Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria’s Inner Sanctum

Posted by Alex 

Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria's Inner Sanctum
U.S. Action Alleges Corruption

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2008; A18

The Bush administration yesterday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus.

As a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Makhluf, 38, is a key player in the Assad dynasty and is the force behind Syria's effort to privatize state-owned enterprises. However, his power over vital business monopolies has helped the government retain control over Syria's most important economic assets, according to U.S. officials and outside experts.

"Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country."

The Treasury Department sanctioned Makhluf under an executive order citing Syrians for alleged corruption. "Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Assad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "The Assad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing politics, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

The move freezes any assets Makhluf holds in the United States and restricts his transactions through U.S. financial institutions. The impact, however, may be largely political and psychological, as he is unlikely to have identifiable U.S. holdings, experts said.

The action was taken under a presidential executive order, signed on Feb. 13, which expanded sanctions on Syria — covering support for activities related to terrorism, narcotics and intervention in Lebanon — to include corruption.

The ruling Syrian dynasty was crafted with the marriage of Hafez al-Assad, the longtime president who came from a rural background and was the first in his family to graduate from high school, to Anisah Makhluf, who hailed from a wealthy Syrian family. Since a military coup in 1969, the Assads have controlled politics while the Makhlufs have been big business players. The tradition continues in the next generation, with Bashar al-Assad as president and Rami Makhluf as a leading force in business.

Makhluf is a top player in Syria's telecommunications, commercial, energy and banking sectors, said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The considerable role the Assad family, their inner circle and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals," the Treasury Department said in its announcement. "In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing."

The Bush administration has expanded punitive measures against Damascus in recent months, with the Makhluf family coming under scrutiny. In November, the Treasury sanctioned Hafiz Makhluf, Rami's brother, for his connection with efforts to reassert Syrian control over Lebanon. Syria ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon in 2005, but U.S. officials have charged that Damascus has been linked to subsequent attacks on Lebanese politicians.

"With these moves, the president of the United States is making it clear that the Syrian regime is anathema and unacceptable to him," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a fellow with the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. The U.S. action comes as the Syrian economy is vulnerable. Oil production is falling, and revenue from oil exports has accounted for as much as half of Syria's government budget, Landis said.

"A lot of people think of Makhluf as a highway robber, and in some ways he is. But he is also one of the few people who can work through the system to get things done," said Landis, referring to Rami Makhluf. "All kinds of banks and people and foreign investors who want to join in Syria's development are going to think twice and think 'What's going to happen to me?'

Comments (544)

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201. norman said:

Shai , look at it this way , a president with the name Hussein will make it easier for electing a president with the name or religion of Shai.

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:18 pm


202. Qifa Nabki said:

Why Obama represents a real change:

“I will also launch a program of public diplomacy that is a coordinated effort across my Administration, not a small group of political officials at the State Department explaining a misguided war. We will open “America Houses” in cities across the Islamic world, with Internet, libraries, English lessons, stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country, and vocational programs. Through a new ” America’s Voice Corps” we will recruit, train, and send out into the field talented young Americans who can speak with — and listen to — the people who today hear about us only from our enemies.

As President, I will lead this effort. In the first 100 days of my Administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence. I will speak directly to that child who looks up at that helicopter, and my message will be clear: “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:22 pm


203. Shai said:


If it can help make our world a little better, I’d vote Obama if his first name was Saddam! Ahmedinejad… is another story. 🙂

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:23 pm


204. norman said:


I have the same feeling as yours.


That is interesting , now i like him more ,This country of ours ( The US ) is a great country and has so much to improve the lives of the people around the world , in that process make the world like the US where people with different religions and ethnic backgroud can live together .

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:31 pm


205. Shai said:


It takes living in the U.S. to understand this. But like in anything in life, if you can’t market your ideas well, you’re just not going to succeed. Unfortunately, Americans have failed miserably in marketing freedom and democracy around the world, and especially in our region. The way they are portrayed has a lot to do with horrific marketing. The one thing Americans have not been able to get rid of, is an innate feeling of superiority. Even when I was living in the U.S. in the 80’s, it was “clear” to me that I’m in the greatest nation on earth, and that all other nations have much to learn from “us”. When non-Americans sense this, they quickly develop anti-American sentiments. Maybe it really will be great to have a “Barack Hussein Obama” as president. It’ll remind people around the world that the U.S. isn’t just about frat-boy WASP’s…

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:41 pm


206. Qifa Nabki said:


I agree. Here are some more bits from that speech.

“When you travel to the world’s trouble spots as a United States Senator, much of what you see is from a helicopter. So you look out, with the buzz of the rotor in your ear, maybe a door gunner nearby, and you see the refugee camp in Darfur, the flood near Djibouti, the bombed out block in Baghdad. You see thousands of desperate faces.

Al Qaeda’s new recruits come from Africa and Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Many come from disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world. And it makes you stop and wonder: when those faces look up at an American helicopter, do they feel hope, or do they feel hate?

We do need to stand for democracy. And I will. But democracy is about more than a ballot box. America must show — through deeds as well as words — that we stand with those who seek a better life. That child looking up at the helicopter must see America and feel hope.

As President, I will make it a focus of my foreign policy to roll back the tide of hopelessness that gives rise to hate. Freedom must mean freedom from fear, not the freedom of anarchy. I will never shrug my shoulders and say — as Secretary Rumsfeld did — “Freedom is untidy.” I will focus our support on helping nations build independent judicial systems, honest police forces, and financial systems that are transparent and accountable. Freedom must also mean freedom from want, not freedom lost to an empty stomach. So I will make poverty reduction a key part of helping other nations reduce anarchy.

I will double our annual investments to meet these challenges to $50 billion by 2012. And I will support a $2 billion Global Education Fund to counter the radical madrasas — often funded by money from within Saudi Arabia — that have filled young minds with messages of hate. We must work for a world where every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy. And as we lead we will ask for more from our friends in Europe and Asia as well — more support for our diplomacy, more support for multilateral peacekeeping, and more support to rebuild societies ravaged by conflict.

The America I know is the last, best hope for that child looking up at a helicopter. It’s the country that put a man on the moon; that defeated fascism and helped rebuild Europe. It’s a country whose strength abroad is measured not just by armies, but rather by the power of our ideals, and by our purpose to forge an ever more perfect union at home.

That’s the America I know. We just have to act like it again to write that next chapter in the American story. If we do, we can keep America safe while extending security and opportunity around the world. We can hold true to our values, and in doing so advance those values abroad. And we can be what that child looking up at a helicopter needs us to be: the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny, and the light of hope to the world.

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:46 pm


207. norman said:

I Agree but I do not think that it is only marketing , the reason that the US failed in pushing democracy is because it did not try to implement the American system of government but the British and the Israeli ones ( Representative democracy ) which is OK if the people are homogeneous not like in the Mideast , in the mideast they need a republic with districts like the us where a person is judged on his ability not religion or ethnic backgroud because the people in his district know him,

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February 23rd, 2008, 8:55 pm


208. Shai said:

Norman, i’ve been pushing for the exact same here in Israel. Representatives must be accountable throughout and directly to their constituents, not only every four years and only to their party.

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February 23rd, 2008, 9:04 pm


209. offended said:

Here is my proposed ceremonial song for the SC conference:

the roc boys in the building tonight
oh what a feeling I’m feeling life
you dont even gotta bring your paper out
we the dope boys of the year
drinks is on the house

Ok, I am just being silly : )

I, similar to Shai, do not have a dual citizenship. So if the conference is to be held in Boston, Montreal, Oklahoma, London or even Auckland, it’ll be difficult for me. But I am sure the Center for Peace in OK uni will take care of that ; )

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February 23rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


210. Zenobia said:

I was appalled to learn recently from one of my arab-american cousins that her parents and all their many San Jose California friends, also all lebanese and syrian arab americans…. have been voting republican for the past thirty years…or as long as they have been citizens!
i was shocked.
however, I heard from my uncle.. (who admitted that he had voted for both bushes both times… and that he had never voted democratic – ever- even for Bill Clinton) that GWB the second Bush…has now….and forever turned him into a Democrat!
And he is voting for Barack Obama….and his whole family is, and all their many friends who have for years voted Republican.

this a tiny anecdote, but I think it says something very important…. about what is happening in this country right now.
I HOPE SO anyway.

Hilary would have a very good chance of losing to John McCain, and I simply don’t want to see it.
Also, i think a little understood secret is that sexism is more entrenched than racism in certain respects in America. More subtle, but more seemlessly accepted and unnoticed.
Despite Hilary’s qualifications, I am opting for Obama.

I want a new face on America, and more of Clintons is not going to bring it!

although the domestic policy problems are significant, and Hilary could possibly be the better president (not candidate) in this regard, for example, American needs Health Care… Universal Nationalize healthcare… hello!….
I care even more about foreign policy…. and Obama has more of what we need in that regard. A world leader… who can win back our reputation….
If Bill didn’t succeed with the Arab-I conflict, Hilary won’t either. Maybe Obama has a chance…. if AIPAC or Elliot Abrams doesn’t cow him into submission.

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February 23rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


211. Zenobia said:

do you guys really think you can pull off an SC conference?

do you really think all these brave people are going to creep out from behind their computers?

personally…. if this fantasy came true….. Boston is great for me.. (the home town)… .and Montreal… not too bad…as long as it is summer… (actually that goes for Boston too)……

i think Alex said to me before that he refuses to set foot on American soil….so it might have to be montreal….

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February 23rd, 2008, 10:04 pm


212. Qifa Nabki said:


Is that your polite way of saying that bloggers are by definition socially dysfunctional morons with personality disorders?


I for one welcome the notion of a face-to-face encounter, and I’m sure none of you will mind if I bring my imaginary friends with me.

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February 23rd, 2008, 10:25 pm


213. norman said:

That will be great but has to be after sometime so we can have work arrangements , That is if i am to be invited , so let us call it ( Family Reunion ). we are after all I believe a SC family.

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February 23rd, 2008, 10:54 pm


214. Zenobia said:

yes i guess it was my way of suggesting that there is indeed….something…odd …..about this selected group…
but i am up for the face to face challenge if anybody else is… It would be hilarious, i think.

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February 23rd, 2008, 11:07 pm


215. Zenobia said:

Regarding the American Election:

I was appalled to learn recently from one of my arab-american cousins that her Syrian born parents and all their many many San Jose California friends, also all lebanese and syrian long time arab americans…. have been voting republican for the past thirty years…or as long as they have been citizens!
i was shocked.
however, I heard from my uncle.. (who admitted that he had voted for both bushes both times… and that he had never voted democratic – ever- even for Bill Clinton) that GWB the second Bush…has now….and forever turned him into a Democrat!
And he is voting for Barack Obama….and his whole family is, and all their many friends who have for years voted Republican.

this a tiny anecdote, but I think it says something very important…. about what is happening in this country right now.
I HOPE SO anyway.

Hilary would have a very good chance of losing to John McCain, and I simply don’t want to see it.
Also, i think a little understood secret is that sexism is more entrenched than racism in certain respects in America. More subtle, but more seemlessly accepted and unnoticed.
Despite Hilary’s qualifications, I am opting for Obama.

I want a new face on America, and more of Clintons is not going to bring it!

although the domestic policy problems are significant, and Hilary could possibly be the better president (not candidate) in this regard, for example, American needs Health Care… Universal Nationalize healthcare… hello!….
I care even more about foreign policy…. and Obama has more of what we need in that regard. A world leader… who can win back our reputation….
If Bill didn’t succeed with the Arab-I conflict, Hilary won’t either. Maybe Obama has a chance…. if AIPAC or Elliot Abrams doesn’t cow him into submission.

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February 23rd, 2008, 11:09 pm


216. Qifa Nabki said:


Unfortunately, it’s not just the effect of AIPAC that leads to a biased American policy; it’s also the absence of real lobbying by Arab-Americans.

It is a curious irony that, while casual political analysis is such an important aspect of social culture in the Arab world, Arabs in the West are largely apolitical. Much of this has to do with the immigrant mentality of leaving the old world behind and starting afresh. Other factors play into it as well, particularly for Lebanese-Americans, many of whom don’t like to associate themselves with “Arab” causes like the Palestine-Israel conflict, out of bitter resentments dating back to the Civil War, etc.

There are worthwhile Arab lobbying groups now, however, like the Arab-American Institute (AAI:, but nothing really approaching AIPAC.

We need strong Arab leadership in the U.S. in order to put pressure on politicians, build alliances with pro-peace Jewish groups, etc. We can’t really continue to blame AIPAC if we don’t do anything productive in response.

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February 23rd, 2008, 11:24 pm


217. Zenobia said:

you are absolutely and totally right.
I have thought a lot about this fact too.
and another one of my fantasies…..besides…i could be president of Lebanon……and such…was to start an Arab-American Lobbying group.
Of course it will never be what AIPAC is (and i am not sure i would want to create something as obnoxious as that anyway), and should not be representing just one country in the Middle East.
But we definitely need SOMETHING to have a voice.
and I really haven’t seen anything available…has anybody?

I like AAI , Zogby and company. but they are not a lobbying group in the formal sense.
And so many people with money are not involved and not giving to such groups. I think there is not even enough lobbying of Arab- American (who seem to be so politically minded… do they just like to complain??? all the time…. but do nothing political) to build a base and give their money…. in order to have someone talking back against the Elliot Abrams and horrible legislators passing the Accountability Acts and such.
It makes me so mad….

anyhow… i dream about working on something like that… in DC.

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February 23rd, 2008, 11:45 pm


218. Enlightened said:

Just woke up, and had my Daily fix of SC, it is better than Coffee. I am disappointed in all of you! If there is to be a SC conference then Sydney Australia has to be in the mix- lets drop Auckland as a venue too cold and windy. There is no better place in the world to have a conference than the Harbour city, and I can bet that nearly 80% have not been to Australia.

Now it might be logistically difficult, but I am willing to do some groundwork to help.

Now how about some responses?

Bridgette Gabriel is at it again: Here is the link, makes interesting reading:

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February 24th, 2008, 12:49 am


219. norman said:

‘Road to Syria runs through Washington’



As Americans contemplate their political future, a former top Israeli official came to the nation’s capital this week to have his say, too.
Former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel likes what he’s hearing from some of the presidential candidates about a willingness to talk to Syria, with whom he argued Israel could be engaged in peace talks if it weren’t for the objections of the Bush administration.

Liel, who over the last few years has conducted unofficial talks with Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman, hopes that in the last 10 months of George W. Bush’s presidency – and the presidential campaign – he can influence people to back his approach.

“I’m sure the bottleneck is here in this city,” Liel declared during a speech to the Washington-based Middle East Institute Thursday, referring to Bush administration policy to isolate rather than engage Syria. If its objections to Israeli-Syrian talks were to be dropped, he posited that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would seize the opportunity to speak to Israel’s long-time foes. “I think he [Olmert] will jump at it.”

Liel himself said he spent some two years, until the Second Lebanon War, meeting with Suleiman under the auspices of first the Turks and then the Swiss. While Suleiman was in touch with officials in Damascus about their meetings, the Foreign Ministry knew of the meetings but would not participate, Liel said, though both countries have denied the assertion.

Liel said Thursday that they had worked out a framework for an agreement, including an Israeli handover of the Golan Heights that would be spread out over up to 15 years and the creation of a park on some of the plateau where Israelis could enter visa-free. In addition, he said the Syrians wanted Israeli businesses to continue to operate there.

But, he claimed, Syria wanted US involvement before proceeding with the talks, and Israel could not deliver that because of American opposition.

Israel has denied such a barrier exists. During a press conference alongside Bush in Washington in November, Olmert said merely that he “share[d] the same opinion” with Bush that, “We are not against negotiations with Syria. We would love to be able to have negotiations with Syria, but that must be based on a certain reasonable, responsible policy, which is not preformed by Syria for the time being.”

Liel said that whatever signals the Bush administration was sending to Israel on Syria, its refusal to be a party to negotiations in any case halted the process, since ultimately what Syria wanted was to talk to the US.

A State Department official said on Friday that, “In addition to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and a two-state solution, there does need to be a broader regional settlement with all of Israel’s neighbors, including Syria. But discussions with Syria are no substitute for what we consider to be the most important focus – furthering the cause of peace and furthering the development of a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians.”

He added that, “The Syrian regime continues to engage in certain activities that are counterproductive to regional peace. We have repeatedly voiced concern over these activities, and Syria knows what it must do to improve relations with its neighbors and the international community.”

In his conversations with US congressmen and former officials, Liel said many have reacted positively and would also like to see a broader policy change under the next president.

Democratic presidential candidates Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton are on record saying they favor engagement with Syria, a sentiment they touched on at their debate Thursday night.

Speaking in the context of Iraq, Clinton said, “We need to start diplomatic efforts immediately, getting the Iranians, the Syrians and others to the table. It’s in their interest, it’s in our interest.”

Obama made a similar, wider point about Iran, though in the past he has expressed the same views about Syria.

Liel said that while he didn’t expect to have an impact on current US policy, it was important now to reach out to Bush’s successors, both Democrats and Republicans. “We have a feeling that it’s easier to catch these people now than after they’re elected,” he said.

He also said the window of opportunity might be shutting as Syria continued to hear negative responses from the Israelis and the Americans.

But David Schenker, director of the Arab Politics Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said there was good reason for US caution when it comes to engaging with the Syrians.

“I don’t think this administration wants anything to do with Syria, and rightly so. Everything Syria has done in the last eight years suggests that Syrians are not interested in seriously pursuing a peace negotiation.”

He pointed to examples including Syria’s harboring of terrorists such as Hizbullah No. 2 Imad Mughniyeh, assassinated this month in Damascus, the country’s support for anti-American attacks in Iraq and its growing ties with Iran. He noted that the importance of those ties to Syria represented a strong disincentive for President Bashar Assad to switch to an Israeli-American alliance.

Schenker added that there was a cost to the willingness to engage, pointing out that Syria received leverage just from the appearance of talks with Israel. Right now, three years after the Syrians were suspected of being behind the death of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, Syria was looking to evade an international tribunal on the assassination and saw talks with Israel as a way to do that.

“It’s a tool to alleviate pressures on the regime,” he said, casting doubt on the sincerity of Syria’s negotiating a peace deal with Israel.

Liel acknowledged that he could not be “100 percent” certain that Syria was indeed sincere, but said that his years in contact with Suleiman, and now as the chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society NGO, had convinced him they were sincere and that, at the very least, Israel should explore the option.

“It’s the first time in the history of the country [Israel] that we have an enemy country saying it wants to talk, on record and in every diplomatic channel, and we say no,” said Liel. “It’s not our national policy… this is an American policy we were dragged into.”

Schenker, though, warned that even a new administration – and new approach to Syria – wouldn’t necessarily change much.

“It’s likely to be just as frustrating,” he said. “It’ll be difficult to find much common ground with the Assad regime, regardless of whether the next administration in Washington is Republican or Democratic.”



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February 24th, 2008, 2:29 am


220. majedkhaldoun said:

QN said
We need strong Arab leadership in the U.S. in order to put pressure on politicians.

I strongly agree with this.
As far as S.C. conference,it will be best to integrate it in the ADC conference,which is held at the end of june in Washington,DC,even if we meet ,next to the swiming
pool, so no one wear a toupee,or a wig.but no camera please.

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February 24th, 2008, 2:39 am


221. Alex said:

Well I just came back from attending a lecture by John Mearsheimer.

I then spent half an hour with him on the side. He was kind enough to take all my questions.

According to him

1) AIPAC is fully against peace with Syria. They will automatically oppose anything that seems to lead to territorial concessions by Israel.

2) The Arabs will not have any chance of competing with AIPAC in the US … American Jews make up AIPAC … money from Saudi Arabia can not influence American politicians and journalists… it has to be money from Arab Americans… and Arab Americans do not donate generously to their organizations … there is too much division and no determination.

3) Obama had to pull his paid ads on becuse those ads showed up partly on Mearsheimer’s book … Obama campaign purchased banner ads for the top 100 political books … Mearsheimer’s was one of those 100… I think Obama’s people got a call from the New York Sun newspaper asking them to remove those ads … in half an hour Obama’s campaign people called back the New York Sun to assure them that the ad campaign was stopped and that Obama does not agree at all with Mearsheimer in any way.

4) He believes AIPAC is extremely successful at what they are doing and that what they are doing is extremely stupid.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:35 am


222. Enlightened said:

Alex was the Lecture taped at all? Where was it held?

Like to read his speach, Im thinking of purchasing the book.

How did you find him (Mearsheimer), intelligent, coherent etc? when you spoke to him on the side.

Let us all know

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February 24th, 2008, 3:43 am


223. Alex said:

كشف رئيس الجانب السعودي في مجلس الأعمال السعودي – اللبناني عبد المحسن الحكير عن سحب استثمارات سعودية تجاوزت قيمتها 18 مليار ريال (ما يعادل 4,8 مليارات دولار) من لبنان خلال العامين الماضيين. وقال لصحيفة “الوطن” السعودية أن التراجع جاء نتيجة الثقة في مستقبل الاقتصاد اللبناني بعد اشتداد حدة الأزمة السياسية وتدهور الحالة الأمنية، فضلاً عن شعور الكثير من المستثمرين بالإحباط مما يجري في لبنان.وأضاف أن كثيراً من الاستثمارات المملوكة لسعوديين وخليجيين وحتى للبنانيين يقيمون في المهجر، بدأت تنسحب من السوق اللبناني. وأكد أن الثقة بالاقتصاد اللبناني بدأت تتراجع، وصبر المستثمرين آخذ بالنفاد، وعلق على ذلك بالقول “للصبر حدود والعالم مفتوح أمام جميع المستثمرين”.وأضاف أن ما يحدث هناك، يعكس حقيقة مؤلمة، وهي أن كثيراً من العقارات المملوكة لسعوديين قد تطرح للبيع إذا لم يتم حل المشاكل العالقة في لبنان. وأكد عضو مجلس إدارة غرفة الرياض، سعد الرصيص أن الطلب على العقارات اللبنانية من السعوديين منخفض للغاية، إلا أنه لا يوجد في المقابل عروض للبيع من الملاك السعوديين لعقارات في لبنان، الذين لا يزالون يبدون تريثاً على أمل تحسن الوضع. وقال: “رغم تراجع طلب السعوديين للشراء، إلا أن العقارات في لبنان سجلت بعض الارتفاع نتيجة انخفاض قيمة الدولار”.وتصل قيمة الممتلكات العقارية السعودية في لبنان إلى 5.7 مليارات ريال (توازي 1,5 مليار دولار)، وفقاً لتقديرات مصادر من داخل السوق اللبنانية، أوضحت في المقابل أن الطلب على العقارات الفاخرة “دلوكس” التي تفضلها العائلات السعودية انخفض بشكل ملحوظ، إلى ذلك، يترقب عاملون في قطاع السفر أن يتأثر حجم الإشغال لنحو 35 رحلة أسبوعية يتم تسييرها من قبل ثلاث شركات طيران بين السعودية ولبنان خلال المرحلة المقبلة، بعد أن نصحت وزارة الخارجية السعودية رعاياها بعدم السفر إلى لبنان نتيجة الظروف السياسية والأمنية غير المستقرة التي يمر بها حاليا.ولم يتضح حتى اللحظة حجم التأثير الذي سيتركه إعلان وزارة الخارجية السعودية الصادر منتصف الأسبوع الماضي، على حركة السفر بين البلدين، كما يقول مدير عام طيران الشرق الأوسط (اللبنانية) في الرياض مقداد المقداد، مشيراً إلى أن السعوديين يشكلون قرابة 30 في المئة من حجم ركاب الشركة، وتزيد هذه النسبة في الرحلات التي تسيرها الخطوط السعودية، أو شركة طيران سما، التي بدأت هذه السنة تسيير رحلات طيران عارض إلى بيروت.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:43 am


224. Alex said:


He was a real diplomat … A very attractive female black political science student tried to push him to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, but he was very balanced in his criticism of Israel… he chose his words carefully … at this stage he knows how and where they usually criticize him .. he fine tuned his message since the first time he announced it.

And he is a very pleasant and polite man. As I said i spoke to him until I decided to leave .. he seemed to be happy to speak with me for 30 minutes.

The lecture was taped. I know the organizers. We’ll see if it will be online later.

And … He did not hear of Syria Comment : )

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February 24th, 2008, 3:47 am


225. Alex said:

QN, Zenobia

I just released your two comments from the spam filter.

Sorry I was away from my PC today.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:53 am


226. Enlightened said:

Alex good:

But as a student of marketing you missed a good PR moment by not telling him about SC.

And I need your numbers (Baathi Man ) to get the proposed SC conference to Sydney! What have you to say?

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February 24th, 2008, 3:53 am


227. Alex said:

Of course I DID tell him about Syria comment. He heard of Joshua already!

What numbers do you need … you have my email! .. write to me.

Yalla … See you tomorrow. I’m going for dinner now.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:58 am


228. Qifa Nabki said:

Nothing too surprising about the reversal of investments in Lebanon.

It can be turned around in the medium-term, provided the parties agree.

My expectation is no substantive agreement before the summer, unless there is a breakthrough between the Saudis and Syrians.

In fact, the best possible arrangement would be an agreement b/w KSA and Syria to work together to stabilize Lebanon (which means, pushing their allies to agree on agreeing), and planning a joint KSA/Syrian sponsored conference designed to reform the political system.

But it will never happen.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:59 am


229. Enlightened said:


We leaving for the beach soon. Talk later.

Waiting to see what the gents come up with for the SC Conference forst or just to see if it gets off the ground!

QN: Does this flight of Capital surprise you? A couple of posts ago I asked you what the chances of Civil war were? ( You were in denial)

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February 24th, 2008, 4:03 am


230. qunfuz said:

Shai – How do you work out that I want more war? I was talking about what I expect the MB govt in Egypt would do. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for the MB, however, not in Egypt or Syria. I would vote for Hizbullah – if they stood in the UK, which is the only country I’m qualified to vote in.

But I do support resistance. Not quite the same thing as wanting war. What I really want is for the Israelis to come to their senses. As they say, no justice, no peace. Which also means: Justice, peace.

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February 24th, 2008, 5:22 am


231. Shai said:


Seems like Alon’s visit to Washington will be a success. As for AIPAC, although clearly they will try to influence the next administration’s policy towards Syria, once they see that it, as well as the rest of the modern world, is backing a restart of talks, and see some results, they too will change direction. They’re not stupid, they’ll only back something they think many will believe in. Even Microsoft, a slightly stronger organization than AIPAC, realized it had to start sounding open-source about its future…

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February 24th, 2008, 5:26 am


232. Shai said:


I understand. And of course Hezbollah is the main reason Barak (Ehud… not Obama) pulled out of Lebanon in 2000. So there is real value to the “resistance”. But forget the word “justice”. There will be no justice today, or tomorrow. How can we bring back all those thousands of dead to their mothers and fathers? How can we bring back hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to their destroyed villages in Palestine of 1948? And the same of course for our side. We can’t, so for all those hundreds of thousands of families, there will be NO justice. And they’re the ones that count, not their leaders, not their representatives, not their neighbors. The best we can hope to achieve is a peace that is accepted by most, that seems to be fair enough to be worth grabbing now, instead of waiting another few decades, but with far greater consequences, pain and misery. What nation on earth wants to give up on territory it has gained as a result of war, and has since raised children and their children on? For Israel, too, there will be no justice. None of us “love” the idea of giving up the Golan, the West Bank, etc. It’s not a Hong Kong, where the Brits knew they’d one day give it back to the Chinese (and always knew the exact date). Here these territories were acquired because of violence, and to remind you, not just Israeli violence. After we make peace, a generation or two later, I believe the forgiving and reconciling could begin. But some time will have to pass… There’s still a chance it’ll happen in our lifetime, though, if we work hard at it NOW.

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February 24th, 2008, 5:40 am


233. why-discuss said:


“we’re pretty concerned about a nuclear Iran (aren’t you?)”

No, I am not, neither any of the arab neighbours or arab public. I am more concerned about Israel hidden nuclear weapons that your irresponsible governement could very well use as they used uranium based weapons and forbidden bombs on the horrid destruction of Lebanon. I hope the Belgium based human rights tribunal will unveil the real danger Israel represents to the region. Israel is far too clever and concerned about its public image to publicly attack Iran but your ministry of defense, during the Lebanon war, threatened to bring lebanon back a century, didn’t he? Please don’t play on words, the intention of Israel is clear: Neutralize the only left powerful opponent to its occupation so it can have a peace under its own terms
Iran will continue its peaceful nuclear development and Israel will continue to fear it.
Support the International citizen tribunal on the crimes committed by the Israeli army in Lebanon

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February 24th, 2008, 7:32 am


234. bilal said:

I cannot believe that you will go that far to defend a criminal like Bashar in comparing Rami to the late Hariri. It is like comparing Mother Teresa to a prostitute.
you are really something.

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February 24th, 2008, 7:50 am


235. offended said:

Bilal, who’s mother Teresa? Hariri??
Come‘n yoo!
Can do better than this….

Let me help you out: it’s more like comparing a prostitute with a strip dancer.

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February 24th, 2008, 8:42 am


236. Shai said:


You said: “Please don’t play on words, the intention of Israel is clear: Neutralize the only left powerful opponent to its occupation so it can have a peace under its own terms”. If we wanted to “neutralize” this opponent (Iran), why don’t we really neutralize him? If we have those massive nuclear weapons, and if we are as you claim, irresponsible, why don’t we go in and bomb the hell out of Iran? And out of Syria? And Lebanon? And in fact, destroy any and all who oppose us? Is it because of world public opinion? That didn’t seem to stop us in 1981 in Osirak, or in 1967 in launching surprise air-attacks against Egyptian and Syrian air bases. So why IS IT that we don’t just annihilate all our adversaries, if we are so powerful and irresponsible? Well, I know it’s a possibility you could NEVER accept, but maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re NOT interested in doing so. Maybe, while we’ve been making mistakes for decades, and harming innocent people, and doing terrible things during our conflicts with the Arab world, we STILL really do aim for a peaceful future, WITH all our adversaries, not without. And by the way, regarding “peace under its own terms”, I don’t know of a single country on the face of this planet, or for that matter a single negotiator of anything, that would not want peace or agreement under its own terms. I’d certainly hope that Syria wants peace under its terms, and Lebanon does, and the Palestinians do. That’s a natural thing. By “defeating” our adversaries, we would not be getting peace “under our terms”, we’d be getting a NO-PEACE under our terms.

By the way, if Israel wanted to bring Lebanon back a century, why didn’t we? Because we couldn’t? I think even your peace-loving mind knows the answer to that one. I know we’ve committed and still committing crimes. I know we’re doing terrible things, that must end. But please don’t think of insinuating we’re the only Devil in this conflict, and please don’t believe in this crap of Israel’s “Grand Scheme”. If we wanted to destroy you, we would have done so half a century ago, when Shimon Peres’s little project was complete (according to foreign sources). Please don’t insult my intelligence with your suggestions, or your own, for that matter.

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February 24th, 2008, 8:55 am


237. offended said:

The overwhelming conviction amongst the Mughneya family is that the Syrian regime is definitely involved in his assassination.

That’s another gem from Al Seyassa.الأولى&nid=5788

They quote a lady under strict condition of anonymity, who was close to the widow during the funeral and the condolences period.

And what’s more; there is big political fuss in Kuwait because of two MPs who have opened their Majilses (reception halls) to receive condolences in Mughneya….you know the Kuwaitis still being sensitive about the Jaberiah airplane hijacking and all…

So I am wondering, given the context of these two stories reported on the same page of Al Seyassa, shouldn’t the Kuwaitis be grateful to Syria for getting rid of one of their early tormentors?

Go figure…

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February 24th, 2008, 8:57 am


238. Naji said:

February 24, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
¿Quién Es Less Macho?
If this is truly the Decline and Fall of the Clinton Empire, it is marked by one freaky stroke of bad luck and one striking historical irony.

How likely is it that a woman who finally unfetters herself from one superstar then finds herself eclipsed by another?

And when historians trace how her inevitability dissolved, they will surely note this paradox: The first serious female candidate for president was rejected by voters drawn to the more feminine management style of her male rival.

The bullying and bellicosity of the Bush administration have left many Americans exhausted and yearning for a more nurturing and inclusive style.

Sixteen years of politicians in Washington clashing in epic if not always essential battle through culture wars, the right-wing war against the Clintons, the war-without-end on terror, and the war-with-no-end-in-sight in Iraq have spawned a desire for peace and pragmatism.

Hillary was so busy trying to prove she could be one of the boys — getting on the Armed Services Committee, voting to let W. go to war in Iraq, strong-arming supporters and donors, and trying to out-macho Obama — that she only belatedly realized that many Democratic and independent voters, especially women, were eager to move from hard-power locker-room tactics to a soft-power sewing circle approach.

Less towel-snapping and more towel color coordinating, less steroids and more sensitivity.

Business schools have begun teaching the value of a less autocratic leadership style, with an emphasis on behavior women excel at: reading emotions and social interactions, making eye contact and expressing empathy.

At the University of Texas on Thursday morning, Obama proved that he was not a cowboy in overdrive like W. when he demurred at throwing a spiral because his pass might not be as good as the Longhorn stars’.

After so many years when W. and Cheney stomped on the world and the world glared back, many Americans would like to see their government focus more on those staples of female fiction: relationships and conversation.

At first in Austin, Hillary did not channel Jane Austen. She tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raúl Castro.

Obama tapped into his inner chick and turned the other cheek. To cheers, he said, “I think that it’s important for us, in undoing the damage that has been done over the last seven years, for the president to be willing to take that extra step.”

Hillary tried to rough up Obama on copying his pal’s language even as she copied her husband’s line from 1992: “The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits that the people in this state and this country are taking every day of their lives under this administration.”

While Obama looked at her warily, even fearfully, Hillary suddenly switched to her feminine side. Getting New Hampshire misty, she said she was “absolutely honored” to be there with him and that “whatever happens, we’re going to be fine.” (Her campaign defended the originality of the John Edwardsian sentiment, saying it had even been expressed by the likes of Lindsay Lohan). The press hailed the moment as heartfelt, but it was simply Hillary’s calculated attempt to woo women and protect her future in the party — by seeming more collegial. She’s furious that the Chicago kid got in the picture.

Her “My sister, my daughter” flip from muscular to tremulous left everyone confused. Many characterized her emulation of empathy as elegiac and submissive.

But she dispelled that Friday morning when she told Evan Smith, the editor of Texas Monthly, that she will push for Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated, despite her promise. Not for herself, mind you, but for them. “It’s in large measure because both the voters and the elected officials in Michigan and Florida feel so strongly about this,” she said.

Among her other cascading woes, it turns out that Hillary is not able to manage her political family’s money. Like a prudent housekeeper, Obama spent the cash he raised — including from his continuing relationships with small donors — far more shrewdly, on ads rather than on himself.

Hillaryland spent like a hedge fund manager in a flat-screen TV store. Her campaign attempted to show omnipotence by lavishing a fortune on the take-no-prisoners strategists Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn, and on having the best of everything from the set decoration at events to Four Seasons rooms. In January alone, they spent $11,000 on pizza, $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts and $95,384 at a Des Moines Hy-Vee grocery store for get-out-the-vote sandwich platters.

But total domination in the snack arena does not cut the mustard.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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February 24th, 2008, 9:00 am


239. wizart said:

“Business schools have begun teaching the value of a less autocratic leadership style, with an emphasis on behavior women excel at: reading emotions and social interactions, making eye contact and expressing empathy.”

Some business schools have been doing that for decades although it’s high time more politicians learn these important skills from females in their house if they didn’t pick up on them elsewhere.

Guys often lack enough empathy to concistantly be representing the majority’s interests without having armies of advisors constantly on their side. Obama may have enough emotional intelligence to compensate for his lack of political experience and may well win.

Clinton’s perhaps too tired and overweight to be elected president.
She’s also probably still upset about Bill’s affair with Monica and sees winning a presidential election as a chance to redeem herself.
I seriously wonder if she has enough motivation to run the country as she does winning the election since she seems to be trying too hard with all the personal loans she’s extended to her campaign and most likely Bill is furious she’s spending his hard earned money:)

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February 24th, 2008, 10:52 am


240. MSK said:

Dear all,

Lest you’ll be sending out plane tickets to unfortunate few of us who can’t just hop across the Big Blue (Atlantic or Pacific or Indic) … I suggest we hold the SC meet in either Amman, Cyprus, or Istanbul.

(I’m still working on a way to infiltrate Shai via boat – there are some people in Jounieh who still remember the Israeli Navy signals from the 1980s 😉 – but I can’t make any promises. – The only other way would be for him to visit the German embassy and [re]claim citizenship- they rarely refuse Jews.)

I’d be more than happy to help preparing it conceptually. Btw, I just attended a very interesting Carnegie meeting yesterday here in Beirut. What’s the SC take on Murhaf al-Ju’jati? Mai Yamani was there, Paul Salem of course, and some others. Can’t find the link now but will post as soon as I do.



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February 24th, 2008, 11:31 am


241. Shai said:


If I get such an invitation, I will swim to Beirut if need be! No need for signals, I’ll be the only exhausted, wet Israeli on the beach… 🙂

Istanbul sounds great to me. Maybe Alon Liel can fix something up with the Turks in terms of hosting SC? Alex? Joshua? Any takers?

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February 24th, 2008, 12:30 pm


242. Qifa Nabki said:

Shai, please don’t swim to Lebanon. Hizbullah keeps an eye on the southern beaches for Israeli drown victims floating up the coast, and uses them in prisoner exchanges.

I can just see Sayyid Hasan at his next rally: “We still have your soldiers’ heads, arms, torsos, etc.! And, by the way, we also have a very nice man named Shai, who we’ll regret to see leave us, but that’s life.”

Cyprus or Istanbul both sound good to me. Although, sounds like only a fraction of people will attend anyway, based on the location. So, a couple of meetings may be in order.

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February 24th, 2008, 2:13 pm


243. alon liel said:

Dear Ford Prefect, Alex, Shai and other freinds

Washington is starting to change !!!

I had meetings in Congress and diffwerent think tanks in town. The Bush policy on Syria is on its way out. People start to understand the USA will miss an opportunity. Friends of Israel here realize that the Bush policy on Syria is causing Israel damage.

It was great to meet Ford Prefect in town. This is the first time we have a meeting resulting from our contact on Syriacomment. Thanks Alex and Joshua for enabling this. The contact with Ford Prefect and other Syrians should go on at least until we have the officials talking to each others. More and more Americans would like to join us now in our track 2 activities, some of them very experienced ex-diplomats. Please continue the contact, enter our site we will do our best to srengthen it and update it on a regular basis.

All the best to all of you


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February 24th, 2008, 2:18 pm


244. Shai said:

Alex, QN, and everyone else:

Great news from Alon, no? Very glad Ford Prefect met with him. This is the kind of effort we need, and Syria Comment is helping make things happen. Well done!

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February 24th, 2008, 2:33 pm


245. qunfuz said:

Shai – it seems you’re one of the ‘peaceful’ Israelis who wants recognition that the theft and ethnic cleansing of 48 was all well and good, and just, and that your state-for-the-world’s-Jews should remain as it is, minus the land captured in 67, for ever.

I think what happened in 48 was a disaster and a great continuing injustice. I don’t recognise the Israeli ethno-state, just as I didn’t recognise apartheid South Africa. (Luckily for you, I’m an individual and not a state!) However, I do recognise that millions of Israeli Jews have been born in Palestine and consider it home. i wouldn’t want to push these people into the sea even if I could.

I think a one-state solution, with a constitution guaranteeing both individual and communal rights, in turn guaranteed by the UN or a coalition of world powers, would be a just solution. It would allow refugees to return, and also Jews to live next to their holy sites on the West Bank. I think time is on the side of the one-state solution. But I also realise that the vast majority of Israeli Jews are committed to their ethno-state (understandably, given European history – something that the Arabs, and Ahmedinejad, should better understand) and that each side is sick and tired of the other. So a two-state solution could be a reasonable interim solution, for 10 years or 100, to allow bridges to be built and tempers to cool. As soon as we get to that point, I will campaign for peace between Jews and Arabs.

But enough ‘peace process,’ which any unbiased informed observer will agree has not aimed at anything like peace, or justice. The two-state solution requires a full withdrawal from ALL of the 22% of Palestine captured in 67, including East Jerusalem, and Palestinian control of borders, and safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank. This could be done now, with no need for negotiation. With a withdrawal from the Golan and the Shabaa Farms, and release of all Arab prisoners, Israel would have peace with all the Arabs. There would also have to be a negotiated solution to the refugee problem. Of course, this requires negotiations, which could follow a withdrawal from the 67 lands. A mix of return to 48 Palestine, return to the new state and compensation could keep the Jewish 78% of Palestine with a Jewish majority, at least until the merging of the states.

Believe it or not I admire the Jews a great deal. (Unlike HP, I don’t admire Israel. For God’s sake, even Nazi Germany had great organisation and esprit de corps). Many of my culture heroes, from Saul Bellow to Chomsky, are Jewish. I hope that Jews and Arabs one day live together and respect each other. But pretending that both sides are equally wrong in the Palestine-Israel conflict, or that both sides are suffering equally, will not bring forward this happy outcome.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:00 pm


246. qunfuz said:

I vote for Cyprus, but only if Shai has to swim there.

(I’m joking, my friend!)

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February 24th, 2008, 3:03 pm


247. Honest Patriot said:


I never said I admire “Israel.” Please provide the quote if indeed you think I said that. I’ve always spoken of the hard work, discipline, unity and mutual support among my Jewish friends and colleagues. My take on Israel is that it is a fact-on-the-ground where the solution to the conflict with the Arabs – mainly the Palestinians – has to be based on principles of common sense, practicality, fairness, and long term viability. A two-state solution is, I believe, the only way. OK, a 100-year “temporary” two-state solution really means the same thing since any change later has to be voted on by the citizen of each of the two states and both must agree before any merger.

In fact, Qunfuz, I have often voiced clear criticism of certain methods pursued by Israel. Furthermore, I have always indicated that the Palestinian cause is one of the most rightful in human history, hastening to add that the way it has been argued (litigated?) by the Arabs (viewed as “lawyers”) has also been one of the worst, if not the worst, performances in such a role in human history. What remains to be done now is a reasonable way forward, away from fanaticism and unrealistic expectation, a way that has the best chance of improving the lives of people in that part of the world.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:35 pm


248. Honest Patriot said:


You have my full support for a Cyprus location for the SC conference. Should solve everyone’s problem except for those for whom cost is an issue. But I believe we should be able to deal with that.

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February 24th, 2008, 3:37 pm


249. Shai said:


If you promise to be there, I’ll swim to Montreal! 🙂

Look, I don’t for a second pretend that both sides are EQUALLY wrong (I never claimed that if you read my words carefully). But you cannot blame Israel’s behavior, wrong as it may be, purely on Israel. There were things that happened, before 1948, as well as after, which in many ways forced Israel to do terrible things in the short and long run. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming the other side for my wrongs. But I said to Why-Discuss not to pretend that the Arabs are more holy-than-the-pope, so to speak. To be honest, though, I think this argument is moot at this point, and it’s not going to get us anywhere. You might be surprised, by I tend to agree that a one-state solution would have been the best one. Fellow Israelis might consider me the worst traitor for what I’m saying, because it essentially means there will not be a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. But first, I agree with you, it can’t and won’t happen now. Second, I’m not sure I want a state that is 80% Jewish in this modern world in any case. And even if I did, right here, in the Middle East, is probably not the best place for it in any case. Reality on the ground, in the shape of some 3.5 million Palestinians who belong to this land no less than I do, make this place by definition NOT purely Jewish, or even mostly Jewish.

Truth is, what I REALLY want to still get to see in my lifetime, is what I referred to in earlier comments as a UME (United Middle East). Ideally, it would be some mixture of Europe and the U.S., with no borders between the States, but obvious cultural and religious differences between each of them. If and when this occurs, there will be no issue of a one-state or two-state solution, because citizens in the UME will (hopefully) be able to work and live in any State they choose, so the demographics will always be changing. If one day this region will see real peace, then I think the Jewish people will at last fee safe somewhere in this world, and will be able to start thinking differently. They will finally be able to contemplate the lack of a need for a Jewish state. But until then, I agree with you, we’ll first have a two-state solution, without the justice you require. As for withdrawing right now from the West Bank, I think we almost missed the opportunity we had with Arafat to do that. Nowadays, we’re almost back to 1967, when numerous attempts were made to see who amongst the liberated Palestinians (liberated from Jordanian control, that is) could take over the territories, and no one was found. The Palestinians at that time were made up of many “families” and “local warlords”, and no real Palestinian governing body could even be formed. I’m not sure we’re that far off today. That is why I’m against formal negotiations with Abu Mazen today. Until Fatah and Hamas work out their differences, and form a body that truly represents the Palestinian people, we cannot close a deal with anyone. I don’t care of only members of Ez-Adin el-Qassam are voted to represent the Palestinians – that’s fine with me. If they’re willing to sit with me, I’m willing to do the same with them.

So to conclude, I actually tend to agree with most of what you say. But, like you say, this is unlikely to happen, and a two-state solution is what we’re going to see happen first, for at least a few generations. Let us remember, however, that we’re still nowhere near that solution right now either… The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in such difficult waters right now, which is precisely why I’m advocating making peace with Syria first. Syria is the ONLY Arab nation at the moment, with whom Israel can and should make peace, because it is easiest to accomplish. True, the remaining 20% aren’t a peace-of-cake, but they’re doable, and we have to succeed before we find ourselves in some crazy and very-costly regional war (not operation, like summer 2006, but real war). Our region right now is like a barrel of TNT just waiting to explode. People like us are here to try to defuse the bomb. We need your help Qunfuz!

And if I need to swim to Cyprus for that, I’ll start now… so that I’ll get there by April… -)

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February 24th, 2008, 3:37 pm


250. Honest Patriot said:

On a lighter note, there were some jokes exchanged recently. Here’s one I just heard (but maybe some have already heard it?):

A Jewish businessman in Chicago sent his son to Israel for a year to absorb the culture. When the son returned, he said, “Papa, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity.”

“Oy vey,” said the father. “What have I done?”

He took his problem to his best friend. “Ike,” he said, “I sent my son to Israel , and he came home a Christian. What can I do?”

“Funny you should ask,” said Ike. “I too, sent my son to Israel , and he also came home a Christian.” Perhaps we should go see the rabbi.

So they did, and they explained their problem to the rabbi.

“Funny you should ask,” said the rabbi.. “I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. What is happening to our young people?”

And so they all prayed, telling the Lord about their sons. As they finished their prayer, a voice came from the heavens:

“Funny you should ask,” said the voice. “I, too, sent my son to Israel ….”

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February 24th, 2008, 3:38 pm


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