Peace Talks and the Economy

Very best to all Syria Comment readers for the New Year. Best, Joshua

Latest census in Syria: Population stands at 22.331 million. The work force is around 4.9 million, of which 1.38 million employed with the government.. [Thanks Idaf]

مكتب الإحصاءالسوري ” الرجال أكثر من النساء في سوريا”   
كشف مكتب الإحصاء السوري أن عدد الذكور في سوريا أكثر من عدد الإناث مشيرا الى أن نسبة الإناث قد انخفضت .  
 
ووفقا للمجموعة الإحصائية التي أصدرها المكتب لعام 2007 فان عدد سكان البلاد بلغ 331، 22 مليون نسمة،  11،220 منهم ذكور فيما بلغ عدد الإناث 11،111

وذكرت صحيفة الثورة أن نسبة الإناث في سوريا انخفضت بنسبة 1%  قياسا بالذكور حيث أصبح كل 100 أنثى لكل 101 ذكر.

وقالت الإحصائية ان أكثر من 600 ألف حالة ولادة عام2007، بينها نحو 147 ألف حالة في محافظة حلب (شمال البلاد)

بينما بلغت معدلات الزواج تسجيل137 ألف حالة زواج بمعدل 11 حالة لكل ألف من السكان ، وبلغت قوة العمل السورية 4،945 ملايين عامل منهم 1،379 مليون عامل في القطاع الحكومي  .

Olmert to Turkish PM: We must advance toward direct Israel-Syria talks

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Turkish counterpart Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, telling him that “Whatever we don’t do today in the Middle East, we may not be able to achieve tomorrow. We must advance toward direct peace talks between Israel and Syria as soon as possible.”…

Tzipi Livni on Tuesday said that if Israel signs a peace deal with Syria, Damascus must take concrete steps to ensure the accord is worth more than the paper it is written on. ….

 Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu, … flanked by two Likud leaders who are closely identified with security issues, former Israel Defense Force chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon and Maj. Gen. (res.) Yossi Peled, added, “We have come here to openly say that a government I will head will remain on the Golan Heights and will protect it as a strategic asset.

“One doesn’t have to be a military expert to understand from here why the 1967 border is not a defensive line from this direction,” Ya’alon said.

Peled, who was the head of the Northern Command during his army career, said, “they are trying to sell us in Turkey. The Golan is the oxygen of the Jewish state, and to discuss it is potential suicide for the state of Israel.”

Asad: Syria would eventually embark on direct peace talks with Israel, but they must be based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday.

“It is essential to apply resolutions by the U.N. Security Council” on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Assad said on Monday.

In exchange for peace Syria is demanding the return of the entire Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in 1981 in a move unrecognized by the international community.

But Israel has baulked at this, since it would mean returning land right down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, its main source of fresh water.

Assad also stressed the role of Europe in the peace process, saying: “Israel-Europe relations must be linked to Israels acceptance of U.N. resolutions.”

Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 call on Israel to withdraw from Arab territory it captured in the 1967 war.

Ehud Barak, Defense Minister and Labor leader, says:

“I am continuing the policy set by [David] Ben Gurion, which states that Israel has no interest in wars. If the quiet continues, there will be quiet. If the calm breaks, we will operate.”  He added that he was currently working together with Israel Defense Forces Chief Gabi Ashkenazi and Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin to advance talks with Syria.  “I am taking action to advance peace in the real world, not in an imaginary one,” Barak said. “I am active more than anyone else in trying to reach peace with Syria. The director of Military Intelligence, the chief of staff and I, in contrast to others, are pushing for a settlement with the Syrians. We are the ones who are saying that we must not wait, that we must move ahead, take risks.”  Barak also said that the recent remarks by feted author Amos Oz that the Labor Party has ended its historical role in Israeli politics were unfair and incorrect. “What he said hurt me. I think there was something unfair in what he said.” 

A New Partner In Syria?
David Ignatius, 24 December 2008, The Washington Post

President Bashar al-Assad says he doesn’t want to send a message to Barack Obama, exactly, but to express a three-part hope for the incoming administration’s Middle East policy:

First, he hopes Obama won’t start “another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East.” And he trusts that the doctrine of “preemptive war” will end when George W. Bush leaves office.

Second, Assad said, “We would like to see this new administration sincerely involved in the peace process.” He hopes that Obama will back Syria’s indirect negotiations with Israel, and he urges the new administration to pursue “the Lebanese track and the Palestinian track, as well.”

Asked whether he would mind if the Syrian track went first (a sequence that has worried some Syrians who prefer the ideological purity of following the Palestinians), Assad answered: “Of course not. Each track will help the other.”

Third, he says he wants Syria and the United States to work together to stabilize Iraq as American troops begin to leave. “We can’t turn the clock back,” Assad said. “The war happened. Now we have to talk about the future. We have to forge a process, a political vision and a timetable for withdrawal.”

In all three “hopes,” Assad seemed to be looking for a new start with Obama after years of chilly relations with Bush. Assad said he knew little about Obama or his policies but has heard that he is more in contact with ordinary people than Bush has been, which, Assad contended, would give Obama a better understanding of America.

Assad spoke in English during the 30-minute interview Monday. He was accompanied only by his political and media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban. This time, in contrast to my interview with him in 2003 , when Assad was often stiff and doctrinaire, he was loose and informal, breaking several times into laughter.

Assad’s easy demeanor suggested that he’s more firmly in charge now. The Bush administration’s attempt to isolate Syria has failed, even in the judgment of senior White House officials. That leaves Assad in the catbird seat, courted by European and Arab nations and conducting back-channel talks through Turkey with his erstwhile enemy Israel.

Asked, for example, about reports that Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve its relations with Damascus because it sees U.S. engagement with Syria ahead and fears that “the train may be leaving the station,” Assad laughed.

“Maybe it has already left the station,” he said. But he vows that he is ready to receive any emissaries. “I have no problem with the Saudis. We would like good relations with every country in this region.”

Assad said that he is ready to move to direct talks with Israel as soon as he receives clarification on two points: One, he wants assurance that the Israelis will withdraw fully from the Golan Heights. To clarify that issue, he sent a “borders document” to the Israelis this month that highlights some points along the pre-1967 border. As of Monday, he said, he hadn’t received an Israeli response. His second condition for direct talks is that the United States join as a sponsor.

On the crucial question of Syria’s future relations with Iran, Assad was noncommittal. He said the relationship with Iran wasn’t about the “kind of statehood” Syria has or its cultural affinities but about protecting Syrian interests against hostile neighbors. “It’s about who plays a role in this region, who supports my rights,” he said. “It’s not that complicated.”

Asked whether Syria was prepared to restrain Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon, Assad said this was a matter the Israelis should sort out in separate negotiations with the Lebanese. Indeed, he promoted the idea of the other negotiating tracks — which would draw in, at least indirectly, Hezbollah and Hamas.

“The longer the border, the bigger the peace,” Assad said. “Hezbollah is on the Lebanese border, not Syrian. Hamas is on the Palestinian border. . . . They should look at those other tracks. They should be comprehensive. If you want peace, you need three peace treaties, on three tracks.”

A relaxed Assad clearly believes that Syria is emerging from its pariah status. An international tribunal is still scheduled to meet in The Hague to weigh Syria’s alleged role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. But in the meantime, Assad is receiving a stream of visiting diplomats. He looks like a ready partner for Obama’s diplomacy, but a cautious one — waiting to see what’s on offer before he shows more of his hand.

Patrick Lang :

“The “borders” issue in the Golan Heights has become a non-issue.  This is not the ’60s.  Israel’s survival does not depend on the possession of a few hundred square kilometers of stony, scruffy land.  Technology and capabilities have moved on.  The military realities that the Likudniks like to talk about render such consideration “oldspeak,” mere excuses for not giving up a square centimeter of the others side(s) land,”

“Bashar Assad’s Syria has sought accommodation with the US for the last several years.   This was firmly rejected by the Bush people because it was and is neocon/Likud doctrine that Syria must be subdued and eviscerated, not accommodated.  Assad wants to be let out of the “doghouse.”  He wants there to be a new beginning for the Middle East, one that a modern man like him can accept.  This is our chance and the biggest opportunity the Israelis have ever had.  Can the Israelis and their American “friends” rise to the occasion.  I doubt it.  They are so paralyzed by fear that their options are self limiting.  We should hope for the best.”

The Threat on Syria’s Doorstep, Middle East Monitor, By Stephen Starr (See the entire issue of Middle East Monitor – esp. Questions Remain about the US Raid in Syria)

Syrian President Bashar Assad is pointing responsibility for recent terror attacks in Syria at Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies – and not without justification.

Israeli Author Oz Says Barak Too Easy on Settlers: Haaretz, 2008-12-23
Budget Deficit at 9 percent of GDP in 2009: Syria’s budget will post a deficit of USD 4.8 billion next year or 9 percent of its GDP. [More at Syria Report]

Oil and Gas: Oil Subsidies Bill at USD 6.9 billion at End September 2008: Mahrukat posted a record deficit of USD 6.9 billion in the first nine months of the year according to figures from the company. [More at Syria Report]

Damascus Bourse Signs With Market Evolution, Al Thawra Says
2008-12-23, By Nadim Issa Dec. 23 (Bloomberg)

 — The Damascus Securities Exchange signed a contract with Bahamas-based Market Evolution Software products Limited to install electronic systems necessary to operate the bourse in the first quarter of 2009, Al Thawra reported, without saying where it got the information.

The company, which installed equipments for the Macedonia Stock Exchange and the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, will provide the trading, settlement, monitoring and display systems for the Syrian bourse, the Syrian newspaper reported.

It is finally end of life for Syrian Airlines’ Jubmo and Caravelle planes: [Thanks Alex]

نتهاء خدمة خمس طائرات على الخطوط السورية دون اتخاذ أي إجراء

نوبلزنيوز: خرجت خمس طائرات من الخدمة على الخطوط السورية للطيران, بسبب انتهاء صلاحيتها للسفر على الخطوط الطويلة, وهي من أنواع الجامبو والبيونغ والثويو/1540/ والثويو/132/ وطائرة كرفيل قديمة جدا.

وتؤكد المعلومات الفنية ان مؤسسة الطيران لم تحرك ساكنا بخصوص هذه الطائرات, التي بقيت جاثمة في أرض المطار, رغم إمكان صلاحيتها للعمل على الخطوط الداخلية المتوسطة أو حتى لأشياء اخرى, كأن ينسق بعضها ويرسل الى معمل حديد حماه, وذلك عن طريق تحديد لجنة فنية متخصصة من مؤسسة الطيران العربية السورية, وحسب ما ورد في صحيفة الثورة في عددها الصادر اليوم, فإن المؤسسة الطيران حتى الآن لم تقم بتشكيل أي لجنة

Oil Price Decline Threatens Syrian Refining Plan, Alao Says
By Maher Chmaytelli
Bloomberg, 17 December 2008

Syria may not be able to increase oil production and refining capacity as planned as the decline
in petroleum prices threatens investments, Syrian Petroleum Minister Sufian al-Alao said.

“We are concerned,” Alao said today in an interview in Oran, Algeria, at a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in which Syria holds an observer status. “The private companies are reviewing their projects in light of the price decline.”

Syria has in the past two years announced plans to build three refineries that will add 350,000 barrels a day to current capacity of 220,000 barrels a day. The nation has also invited bids for licenses to drill offshore as it seeks to stem a decline in crude oil production.

Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investment KSCC is re-assessing its plan to build a 140,000 barrel-a-day refinery, Alao said. The other two refinery projects “look secure, as they are being done with state companies,” he said, referring to a 140,000 barrel-a-day plant planned with Petroleos de Venezuela S.A, the Iranian Oil Co. and Malaysia’s Al-Bukhari Group, and a 70,000-barrel-a-day facility planned with China National PetroleumCorp.

The refineries will allow Syria to import and process Iraqi crude, offsetting its own declining supply, when they come on stream in 2012. Iraq’s oil exports through Syria, which had contravened United Nations sanctions, stopped in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Syria imports about 60,000 to 70,000 barrels a day of gasoil, a fuel used for heating and transportation that accounts for half its consumption of refined products. The country’s electricity consumption is increasing an annual 7 percent as its population and economy grow.

Syria’s crude production has fallen to about 380,000 barrels a day, from a peak of 600,000 barrels a day in 1996, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

Syria not to join OPEC: oil minister
Xinhua, 17 December 2008

Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Sufian Allaw Wednesday said that his country will not join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OPEC) due to its small oil output and declining exports.

“Syria will not join OPEC due to its small output and declining oil exports,” the minister told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 151st extraordinary ministerial meeting in the northwestern Algerian city of Oran.

He declined to give the “fair prices” what his country expects in the international markets, saying “each country has its own favorable prices.”

Syria has a daily output of some 400,000 barrels and exports half of the output.

Earlier in the day, Russia, the biggest non-OPEC oil exporter, also ruled out the possibility of joining the oil cartel, according to Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky.

The OPEC comprises Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, but Indonesia has suspended membership and officially leaves the cartel at the end of 2008.

Ancient cemetery found in Syria
UPI, 18 December 2008

Archaeologists have dug up a large ancient cemetery in the middle of the Syrian desert, providing a glimpse into life and death in the 19th century B.C. The necropolis discovered near the Syrian oasis of Palmyra about 125 miles northeast of Damascus, has at least 30 large burial mounds, ANSA reported Wednesday….

”Future excavations of the burial mounds will undoubtedly reveal information of crucial importance.”

The team of Italian and German experts, which concluded its 10th annual excavation in central Syria in late November, found the elaborate cemetery along a stretch of an old Roman road marked with stones bearing Latin inscriptions with the name of the Emperor Aurelius, who put down a rebellion led by the Palmyran queen Zenobia in 272 A.D. The discovery includes a Roman staging post that was perfectly preserved by a heavy layer of sand.

Comments (85)


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51. Shai said:

Qunfuz,

I’m sorry you view my words about Hamas as nonsense. You already know my views of the criminal behavior of successive Israeli governments, from Left to Right, over all these years. I didn’t feel I needed to expand yet again on everything I’ve been saying all these months. But I did feel I needed to share my own frustration also with Hamas – of course NOT with the Palestinian people. Never in Israel’s history (and in the Palestinians’) have there been two leaders who were as willing and capable in delivering a final peace agreement between our two people – Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Yes, that Butcher-of-Lebanon, before he became the vegetable that he is today, completely changed his skin. He didn’t become an Arab-lover (far from it), but he DID seek to end our Occupation of Palestine. He started with Gaza, and was going to continue with the West Bank. After getting sick, Ehud Olmert who took his place was ready and able to continue Sharon’s job.

Yes, during this time we also continued our criminal behavior. While we talked to Abu Mazen, we suffocated, subjugated, and controlled the fate of millions. But we had leaders you could talk to (even criminal ones). And yes, Hamas CHOSE not to talk. They never recognized Israel, they never talked to Israel, and they never wanted to reach a solution with Israel. They wanted, and still want, all of Palestine, all of pre-1948 Palestine. This is NOT an excuse to commit any of the crimes my governments have committed. But is Hamas not in any way responsible for the fact that today there is still no peace? I am NOT disappointed in the Palestinians, God knows they ARE the ones truly suffering here. But you want me to ignore Hamas, because it seems to you to negate my criticism towards Israel? Fine. If it makes you feel better, I’ll ignore Hamas.

But someone on “your side”, somewhere down the line, will have to address my “nonsense”. Do you think those criminal Israelis can ever have peace and quiet if they don’t speak to Hamas? Of course not. So please remind yourself that Hamas too cannot have peace and quiet without talking to the criminals in Israel. And that, Qunfuz, is the source of my words. Yasser Arafat continued talking to Israel while we were killing his people, and we continued talking to him, while he was killing ours. Hamas hasn’t even started.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:29 am

 

52. Shai said:

Nour,

You said: “When Livni states that she wants to transfer “Israeli” Arabs you dismiss it as political immaturity. When a minister of yours proudly claims that “Israel” will commit a “Holocaust” in Gaza you almost laugh it off, and now when “Israel” is deliberately and brutally killing hundreds of Palestinians you blame the Palestinians themselves. Yet you continue to come here and claim that you are interested in peace and justice. Please, sell it to someone else.”

Please show me when I ascribed “political immaturity” to Livni’s idiotic (and indeed dangerous) statement towards Israeli-Arabs, that their national aspirations will belong elsewhere, once a state of Palestine is created. Please show me when I “laughed it off”, when Matan Vilnai foolishly stated that the Palestinians are bringing a Holocaust upon themselves. Please show me how I “blame the Palestinians themselves” each time Israel kills hundreds of Palestinians. My God-forbid criticism of Hamas has done all this? It erased everything else I’ve said before (quite to the contrary of your suggestions)? Well then, I guess like I’ll have to “swallow” your ridiculous critism, you’ll have to “swallow” mine. You don’t have to buy it – I wasn’t really interested in selling it…

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December 28th, 2008, 5:40 am

 

53. offended said:

Dear Rime,

I’ve been reading Shai’s comments on this blog for a almost a year now. And although I disagree with him on lots of issues, I came to conclusion that his intentions about peace are sincere. Hence I also wish there were more people like him in Israel.

Maybe I fell for his propaganda, but it’s beautiful and positive propaganda.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:48 am

 

54. offended said:

And Rime, Shai has repeatedly criticized the siege of Gaza and argued that the US and Israel should engage with Hamas. Now I have no means of knowing whether Shai is this ferocious about peace in real life, but since this is a virtual forum, I take him for the words he says here.

Finally, I sadly believe that Shai is a minority in his society, hence, again, I wish there were more people like him.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:56 am

 

55. offended said:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html
———————————————–

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well. “

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December 28th, 2008, 6:09 am

 

56. offended said:

Shai,

Reading the above article of ha’aretz, it’s hard to believe that the inept leaders of Israel were pushed to a corner. Obviously, the thing has been in the works for quite sometimes. And let’s be honest, who can ever push the bully with the gun? the Qassam rockets aren’t a threat to Israel’s existence. And one Israeli general had the audacity to say that the operation will not fully obliterate Hamas ability to launch rockets. Why then this bloody operation is continuing?

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December 28th, 2008, 6:15 am

 

57. Shai said:

Offended,

You’re right, I now accept my poor use of the words “pushed to a corner”. I didn’t mean to say that the bully can be pushed to a corner by the victim, and hence the bully is justified. Let me be perfectly clear, to the “Rime’s” out there, I am TOTALLY AGAINST THE ISRAEL ATTACK UPON GAZA AND ITS POPULATION. There is no justification on earth for collectively punishing an entire population. There is no justification on earth for our criminal behavior, for our Occupation, suffocation, and subjugation, of the Palestinian people, be it under tribal leaderships, Yasser Arafat’s PLO, Abu Mazen’s PA, or Hanniyeh’s Hamas. There is no justification on earth, even if it seems to some here that my words suggest exactly that. Sometimes people put different stresses on things, and express things very differently from how you might think they would. It is easy to quickly judge and condemn, and much tougher to be patient, listen, and look for context.

That some here have a great difficulty hearing any criticism coming out of my mouth towards Hamas, is their problem. That they attribute such weight to my words, compared with everything else I say here on SC, some times day after day, week after week, is also their problem. I doubt they’ve spent more than a minute a month considering how opportunities are also been missed by “their side”, or how, at the end of the day, it is with these same Israeli criminals that their countries will have to make peace one day. Who do they expect to sit across from them – best buddies from college? Even Meretz, for crying out loud, was pushing Barak to react! And, here too, I was against it. But Rime has an insightful explanation to my words – they are designed for “spreading very creative propaganda”. She knows that, she deduces that from reading less than a handful of my comments, out of hundreds if not thousands by now. She has no context whatsoever, yet she “knows”. Maybe Rime prefers tough-talking Israelis like Netanyahu or Liebermann. They aren’t “creative” in their propaganda – they’re perfectly clear.

Perhaps the absurd in our country is justified – that only the Right can make peace. Perhaps us “self styled peaceniks” are too problematic, because we tend to disappoint time and again when, besides doing the expected (criticizing and fighting to end continued Israeli criminal behavior), we also voice occasional criticism of “your side”. And that’s just too much for some to handle. They can hear it daily from someone like Bibi, but not from someone like Shai. Ok, so have your Bibi instead. Let extremists determine the future of our region, and let very uncreative and cruel wars and violence replace creative propaganda.

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December 28th, 2008, 6:57 am

 

58. jad said:

I agree with you Offended that Shai is a minority in his country but even that didn’t help me not seeing him as responsible as AIG, Rumyal, Akbar S, and their occupation government for the massacre of Gaza. They are a new and advanced version of the NAZI nothing less.
To be honest, today, I lost any faith in the west human right crap I hear, they are bunch of liars.

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December 28th, 2008, 7:48 am

 

59. Shai said:

JAD,

I am sorry that you feel Israelis are a “new and advanced version of Nazis”.

But please know that in one way, at least, I differ from AIG and Akbar Palace. I do know that I am also responsible for my nation’s criminal behavior. And I am ashamed of it.

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December 28th, 2008, 8:02 am

 

60. Shual said:

Offended, Mr. Rime,
please use this links:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/953182.html http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/964792.html

[“Earlier Monday, Barak said that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a possible wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks from the coastal territory”. Pfffft.]

In my point of view, Shai is somehow correct: “Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago -May-, … after the defense establishment pushed him into a corner.” [Better: “Shoved him”]

I was invited to produce an opposing text for the General Staff in March/April. They … did not really like it and they canceled all contacts. I have to look for the date, but after they canceled the contact, I knew that the discision was made [-May-]. I can remember very well that they solved the Barak question -in discussions with me- by … praising him into the leading position in the new top-duo Ashkenazi-Barak. With the incoming new IAF-leadership the pressure was rising to decide to take the first chance to strike Gaza. I never talked to Barak himselve, so I can not really tell you if this is really correct, but I think Barak [his political intentions] had no chance to oppose the things we can see now.

Sie sprach zu ihm, sie sang zu ihm;
Da war’s um ihn geschehn;
Halb zog sie ihn, halb sank er hin
Und ward nicht mehr gesehn.
[Goethe]

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December 28th, 2008, 8:17 am

 
 

62. jad said:

Shai,
I have no doubt that you are a good and honest man and I do highly respect you. However, Israel occupation of palestine and killing alomst 300 human being in one attack for some meaningless political gain is too much to comprehend, You and your people should held responsible for this war crime.

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December 28th, 2008, 9:42 am

 

63. qunfuz said:

Bloody hell. I just wrote a long response to Shai, and the site lost it. Now I’m even more angry.

In brief: Israel violated the ceasefire, as it always does.

– Arafat was led down the garden path by Israel. He recognised the ethno-state on 78% of Palestine, and received nothing in return. This was a mistake.

– Hamas was elected because it is a resistance organisation. Its purpose is to resist, not to stupidly ‘recognise’ its oppressor.

– Olmert and Sharon are war criminals, mass murderers of Arab women and children. Both should be in prison. Both, like Netanyahu, recognise Israel’s need for some kind of soluton that can be called ‘two-state’ but neither visualise anything viable. They are bantustan thinkers.

– We’ve been through this before. If you want peace, withdraw NOW from ALL the land captured in 67, or announce Israel’s desire for a binational state. If you don’t, don’t pretend you want peace, and don’t expect resistance organisation to ‘recognise’ your settler state.

– Once again Israelis, living in stolen houses, on stolen land, have shown their belief that one of them is worth about 250 of us, as if they are supermen and we are untermenschen.

Hamas refuses to bow to this logic. Until Israel seriously moves towards peace (which means some measure of justice), it will meet resistance from Hamas. There has been talking for decades and things have only got worse. Hamas’s long term aim is to build its missile capability so that it becomes more than a mere irritant, so that Israel will have to take it seriously and really think about peace.

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December 28th, 2008, 12:26 pm

 

64. qunfuz said:

Shai, from Informed Comment: “Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.”

“In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas.”

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December 28th, 2008, 1:02 pm

 

65. Rime said:

Shai, I’m quite amazed that you seem to focus as much on the form (does it bother you so much that I manage to express myself clearly?) as on the content of my comments, but in any case I seem to have hit quite a nerve. You proceed to put words into my mouth and imply that I do not want peace (presumably unlike yourself) and that I must recognize we must negotiate with the enemy (I never even mentioned negotiations). You then dare to bring my father into this. Don’t. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

All I did was respond to your actual words. A massacre is going on, and you are stating your sadness that impotent leaders were pushed into a corner by Hamas. Spare us the commiseration about innocent civilians, and show us what the peace-maker you imply you are will do about this … where it matters, not on a mostly Arab blog, but in Israel!

Come to think of it, I wonder what your position was when the same Israeli savagery was extended to Lebanon in July 2006. Let me guess: you lamented the collective punishment of innocent civilians, and you blamed Hezbollah for pushing the helpless Israeli leaders into the corner?

Offended, I actually have no doubt that Shai wants peace. Who doesn’t? But what kind of peace does he want? As you all rightly say, I haven’t participated in your previous debates and can only judge his position by the current one, but I am not at all convinced that his peace is one based on international laws, numerous UN resolutions, and on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After all, he mentions the word “realistic” and we all know what that means.

Shual, thanks for the information. By the way, I’m a woman.

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December 28th, 2008, 2:41 pm

 

66. Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Rime,

I will lend my voice to Alex’s and Offended’s. For the past year, Shai has spent countless hours on Syria Comment, engaging in long discussions with Arabs and Israelis alike. He has won over some pretty tough customers; at the very least, he has demonstrated to our readers that there are people in Israel who condemn unequivocally the crimes of their government.

Shai is not just a talker. He is very much a do-er. He has been deeply active in the campaign to promote the Israel-Syria peace talks. And, given the extent of Syria Comment’s readership, he has served as a kind of one-man PR committee for this process.

At any rate, this is just to say that I don’t think your criticisms of Shai are fair. He has earned the right to have his views taken seriously and respected, not questioned and ridiculed — even if you disagree with him.

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December 28th, 2008, 3:49 pm

 

67. Shual said:

Sorry Rime,

I had not the time to visit your website.

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December 28th, 2008, 3:50 pm

 

68. Rime said:

Qifa Nabki, I think everyone has the right to have their views taken seriously, and I take yours, and Shai’s, very seriously indeed. Thanks for at least not putting words into my mouth, and for simply saying that you think I’m unfair. However, please do not tell me that the view that “Israeli leaders are impotent and were pushed into a corner” does not deserve ridicule. Seriously.

And don’t get me started on the Syrian-Israeli peace talks, I’ve been writing about them since the non-paper appeared in Haaretz; sorry to tell you that I’ve also criticized, to put it mildly, the possibility that the Syrian regime would dare agree to this.

In any case, apart from Qunfuz whose comment I’ve just read in detail, and a few others , I see I am in the minority and Shai clearly has many more supporters than this Syrian on Syria Comment. As does Mahmoud Abbas, I assume, who has also just blamed Hamas for the ongoing massacre.

In the meantime, after murdering about 300 people in Gaza since yesterday, Israel’s impotent leaders have just been forced by Hamas to kill a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank.

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December 28th, 2008, 4:25 pm

 

69. norman said:

Shai,

A statement and a question,

Today , Israel has managed to increase the haters of the Jews by many hundred percents,Do you thing it will make Israel more secure.?

How does Netanyahu feel now that this war might cost him the election?. as it seems the Israeli government is intended to continue fighting till after the election.

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December 28th, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

70. norman said:

Israel is calling the reserve and Syria is breaking the indirect talks ,
Israel seems to be determent to reoccupy Gaza and surrender it to Abbas,

Back

Syria suspends indirect peace talks with Israel

2008-12-28 16:13:01 –

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A Syrian government official says that Damascus has decided to suspend its indirect peace talks with Israel because of the Jewish state’s attacks in Gaza.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, says «Israel’s aggression closes all the doors» to any move toward a settlement in the region.
Israel and Syria held four rounds of indirect negotiations in Turkey after the peace talks were launched in May. The talks were suspended when Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he would step down earlier this year.
Last Monday, Syria’s President Bashar Assad said he believes direct peace talks with Israel are possible and that they will eventually take place.

Press release: http://www.pr-inside.com
Kontaktinformation: e-mail

Disclaimer: If you have any questions regarding information in these press releases please contact the company added in the press release. Please do not contact pr-inside. We will not be able to assist you. PR-inside disclaims contents contained in this release.

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December 28th, 2008, 4:35 pm

 

71. Qifa Nabki said:

Rime said:

I see I am in the minority and Shai clearly has many more supporters than this Syrian on Syria Comment. As does Mahmoud Abbas, I assume, who has also just blamed Hamas for the ongoing massacre.

Rime, why do you assume that Mahmoud Abbas has supporters on Syria Comment? Actually, one of Abbas’s most fervent critics here is Shai. So, yes, I do think you’re being a bit unfair.

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December 28th, 2008, 4:46 pm

 

72. Shai said:

Rime,

If I put words in your mouth, I do apologize. I suppose I participated in judging you just as quickly as you did me. Perhaps you are for-peace (in more than just “who isn’t” kind of way). And I of course apologize for any disrespect I have shown you, or your family, by speaking about your late father. Please know, that from what I’ve read about him, I hold the highest respect for him.

I acknowledge that I’ve made a very poor choice of words this morning, especially in describing our leadership as “helpless and impotent”, or one that has been pushed into a corner by the obvious victim here, the Palestinian people. I wrote Alex later, belatedly attempting to clarify the poor use of the words. I meant it, from an Israeli point of view, in the pathetic sense of the word. That is, how despite the fact that our leadership is capable, talented, and has the ability to act very differently and influence the course of its future, knowingly or unknowingly allows itself to sink into a “helpless” state of self-pity, fear, and self-deception, whereby it justifies to itself and others its action as mere last-resort reaction, as a victim in this conflict, rather than a perpetrator.

Despite the way you’ve chosen to read through my words in a single comment today, rather than in context of hundreds if not thousands of other comments I make on SC, please know that I am appalled by the criminal behavior of my successive governments, certainly over the past 30 years, if not well beyond them. In no way do I view even Hamas as equally responsible for what is happening today, and I apologize if it seemed I was making this claim. I was, I suppose, releasing my own anger at Hamas for not seizing the opportunity it did have, over the past two years, to engage Israel through diplomacy, even while we were killing, occupying, and subjugating their people. In retrospect, this comment was undoubtedly poorly timed.

But please know that I do very much believe in International law, I do wish justice could be had for the Palestinian people, but also have come to recognize that if justice means the one-state solution, then this will not be possible in the near future. I, therefore, am willing (and do) to fight for a two-state solution. I very much believe we need to make peace with Syria, and withdraw from all territories occupied since 1967. I do view Israeli occupation as nothing short of an Apartheid rule. We are, and have been, committing crimes against humanity. And we must end it, immediately. I say this repetitively not only on this forum, but very much in Israel as well. I don’t do enough, I know. But I am searching for ways to do more.

Please know that there are many of us today in Israel, who are ashamed. I know words do not help anyone, certainly not the Palestinian people. But this is the least I can do on this forum.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:02 pm

 

73. Shai said:

Norman,

I have no idea what the Israeli government is “intent” on doing. I only know what it is NOT intent on doing – and that seems to be making peace. I don’t know how this will effect Netanyahu, nor do I particularly care. I cannot explain this action in rational terms.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:12 pm

 

74. Qifa Nabki said:

Even by Israel’s standards, this massacre is just sickening.

Reports abound on attempts to draw Hizbullah into the conflict.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:30 pm

 

75. majid said:

Alex said, “Majid,

God knows … I can only tell you that I HOPE (not “think”) it will be something close to Syria’s way.”

Sorry for the late reply Alex. My internet connection was down last two days. With regards to your very high hopes, you remind of the Armenian who recited a famous line of poetry in very colloquial Arabic like this:

“Baba, markab birouh heyk, hawa birouh heyk” In each case pointing with his hand in opposite directions.

I still don’t think you mean what you said – regarding one way or the other. You would either be naive or even worse dissembling.

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December 28th, 2008, 5:44 pm

 

76. offended said:

Rime,
Shai has written, literally, hundreds of pages on this forum. And I think I read at least 70% of what he’d written. You start to get feel for people after this much of reading their comments.

I am also a silent reader of your blog and I immensely admire your courage and tenacity. I’ve also been arguing with the optimist lot here that peace without a free Palestine is worthless for Syria. So yes, I think I can SUPPORT YOU and your argument against hasty, frivolous and an Egyptian-like peace treaty between Syria and Israel and listen to Shai and respect his views and his endeavor at the same time…

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December 28th, 2008, 6:13 pm

 

77. Alex said:

Majid,

I said last week that I hope things will go Syria’s way … I still don’t know, but I am today more convinced Egypt is increasingly in trouble.

Shai,

No need to apologize further for your government’s actions.

I hope everyone will stop blaming you directly or indirectly for Israel’s behavior. I think it is enough. If you have things to criticize Israel for … criticize Israel, not Shai.

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December 28th, 2008, 9:01 pm

 

78. norman said:

Shai,

I see that you are genuinely upset,God bless and hope for more of you .

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December 28th, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

79. Rime said:

Qifa Nabki, sorry but I was being sarcastic about Abbas! I don’t know anything about who most people support here, and I only mentioned it in the context of blaming Hamas.

Shai, Offended, and other concerned SC readers, not everyone has the benefit of being part of this group, and of knowing what people think or stand for through the countless comments left on this blog. You are making it too difficult for us to join in the discussion (not that you necessarily wish to) by expecting that comments be taken purely in the context of debates we have never followed. As far as my seemingly controversial contribution goes, I judged only what I read here, and I was prepared to be judged myself by what I wrote here.

Shai, thank you for your kind words, and let us accept that we have different positions on the subject. Although you have completely clarified what you meant this morning, which makes more sense judging by what most people here are saying about you, you still believe (as is your right) that Hamas is to blame “for not seizing the opportunity it did have, over the past two years, to engage Israel through diplomacy.” I believe the exact opposite, that Israel has done everything possible to alienate itself from diplomacy.

Hamas, which I would now consider more legitimate than the government of Ehud Olmert, was democratically elected, and since then was totally isolated by all concerned. Media reporting in the past few days has been appalling, demonstrating revisionism at worst, carelessness and ignorance at best: Hamas did not seize power in Gaza, nor did it make a coup, nor any of the crazy things being said in various media. Israel cannot live with the choice of the Palestinian people, but ironically there is no doubt that Israel (and Fatah of course) are driving them into the arms of groups like Hamas. But I digress (and I usually do!). (By the way, not that it matters, but I am far from being a Hamas fan.)

For the last few years of Arafat’s life, the Israeli establishment repeated ad nauseam that “we have no partner” with whom to negotiate. Ditto with Hamas. Let’s face it, the only partners Israel will accept, as things look so far, are those who will sign on the dotted line to conditions which no sane, moral or legal parameter could contain. Would this bring Israel its security?

Like you, Shai, I have argued for the two-state solution. Today, more and more, I think that Israel is painting itself in the corner of the one-state solution … hence the sudden interest in a quick and easy settlement. But this an entirely different subject for which we have no appetite today. As I was writing this, Israeli jets bombed Gaza University, a place of learning. They are trying to destroy not just the present, but the future of Palestinians. Now, they are shelling the port of Gaza.

Offended, thanks for your comments on my own writings.

Alex, your last words are striking and (let me throw my last controversy here) very similar to thought police. Do you not think this is over the top for a blog? Was anyone really blaming Shai personally for Israel’s behavior? I must have missed that. In any case, as confirmed by my anti-spam word, I’m toast!

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December 28th, 2008, 11:33 pm

 

80. EHSANI2 said:

The United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and supporters of March 14th would like nothing more than hit the delete button and get rid rid of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

While Israel is trying to execute its own delete operation of Hamas in Gaze, if history is any guide this is not likely to work.

It is worth reflecting on what om Segev wrote today in Haaretz:

“Israel is striking at the Palestinians to “teach them a lesson.” That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom – via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.”

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December 28th, 2008, 11:58 pm

 

81. Qifa Nabki said:

Rime,

Before you disappear… please allow me to implore you to stick around! Or at least come back tomorrow. It is not so difficult to join the discussion, I insist.

You are not a fan of Hamas, nor Fatah, nor the Egyptians, nor the Syrians, nor the Lebanese… a woman after my own heart!

Anyway, don’t go away, seriously.

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December 28th, 2008, 11:58 pm

 

82. norman said:

Rime ,

what are your thoughts about solving the Israeli /Palestinian conflict.?.

and the Israeli Arab one.

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December 29th, 2008, 12:07 am

 

83. Alex said:

Dear Rime,

Again you are quick to express negative impressions about me after spending 2 more seconds here today.

If I am such a strict moderator, why is it that this blog gets

405 comments
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=724

and

544 comments
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=601

I don’t think other Syria Blogs are much more open, are they?

Thought police would prevent ideas … continuing to blame Shai (directly or indirectly) for Israel’s crimes in Gaza for a second day was not exactly rich in new ideas.

Sorry if this is how I see it but I don’t want to see him apologizing ten more times. If we are that angry at Israel, let’s go and find a way to tell CNN that THEY are part of the crimes when they lie like they did an hour ago … “The Gaza violence reminds us of the way the violence in 2006 in Lebanon started when Hizbollah attacked Israel with missiles forcing Israel to retaliate by attacking Hizbollah back”

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December 29th, 2008, 12:41 am

 

84. Shai said:

Rime,

This time, allow me to thank YOU for your kind words. This is how I wish we could have communicated from the very start (back a few months ago when we had our first and few exchanges). I fully understand your (and others’) anger at the way I phrased my thoughts (frustration), and I hope I did manage to better “explain” myself. I must say, though, that I am in COMPLETE agreement with everything you wrote in your last comment (and no, you did not digress). And while I do believe Hamas has missed opportunities, I fully agree that Israel did everything possible to make sure that happens. I think Hamas could have taken advantage of certain opportunities, even if this was the last thing Israelis wanted. Like you, I’m also not particularly “fond” of Hamas, but unlike most Israelis, I do respect the free choice of the Palestinian people, and I do believe we should have done EVERYTHING to speak to Hamas.

I also agree with you that de facto, we are heading right towards a One-state solution. I find it the biggest absurd in my nation’s history that we still, after 60 years, don’t know what we want. Do we think the West Bank is part of “Greater Israel” (Biblical Israel, Canaan, whatever)? If so, yalla, let’s annex the entire territory, like we did with the Golan in 1981, and let’s give the 4 million Palestinian there Israeli citizenship, the right to vote, etc. The next morning, of course, Fatah or Hamas will become Israel’s largest or second-largest party in Knesset… So if Jews in Israel don’t like this solution, then let us get the Hell out of the West Bank, and leave it to the people who have lived there, at the very least over the past 2000 years (ya’ani, while we weren’t there).

The problem, of course, is that since we’ve done almost everything possible to discourage sincere dialogue and the establishment of a real process to create the Palestinian state, we have created our own self-fulfilling prophecy, namely the “no partner to talk to” claim. I don’t blame only Israel for this, but clearly we are first and foremost to blame. As Alex, and Norman, and others have said in the past, and I unfortunately believe as well, Israel doesn’t seem to know what it wants. I’ve been suspecting over the past decade or two, that perhaps we’re still suffering from some inferiority-complex, whereby we still expect our fate to be determined by others, as it was while Jews were in the Diaspora. We are good at convincing ourselves that all are bad deeds are mere reaction to other’s ill intentions towards Israel, that most if not all our harsh actions are in defense of ongoing existential threats. People here really believe that.

And as I unrealistically expected you to have “SC perspective” in judging me, I unrealistically expect sometimes the Israeli people to have perspective in judging their own state of being, and in judging those around us and under our Occupation. But what can you expect from Israelis that have only interacted with Arabs through gunpoint, and reserves duty in the territories? What can you expect from Israelis that have grown up with subtle and less-than-subtle demonization of Arabs? Maybe it is indeed unrealistic of me to expect perspective of most Israelis, but it IS realistic of me to expect it of our leaders. They ARE supposed to be above most people, to see things differently, to develop policy for Israel, to carry it out, to lead us to a better future, and to also ensure we are in peace with our neighbors.

Rime, I no longer know what to think today. Our own so-called “moderate” leaders, Olmert, Livni, and Barak, are the ones giving the go-ahead to this terrible military operation. They’re the ones responsible for the killing of so many Palestinians. I no longer know what the Left and Center-Left stand for. I really am shocked right now. Even in war there must be a principle of proportionality and reciprocity. Even if we (foolishly) that we can “convince” the Palestinian people to give up on their armed struggle for Independence (which EVERY people on this planet have a right to do, when under Occupation), how can we hope to achieve this by having a 250-to-1 kill ratio? How can my people believe this criminal behavior will lead to a more secure life for us in the present, or in the future? What kind of twisted mind believes this?

But I’ll end pointing fingers yet again at others. This time, at the International Community. What are they waiting for? Another 34 days of Lebanon-2006? Is 1500 dead, and a million cluster-bombs, the magical-numbers sought first, before the world awakens? Where is Egypt and Jordan? Where is Europe, or even Obama? Is the most the UN is capable of, is “calling upon all parties to end the violence…”? What if it was the other way around – if two days ago, 1 Palestinian was killed, and 250 Israelis were killed? The U.S. would have its Sixth-Fleet immediately mobilized to defend Israel against this new “existential threat”. But innate racism, and Arab=Terrorist synonyms are comforting little cushions when our conscience has to “deal” with these horrific facts.

These past two days, I can’t say I’m particularly “proud” to be an Israeli. And it makes me ever more ashamed, hearing some here (including on this forum) are actually calling upon Israelis to feel proud! We should feel proud, when we kill 250 Palestinians, and injure more than 700, in a single day. Some form of “Defense” that is…

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December 29th, 2008, 5:50 am

 

85. offended said:

Rime,
I join Qifa Nabki and Alex in urging you to stay or to come more often, please!

And no, not at all. I was not trying to make it difficult for you to join the discussion; I was merely trying to explain why I wished there were more people like Shai.

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December 29th, 2008, 12:55 pm

 

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