Posted by Joshua on Friday, November 17th, 2006
Syria is demonstrating that it will and can be accommodating on the Palestine front. Syria is throwing Washington and Tel Aviv a bone in Palestine by pushing Hamas to work out differences with the PLO. Washington wants more bones before it will agree to talk to Syria, but it looks as if Syria will hold firm on the Lebanon front and stair down the US. And why not?
Last year a leading Syria told me that the attitude of the countries leaders was that if the US believed that it could use Iraq and Lebanon as a base from which to launch an anti-Syria campaign, Washington would be sorely disappointed.
"Why?" I asked.
He replied, "Because Iraq and Lebanon are not nations. They are like quicksand and they will suck America into a swamp of infinite factionalism and weakness. This is what happened to Israel in 1982, when it tried to use Lebanon as a base to isolate and then bring down the Syrian regime.
"If this is in fact the Syrian belief, and there is plenty of indication that it is, then Damascus must be feeling vindicated. Washington is in big trouble in Iraq, which is bound to get worse. Washington is also in big trouble in Lebanon. Polls demonstrate is has lost popularity since supporting Israel's failed campaign to demolish Hizbullah. Pro-Syrian Lebanese have been emboldened to try to bring down the pro-American government. In the US, the Democrats have dealt Bush a blow.
The Syrian elite will undoubtedly be saying to itself, "time is on our side. The Americans are still insulting us and claiming that our negotiating price is too high, but they are sinking in a swamp. Today the quicksand is up to their chests. But tomorrow it will be up to their nostrils; then the price will not seem too high or unreasonable. We tried to warn them not to invade Iraq, but they would not listen. Another year in Iraq and they will learn manners."
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria has stepped up backstage diplomacy to press Hamas into sharing power to demonstrate that Damascus remains a key player in the Middle East, Palestinian officials and analysts say.Open to a rapprochement with the West, Damascus has been gently pushing its ally Hamas into solving differences with President Mahmoud Abbas on a new Palestinian government that have played into the hands of Israel, they said.
The political failure of Hamas would reflect badly on Syria, which has expressed readiness to resume talks with Israel as part of a Middle East peace deal and is keen to show the United States it remains central to the region's politics.
A new Palestinian administration could prompt the West to ease sanctions imposed after Hamas, whose charter commits it to the destruction of Israel, took power in March after elections. The group, whose leader Khaled Meshaal lives in Syria, has abandoned its insistence on heading a new government, but no one doubts it will remain a force to be reckoned with in Palestinian politics.Independent Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi, who is mediating between Hamas's leaders and Abbas, told Reuters that Syria wants to change a perception that the exiled leadership of Hamas is extremist."Syria does not want the Palestinian government to turn into a theatre of Arab disputes and is strongly backing Arab efforts to conclude a deal. We would not have reached so far without the exiled leadership," Barghouthi told Reuters in Damascus.
Camille-Alexandre writes: Jihad El-Khazen of al-Hayat asked Hamas' leader Mashaal if he worries Syria will “sell out Hamas” if a deal is made with the Americans. Khaled Mashaal replied confidently “no, there will be more Syrian support.”
Syria will not get satisfaction for its gesture on the Palestinian front. Here is how the Jewish Forward explains Bush and Olmert's negative view of talking to the Syrians: "According to the Bush administration’s view, Assad wants not only the Golan Heights but also stronger control over Lebanon. There really isn’t a reward big enough to give Assad.”
|Olmert Hugs Bush, Praises Iraq War
Olmert left the White House on Monday “very, very, very pleased,” as he described it, with the understandings that he and Bush reached on the Iranian nuclear threat. Both leaders stressed that the only way to deal with Iran is by international pressure and isolation, but the administration still expects Israel to do its share in improving the regional environment to facilitate such pressure.
A senior Israeli official said this week that though the opposition to engaging with Damascus “is not an ideology,” Israel doubts that talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can be fruitful. According to the Bush administration’s view, Assad wants not only the Golan Heights but also stronger control over Lebanon. So, the Bush administration official argued, “there really isn’t a reward big enough to give Assad.”
Though Bush made it clear in his meeting with Olmert on Monday that he is not interested in engaging with Iran before it gives up its nuclear ambitions, Israeli officials still believe that the United States might change course regarding Syria, if the Baker-Hamilton report suggests it is a needed step in order to stabilize Iraq.
As part of the effort to line up Arab states against Tehran’s nuclear program, Israel is coming under increased pressure from America to achieve progress in talks with the Palestinians.
In a meeting last week, the Forward has learned, a senior Bush administration official told Israeli visitors that in order to form a strong coalition against Iran, movement must take place on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
The main goal of the administration now is to get American-aligned Arab states — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries — to join forces in isolating Ahmadinejad’s regime. According to sources, the senior American official said that what these countries — referred to in Washington lingo as “the Arab Quartet” — want to see is America making good on its promise to realize the vision of an independent Palestinian state. Where the Bush administration and the Arab Quartet countries differ is over the definition of success: The White House is promising effort; the Arabs want results.
This article is a must read in its entirety. Here is what it has to say about internal Jewish and Israel dialogue about giving land back to Palestinians as a basis for peace:
In his meeting with Bush, Olmert did not present a new plan and — defying the administration’s expectations — he did not show any sign of being willing to move ahead on the Palestinian front. Yet within Olmert’s Cabinet, other ideas are brewing.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is working, according to sources close to her, on a series of new steps to reinvigorate the peace process, provided that the new Palestinian government is acceptable to Jerusalem. Livni, who said more than once that “as a lawyer, I always prefer to write my own drafts than to put corrections into the other side’s draft,” fears that without an Israeli initiative, the Arab League peace plan might gain momentum as the only game in town.
In her speech at the General Assembly, Livni signaled her new ideas, conveying the message that the Israeli public is ready for a historic compromise. “Israel has made its choice,” Livni told the Jewish activists in the opening session, stating that there is a conflict between the Jewish right for all of the Land of Israel and the need to preserve Israel as a democratic state. “For both elements to live together, and not in contradiction, and to assure our security, we have to give up part of Eretz Yisrael.”
Livni’s message did not resonate well with the 3,000-strong crowd at the L.A. convention center. Only scattered applause was heard in the hall, in contrast to a much more enthusiastic response when the foreign minister spoke of the need to confront the Iranian threat.
The head of the Knesset opposition, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, drew strong applause as he argued that compromise would only lead to a greater threat to Israel. On three occasions he compared Iran to “Germany in 1938.” Netanyahu warned against pressing Israel to make concessions to embolden efforts to isolate Iran. “It is not that the Palestinian conflict affects Iran — it is the other way round,” Netanyahu said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia agrees with Olmert that Syria is bad. She has a long article in the Forward, entitled, The Two Faces of Bashar Al-Assad, which ends:
While it is important for Israel to pursue peace with its neighbors, it is equally important that Israel’s partner in negotiations be credible and sincere in wanting to achieve a peace that is just and sustainable. Syria’s Assad does not fit that bill, and the international community should not fall for Assad’s phony calls to negotiate while in the same sentence he is threatening war.
Russia is delaying approval of the special U.N.-backed court to try suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. It UN representative declared:
"We are somewhat bothered" that the plan had been approved by the Lebanese government but opposed by its president, Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said when asked if Moscow questioned the legitimacy of the government's approval.
Before Russia could consent to the plan along with its Security Council colleagues, "We will look at how it all fits into the Lebanese Constitution," he said.
The United Nations and the Lebanese government have agreed that a tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri should have a majority of international judges, an international prosecutor and be located outside Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report Thursday. He told the U.N. Security Council that having more international than Lebanese judges in the mixed tribunal would help ensure its independence.
The headlines from Naharnet.com alone tell a story of deadlock and threats as Lebanon slides toward paralysis and economic exhaustion.