to the 57th International Damascus Fair, which kicked off in the Syrian capital on Wednesday. The Syrian premier also slammed Israeli policies that included confiscating Palestinian lands, building settlements, imposing a siege on the Palestinians and attacking the international pro- Palestinians activists.
“Peace is a process based on the presence of two partners. It cannot be achieved by one side,” Otri said.
He also stressed that the economic blockade policy adopted against some counties has been futile and must be lifted due to its negative effects on these states’ peoples.
On Monday, Israel approved building new settlement in East Jerusalem, which outraged the Palestinians who want the city to be the capital of their future independent state.
The United States will continue to maintain Israel’s military advantage as well as protect it in the diplomatic arena, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Wednesday, adding that the American commitment to Israel’s security was “not negotiable.”
U.S. UN envoy Susan Rice
Susan Rice Speaking during a reception for Israeli Ambassadors Gabriela Shalev and Daniel Carmon, held by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York, Rice said the “United States of America remains fully and firmly committed to the peace and security of the State of Israel.”
“That commitment spans generations and political parties. It is not negotiable, and it never will be,” Rice added, saying the United States would “continue to strengthen Israel’s qualitative military advantage so that Israel can always defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”…
“But Gabi and I had the opportunity to work closely together on a series of important issues, from dealing with the deeply flawed Goldstone Report to seeing through the passage by the Security Council of the toughest sanctions resolution to date against Iran,” Rice said,…
New CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum Looks at “A Third Lebanon War” It discusses the most plausible scenarios for a renewed Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon amidst rising tensions. By Daniel C. Kurtzer
Aleppo Soap Factory
Read the story in Aramco World
A Glittering Crossroads
By CHRISTIAN C. SAHNER Damascus, Syria It’s Friday and the weekly congregational prayer has just ended at the Umayyad Mosque, Syria’s most famous monument. As the faithful exit, they walk past an unassuming bit of masonry on the mosque’s southern … Syria is no ecumenical paradise, but it has a long legacy of religious diversity, which continues to this day. Christians still constitute at least 10% of the population, and President Bashar al-Assad and many government leaders are Alawis, a historically marginal sect of Shiite Islam.