News Round Up (23 March 2008)

Even if few presidents show up at the Arab summit in Damascus, the hoteliers will consider the event a success.

More Than 5,000 Rooms Booked for Summit in Syria, Al-Hayat Says
By Massoud A. Derhally

March 23 (Bloomberg) — More than 5000 hotel rooms have been reserved for an Arab summit in Syria this month, causing prices to rise as much as 80 percent, Al-Hayat reported.

Of the total rooms reserved, about 1,500 have been booked at five-star hotels, the Saudi-owned newspaper reported. The Moroccan delegation to the summit, which will take place March 29-30, asked for 250 rooms. Libya initially asked for 700 rooms, then reduced the number to 200, in addition to reserving 200 luxury cars. Syria will close Damascus International Airport to all commercial flights March 28-30. About 850 journalists are covering the summit.

Three Kurds shot dead in northern Syria: Nayrouz turned bloody again this year. Almost every year tensions between Syrian state security and Kurds in the northeast of Syria boil over during the Nayrouz holiday. Nayrouz has taken on "national" significance for Kurds, who are widely discriminated against in the northeast of the country, where they predominate. Syrian authorities try to discourage all national sentiment amongst Kurds, banning the use of Kurdish language in print and in schools. The state fears that in giving more freedom to Kurds of the region they will demand to be annexed to Iraqi Kurdistan. Syria has resisted reforming its notoriously outdated citizenship law for fear of granting full national rights to the some 300,000 Kurds who have been denied citizenship since the infamous census under President Qudsi of 1962.. Most Syrian Kurds insist that Kurdish secessionist sentiment is fanned by the pervasive discrimination of the state. If Kurds were given full rights and freedoms, they claim, the call for the creation of a greater Kurdistan would not spread. The Syrian authorities do not buy this argument. Most Syrian Arabs are deaf to the Kurdish claim that Arab nationalism is a form of racism in Syria because it assumes that Syrian Kurds will embrace Arabism, happily chant Arab nationalist slogans during their schooling, and salute Arab symbols rather than Syrian symbols during their national military service. Kurds insist that Syrians should jettison their Arabism in favor of a more inclusive Syrianism. At the same time, many Kurds insist that they should be allowed to celebrate their own Kurdish national identity. 

National anxieties and identity politics which have become so vexed in the region often find their flash point in Nayrouz. The US invasion of Iraq and support for  quasi-Kurdish independence there has increased the disatisfaction of Syria's Kurds. No longer can Syria claim to treat its Kurds better than neighboring states do. In 2004, tensions boiled over in what has become known as a Kurdish intifada. Ever since, Syrian security in the northeast has been tighter than ever.

"Syria: Investigate Killing of Kurds," by Human Rights Watch

Hold Accountable Those Responsible for Unlawful Killings

(New York, March 24, 2008) – Syrian authorities should seek an independent investigation into the March 20 shootings by security forces that left three Kurds dead and at least five wounded at a New Year’s celebration, Human Rights Watch said today. The circumstances of the shootings raise concerns that state security forces used unnecessary lethal force in violation of international law.

On March 20 at about 7:00 p.m., Syrian internal security forces opened fire on Kurds celebrating the New Year (“Nowruz”) in the largely Kurdish town of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch. The shots killed Muhammad Yahya Khalil and Muhammad Zaki Ramadan immediately. A third man, Muhammad Mahmud Hussein, died later from his wounds. All three were between 18 and 25 years old. Those wounded include Muhieldin Hajj Jamil `Issa, Karam Ibrahim Yusif, Muhammad Kheir Khalaf `Issa, Riad Yussef Sheikhi, and Khalil Sulayman Hussein.

Participants in this year’s festivities told Human Rights Watch that about 200 people gathered around 6:30 p.m. on a road in the western part of Qamishli. They lit candles on the side of the road and a bonfire in the middle, around which some performed a Kurdish traditional dance. “This was a celebration of Nowruz, not a political demonstration,” one of the participants told Human Rights Watch.

Firefighters appeared on the scene to extinguish the bonfire while police and intelligence officers fired teargas canisters and live ammunition in the air to disperse the crowds. Two participants told Human Rights Watch that when the celebrants failed to disperse, individuals wearing civilian clothes and driving in a white pick-up truck of the type usually used by intelligence officials fired their assault rifles into the crowd. “Without any warning, they started firing to the ground and suddenly bullets started flying indiscriminately,” an eyewitness told Human Rights Watch.

It is unclear what provoked the security forces to fire into the crowd. According to three participants in the celebrations, none of the Kurds were armed or resorted to violence. Reuters reported that one resident in Qamishli told them that some “youths burned tires and threw stones at the riot police,” but Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm this claim.

“Syrian officials have to justify why security forces opened fire at a Kurdish celebration,” said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Those responsible for using unnecessary lethal force should be brought to justice.”….

Barzani slams Syria's killing 3 Kurds

Syria raises the price of petrol for the second time in 6 months. (Arabic)

Feltman: Washington Pursues Independent Policy on Lebanon

Deputy assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was quoted Saturday as saying Washington has for the first time ever adopted an independent policy on Lebanon that would persist irrespective of who wins the forthcoming presidential elections. Feltman, who was ambassador to Lebanon for over three years, said such a policy is based on support by both the Republican and Democratic parties for Lebanon as a cornerstone in the foreign policy of the United States. He explained that Washington's stand on Lebanon is based on the nation's "democracy and sovereignty" in contrast with Israel's stand, which is based on a security concept. He accused Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun of carrying out a "Syrian agenda." Hizbullah, according to Feltman, maintains its weapons "in line with a regional Syrian-Iranian agenda."

Peres: Israel will not cede Golan Heights for Syria-controlled Lebanon (Ynetnews.com)

Peres told Cheney that "Israel will never agree to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for an Iranian-Syrian controlled Lebanon; and peace talks with Syria cannot begin while it keeps supplying Lebanon with weapons.

Standing Tall
Netanyahu: If we leave Jerusalem, Iran and Hamas will take control  / Roni Sofer
Opposition leader meets with US Vice President Cheney, two discuss need to remove Iranian threat before Islamic republic obtains nuclear bomb. Following meeting, Netanyahu tells Ynet, 'We must prevent Iran from building their main bases in the region, and particularly in Jerusalem'
Full story

"Mass amounts of Iranian-bought weapons are making their way to Hizbullah everyday via Syria," Peres explained, "thus making it an Iranian satellite trying to take over Lebanon – just like Hamas has taken over Gaza," added Peres.

Vice President Cheney reiterated the US' sentiments on the matter, saying the US "is very concerned about the Syrians providing Hizbullah with weapons… it appears like (Syrian) President Bashar Assad is not interested in any kind of negotiation."

As for the Iranian threat, Peres told Cheney a US-led international move to stop Iran from developing new long-range missiles must be put in motion.

"Iran is investing large amount of money in developing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warhead – right under the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) nose.

"These missiles are living proof that Iran's nuclear developments have nothing to do with civilian purposes, but are rather aimed at mass destruction."

When discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Cheney stressed that the US was complete committed to it, and that the American administration is willing to lend whatever assistance necessary to push the negotiations further. US President George W. Bush, he added, "can't wait to visit Israel again and celebrate its 60th anniversary."

In a bold defense of Israel, Vice President Dick Cheney has said the U.S. will never pressure the Jewish state to take steps that would jeopardize its security and vowed not to ignore "the darkening shadows" of the situation in Lebanon. (Naharnet)

Russian FM's Mideast peace push encounters Israeli skepticism

With friends like these
By Gideon Levy
HAARETZ, 23/03/2008

The amount of support being shown for Israel these days is almost embarrassing. The parade of highly-placed foreign guests and the warm reception received by Israeli statesmen abroad have not been seen for quite some time. Who hasn't come to visit lately? From the German chancellor to the leading frontrunner for the American presidency. And the secretary-general of the United Nations is on his way. A visit to Israel has become de rigueur for foreign pols. If you haven't been here, you're nowhere.

The visitors are taken, of course, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the Western Wall and now to Sderot as well – the new national pilgrimage site. A few also pay a perfunctory visit to Ramallah; no one goes to the Gaza Strip, and they all have nothing but praise for Israel. Not a word of criticism on the occupation, on Israel's violent operations in the territories, on the siege and the starving – with the exception of a few vague remarks on the need for a solution. Israel squeezes the Sderot "informational" lemon for all it's worth.

The mix of Sderot and the Holocaust, international Islamophobia and Hamas rule in Gaza do the trick. Israel hasn't scored this kind of foreign-policy success since the days of the Oslo Accords. To judge by the declarations of our foreign guests and our hosts abroad, no other state in the world is more loved than we. A state that imposes a siege that is almost unprecedented in the world today in terms of its cruelty, that adopts an official policy of assassination, is embraced by the family of nations, if we are to judge by the words of the many statesmen who cross our doorstep.

It is, of course, pleasant to revel in this wave of support, but it is an illusion. Public opinion in most of the countries whose leaders are heaping all that praise upon us is not joining in. Israel remains a state without approval, sometimes even outcast and despised. The world sees images from Gaza on television – in comparison, Sderot looks like a resort – and it draws its own conclusions. The natural sense of justice that dictates support for the freedom struggles of oppressed people such as the Tibetan dictates natural support for the Palestinian struggle for liberation. The fact that it is a struggle between a Palestinian David and an Israeli Goliath only adds to the story. With the exception of the U.S., the world is indeed against us, apart from its statesmen. Therefore, we must not give in to the illusion: The current bout of official support for us is not genuine.

Also not genuine is the idea that blind, unconditional friendship is friendship. The support for Israel as a just enterprise that is extended by most of the West does not mean accepting all of its caprices. A true friend of Israel, one that is sincerely concerned for its fate, is only that friend who dares to express sharp criticism of its policy of occupation, which poses the most serious risk to its future, and who also takes practical to steps to end it. Most of the "friendly" statesmen do not understand this.

The stance of the European leaders is particularly perplexing. We're not speaking about the U.S., with its Jewish and Christian lobbies, but rather opinionated Europe; it, too, has lost its ability to act as an honest broker, the type that wields its influence to bring an end to the conflict that endangers it, too. We need Europe, the peace needs Europe, but official Europe covers its eyes and automatically falls in line with the U.S. and its blind support for Israel and its boycott of Gaza. Angela Merkel, who received such a royal reception here last week, did not bring up any controversial issue in her speech at the Knesset. And so, her "historic" speech turned into a hollow one.

The same behavior was displayed by her colleague in the European leadership, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during the visit to his country of President Shimon Peres. The Israeli flags waving along the Champs-Elysees and the much-talked-about Israeli booth at the Paris Book Fair could not hide the fact that many French citizens are pained by the occupation. By not speaking about the siege on Gaza, the starvation imposed on it and the killing of hundreds of its people, Europe's leaders are not meeting their political and moral obligations. Those who believe that only honest international intervention can bring an end to the occupation find themselves desperate and disappointed. Yes, Europe, precisely that continent that carries justifiable feelings of guilt about the Jewish Holocaust, should have found another way to come to Israel's aid. Saccharine visits and sweet speeches in fact express a deep disrespect for Israel – and for European public opinion.

This blind friendship enables Israel to do whatever it wants. The days have passed in which every mobile home erected in the territories and every targeted assassination were carefully considered out of fear of international criticism. That time no longer exists. Israel has a carte blanche to kill, destroy and settle. The U.S. long ago gave up the role of honest broker, and Europe is now following in its footsteps. How depressing: With friends like these, Israel almost doesn't need enemies.

Fatah-Jund al-Sham Fight it Out in Ein al-Hilweh, Casualties

Berri: Parliament Cannot Legislate:

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday reiterated that he would not call the house to legislate as long as Premier Fouad Saniora's government remained in office. Berri made the stand in a statement released by his press office.

"The absence of any legitimate (executive) authority prevents the convening of parliament in a law making capacity," he statement said.

U.S. Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes
Chilean Envoy to U.N. Recounts Threats of Retaliation in Run-Up to Invasion

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 23, 2008; Page A11

UNITED NATIONS — In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Mu¿oz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Mu¿oz writes….

It also sought support from Chile on issues such as peacekeeping in Haiti and support for U.S. efforts to drive Syria out of Lebanon. The U.S.-Chilean free trade agreement, while delayed, was finally signed by then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick in June 2003.

Mu¿oz said that Rice, as secretary of state, called him to ask for help on a U.N. resolution that would press for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. The United States had secured eight of the nine votes required for adoption of a resolution in the Security Council. Mu¿oz had received instructions to abstain. "I talked to [Lagos], and he listened to my argument, and we gave them the ninth vote," he said. 

AIPAC: Yet another delay is expected in the trial of two former pro-Israel lobbyists. "It's now pretty clear that the government does not want to try this case," said Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell. "They filed these charges without thinking them through, and there appears to be no one in government with enough authority or courage to admit they made a mistake."

Comments (92)


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51. SimoHurtta said:

I believe that the Europeans are terrified of a US that is ready to turn inwards and that they will be left to deal with the Russian Bear, disaffected Muslims in Europe, and a chaotic ME.

Hmmmm I suppose Offended that Europe is more terrified of US Bald Eagle (and Israeli Cobra) than the Russian bear. EU needs in the end Russia more than Russia needs EU. Also Russia has for decades to come enough problems in developing its society, economy, military etc. EU needs desperately Russian raw materials, energy and markets. USA not so much. Can you Offended explain why would Russia be threatening EU if EU is not threatening it.

The disaffected Muslims in Europe certain do not be tamed by unlimited support for Israel or allowing Israel to attack with or without nukes Iran.

PS:
Before the IG’s begin to accuse me for choosing cobra as the Israeli national animal lets make clear I picket it from Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_animals

The animal was a huge surprise to me, though I must say it describes good the present realities.

What comes Merkel’s polite words in Israel AIG should remember that she is the leader of Germany, which has some moral debt to Israel and secondly European politicians normally use polite language on state visits. Certainly Merkel and majority of Germans do not see Israel as example among democracies (God help us all if they do and adopt Israeli style of government). What other options Merkel had and did she say her honest opinon? Any real criticism against Israel by the German Bundeskanzler, would create an unseen anti-Semitic shouting.

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March 24th, 2008, 8:43 pm

 

52. Shai said:

QN,

AIG and AP, from what I understand of their views, cannot be your partner for peace, not because they don’t want peace, but because their preconditions are such that you could never meet. They are not ready to talk to Assad tomorrow morning. In fact, they’ll talk only to a democratically-elected President of Syria. So as much as you’d like to negotiate with them, it simply won’t work, unless they’re willing to change their own preconditions.

I’m not here to negotiate peace between Israel and Syria – that’s something the negotiators will do elsewhere. I’m here to reach out to Arabs, to hear and understand their views and concerns, and then to go back to “my people” and do the same as Ford Prefect is doing. My goal is to influence our decision makers, not Wizart or his Simo-hero. I can bring back ideas with me, that have been tossed around here, after hearing your views. The park on the Golan was such an idea (initiated by Syria, as you’ll recall). The Peace Canal Plan was another. Not all ideas will work, or will be accepted. But perhaps some might, and that could be very useful.

I view Assad as my enemy, yet I believe that he and I want peace just as much. I also believe that he is ready to fight for his nation’s best interests just as much as I am, and that neither one of us plans to give the other any “free gifts”. But he, unlike AIG/AP, is more pragmatic, and understands that he probably cannot have everything he wants either. I, at the same time, understand that I also cannot have everything I want. So you and I are much more likely to find a compromise, than perhaps you and AIG might. I would certainly not like to rule out anyone and, in fact, am hoping that I’m wrong about AIG/AP. But there are pragmatic enemies that can meet at the table, and less-pragmatic ones, that cannot. It is probably fair to say that the past three prime ministers of Israel, did not achieve peace with Syria, either because they weren’t pragmatic enough, or their counterparts weren’t (or both). Yet all of them were Syria’s enemy, and vice-versa.

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March 24th, 2008, 8:51 pm

 

53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
In wikipedia the animal of Israel is the deer. There are no cobra’s in Israel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_animals

And of course, your response is that Merkel is lying. How typical. She didn’t have to bring half the German cabinet not to be called an antisemite and could have been less generous with her praise.

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March 24th, 2008, 9:04 pm

 

54. Qifa Nabki said:

Shai,

Fair enough… but Asad needs to take into account the feelings of his allies as well, notably the “calm” Nasrallah. Boy, do I feel reassured… what about you?

Calm Nasrallah Reassures Followers that Israel Would Cease to Exist

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday pledged that Israel is heading towards “more defeats”, reiterating that the Jewish state would be “punished” and would cease to exist.

[And from the Daily Star…]:

Nasrallah said that a poll conducted by clerics after Mughniyeh’s murder showed that most Lebanese – be they Sunni, Christian, Druze or Shiite – wanted to see Israel disappear.

“Back in 1982, some people used to doubt the resistance’s ability to fight Israel, but the resistance’s answer came very fast when different groups started launching attacks against Israeli occupiers,” Nasrallah said.

“At a later period, they doubted our ability to achieve victory, and then the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000 came to prove that the resistance is capable of defeating the Israeli Army,” he added.

“Now we are left with one question: Will Israel cease to exist one day?

“I would like to tell you that the resistance started answering this last question when it defeated the Israeli Army again in the July 2006 war.”

“Yes. … Israel will cease to exist,” Nasrallah told a crowd of several thousand at the ceremony in the southern suburbs of Beirut via video link.

—-

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March 24th, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

55. Alex said:

QN,

Actually, Nasrallah’s words are a downgrade from last month when he promised Israel that he will retaliate very soon for Mughniyeh’s assassination. So, he is telling his supporters that he will not be finishing Israel soon .. it will happen by itself with time ..etc.

Here is another interview that ALon gave to Elaph

http://65.17.227.80/ElaphWeb/Politics/2008/3/315337.htm

ليئيل لإيلاف: الإسرائيليون لن يكتفوا باتفاقية سلام مع سوريا

GMT 20:00:00 2008 الإثنين 24 مارس

إيلاف

أكد بأن السياسة الاسرائيلية الحالية تنساق خلف مخططات بوش
ليئيل لإيلاف: الإسرائيليون لن يكتفوا باتفاقية سلام مع سوريا

نضال وتد من حيفا: اعتبر المدير العام السابق لوزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية، ورئيس اللجنة من أجل السلام بين إسرائيل وسوريا، ألون ليئيل، في حديث خاص لإيلاف، أن تصريحات الرئيس الإسرائيلي شيمون بيريز الأخيرة، خلال لقائه بتشيني، بشأن رفض إسرائيل إعادة الجولان لسوريا خشية ألا تتحول إلى قاعدة لإيران، وأن النظام في سوريا هو نظام يجري في فلك السياسة الإيرانية، تؤكد انسياق السياسة الإسرائيلية في ظل القيادة الحالية لإسرائيل خلف سياسة بوش، دون أن يملك أي من القادة الإسرائيليين الحاليين الجرأة للوقوف في وجه الإدارة الأميركية والإصرار على موقف إسرائيل مغاير، رافض للتوجه الأميركي القائل بأن “على الأسد أن يثبت أولا أنه ولد صالح، قبل الحديث معه والتفاوض معه.

وأوضح ليئئل أنه وفقا لمعلوماته، فإنه لا تجري حاليا أية محادثات أو اتصالات بين إسرائيل وسوريا، وأن جل ما كان هناك هو نقل رسائل بين الطرفين قامت بها تركيا مؤخرا، لكن ذلك لا يعني إطلاق تصريحات كتلك التي أطلقها بيرس.

وأشار ليئيل الذي كان كشف في مطلع العام الماضي أنه أجرى سلسلة اتصالات مع رجل الأعمال الأميركي إبراهيم سليمان، المقرب من النظام السوري، في سويسرا، بمعرفة جهات رسمية إسرائيلية، وإن لم يكن ممثلا رسميا للحكومة الإسرائيلية، أشار على أن العقبة الرئيسية التي تعترض اليوم إطلاق محادثات حقيقية بين إسرائيل وسوريا تتمثل بالموقف والتوجه الأميركيين، إذ تصر الإدارة الأميركية حاليا على ألا تبدأ إسرائيل أية مفاوضات مع سوريا، لأنه لا يوجد أي قائد إسرائيلي ممن يتابعون التطورات و”المواد” المتعلقة بالملف السوري لا يعرف أنه لن تجري أية مفاوضات مع سوريا دون الخوض في مسألة إعادة هضبة الجولان أو ما اصطلح على تسميته ب”وديعة رابين”.

وأشار ليئيل في هذا السياق إلى أن هذا يشمل كل القادة الإسرائيليين الذين يمكن أن يشغلوا منصب رئاسة الوزراء بمن فيهم براك ونتنياهو وأولمرط وليفني. مع ذلك لفت ليئيل على أنه في ظل التطورات الإقليمية في السنوات الأخيرة وظهور إيران كلاعب رئيسي في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وتحديدا في سوريا ولبنان وغزة، فإن أي محادثات جدية لا يمكن لها أن تقتصر على إبرام اتفاقية سلام سورية إسرائيلية مقابل الجولان، وإنما يجب أن تشمل المحادثات كل الملفات الساخنة، مثل علاقة سوريا بإيران، وملفات لبنان وحزب الله والعلاقة مع حماس.

واعتبر ليئيل أنه طالما ظلت سوريا (من وجهة النظر الإسرائيلية) ضلعا رئيسيا في المحور الإيراني، فإنه لن يكون بمقدور أية حكومة إسرائيلية أن تروج اليوم اتفاقية سلام ثنائية مع سوريا مقابل الجولان، ما لم تلتزم سوريا بالابتعاد عن المحور الإيراني، وتبني سياسة مغايرة كليا تقترب من السياسة المصرية والأردنية.

وأكد ليئيل انه على الرغم من القناعة شبة التامة في أوساط الجمهور الإسرائيلي بأن الانسحاب من الجولان هوة شرط أساسي لسلام مع سوريا، إلا أن الشارع الإسرائيلي لن يقبل بأي اتفاقية ثنائية مع سوريا لا تلتزم سوريا بموجبها بترك محاور السياسة الإيرانية، والانتقال للمحور المعتدل من وجهة النظر الإسرائيلية.

وقال ليئل إنه على ضوء قناعة أخرى ترسخت في أوساط السياسيين الإسرائيليين، والتي لن يكون بموجبها التوصل خلال الأعوام القادمة لاتفاقية مع الفلسطينيين بسبب حماس، فإن هناك حاجة لجو من المسيرة السلمية والمفاوضات، وبالتالي فإن الوصول إلى المسار السوري، هو عمليا نتاج عملية نفي لواقعية الخيار الفلسطيني، وبالتالي فإن البديل هو المسار السوري، ولكن حتى على هذا المسار إذا لم يكن الحديث عن صفقة شاملة تشمل ليس فقط الجولان وإنما تمتد لتطال الملفات الساخنة في لبنان أيضا، وقطع التحالف مع إيران، فعندها سيكون ممكنا التوصل إلى اتفاق مع سوريا ولكن أيضا بعد زوال العقبة الرئيسية المتمثلة بإدارة بوش.

يشار إلى أن ألون لئيل شغل في السابق منصب مدير عام وزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية، كما أنه أسس قبل ثلاثة أعوام لجنة من أجل السلام مع سوريا، ونشط في مجال الاتصالات مع عناصر وجهات سورية، آخرها سلسلة المحادثات والاتصالات التي أجراها في سويسرا خلال العام 2007 مع إبراهيم سليمان، بوساطة سويسرية، حيث أعلن آنذاك أنه وخلال الحرب على لبنان، فقد أبدت القيادة السورية استعدادا لإجراء اتصالات ومفاوضات مع إسرائيل لكن الحكومة الإسرائيلية رفضت المقترحات السورية بفعل الضغوط الأميركية على إسرائيل

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March 24th, 2008, 9:41 pm

 

56. Shai said:

QN,

Golda, Begin, Sharon, and Netanyahu said the same thing about Palestine. Yet the last three (all from the Likud), not only spoke with the Arabs, but indeed ordered Israeli settlers and the army out of Sinai, Gaza, and parts of the West Bank. I believe, like Alex said, that one day HA, Hamas, and even Iran, can and will change. Today, they must say and act the way they do. I don’t like it, but they don’t like the things Israel does either. Yes, Bashar will take these things into account. And when I said that he too will have to compromise, we’re probably talking about his military alliances (not political ones) with these. I don’t know what will come out of these negotiations, but I have a funny feeling that he’s already thought well about his red-lines. I trust that he understands our position quite well, and if only Israel shows him that we too understand Syria’s needs and concerns (not just vis-a-vis the Golan), we will find the common middle ground, and we will achieve peace.

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March 24th, 2008, 9:43 pm

 

57. Ford Prefect said:

QN,
Needless to say that the statements you listed from the HA leader against Israel are nothing new. One can find similar ones from many leaders who are at peace with Israel today – including Mahmoud Abbas (who even denied the Holocaust sometime ago). Does anyone remember what Sadat said about Israel in the early 70’s leading to the 1973 War? His statement would make Nassrallah sounds like mother Teresa.

History is full of such examples where statements are made (nice for public consumption) and then things happen.

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March 24th, 2008, 9:45 pm

 

58. Shai said:

Alex,

Is this the one where he bashes Peres to pieces? We’ve been looking for the English version… He, like so many of us, are extremely upset at the dinosaur-politician-president who proved yet again that he is more dedicated to banquets and cocktail parties in DC, than to peace.

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March 24th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 

59. Alex said:

yes, Alon started this interview by criticizing Mr. Peres.

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March 24th, 2008, 10:04 pm

 

60. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Nasrallah’s message was less inflammatory (or more conciliatory) than the inexact translations imply. Whereas there is no doubt about Nasrallah’s wishes and sentiments, his words were carefull chosen. He did not say “Israel will cease to exist.” Rather, he posed the question: “Is it possible for Israel to cease to exist?” and answered “I tell you, yes, it is possible for Israel to cease to exist.” You may think it’s mincing words, but I don’t think so.

Also, after talking about hostilities with Israel and how, in his words, Israel is now in “reverse gear” and cannot and will not go forward again, he later stated, in colloquial Lebanese …”now, does that mean I’m telling you we’re going to attack Israel tomorrow from Lebanese soil? no, I’m not saying that, nor am I saying that it is Lebanon’s own responsibility to defeat Israel.”

This choice of words and this attitude are very telling. Some may think they are only to buy time and reassure the Lebanese, but I read through them much more than that. Shai may be right here in seeing a future where Hamas, HA, and Iran come to an accommodation with Israel. It sure seems possible with Nasrallah.

Nasrallah also pointed out that despite all the hostilities, despite HA’s planning to pay Israel back for Mughnieh’s assassination at a time, place, and method of HA’s choosing, the negotiations for prisoner exchange with Israel is continuing.

Hmmm… telling, very telling…

I’m disappointed in the way The Daily Star failed to clarify these nuances. The press does a disservice to its English readership by failing to report on such important subtleties, which, for some of us, are really not subtleties at all: they speak plenty.

“Think outside the box, adopt The Other Point of VieW”

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March 24th, 2008, 10:46 pm

 

61. SimoHurtta said:


Sim,
In wikipedia the animal of Israel is the deer. There are no cobra’s in Israel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_animals

And of course, your response is that Merkel is lying. How typical. She didn’t have to bring half the German cabinet not to be called an antisemite and could have been less generous with her praise.

Well AIG lucky that Wikipedia has the history page. Have you changed the cobra to a deer – that is amusing but not unexpected. When I used the page there was cobra. 🙂 🙂 🙂

The page was changed 21:00, 24 March 2008 by 69.248.82.240.

Anybody can compare the pages.

Well amusing the agressive, dangerous, lethal animal is changed to the wide eyed, peaceful victim animal. Real bambis. The previous version had picture of Egyptian cobra, which I suppose could also live in Israel. Well, now I have no time to check. Bed calls. 🙂

Do you have deers in Israel? Why do Ireland and Israel have the picture of the same animal. Were you to lazy to hunt a better picture?

To your Merkel comment. As I said before WW2 explains it all, not the present German’s “admiration” of Israeli religious “democracy”. The Israeli provocative attacks against their (Germany)(spy)ships were widely reported in Germany.

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March 24th, 2008, 11:37 pm

 

62. AmericanGuy said:

I am just hopeful that future Israeli leaders will be so nice to the future Palestinians, as Chancellor Merkle has been.

Will there be a memorial in Gaza for the shoah some so fervently desire against the Pals?

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March 25th, 2008, 3:29 am

 

63. Naji said:

It is a sad commentary that Haaretz carried more honest translations of the Nassrallah speech than did Lebanon’s Daily Star…!!

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March 25th, 2008, 5:59 am

 

64. Alex said:

Good morning Naji.

Where is the Nabih Berri interview summary??

: )

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March 25th, 2008, 6:10 am

 

65. why-discuss said:

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are snubbing the arab summit, probably because of the presence of Mottaki that Syia invited ( after having tried to get Ahmadinejad). This presence is one more irritant to KSA’s King and “King” Mobarak who feel they are going to be watched by a ‘Persian Shia” while debating. Syria is bringing its powerful ally in to show: “Watch it, I am strong without you. You need Syria and through it Iran more than I need you because you can’t solve Palestine or Iraq without both of us”. Big slap on the face of the ‘Kings’. KSA and Egypt seem weak and in dissaray more than ever. They may also want to avoid a Conference that will emphasize the failures the arabs have been facing under the leadership or these 2 countries ( Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq…). Syria may will come out stronger from this defection, but Lebanon will pay the price.

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March 25th, 2008, 6:11 am

 

66. Naji said:

Why-discuss,
Syria WILL come out of this summit stronger , and I don’t think the Egyptian and Saudi “kings” know why they are not coming… they probably would like to, but were simply told they couldn’t… they will find out why not later, like everybody else…! 😉

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March 25th, 2008, 6:21 am

 

67. Naji said:

Here is something funny from this morning’s Syria Bulletin:

هلوسة :
هي ويلا لبنان طلاع برا..!!
يامن حسين : ( كلنا شركاء ) 24/3/2008
لست عنصرياً ,لا بل حتى مصاب بداء الأممية ,و متهم أمام المحاكم الليبرالية بالقومجية ,ولكن مع ذلك أطالب الأخوة اللبنانيين بالانسحاب الغير مشروط, والفوري من نشرات الأخبار والبرامج السياسية في تلفزيون (ديانا جبور) العربي السوري , ومن تلفزيون فؤاد شربتجي (تلفزيون الدنيا) , فليس من المعقول أن يفرد الإعلام السوري الرسمي والشبه رسمي ساعات بثه لقضايا لبنان فقط ,وتهريب أخبار سورية إلى (النيو تي في) و(الجزيرة), وكأن المواطن السوري ليس عنده أزمات بدءاً من الخبز والمازوت ,وصولاً إلى سعر البصل
وأسعار العقارات ,وحوادث السير على طرقاتنا النضالية , كما أنه ليس من المنطقي أن تستضيف برامج التلفزيون (إيميل رحمة رئيس حزب التضامن اللبناني) ,و كوميديات (وئام وهاب) ,وتغيّب عنه أعضاء مجلس الشعب ,ووزراء حكومة العطري لمناقشة أزماتنا المعيشية وخاصة أنهم كوميديين أيضاً. وعليه نتمنى من الأخوة في لبنان إعادة التموضع في مواجز الأخبار السورية , وأن يفسحوا المجال قليلا للمسئولين السوريين ..(يعني إذا بيتكرمو علينا) …!؟
هذه الملاحظات موجهة إلى الشجعان الثلاثة ( بلال و جبور و شربتجي
)
ما يسمى مجازاً المواطن السوري يعرف نواب ووزراء وسياسيين لبنان أكثر من نظرائهم في سورية.!!

For QN 😉

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March 25th, 2008, 7:44 am

 

68. Shai said:

Important article on Ha’aretz today:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/968092.html

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March 25th, 2008, 8:54 am

 

69. Naji said:

…sounds like something YOU wrote, Shai…!?
Congrat’s… 😉

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March 25th, 2008, 9:32 am

 

70. Akbar Palace said:

Shai said:

AIG and AP, from what I understand of their views, cannot be your partner for peace, not because they don’t want peace, but because their preconditions are such that you could never meet.

Shai,

Fortunately, the Syrian government has to make peace with the government of Israel, not AIG or AP. So let’s see what the GOI has to say about peace with Syria (from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace%20Process/Guide%20to%20the%20Peace%20Process/Israel-Syria%20Negotiations

The Israeli negotiators have stated to the Syrians that Israel accepts the principle of withdrawal on the Golan Heights, in the context of a peace settlement which simultaneously addresses four key issues:

– the depth of the withdrawal;
– the schedule and duration for withdrawal;
– the stages of the withdrawal and the linkage between them and normalization;
here, as with Egypt, we insist that there be a protracted phase of normalization — open borders and embassies — before we complete our withdrawal to a yet undetermined line, and;
– agreement over security arrangement.

Anyway, this it what the “hardline” Israeli government is saying;)

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March 25th, 2008, 10:51 am

 

71. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji

That’s a good one. What can I say, we’re self-obssessed people. 🙂

But just you watch: the crisis will be solved and you’ll all be missing Jumblatt on your TVs… he’s much more entertaining than the price of onions!

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March 25th, 2008, 11:48 am

 

72. norman said:

Egypt and KSA are not comming to Syria for a simple reason , Cheeny told them so.

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March 25th, 2008, 11:48 am

 

73. Qifa Nabki said:

What good is the Arab League, really?

It’s always been something of a joke, but now — with the first summit in Damascus’s history being boycotted by some of the most important members — it is clear that it has officially come apart at the seams.

People keep talking about a KSA-Syrian understanding. Berri, for example, has said on numerous occasions that if Syria and KSA are reconciled, the entire crisis in Lebanon and in the region as a whole would evaporate.

I’m curious to hear from the Syrians on this blog: what shape do you think this reconciliation needs to take? During the 90’s and early 2000’s, when Syria ruled Lebanon, KSA was not shut out by any means. To the contrary, Hariri was practically KSA’s ambassador to Lebanon, and he facilitated billions of dollars worth of lucrative investments in the country. At some point, however, when Syria felt that it was being muscled out of its influence by an increasingly independent Hariri (who had Syria’s Lebanon intelligence chiefs in his pocket), Syria decided that enough was enough. [This is my reading]

What do people imagine to be the necessary conditions of a reconcilliation between KSA and Syria? Obviously, Lebanon cannot be “handed back” to Syria… those days are over. So then, what?

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March 25th, 2008, 11:57 am

 

74. Naji said:

QN,
…you are right, but a lot of Lebanese I know are hoping their “elected” politicians would start worrying about the price of onions and stop playing around with the “International Community”, the wheels of creation, …and other favorite past-times of the rich and famous…! 😉

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March 25th, 2008, 12:04 pm

 

75. Naji said:

QN,
on your last question, …it is the other way around: KSA expects Syria to deliver Lebanon to KSA’s lap, and Syria is not ready, willing or able to do so…! When the KSA understands that, there will be reconcilliation… That’s all…!

I think you better hope that this reconcilliation happens on “Syria’s terms”, because that is the only way the Lebanon will finally get its independence… Lebanon’s national-interest works to the benefit of BOTH Syria and Lebanon this time…!

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March 25th, 2008, 12:28 pm

 

76. Shai said:

AP,

You’re right. I hope you didn’t take it personally about negotiating with you or AIG. I meant to say to Qifa Nabki that in the end, he’ll have to negotiate with people willing to negotiate with him, without too many preconditions. The fact that Israel is publicly placing ridiculous preconditions on Syria (ridiculous not because they’re not good for Israel, but because they’ll never be met in advance), will lead to no-peace, rather than peace. Certainly requiring first a democracy in Syria, regardless of its sincerity (and I do believe that you/AIG are sincere), will simply delay peace to a point that may be too late. In the end, the main difference between us, is that I believe time is not on our side, and that therefore we must compromise on what enemy we’re willing to talk to (the free, democratically-elected one, or the dictator), and especially when the offer is on the table as it still is right now. Windows of opportunity do not open up every other month in our region, unfortunately, and they also close. I don’t want to see us plunged into a catastrophic regional war, with thousands of missiles raining down on Israel from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, because we missed the opportunity to talk to Bashar, regardless of his history, the way he exercises power, or the music he has on his iPod.

For that matter, if Ahmedinejad suddenly offered to invite you, AP, to Tehran to discuss recognition of Israel with him – would you not go? Would you really first question his sincerity? We’ll never know the real intentions of anyone, just like they won’t know ours. Are we any more ecstatic about visiting the Damascus souq than they are Tel-Aviv’s? Are we so genuinely in love with Arabs suddenly? No, of course not, but we ARE interested in ending the 60-year long war with our neighbors. We want the cycle of violence to end, we want to be rid of our own Apartheid-style rule over the Palestinian people, and we want the Arabs to at last accept us in this region, just as we accept them. This can only happen if we withdraw to the 1967 lines. We don’t need to wait for human rights and freedom in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. We can, and must, act now.

If you will agree with me about the urgency, and be willing to remove those preconditions, then I would be the first to support your (AP’s) going to represent Israel in the negotiations. And I mean that.

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March 25th, 2008, 12:47 pm

 

77. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji

I am one of those Lebanese you’re talking about. Almost all of our “elected” officials are a joke. In case it hasn’t been made crystal clear, I am in favor of replacing the entire lot of them via fair and free elections. But that will take eons, at this rate.

Naji, how is it that Lebanon will get its independence by staying in Syria’s lap?

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March 25th, 2008, 1:15 pm

 

78. Naji said:

QN,
Most Syrians think that the Lebanese love “sitting in our lap and pulling our beard”… 😀

…but, seriously, not to belabor that metaphor any further, Lebanon is no longer in Syria’s lap, or those buffoons would be barking with us not against us…! The fact is, Syria believes (rightly or wrongly) that an independent and democratic Lebanon is our best bet at this point… they believe that in an independent and democratic Lebanon many of its Lebanese friends and natural allies would have a bigger say, …that HA, Aoun, Frenjieh, etc. would have a greater share of power, if not full control… even benign (honest) adversaries would be better than fully sworn enemies…!

In other words, having somehow jumped out of our lap, we would rather see Lebanon hop around on its own until it learns to walk, rather than jump into somebody else’s lap… particularly a #@$%# Saudi lap…! 🙂

As unlikely as it seems, Syria is earnestly trying to extend a regional cooperation model that even Israel could sign up to…!!

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March 25th, 2008, 1:59 pm

 

79. norman said:

Saudi king to boycott Arab summit

Saudi Arabia is a strong supporter of the Lebanese government
Saudi Arabia has said King Abdullah will not attend a forthcoming summit of Arab leaders in Syria.
The Saudi delegation will only be led by its Arab League ambassador.

The Saudis had already indicated that King Abdullah might not attend because of a rift with Syria over the current political crisis in Lebanon.

The crisis has seen Lebanon politically paralysed, with the government and opposition in Beirut unable to agree on a new president since November.

Lebanon has also been gripped by a political violence, including a string of assassinations of anti-Syrian figures.

Saudi Arabia supports the Western-leaning majority in the Lebanese parliament, while the Lebanese opposition is backed by Syria and Iran; each side blames the other for blocking a deal.

It is still unclear if Lebanon will boycott the summit, but on Monday, Beirut’s delegate to the Arab League did not attend a preparatory meeting.

The heads of state of the Arab League meet annually – this year’s meeting is scheduled for 29 and 30 March.

Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, after a presence of nearly 30 years, under strong Lebanese and international pressure.

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March 25th, 2008, 3:40 pm

 

80. Akbar Palace said:

Shai responds; I reply…

I hope you didn’t take it personally about negotiating with you or AIG.

Nope.

The fact that Israel is publicly placing ridiculous preconditions on Syria (ridiculous not because they’re not good for Israel, but because they’ll never be met in advance), will lead to no-peace, rather than peace.

I believe boths sides are placing pre-conditions. Perhaps talks without pre-conditions should follow, and that is exactly what occurred at Shepardstown.

Certainly requiring first a democracy in Syria, regardless of its sincerity (and I do believe that you/AIG are sincere), will simply delay peace to a point that may be too late.

I’m NOT requiring this, and I’m not sure AIG is, I just think it would be preferrable.

In the end, the main difference between us, is that I believe time is not on our side…

Perhaps this is why Nasrallah continues to tell his followers that Israel will come to an end. In which case, what incentive do the Arabs have to make peace if Israel’s end is right around the corner?
Personally, I would hope the Israeli government does what is necessary to remind Nasrallah and his followers that time is not an issue, not even the slightest.

I don’t want to see us plunged into a catastrophic regional war, with thousands of missiles raining down on Israel from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, because we missed the opportunity to talk to Bashar, regardless of his history, the way he exercises power, or the music he has on his iPod.

Shai, is it remotely possible, that Israel will be “plunged into a … regional war” no matter what she does?

For example, what if Israel negotiates with Syria (with no preconditions) while Syria continues to support Hezbollah? Is that an impossibility? And while the heat is off Syria’s back (becasue they’re negotiating), what if a heavily armed Hezbollah starts another war? What would you say about that? Isn’t that what Arafat was doing during the Oslo facade? The Left was sure QUIET during those lovely years – weren’t they?

For that matter, if Ahmedinejad suddenly offered to invite you, AP, to Tehran to discuss recognition of Israel with him – would you not go?

I would go. I would also go to visit Hamas and Hezbollah under the same circumstances. So I think the only thing missing is the invitation;)

Would you really first question his sincerity? We’ll never know the real intentions of anyone, just like they won’t know ours.

We disagree here. We know everyone’s intentions by their actions and their core beliefs none of which is a secret. And interestingly, only YOU, Shai, seem to be the only one “in the dark” regarding the intentions of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and even Syria.

We want the cycle of violence to end, we want to be rid of our own Apartheid-style rule over the Palestinian people, and we want the Arabs to at last accept us in this region, just as we accept them.

I don’t consider Israel’s “rule” to be “apartheid-style”, especially when Israeli-Arabs have equal rights as Israeli Jews.

This can only happen if we withdraw to the 1967 lines. We don’t need to wait for human rights and freedom in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. We can, and must, act now.

I disagree. Unilateral withdraw brought more violence on Israel from Gaza. I would wait for a formal peace treaty or deal with the status quo. Moreover, Israel didn’t “wait for human rights” in Jordan or Eygpt, so I’m not sure what you’re concerned about.

If you will agree with me about the urgency, and be willing to remove those preconditions, then I would be the first to support your (AP’s) going to represent Israel in the negotiations. And I mean that.

Thanks. Not being in the Israeli cabinet, I don’t really know what the “urgency” is nor do I know whether the enemy is sincere like, say, Sadat was. I trust Olmert and the chevrai know a bit more about this than we do.

Kol Tov,

AP

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March 25th, 2008, 4:22 pm

 

81. Akbar Palace said:

Shai,

Here’s a “blast from the past”. Feel free to elaborate…

“Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it,” he said in an interview on Lebanese TV.

He added that neither side was “heading towards a second round” of fighting.

More than 1,000 Lebanese died in the 34-day conflict which left much of southern Lebanon in ruins.

The Israeli offensive began after two Israeli soldiers were seized, and eight killed, during a cross border raid by Hezbollah militants on 12 July.

Annan visit

“We did not think that there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war of this scale and magnitude,” Sheikh Nasrallah said.

“Now you ask me if this was 11 July and there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war like the one that has taken place, would you go ahead with the kidnapping?

I would say no, definitely not, for humanitarian, moral, social, security, military and political reasons.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5291420.stm

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March 25th, 2008, 4:54 pm

 

82. Shai said:

AP,

Thanks for the reply. You said a lot of things, I’ll try to respond to most if not all.

1) I think you’re right, Syria and Israel should sit down and start talking without any preconditions.

2) Of course, democracy would be preferable in Syria, but it isn’t about to happen, not in the near future. I believe AIG views it as a necessary condition to peace. Here I disagree with him.

3) When I say that time is not on our side, I don’t mean on Israel’s side, I mean on ALL of us. With time, the region is becoming less and less stable, and the likelihood for war is increasing substantially. While it is true that Israel, Syria, and maybe even Iran, do not have an interest in starting a regional war, I’m not sure we can say the same about Hamas, or HA. Plus, even if they too aren’t interested in a large scale conflict, I’m not sure they won’t miscalculate again (like Nasrallah did in summer 2006), and won’t lead to a process of action/reaction that’ll plunge us all into war. That’s my fear, when I say time is against us.

4) It is absolutely more than “remotely possible” that Israel will be plunged into war no matter what she does. I agree with you. Hence my fear about not taking advantage of the opportunity that may exist now, and letting time pass, as I mentioned above.

5) I disagree about the way you measure intentions. If intentions were measured purely by actions on the ground, neither you nor I could EVER convince a single Arab that Israel is interested in peace with the Palestinians. Because they would simply point to the continued settlements in the West Bank, to further building in E. Jerusalem, to the ongoing “choking” of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, etc. To you and I, some of those may be attributed to other reasons, while we view ourselves as peaceful people. But to the Arabs, all of those are the clearest indication of our “true intentions”, which are the opposite of peace. I don’t mean to say that Nasrallah is really trying to send us peaceful messages with each missile, or that Ahmedinejad is meaning to say “let’s wipe Israel’s floors”. But to assume that Assad is not interested in peace because of his support of Iran, HA, and Hamas, could be a mistake. I believe he can do both – opt for peace, but also prepare for war. In fact, if you or I were in his shoes, I’m not sure we would act any differently, even while we would be hoping for peace.

6) My use of the term “Apartheid-style” was not meant towards the Arab-Israelis, though I do believe we’re often treating them as second-rate citizens. I meant the way our army is treating the Palestinians in the occupied territories. I was there, and unfortunately I saw and felt it. And it is continuing while I type these very words… It has to end, so that you and I can look ourselves in the mirror, and not be ashamed.

7) I completely agree with you about unilateral withdrawals. I too am against them, as we’ve seen in Lebanon, and in Gaza. I’m not suggesting in the least that we should repeat these mistakes. That’s why we need to start with the Golan, returning it only when we sign a peace treaty with Syria, and when we can do the same with the Palestinians (i.e. when there’s someone that can deliver peace, not only receive territory), with the West Bank.

8) While you may not be a member of Knesset right now, do not rule out future possibilities… 🙂 The fact that you are obviously concerned about the future of this region, and of your country, and are putting in so much effort trying to work it out, very likely demonstrates your ability to very much represent at least a part of our people. Unfortunately, many in our Knesset don’t do half of what you’re doing… and that’s a real shame.

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March 25th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

83. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

AP and Shai,

Very interesting discussion.

Two comments below followed by queries of your opinion.

C1. Based on widespread news reports in Lebanon following the July 2006 war, reports reinforced by constant repetition to the point that they seem to be accepted (rightly or wrongly) by many in Lebanon (including the followers of General Aoun), the claim is that Israel had long been preparing for a major offensive against HA to try and permanently disable its military capabilities. According to those reports, the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers was but a convenient excuse to launch this planned offensive. The implication, of course, is that it was not self-defense by Israel that led to the July war but a premeditated plan that was simply waiting for a convenient trigger.

Q1. What is the opinion in Israel on this? Do you think it’s a valid claim?

C2. If the public pronouncements of HA that their own issue with Israel is threefold and not more:
(a) liberation of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails
(b) return of the Shebaa farms to Lebanon
(c) providing the map of land mines placed in Southern Lebanon

Q2. What does Israel have to lose in calling their bluff — if indeed a bluff it is — and satisfying those conditions in a fair manner by
(a) effecting the liberation in exchange for full release of any and all Israelis or Israeli remains in HA’s possession
(b) agreeing to cede the Shebaa farms to a UN administration until their identity (Lebanese or Syrian) is determined
(c) — this is a humanitarian request and should be honored regardless of other conditions unless those maps don’t exist (in which case an admission and a pledge to assist in landmine clearing should be offered) ?

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March 25th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

84. Shai said:

TOPOV,

A1: In the period since summer 2006, I was out of Israel only once or twice. During this entire time, from what I heard and saw, essentially no discourse existed on the notion that this war was a premeditated plan. While it is true, and known, that the IDF has always had (and always has) “plans in the drawer”, including offensive ones, as far as I know, the interpretation of most here in Israel of events as they unfolded was that incursion into Lebanon was purely defensive, in reaction to HA’s kidnapping of our soldiers. Having said that, the minute we started bombarding Lebanon proper, hitting Lebanese infrastructure, Beirut suburbs, roads, etc., there was a beginning of public pressure demanding an explanation as to the offensive (no longer defensive) nature of these acts. Though most readers here will not believe, or be terribly impressed by this fact (and I can understand them), there was actually real concern amongst many Israelis as to the suffering of innocent Lebanese. Course, that didn’t help stop the killing of some 1,500 of them, unfortunately.

A2: I completely agree with your idea of “calling HA’s bluff”. I think, however, that it needs to be done in conjunction with talks with Syria. There’s no doubt that Syria has influence over HA (even if not total), and if Syria has an interest in quieting things down, so that we can restart talks, then HA will most likely play along. We need to return the prisoners, to return Shebaa Farms, and of course inform the Lebanese about any and all land mines within their territory. The sooner we can do these things, the better.

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March 25th, 2008, 7:31 pm

 

85. Observer said:

KSA and Egypt not going to Damascus and the Lebanese are not going either. The summit is going to be very good for Syria as the absence of these players will open the field to economic discussions and avoid politics.

Now while 4 million Iraqis are refugees and displaced, more than 600 000 have perished since 2003, the KSA confers the highest honor on Darth Vader. It is very good that the king and the laughing cow are not going to Damascus.

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March 25th, 2008, 8:32 pm

 

86. Majhool said:

As far as I know there is only one 5 star hotel in Syria (The Four Season) So I am not sure where Massoud came with 1500 rooms number.

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March 25th, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

87. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji said:

The fact is, Syria believes (rightly or wrongly) that an independent and democratic Lebanon is our best bet at this point… they believe that in an independent and democratic Lebanon many of its Lebanese friends and natural allies would have a bigger say, …that HA, Aoun, Frenjieh, etc. would have a greater share of power, if not full control…

Naji, I don’t buy this. I think Syria would like to see its allies in control in Lebanon, and perhaps this would come about through free and fair elections, this time around. It’s impossible to say. If a parliamentary election were held tomorrow, who knows? Hizbullah and Aoun might come out on top, or we might end up with a parliament split down the middle. No way of knowing.

However, the immediate outcome of an election is beside the point, if we’re talking about “an independent and democratic Lebanon.” Why? Because such a Lebanon provides no guarantees that it will continue to be as useful to Syria in the future.

Let’s imagine that what you’re proposing comes to pass. Hizbullah and Aoun acquire a stronger share of power. Four years go by in a heartbeat. Syrian-Israeli peace talks have made some headway, but they are nowhere near an agreement. Israel isn’t offering enough; another intifada has erupted in Gaza. Syria can’t be seen to be negotiating under the circumstances, etc (In short, business as usual in the Middle East, i.e. stagnation). Meanwhile, in Lebanon, people are growing uneasy again about Hizbullah’s weapons, as they did between 2000 and 2005 (and this includes the Aounists, who are perpetually uneasy about HA’s weapons). A parliamentary election is looming, and Syria’s former “allies” are not so diehard anymore. In the meantime, the cards have been reshuffled and new alliances are cropping up, as they constantly do in Lebanon. What will Syria do then?

As I said to Georges, an independent and democratic Lebanon is not what Syria wants right now. Syria wants a Lebanon that is coordinating perfectly with Syria’s strategy, and who could blame her? Nobody likes a spoiler.

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March 26th, 2008, 2:02 am

 

88. Qifa Nabki said:

Hoss for Ranking Arab Participation in the Damascus Summit to Engage Syria

By Dalia Nehme

Ex-Premier Salim Hoss on Tuesday urged Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Lebanese government to take part in the forthcoming Arab Summit to “confront … and corner” Syria.

If Syria is truly blocking the presidential election and playing a pan-Arab role that is not in the interest of Lebanon “then these are reasons that urge us to participate (in the summit) … because dialogue is among foes and not among allies or friends,” Hoss said.

He noted that the Arabs are urged to go into dialogue with Israel “the enemy of the homeland and the nation to achieve some sort of a settlement, so why don’t we go into dialogue with Syria?”

“I’m not defending Syria, maybe it is responsible for hampering the situation,” he explained.

Hoss, in an interview with Naharnet, declared support “for electing a president and implementing the Arab initiative … to the letter.”

read the rest

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March 26th, 2008, 2:15 am

 

89. norman said:

QN,

Do you think that Lebanon is not coming to Syria because it thinks that Syria will be representing Lebanon , so there is no need for the expense.

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March 26th, 2008, 2:16 am

 

90. Akbar Palace said:

Shai’s answers/comments, my reply:

3) When I say that time is not on our side, I don’t mean on Israel’s side, I mean on ALL of us. With time, the region is becoming less and less stable, and the likelihood for war is increasing substantially.

Unfortunately Shai, whereas this may be true, it hasn’t been proven (to my satisfaction) “the likelihood for war” has anything to do with George Bush and/or Israel. I think we part on this point/issue. I believe the “likelihood for war” has more to do with the Arab governments, their clergy, and their government controlled media. I know I’m the lone voice in this regard, but I stand firm in my opinion.

While it is true that Israel, Syria, and maybe even Iran, do not have an interest in starting a regional war, I’m not sure we can say the same about Hamas, or HA.

I don’t buy your claim that Syria and Iran “do not have an interest in starting a regional war”.

Plus, even if they too aren’t interested in a large scale conflict, I’m not sure they won’t miscalculate again (like Nasrallah did in summer 2006), and won’t lead to a process of action/reaction that’ll plunge us all into war. That’s my fear, when I say time is against us.

In a world of anger, despotism, rule-by-force, no freedom-of-speech, poverty, government controlled media, and terrorism, miscalculations happen ALL THE TIME, because no one is accountable AND, chaos always benefits the despot du jour. Ma la’asot?

Hence my fear about not taking advantage of the opportunity that may exist now, and letting time pass, as I mentioned above.

Tell me what Israel needs to do Shai to avert the impending doom. Israel, sometimes, doesn’t always have the answer.

Because they would simply point to the continued settlements in the West Bank, to further building in E. Jerusalem, to the ongoing “choking” of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, etc.

How many settlements were there in Gaza? How many are there today?

Frankly, the settlement issue is a “red-herring”. They can be dismantled in weeks. The question (as you mentions before) is what CBM (confidence building measures) should both sides be doing to reach a point where a final solution can be reached?

Israel’s evacuation of Lebanon and then Gaza was answered by more war, the opposite of CBMs. If Israel withdraws from land, what could be a better CBM? Takhlis…

But to assume that Assad is not interested in peace because of his support of Iran, HA, and Hamas, could be a mistake. I believe he can do both – opt for peace, but also prepare for war.

OK, please inform me how you came to that conclusion.

I meant the way our army is treating the Palestinians in the occupied territories. I was there, and unfortunately I saw and felt it. And it is continuing while I type these very words… It has to end, so that you and I can look ourselves in the mirror, and not be ashamed.

I travelling in the West Bank and Gaza years ago before the intifadas. In the 70s and 80s. Now it is 2008. There is mutual recognition despite whatever the PLO Convenant states. The notion of two states is the present reality. But we’re not there yet, and unfortunately the dangers are equally real. Half of the Palestinians want to continue their jihad until your “Zionist Project” is no longer.

Therefore, I suggest our opinions much closer than you once thought. And so I wonder if you really need to convince ME of anything. Perhaps you need to convince that half of the Palestinian people that they shouldn’t waste their money, their children, and the hope on eradicating Israel.

Good Luck.

I completely agree with you about unilateral withdrawals. I too am against them, as we’ve seen in Lebanon, and in Gaza.

Tov.

That’s why we need to start with the Golan, returning it only when we sign a peace treaty with Syria, and when we can do the same with the Palestinians (i.e. when there’s someone that can deliver peace, not only receive territory), with the West Bank.

Tov mispar schtiyim.

While you may not be a member of Knesset right now, do not rule out future possibilities… The fact that you are obviously concerned about the future of this region, and of your country, and are putting in so much effort trying to work it out, very likely demonstrates your ability to very much represent at least a part of our people. Unfortunately, many in our Knesset don’t do half of what you’re doing… and that’s a real shame.

The Knesset is a sad thing. The political parties care more about their money and influence more than the safety of their country. So many things I would do to correct this sad state of affairs (if I were Israeli). I can only pray that brave and honest Israelis will replace the assholes that congregate there today.

Regards,

AP

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March 26th, 2008, 4:47 pm

 

91. Shai said:

AP,

Again thanks for taking the time with such an in-depth response. I must tell you that I very much respect and commend you for the way you are discussing these issues with me, someone whom you’d otherwise call a “dreamer”, or a “liberal”, etc. This is exactly the way discourse should be conducted between parties that truly care about peace, and want to achieve it one day.

Now to the heart of it. I agree, there now seems to be less of a reason to convince each other. Two last comments, therefore:

First, I agree, Israel doesn’t always have the answer. The only thing we might be able to do, in order to avert this possible impending doom, is to grab what seems to be the only promising opportunity that exists as we speak – Syria. Never in the history of nation has an enemy reached out asking to make peace, like Syria is, without first going through a terrible war. Must we wait for Bashar to board a plane and come to Jerusalem only 4 years AFTER we fight a catastrophic regional war (i.e. 1973-1977)? Why can’t we do everything possible, to invite him NOW? Or at least to start talking to him, and maybe by some miracle of god, sign a peace treaty with him 12 months from now?

Second, how did I reach the conclusion that Assad is indeed interested in peace, but is also preparing for war? Simple – firstly, because he essentially says so himself, and secondly, because if you or I were in Syria’s shoes, we’d do exactly the same. The only way to accept that, is to truly look the glass through our enemy’s eyes. If the entire world was isolating me, if the last remaining super-power was undermining my role in the region, and was doing everything it could, together with its moderate allies in the region to topple my regime, and if my strongest enemy was sending mixed messages, while preparing his military for war, and violating my own sovereignty by attacking sensitive installations and assassinating my allies on my territory, I too would be preparing for the worst. And, since Syria’s army is not equal to that of Israel’s, and missiles are pretty much the only strategic threat I could pose upon my enemy, I would most certainly add to my capabilities also alliances with Iran, HA, and Hamas. That way, I can always “hint” to my enemy that while he may be able to destroy my cities and towns, I too can bring upon him terrible suffering, both in conventional ways, as well as unconventional ones (terrorism, for instance).

Until that last t is crossed, and the last i is dotted, on the peace agreement between Israel and Syria, no side can be expected to even consider ceding any of its strategic or tactical capabilities. Though this doesn’t sit well with our wishes and dreams, we must be realistic enough to understand it, and therefore accept it and work with and around it. That’s what it’s like having a formidable enemy. And that’s what making peace with one will entail. Still, it is Syria that is reaching out to us now (our dream for almost 6 decades), and we cannot afford to wait. That offer could be rescinded, let’s not forget.

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March 26th, 2008, 7:25 pm

 

92. Akbar Palace said:

Again thanks for taking the time with such an in-depth response. I must tell you that I very much respect and commend you for the way you are discussing these issues with me, someone whom you’d otherwise call a “dreamer”, or a “liberal”, etc. This is exactly the way discourse should be conducted between parties that truly care about peace, and want to achieve it one day.

I agree. I think our discussion is going better, because we are finding common ground. You are willing to defend your right to a Jewish State called Israel, and I am promoting that Israel make difficult decisions for peace.

Of course, how we eventually get there….well, that’s open for discussion.

Never in the history of nation has an enemy reached out asking to make peace, like Syria is, without first going through a terrible war.

I disagree. Eygpt and Jordan both “reached out” miles more than the Syrians have.

Must we wait for Bashar to board a plane and come to Jerusalem only 4 years AFTER we fight a catastrophic regional war (i.e. 1973-1977)?

No. Israel and Syria both “felt each other out” not so long ago, and each side came to the conclusion that the price was not worthwhile. The peace treaty with Syria will be quite different than the peace treaty with Eygpt. There is no natural land barrier like the Sinai desert to help isolate the two countries.

In any case, I don’t have the time to discuss this in further detail, so I will try to provide my observations on a more recent thread.

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March 27th, 2008, 10:54 am

 

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