Posted by Joshua on Sunday, April 19th, 2009
So long as the US stops the flow of arms to Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah without stopping Israel from expropriating Palestinian and Syria land, the Arab goose is cooked. Obama’s Washington remains vigilant and decisive in its efforts to thwart Arab resistance to Israel’s expansion. The question is whether Obama can put together a policy that will also push forward the Arab Peace plan. If he cannot, all the promise will be unfulfilled.
Clayton Palestinian expulsions from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem Youtube (3 minutes) do not reasure us, although he does get a few words in with a US State Department official who was sent to monitor the expulsions.
WSJ, 2009-04-17 – by Jay Solomon
The Obama administration is pushing for a formal censure of Iran and Syria at the United Nations over an arms-smuggling case that U.S. officials see as highlighting the risks that Iranian weapons shipments pose to regional stability.
…The move …could impede the ability of Iranian shipping firms to deliver arms to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, U.S. and other Western officials said…. Last month, a U.N. committee ruled that both Iran and Syria violated a Security Council resolution that bans Tehran from both importing and exporting weapons…..
Syria has charged that the U.N.’s actions amount to a double standard, because no efforts have been made to prevent American arms from reaching Israel. Damascus has also said the U.N. is seeking to block Syria’s right to defend itself against Israeli aggression….”
U.S. Envoy’s Two-State Push Meets Israeli Skepticism
JERUSALEM — Stark differences between U.S. and Israeli policy toward peace talks with the Palestinians emerged clearly Thursday in the first meetings between President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy and top leaders of the new Israeli government.
The envoy, George Mitchell, stated clearly that Washington is aiming for creation of a Palestinian state. But Israelis avoided mention of Palestinian statehood, and the new foreign minister said past Israeli concessions have led to violence, not peace.
Mr. Mitchell met Thursday evening with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has yet to unveil his policy on peace efforts but has spoken of shifting the emphasis to stimulating the Palestinian economy instead of supporting the process accepted by the U.S. and Israel up to now.
Mr. Mitchell made the administration’s goals clear to reporters while standing next to Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, after their meeting.
“U.S. policy favors … a two-state solution, which would have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel,” Mr. Mitchell said.
In a statement, Mr. Lieberman questioned the basic premise that compromises by both sides would eventually lead to a peace accord.
“The historic approach has so far not brought any result or solution.”….
“..Rahm Emanuel told an (unnamed) Jewish leader; “In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn’t matter to us at all who is prime minister.”
He also said that the United States will exert pressure to see that deal is put into place.”Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory,” the paper reports Emanuel as saying. In other words, US sympathy for Israel’s position vis a vis Iran depends on Israel’s willingness to live up to its commitment to get out of the West Bank and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state there, in Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
U.S.-Israel Divide Emerges On Palestinian Peace Talks (The Washington Post)
JERUSALEM, April 16 — Stark differences between U.S. and Israeli policy toward peace talks with the Palestinians emerged clearly Thursday in the first meetings between President Obama’s Middle East envoy and top leaders of the new Israeli government.
New Liberal Jewish Lobby Quickly Makes Its Mark (By Dan Eggen, The Washington Post)
When a group of Jewish liberals formed a lobbying and fundraising group called J Street a year ago, they had modest hopes of raising $50,000 for a handful of congressional candidates….
Ben-Ami said he has no expectation that J Street will become as large as AIPAC, but he believes it can become influential enough to change the parameters of the U.S. debate over Israel policy. The group’s budget is slated to double to $3 million in its second year, he said, and J Street is preparing to launch an education arm focused on U.S. college campuses. …
Andrew Tabler in the Jerusalem Post – “Analysis: Why Mitchell is bypassing Damascus.” Andrew Tabler criticizes his old rivals, Sami Moubayed and Abdulsalam Haykal, for being “close to the Syrian regime” and for participating in a general Syrian over-optmism about Obama’s willingness to engage Damascus. ( For several years, Tabler edited “Syria Today,” the first English language magazine in Syria. Moubayed and Haykal started Forward which became “the other” English language magazine in Damascus.) Even though Tabler has graduated from his low paying job in Syria to a more lucrative post writing for the premier pro-Israeli think tank in Washington, he still cannot pass up a chance to send a zinger in the direction of his old Damascene competitors.
Tabler takes President Assad to task for “refusing to talk about cutting ties with Hizbullah, Hamas and Tehran.” He also takes umbridge at the way Assad criticizes Israel and recommends that the US not rush into engagement with Syria before Damascus gives up the allies it hopes will help pry the Golan from Israel.
Excerpts from the Middle eade Policy Survey thanks to “friday-lunch-club”
Mitchell’s trip to the Middle East this week does not include stops in Lebanon or Syria. On Lebanon, the Administration is treading warily in advance of its June Parliamentary elections. Although the US would prefer to see the current pro-Western government retain power, they are prepared for an Opposition victory, despite its likely enhancement of the already formidable power of Hezbollah [Although they will not follow the example of the British government which earlier this month decided to begin dealing with the “political arm” of Hezbollah — a move which surprised and infuriated Secretary Clinton]. They are even prepared for the formation of a national unity government, for as one State Department official says wryly, “To be Lebanese is to be expert in the art of compromise.”
Policy toward Syria will continue to evolve at a slow pace, say key US officials. “You will not see a `roll out’ of a Syria policy like we are doing with Iran,” explains one key US official. Even the return of the US Ambassador [who was withdrawn after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005] is not considered imminent. “That move is still a couple of steps away,” says one well-placed official
“Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday that his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, is not welcome in Egypt. “His feet will not step on Egyptian soil as long as he maintains his positions,” Aboul Gheit told Russia Today TV. Lieberman sparked outrage in Egypt last year when he criticized its president, Hosni Mubarak, in a speech before the Knesset, saying that the Egyptian leader could “go to hell.”
“… This blaze of Egyptian accusations underlines the frustration felt by the government of President Hosni Mubarak, which has borne withering opprobrium due to its refusal to open crossings into Gaza to relieve the besieged Palestinian territory. Egypt’s discomfort peaked during Israel’s 22-day assault on Hamas in Gaza earlier this year, when Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, charged Mr Mubarak with complicity with the “Zionist regime” and dramatically called on Egyptian officers to save their country’s honour. Egypt has remained isolated in Arab public opinion as Mr Mubarak has subsequently cracked down on cross-border smuggling and struggled to strong-arm Hamas into sharing power with its secular rival, Fatah, by using the opening of the border as a lure.
Some of Egypt’s charges may be true. In a televised speech, Mr Nasrallah admitted that one of the arrested men was a party member engaged in logistical work to help “our Palestinian brothers”. But the Hizbullah leader, who has a reputation for frankness, said that no more than ten of the alleged plotters had any link to his party, and denied any intent to harm Egypt. “If aiding the Palestinians is a crime, then I am guilty and proud of it,” he said.
His deputy, Naim Qassem, said Hizbullah’s people had clear instructions not to take any action against Israelis in Egypt. He posed a rhetorical question. “How can Israel have the right to receive weapons and intelligence from all the world, while one small effort to lift the oppression of the Palestinians or supply basic necessities to keep their struggle going is condemned?”
This logic still appeals to many in the region. But just as Mr Nasrallah’s unsubtle call for Mr Mubarak’s overthrow annoyed even some of the Egyptian president’s foes at home, the revelation of Hizbullah intrigue raises questions about the group’s intentions. Though implicated in past acts of international terror, Hizbullah in recent years has declared itself concerned solely with Lebanese affairs, increasingly so as Lebanon’s general election due in June approaches. Its critics in Lebanon now have new cause to complain that the party risks enmeshing their country in regional squabbles they want no part of.”
Syria seen keen on new peace talks with Israel
Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:17am EDT
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis – Analysis
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Encouraged by President Barack Obama’s overtures toward Washington’s adversaries, Syria is pushing to restart peace talks with Israel, diplomats and political analysts say.
Damascus has intensified its quest to relaunch the Turkish-mediated talks, diplomats in the Syrian capital said, despite the formation last month of a right-leaning Israeli government that has shown little interest in a U.S.-backed two state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
“The Syrians are sensing that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu does not want a peace deal with the Palestinians and that he could restart the Syrian track as a way of deflecting pressure,” one senior Western diplomat said.
“They have dealt with Netanyahu before. More importantly they expect the Americans to try to salvage their policies in the Middle East by backing the Syrian track,” he added.
Obama sent two senior officials to Damascus last month to talk to Syria, in a break from a policy of isolation under his predecessor.
George W. Bush showed no enthusiasm for the indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which were formally suspended in December following the three-week Israeli offensive on Gaza.
The Bush administration also expanded U.S. sanctions on Damascus and criticized Syria’s human rights record, its role in Iraq and Lebanon as well as its alliances with Iran and militant groups in the Middle East.
One of the Obama administration officials who visited Damascus said Washington wants to see “forward momentum” on Syrian-Israeli talks, but the United States refrained from committing to any involvement.
Syria regards direct U.S. support to negotiations as a pre-requisite for a deal and the best guarantee that Israel would adhere to any peace arrangements.
Syria and Israel held almost 10 years of direct U.S. supervised negotiations that centered on the Golan Heights.
Israeli occupied the Golan in the 1967 Middle East War, displacing 100,000 Syrian residents in the water-rich territory. Around 40,000 people now live in the Golan, roughly divided between Israeli settlers and remaining Syrian population.
The talks collapsed in 2000 when Syria’s late President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president, Bashar, turned down an Israeli offer to withdraw from the Golan but keep a narrow strip on the northeastern shore of the Lake of Galilee, which Assad regarded as Syrian territory.
Assad defined the occupied Golan as the territory Syria held on June 4, 1967, before the war broke out, including the northeastern shore of the lake, Israel’s main water reservoir.
Bashar has stuck to his father’s position, rejecting other geographical definitions, including one drawn by colonial France and Britain in 1923 that keeps Syria away from the water.
Assad said Syria and Israel were close to moving to direct negotiations before Israel launched its invasion of Gaza, and Syria had expected Israel to agree through Turkish mediators on the Golan boundary based on the 1967 line.
Frederic C. Hof, who U.S. officials say is expected to join the team of Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, said it was far from certain that re-launching talks would achieve Syrian, U.S., or Israeli aims.
While Damascus seeks the return of the Golan, Israel and Washington want to see Assad separated from Iran, Lebanon’s Shi’ite movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, whose exiled leaders live in Syria.
Hof said in a report published by the United States Institute of Peace that American involvement in the negotiations was crucial for Syria to consider altering its alliances.
The report envisages a phased Israeli withdrawal to the June 4 line with intricate water, zoning and joint access arrangements to alley Israeli security, environmental and water supply concerns.
Cautioning that Syria would keep holding the alliances card close to its chest, Hof said Damascus could make “the requisite adjustments” to its ties with Iran and Hezbollah only if a peace treaty goes smoothly.
Syria has indicated that it was prepared to discuss a wide range of issues as long as Israel agrees to withdraw to the June 4 line, although Damascus remains wary of appearing to sell out its militant allies.
“Assad has let be known that the support of his people for a deal on the Golan might not extend too long into the future and the best solution would be for the United States to pursue a comprehensive Middle East peace covering the Palestinian and Syrian tracks,” one European diplomat said.
“It is far from certain that the United States will do this and it is still in a long policy review toward Syria, but one thing is clear, Assad wants to negotiate now a peace with Israel that would change the Middle East.”
Asked about the possibility of a deal with Netanyahu, with whom Syria negotiated with in his first term as Israeli premier in the 1990s, Assad told Qatar’s al-Sharq newspaper that Syria has a strategy for concluding peace and “whoever commits to them does not form a problem for us.”
The UNHCR just wrapped up an exhibition of Iraqi artists in Damascus, writes Frederick Deknatel for the UNHCR news site. It is part of a larger project promoting Iraqi refugee artists in Syria.
Syria prison breaks the mould with rehab scheme Middle East On-Line
50 prisoners participating in unique art therapy rehabilitation programme at facility in northern Syria.
Ehsani writes: American households have lost close to $11 trillion in net worth since the start of this economic crisis. This includes losses to their home values, stocks, pensions and mutual funds. This total is equivalent to 275 years of income for 20 million Syrians. In other words, American households lost in 2 years what Syrians are expected to make in 275 years. Or, the average American lost in wealth what an average Syrian is expected to make in 16 years of income. Sobering trivia. This is how economists spend their time!