The Middle East Waits for America

Syria details its stance on peace talks
By Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid – Haaretz

yrian President Bashar Assad revealed details on the peace process with Israel yesterday, presenting Turkey with a document of principles, one of whose points discusses the desired extent of the withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The Syrian leader also said indirect negotiations with Israel were on hold until the latter chooses a new prime minister. He said direct talks would have to wait until a new U.S. president takes office.

But Israeli and Turkish sources said they expect the talks to be resumed by the end of the month. "We want the support of all states, basically France, Qatar and Turkey, in order to be assured that the next [Israeli] prime minister follows the same direction [Ehud] Olmert followed in his readiness for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories for peace to be achieved," Assad said. He was speaking at a press conference at a four-way summit in Damascus this week, attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Assad said Syria gave Turkey a document with six points that detail its position of departure in the negotiations. He said his country is now waiting for Israel to present a document of its own to the Turkish intermediaries.

"Any direct talks would also have to wait until a new American administration is in place," Assad added.

According to State Department spokesman Robert Wood: "Overall what we'd like to see out of Syria is for it to play a much more productive role in the region. It hasn't until now. We'd like to see it not meddle in the affairs of the sovereign government of Lebanon."

In an interview with French television, Assad ruled out any recognition of Israel before a peace agreement. "But when there is a peace accord, of course there will be reciprocal recognition. This is natural," he said.

The Syrian leader also said he would not break off ties with Hezbollah and militant Palestinians, a key Israeli demand.

A.P. Sept 4

Mr. Assad did not disclose details of the Syrian proposals, and little information has emerged from four rounds of indirect talks with Israel over the past year. "We are now discussing a document of principles which talks about general principles of the peace process which will be the basis for direct negotiations," Mr. Assad explained.

He said Syria outlined six points on the issue of the "withdrawal line," a reference to the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a major sticking point over which direct negotiations collapsed in 2000. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.

Mr. Assad said the Syrian points were given to the Turkish negotiators "as a deposit." When Israel gives its own proposals to the Turkish side, then the two sides could move to direct negotiations "after a new American administration convinced of the peace process is in place," he added. Mr. Assad has previously said American sponsorship of future negotiations was necessary, but after November's U.S. elections bring a new administration to office.

Christian Science Monitor: Joshua Mitnick 

Middle East analysts concede that substantive progress from the indirect talks hosted by Turkey has been modest at best.

"It will not happen in the present circumstances except as part of a larger reorientation of Syrian policies. For that, you need a US administration that is in the game," says Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a top negotiator in Israeli-Syrian talks during the 1990s. "For now, everyone is keeping the ball in the air and trying to improve their position."

The Syrian side is trying to publicize that there are no big reasons that there can't be an agreement in the near future," says Rime Allaf. …. She added, however, that the US and Israel shouldn't expect a radical realignment of Syria's ties with Iran. Syria is unlikely to cut ties with Hamas, as well. "It is naive to image that just because Israel and Syria sign a peace deal the relations between Syria and Iran to come to a standstill." ……

"The blueprint is known. [Israeli President Shimon Peres] said the other day. You need 24 hours to sign," says Moshe Maoz, a political science professor from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "The question is whether the parties are ready."

Time Magazine: France's Fling with Syria, Sep. 4, 2008 | By Bruce Crumley / Paris

"There has long been a view within French diplomatic circles that Bashar al-Assad really wants to end Syria's habit of trouble-making and re-enter the community of nations, but until recently had been undermined by the older elements of the regime left over from his father's days," says one French official involved France's evolving relationship with Damascus. "He's not perfect, and there are still real problems with human rights and the treatment of political prisoners in Syria. Still, there are enough signs of change and a willingness to work together that we can't let that kind of opportunity pass by."

Whereas Chirac had relied on Saudi Arabia as his primary Arab interlocutor, Sarkozy appears to have turned to Qatar as the key intermediary to re-establish contacts and prepare visits and exchanges between Paris and Damascus. ….

Still, he notes that despite the signs of wanting to improve its behavior, no one is naive enough to believe Syria can be entirely trusted yet. "This is an exercise in confidence-building, and demonstrating there's more to gain by being a part of the solution rather than the problem," he notes. "It's a long work in progress."

Sarkozy interview:  "The Road to Peace in the Region Passes Through Both Our Countries"
The Syrian daily Al-Watan published an interview with French President Nicolas Sarkozy today, in advance of his visit to Damascus.(1)
MEMRI

Interviewer: "What message would you like to communicate to the Syrians on your first visit there as president of France?"

Sarkozy: "My first message to the Syrian people is one of friendship. Throughout history, our countries have maintained close and warm ties, although it must be admitted that these were sometimes fraught with complications. Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties that have attended these ties, the friendship between our people has never been severed. This is a most precious asset, and we must guard it at any cost…

"This visit is taking place under special circumstances, for our countries intend to turn over a new page in our relations. This new page is very dear to my heart, since within its framework Syria has been gradually making choices that the world expects from it – [and] in this way it will reinstate its position among the nations. By visiting Damascus, I would like to convey to the Syrian authorities how crucial it is for them to continue on this course. Syria is an important country, capable of making an indispensable contribution to the settlement of problems in the Middle East, and it is essential that its role in the region should be positive.

"I envision a future in which [we] follow the course of cooperation between France and Syria. True, we are independent countries, and at times each of us has its own private interests. However, I am convinced – as I mentioned to [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad on July 12, when he arrived in Paris – that the road to peace in the region passes through both our countries."

France Must "Regain Its Place on the International Chessboard"

Interviewer: "Some publicists have been discussing strategic ties between Paris and Damascus. Are we in a position today to speak of France's forceful return to the Middle East chessboard?"

Sarkozy: "Since I was elected president of France 15 months ago, I have wished for France to regain its place on the international chessboard. As for the Middle East, a region close to my heart, I want my country to assume the highest responsibility in serving the cause of peace. To this end, we must gain the trust of all sides. Accordingly, I have instituted several significant reforms in our Middle East policy – including even breaking away from [the Middle East policy of previous French president Jacque Chirac].

"I have acted in the same way with regard to Israel as well, since the intensity of the friendship between France and Israel is no different from that between France and Israel's Arab neighbors, or from our steadfast commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"I treat Syria the  same way as well: From my point of view, the main thing is to create an opening for dialogue – but it must be a determined dialogue, which will enable genuine progress.   

"Our return to the Middle East was also heralded by the Mediterranean summit, held July 13-14 in Paris, which proved to be a great success. All but one of the leaders of the countries that lie north and south of the Mediterranean attended the opening of this great cultural project, which I believe signifies that France, and certainly Europe, has returned to the region. 

"In a July 12 joint French-Syrian declaration, France committed to take steps essential to the ratification of the cooperation agreement between Syria and the European Union."

"We Are Working On The [Syria-E.U.] Cooperation Agreement" …….

DJ Sarkozy Heads To Syria To Rebuild Top-Level Ties After Freeze
September 3, 2008

PARIS (AFP)–… Sarkozy said on the eve of his visit to Damascus that peace in the Middle East "passes through" Syria and France. "As I told President Bashar al-Assad when he came to Paris on July 12, the path of peace in this region passes through our countries," Sarkozy told Syria's al-Watan daily, which is close to government circles. "Syria can provide an irreplaceable contribution to solving Middle East issues. It is important that Syria plays a positive role in the region," he said, according to an advance copy of the interview.

Syria 'informs Sarkozy it is holding Lebanon's most wanted man'
DPA, 04 Sep 2008

Beirut – Syria informed French President Nicolas Sarkozy it has arrested Lebanon's most-wanted terrorist suspect, Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Abssi, the Lebanese website Naharnet said Thursday. It quoted what it called "reliable Syrian sources" as saying Abssi was in Syrian custody and that contacts were under way between security agencies in Damascus and Beirut to determine whether he be extradited to Lebanon or tried in Syria.

The report came hours after the United Arab Emirates daily al- Bayan quoted a senior official of a pro-Syrian Palestinian faction as saying Abssi was picked up after illegally entering Syria.

Abssi mysteriously fled the northern Lebanese refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared during a crackdown by the Lebanese army last September after troops crushed a Fatah al-Islam rebellion.

The 15-week battle in and around the camp resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people, including 162 troops.

On June 21, 2007, Abssi and 15 other Fatah al-Islam members were charged by Lebanese state prosecutor Saeed Mirza with carrying out bus bombings on February 13 that year in the village of Ain-Alaq.

Al-Abbsi was also charged with bombing two buses on the eve of a Cedar Revolution rally planned to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Some Lebanese and Syrian officials have cited links between Fatah al-Islam and al-Qaeda.

In 2004, a Jordanian military court convicted al-Abssi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in absentia for the 2002 murder of Laurence Foley, a US diplomat who was gunned down in front of his Amman home.

Al-Zarqawi, who later became leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a US airstrike north of Baghdad in 2007.

Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr has repeatedly said that he wants al-Abssi "dead or alive."

Sarkozy wound up a two-day visit to Syria Thursday with a four-way summit, including Turkey and Qatar, which aimed at boosting the roles of France and the European Union in Middle East diplomacy.

Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, hopes France and the EU can rank alongside the United States as peacemakers, notably between Israel and Syria.

Lebanese officials expressed hopes the visit would help chances of achieving peace in the Middle East region.

France started talks with Syria, after Syrian President Bashar al- Assad announced he was embarking on indirect talks with Israel and eased his stands towards Lebanon, which helped end an 18-month political crisis in the country.

Syria was Lebanon's power broker until 2005 when Hariri was assassinated. Hariri's allies and their western backers blamed Syria for the assassination, but Damascus has denied all the charges.

Assad: 'Possibility of peace' with Israel
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/02/europe/EU-France-Syria-Israel.php
The Associated Press
IHT, September 2, 2008

PARIS: Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday that indirect negotiations with Israel have brought "the possibility of peace," though the two countries still have quite a way to go toward that goal.

Syria's foreign minister said last week that the talks had not made enough headway for the two sides to hold direct negotiations. In an interview with France-3 television, Assad said officials were working to make them happen.

"Today there is a possibility of peace," Assad said. "But nonetheless, we cannot say that we are close to achieving peace. We are preparing for direct negotiations. When we reach that step, we will be able to say that we are approaching peace.

"Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace," he said, ….

Despite his comments about potential peace, Assad said he believes that Israel "could try to launch different attacks, maybe against Iran, and maybe also against Lebanon, and of course it could launch an attack on Syria." He said such attacks would have "catastrophic results."

….. "Of course we have to wait for the new administration to know what its orientations are," he said. "Afterward we can speak of direct negotiations."…..

A US role in Syrian-Israeli peace
By Robert Pelletreau and Edward S. Walker
Boston Globe, September 2, 2008

….. The United States stands to gain a great deal from an Israeli-Syrian agreement. Having served as US ambassadors to five Middle East countries, we are convinced that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is essential to American national security interests. …… The Bush administration should start this process. If it can dispatch the third highest person in the State Department to participate in a meeting with Iranian officials, it can certainly encourage the talks between Israel, its friend and ally, and Syria. …

Syria impacts many American interests. Chief among them currently is Syria's engagement in Iraq and stabilizing the Iraq-Syria border. As Iraq shows signs of gradual stability, American-Syrian talks in parallel with Israel-Syria talks might yield agreements producing substantial benefits for Baghdad while helping to relieve Syria of the enormous Iraqi refugee burden it is carrying.

Additional American interests include Hezbollah's role in Lebanon and in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and Iran's ability to undercut American efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track, the core challenge of the Arab-Israel peace process.

If an Israeli-Syrian agreement is reached, the United States will emerge as one of the winners, along with Israel and Syria. Iran and Hezbollah will be the losers…..

But such an agreement cannot be achieved without the United States.

…. An Israeli-Syrian agreement must necessarily pull Syria out of the Iranian orbit. Such an outcome would significantly improve the chances of reaching a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. An agreement would bring considerable additional benefits to the United States and to Israel, including:

  • Iran's posture would be weakened.  
  • Syria would no longer provide support for armed action by Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.
  • It would clear the way for Israel's formal peace with Lebanon.
  • It would end arms shipments to Hezbollah.
  • It would strengthen Lebanon's independence, supporting an exchange of Syrian-Lebanese ambassadors and official delineation of Syria-Lebanon boundaries.
  • Comprehensive peace on all tracks would trigger Israel's normalization with the entire Arab world in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.

    The Bush administration should open the diplomatic tool box for the Israeli-Syrian talks as it seems to be doing for Iran and North Korea. If it chooses not to, the next occupant of the Oval Office should pursue a peace whose achievement would mark the way toward broader peace and reconciliation in the region and disappoint only extremists and their sponsors.

  • BBC MidEast: President Al-Asad Says he will not Abandoning "Resistance"
    2008-09-04
    Text of report by Lebanese Hezbollah Al-Manar TV on 4 September

    [Exclusive interview with Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad by an unidentified correspondent in Damascus, date not given]

    [Correspondent] Your excellency the president, before the Franco- Syrian summit was to be held, we heard many reports of concessions that Syria will make to France. With regard to the Iranian file, the picture has become clear, but there are those who speak of Syrian concessions over the resistance movements, especially those in Lebanon and Palestine. How do you view these reports, and are they true to begin with?

    [Al-Asad] The fact that I am giving an interview to Al-Manar television should be an answer in itself [laughs]. No, this matter was not brought up. I believe that this issue has become clear for many countries. We are not a state that offers gifts. We are a state that speaks the language of interests. We ask any other state to present its interests to us so that we would look for common interests.

    We do not see an interest in abandoning the resistance. Our position has always been clear and in our political discourse, we always reaffirm our firm position for resistance against occupation, wherever it may be and whatever the occupation -be it in Iraq, Lebanon, or Palestine. Our position is firm and has not changed. Syria has not changed this political discourse and it does not appear that it would change unless the state of occupation changes.

    Europe focuses on the Iranian nuclear file. As for Syria's position, it is a long-standing one [opposed] to weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation, including in Israel. Therefore, the position on the Iranian file is within the context of the Syrian position; we do not consider it separate from the Syrian file [as heard]. Therefore, the Western perspective is limited to a single file, while the Syrian perspective underscores the need to see the big picture when dealingwith the Iranian nuclear file. I am not saying that differences exist; rather, some aspects of these two perspectives converge while others diverge. They do not pay attention to the Israeli issue, while we are concerned with the Israeli issue and Israeli nuclear weapons.

    [Recording skips to Al-Asad apparently responding to an unheard question]

    This administration does not work for peace and does not believe in it. How, then, can it believe in sponsoring the parties to peace? It does not see the whole picture. We distinguish between a mediator and a sponsor. Turkey is now playing the role of a mediator in indirect negotiations, which is similar to the role James Baker played prior to the Madrid Conference, when he shuttled between Syria and Israel in a bid to reach a common ground on which to launch the peace process from Madrid.

    The same is happening today, but the two sides are in Turkey while the mediator is shutting between two different hotels in Istanbul. We will wait for the next US Administration to see what its directions would be. The US Administration is essential to the peace process, which cannot [move forward] without it regardless of whether or not we agree with it or like this reality. We have stated this position clearly to the United States. France can help in this sponsorship and so can Europe or any other interested state because, for while the US role is important and fundamental, it does not cover all aspects of the sponsorship. At the same time, any other role cannot substitute for a US role.

    [Correspondent] So matters are on hold until a new US Administration arrives?

    [Al-Asad] Definitely: We have stated this clearly, and – strangely enough -everyone agrees with us on this point.

    [Correspondent] Thank you your excellency.

    Originally published by Al-Manar Television, Beirut, in Arabic 1437 4 Sep 08.  

    “Arab-European Summit in Damascus"
    Mideastwire.com, September 3, 2008

    "Damascus welcomes its great guest Mr. President Nicolas Sarkozy,” Syria’s government-controlled newspaper Teshreen editorialized on September 3. “It confirms the desire of the Syrians to establish excellent and advanced relations with the great country France.”

    The French president’s visit is aimed at restoring warmth to relations and opening a new page.

    "We as Syrians, who are passionate about freedom and long for peace and the stability and prosperity and development and progress it provides, are placing many hopes in the European Union,” the paper said.

    "France, and the entire world, namely the United States, realizes that Syria was honest in its peace approach, and that when it engaged in the peace process in Madrid in 1991, it was honest and loyal to peace,” Teshreen added.

    Assad’s reckless behavior
    By Farid Ghadry (Head of Syria Reform Party in Washington DC)
    Ynet News, September 2, 2008

    Bashar Wins a Big One, September 4, 2008
    by Scott MacLeod | Time Blog

    Maybe Bashar al-Assad is a chip off the old block, after all, judging from the diplomatic pageant in Damascus today. There he was, despite the Bush administration's vigorous five-year campaign to isolate Bashar, hosting an international summit on the Middle East being covered live on satellite channels including the BBC.

    Not so long ago, the Syrian president and his regime seemed to be hanging by a thread. Trained as an ophthalmologist with little or instinct or stomach for politics, Bashar had come to power upon the death of his father Hafez in 2000 quite by accident, literally–the auto crash that killed his elder brother, the heir apparent in the Assad Dynasty…..

    Thursday's scene of the four leaders on global television represents another defeat for the Bush administration's policies. It's policy toward Syria has now completely collapsed. If the Cheney strategists had their way, Bashar would have been removed from power, Syria would be a U.S.-friendly democracy, Lebanon would have become another jewel of the Middle East's democratic crown and the leaders of Hamas and Hizballah would be in Guantanamo Bay or worse. Instead, Bashar has put himself, Syria and its allies back at the center of events, as Washington watches it all from afar.

    You can almost hear Hafez saying, "Way to go, kid!"

    Next Hariri report 'in November,' not this month: Daily Star – An assistant spokesman for Ban said: "The Security Council has decided [Bellemare] should present his report every six months instead of three." "The forthcoming report is expected by the end of November," he said.

    Syria's embassy in Lebanon by yearend

    Arar in New York Times: The former leader of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police blamed political interference in the United States, not mistakes by his force, for the rendition from New York to Syria and subsequent torture of Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer. In the interview Mr. Zaccardelli said: “I feel very comfortable in stating what we did was, we made some mistakes. But what we did in no way influenced the American decision to send him to Syria.” Nor, he said, were his American counterparts to blame. “It’s clear to me that that decision went beyond the law enforcement agencies,” he said, adding, “a decision at a higher level, at a political level of some sort, had to have been taken.”

    How Arab Normalization is Undermining the Boycott Movement
    By Wassim Al-Adel
    a London-based Syrian blogger http://maysaloon.blogspot.com/
    Source: The Electronic Intifada, 29 August 2008 

    ………..To gain an insight into how the Arab boycott has been weakened one need only look at the situation in Syria, the headquarters of the once highly influential Central Boycott Office. The changes since 2000 have been astonishing as we see products and companies which would have been banned outright only a short time before now made widely available. This is due in part to the slow but steady liberalization of the economy. In Damascus, the skyline is scarred by the enormous Four Seasons hotel, introduced by the billionaire Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal, and with branches throughout the world — including Jerusalem. In the trendy Abu Roumaneh district, the first official Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country has been opened and is a favorite haunt of the Damascene well-to-do (in sharp contrast with its image in the West as a fast food chain for the lower-income working classes). The launch of KFC was handled by the huge Kuwaiti group Americana, which handles other fast food chains throughout the region and accentuates the strong Gulf influence behind this effort to erode the boycott. The fact that KFC was once boycotted by the Central Boycott Office appears to be conveniently forgotten now. In both examples we see a silent collusion between the government and Arab big business at the expense of the boycott and resisting the occupation. ………..

     

    Comments (47)


    1. Alex said:

    This is totally stupid

    “There has long been a view within French diplomatic circles that Bashar al-Assad really wants to end Syria’s habit of trouble-making and re-enter the community of nations, but until recently had been undermined by the older elements of the regime left over from his father’s days,” says one French official involved France’s evolving relationship with Damascus. “He’s not perfect, and there are still real problems with human rights and the treatment of political prisoners in Syria. Still, there are enough signs of change and a willingness to work together that we can’t let that kind of opportunity pass by.”

    Ya3ni mahsallah France (and the western world) only care about human rights! … and they are very firm when it comes to establishing relations with countries that are not PERFECTLY respecting human rights… such as Saudi Arabia.

    Not to mention that THEY are trustworthy mashallah.

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    September 5th, 2008, 2:09 am

     
     

    3. Alex said:

    Joshua

    Please note that in Firefox most of the news roundup posts corrupt the code for the blog.

    Please try to clean the extra html code before posting.

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    September 5th, 2008, 2:18 am

     

    4. Joshua said:

    I am sorry about Firefox, Alex. I cannot see the code in Explorer. It is difficult to erase the stuff I don’t notice, unless I do everything in html, which is very time consuming.

    Thanks for the articles I missed, I have added it!!

    I thank everyone who posts articles in the comment section or sends me them. I collect them from your submissions – usually without giving you special mention or credit. I should be thanking you frequently. This is truly a joint effort. Forgive me if I don’t credit the many contributors.

    Best, Joshua

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    September 5th, 2008, 2:59 am

     

    5. Innocent_Criminal said:

    Shai,

    I am going to answer your question from the previous post here.

    You’re point is based on the assumption that the Israeli government has wanted peace but could not attain it yet. And I have long disagreed with this assumption. I believe the Israeli government (not people) feels that it’s in their best strategic interest NOT to reach a peace deal. With the constant tensions and threat of war Israel will continue to have the edge with constant military and financial aid from the US. Their citizens live somewhat comfortably compare to their Arab neighbors and the “discomfort” of terrorists attacks and war threats are considered an affordable price to pay.

    Please note that I don’t need to be convinced of your & Alex’s argument. But I am not the one that needs convincing. Politicians are the ones in charge and they are persuaded only when you offer them more power (whether in the shape of strategic partnership, economic incentives, arms deals, etc.) My point is that Syria doesnt seem capable of providing either.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:11 am

     

    6. Shai said:

    Innocent Criminal,

    I understand your point better now. It is never my assumption that the “Israeli government” wants peace, it is always that the Israeli people want peace, first and foremost. But there are two problems with this:

    1) There is no such thing as “the Israeli government”. You have to understand that having a coalition government means that there are at least 3-4 parties represented in each government. Each person within this coalition might have completely opposing views. Olmert, for instance, has kept all his cards extremely close to his chest, not sharing almost any information with the two closest to him, Barak and Livni. They know next to nothing about the talks in Turkey. They’re not asked, and they’re not told. And this practice, of an Israeli PM not sharing information or asking the advice of his cabinet, has been going on for decades now (especially when it comes to peace talks). But, since we are a democracy, then even though a PM might want peace very badly, and might be ready to go very far to achieve it, he may not be able to convince enough MK’s to support him. So he plays it out as long as he believes is necessary to enable him to maneuver into more favorable position, where others “owe him”, and thus he’ll be able to pass the agreement. This game takes a long time, and is far more difficult to understand than you and I are capable of…

    2) While I know that the majority of Israelis want peace (and that includes the majority of MK’s), I also know that they do not understand how to go about achieving it. Israelis believe that we are the victim, and that you are the perpetrator. That we “merely” wanted a homeland for the Jews (having no such thing for some 2000 years, while being persecuted), and that the Arabs did, and still do, want to foil that attempt. Most Israelis do not want to rule over Arabs. But since they don’t trust you (and especially the Palestinians), they find themselves incapable of ending the Occupation, which of course leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a ridiculous explanation, and a twisted rationale, but this is in fact what is happening. And, as most Israelis have never spoken to an Arab longer than one or two minutes, and usually as an 18 year-old kid with a gun yelling “Wakef walla bathak…”, there is absolutely no understanding, let alone empathizing, with your side. Israelis simply do not know anything about you, other than the fact that you want to destroy us.

    Is it possible to be paranoid (either justifiably or not), and still want peace? I think so. Is it possible to suspect, distrust, even hate, and still want peace? Again, I think so. And this is the problem. We want peace, but have to await a leader than can make the difficult decisions for us. Most of us, and that includes most MK’s, cannot figure it out on our own… It’s not that most Israelis have a problem with IQ, or education, we don’t. But the emotional blocks that we’ve been creating over the past 60 years are such, that it is difficult for most to see over the walls, to consider a brighter future, to feel the despair and frustration of the other side (mainly the Palestinians), to recognize and come to terms with our responsibilities, and to change. Only a bold and courageous leader can make us change. I think, and hope, that Netanyahu will do so. But not before we hear his endless anti-peace, anti-axis-of-evil rhetoric…. so he can get elected… 🙂

    I’m sorry, but I completely reject your claim that: “(for Israel)… war threats are considered an affordable price to pay.” No Israeli politician would survive a single moment, if he/she should even hint it in some secretive cabinet meeting. Very few politicians could ever suggest that Israel doesn’t need peace so much. Again, the problem is that they want peace, but don’t know how to get it. Best example, and in fact very “fresh” one, is Mofaz. The guy is not some idiot. He’s been a COGS, a Defense Minister under Sharon, and is now the Transportation Minister under Olmert. He left his Likud party, to follow Sharon and his vision of peace, in forming Kadima. He truly wants peace, both with the Palestinians, as well as with Syria. But look at his platform, should he be elected in the primaries on the 17th – not “land-for-peace”, but suddenly “peace-for-peace”. He doesn’t understand, that by declaring this, and standing by it, he will end the talks before they ever begin. He cannot end the Israeli-Arab conflict without returning all Occupied lands prior to June 4th 1967. So what is he? A perfect example of an Israeli politician that doesn’t know how… And most are, unfortunately, like him.

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    September 5th, 2008, 11:53 am

     

    7. innocent_criminal said:

    I’m sorry but i cannot believe that Israel will ever give back all or even most of the 67 land especially the Palestinian one. I might be a pessimist but it’s more likely that you’re too optimistic. That said, I hope time proves you right 😉

    As for my claim of war threats i think you’re taking it a bit out of context. I believe that Israel’s military superiority blunts any real threat of war that can actually hurt israel’s existence (with the exception of a nuclear Iran). Its more that Israeli politicians tend to use these war threats from “Arab Terror Nations” to back up what i believe is a long standing Israeli policy of maintaining a controlled conflict scenario instead of peace for the reasons i had mentioned earlier.

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    September 5th, 2008, 3:11 pm

     

    8. Akbar Palace said:

    Innocent_Criminal,

    I’m sorry too. I cannot believe that the Jihadists and their government sponsors will ever stop their “resistance” (aka “terrorism) against Israel, especially since Israel withdrew from Gaza, Lebanon, and most Palestinian population centers and only got this lousy tee-shirt and a whole lot of terror in exchange.

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    September 5th, 2008, 5:24 pm

     

    9. Alex said:

    IC and AP

    “I’m sorry” … but we can still try even though nothing is guaranteed.

    : )

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    September 5th, 2008, 5:28 pm

     

    10. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    IC,
    What you are saying is generally correct but it is not related to Israeli politicians but Israeli interests.

    Isn’t it strange that Shai gets angry at Mofaz for supporting “peace for peace” but when Alex says that what Israel will get is just “peace” then the deal is all right? What is the difference between the Alex and Mofaz suggestion? If peace is worthwhile for Israel, why is it not worthwhile for Syria unless they get the Golan?

    The bottom line is that Syria has nothing to offer Israel for the Golan unless it flips. As Syria is not going to flip partially because it just can’t and partially because it does not want to, there will be no peace agreement. Nasrallah has just made it perfectly clear that Hizballah will not disarm even after Sheba is returned. And Nasrallah never lies, right?

    I have a simple way to measure if all this “storm in a teacup” is really worth it for Syria. If Syria is able to buy from EADS one Air-Bus, it will have shown that all this fuss has helped Syria end its isolation. Until then, it is nothing but hot air.

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    September 5th, 2008, 5:50 pm

     

    11. Alex said:

    AIG said:

    “If peace is worthwhile for Israel, why is it not worthwhile for Syria unless they get the Golan?”

    To answer this incredibly difficult question all you have to do is to imagine the opposite … Syria took part of pre-67 Israeli lands (similar to the Golan in is size and beauty) … hundreds of thousands of Israelis are now refugees … and Syrians are building settlements on that land.

    Then let’s see you interested in “peace-for-peace”

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    September 5th, 2008, 6:06 pm

     

    12. wizart said:

    What I really feel is missing in many what’s called underdeveloped countries is a real fight against institutionalized corruption and a plan to revamp the legal system because I think that would lead to more internal stability and to a more viable and real economy.

    Nice blog. It kicks ass. All news in one source.

    No more I’m sorry please! I’m too sensitive and don’t wanna cry 🙂

    Special thanks to trustquest for reminding me of what Layek means.

    Viva la free thought and tough education from l’ecole Francais.

    🙂

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    September 5th, 2008, 6:26 pm

     

    13. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Alex,
    In fact, that is what happened with the Jews in Poland and Israel made peace for peace with Poland. The Poles took over property belonging to 3-4 million Jews.

    As Israelis see it, Syria as the agressor in the 67 war so it has no right to the Golan. I am not stating this in order to argue this point, just as a fact as to what Israelis believe and nothing you say will convince them.

    In the end, the Syrians either want peace or want the Golan. They will have to decide. My guess is that right now Syrians want the Golan more than they want peace. Just like the Israelis want the Golan more than they want peace. Fair enough.

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    September 5th, 2008, 6:36 pm

     

    14. offended said:

    AIG, so going by the same line of thoughts; it’s okay for the Arabs to aspire to throwing all the Israelis in the sea? I mean since you’ve been the aggressors for longer than any one cares to remember, it should be okay for Arabs to mobilized their efforts and use all means possible to deter your aggression and restore the entire land of Palestine and throw you guys in the sea?

    If you say yes, then it’s fair enough indeed.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:07 pm

     

    15. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Offended,
    If it is also right for Israel to preempt this Arab aggression by all means possible, then I say that is fair enough.

    It is simple, if we agree that each side has the right to pursue its interests with all possible means, then that is fair. What is not fair is to limit one side or the other.

    Personally, I do not believe that all possible means are justified in pursuing any cause except sheer survival. I would not for example support hurting civillians on purpose except if my existence depended on it. But I would not support hurting civillians for land or money or honor.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:33 pm

     

    16. offended said:

    AIG,

    You whined a little bit toward the end of your comment.

    Fail.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:46 pm

     

    17. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    What is strange in the debates is that syrians seems to think Syria utilizing its strengths to force its interests over those of Lebanon is a sign of Bashar being smart, while if AIPAC and Israel utilize their strengths to further their interests, it is a sign of AIPAC and Israel being selfish. That attitude will get you nowhere.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:47 pm

     

    18. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Offended,
    You do not have any argument whatsoever except that Syria is allowed to pursue its interests by all possible means while others are not allowed to do so. That is quite childish.

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:50 pm

     

    19. Shai said:

    Innocent Criminal,

    Please be aware of the fact that while most Israelis (70%) today do not believe they should withdraw from the Golan, even in return for peace with Syria, most Israelis DO believe we should withdraw from most of the West Bank in order for a Palestinian state to be created. This is precisely why Sharon was elected – most wanted a withdrawal from Gaza, and a continuation of withdrawals in the West Bank. That this will happen is not a question.

    I apparently cannot convince you (and that’s ok…) that Israel has no policy of maintaining a controlled conflict scenario. You are deducing that it does, because to you (and me), the logical thing if it in fact didn’t have such policy, would have been to make peace eons ago. But the fact is, that Israel has had NO POLICY in the past 2-3 decades. None!!! While it has hoped for an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict, it did absolutely nothing to make it happen except… for the opposite. You are unfortunately attributing way too much credit to Israeli policy makers. In recent history that phrase is almost a contradiction in terms.

    Offended,

    Don’t worry, Netanyahu always understood that peace will only occur through land-for-peace. After all, he sent his best American buddy straight to Assad the father (no indirect talks, no foreign ministers, etc.) to offer a complete withdrawal from the Golan. Hafez rejected the offer, most probably because Bibi refused to let Syria “wash its feet” in Lake Kinneret. Bibi won’t make that mistake twice. And as for “peace-for-peace”… well, that’s left for people like Mofaz, and AIG. No worries mate! (But do buckle your seat belt, as we’re probably in for a little ride now, in the next 6-12 months. Keep the faith, brother.)

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    September 5th, 2008, 7:56 pm

     

    20. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG said:
    …In the end, the Syrians either want peace or want the Golan.

    Couldn’t they have had a change of heart since 1967?
    In the final analysis, the Israelis will always have to depend on their military superiority for the survival of the Jewish state, even with peace agreements.

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:01 pm

     

    21. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Below is what Netanyahu says about the Golan. What he said in 1998 is interesting but not relevant as Hezbollah and Iran were not as important an issue then. What is important is what he is promising now. You can all believe Shai that Netanyahu is lying through his teeth, or get used to the fact that the Golan will not be returned to Asad.

    May 29, 2008 20:59 | Updated May 29, 2008 22:28
    Netanyahu: The Golan will stay Israeli
    By REBECCA ANNA STOIL

    Demonstratively reacting to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s announcement last week that he was holding indirect negotiations with Syria, the Likud Party held a rally in the Golan Heights Thursday.

    “The Golan was Israeli and will stay Israeli,” opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu told the group of about 600 Likud supporters from across the country who gathered at the Eden Springs near Katzrin. “Whoever settles the Golan Heights secures Israel’s security. Here can be seen the connection that exists between security and peace. The way to guard the Golan and Jerusalem is to go to elections now. If we don’t live here, Iranian soldiers will.”

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:04 pm

     

    22. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Seeking,
    Your last conclusion is true and it is another reason why the peace dividend is not that big for Israel. In any case we will need to keep on investing heavily in our military.

    As for the Syrian change of heart, I am sure that it happened. I do not think that after 73 Syria believes it can get the Golan back by force or that it can keep up strategically with Israel. But, I am talking about something else. The Syrians today will not agree to peace without getting the Golan back. This means that for the Syrians today, the Golan is more important than peace. I believe that is quite obvious. What is interesting is that this is also the Israeli position: The Golan is more important than peace. I find ironic that in the end there is no peace because both sides agree and not because they disagree!!!

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:09 pm

     

    23. Shai said:

    Netanyahu also spoke against giving back the Golan in his pre-election campaign last time around. And after winning, he sent his buddy Lauder to Assad, and in a draft agreement, Netanyahu offered (taken from Section 2 of the Aug. 29th, 1998 agreement):

    2. “Israel will withdraw from the Syrian lands taken in 1967, in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which establish the right of all states to secure and recognized borders and the ‘land for peace’ formula, to a commonly agreed border based on the international line of 1923. The withdrawal will be effected in 3 stages, over a period of […] months, with full normalization being completed by the end of withdrawal (exchange of ambassadors at the outset)……”

    This doesn’t sound to me like a leader that always does what he tells his potential voters, pre-election, like AIG… And of course we can all understand why. He can’t be elected, if he said what he believed. Neither could Begin, Shamir, Sharon, or Ehud Olmert. All… from the Likud!

    In the agreement, there was also mention of Syrian influence and cessation of attacks from Lebanon (this was 2 years before Barak’s withdrawal that put an end to 18 years of occupation of Southern Lebanon). Netanyahu was concerned about Hezbollah back then as well. The agreement had nothing to do with Iran. And it won’t this time around either, except to assure that no weapons pass through Syria to Hezbollah, or any other resistance group. Whether it comes from Iran, Iraq, or the warm Pacific islands of Micronesia.

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:16 pm

     

    24. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Shai,
    We will have to see won’t we? Right now, Netanyahu is very very clear that he will not return the Golan. You are going to vote for him (maybe) because he is a liar and really plans to return the Golan. Fine with me.

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:24 pm

     

    25. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG,

    If one will not do A, unless he gets B, does this mean logically that B is more important for him than A?
    I don’t think this is always true.

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:30 pm

     

    26. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Seeking,
    I am not sure of what you wrote. Can you give an example where what you say is not true?

    I think though that you are not asking the right question. If in order to get A, I need to give up B, then if I am rational and I decide not to get A it means I value B more than A. If I can get A by bartering B for it, and I don’t, and I am rational, that means I prefer B to A.

    The Syrians can easily get peace (A) with Israel by giving Israel the Golan (B). The Syrians are rational. Yet the Syrians will not do it. Therefore, they prefer the Golan to peace (they prefer B to A). Seems like a valid argument to me.

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    September 5th, 2008, 8:43 pm

     

    27. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG,

    You earlier said in your first response to me:
    The Syrians today will not agree to peace without getting the Golan back. This means that for the Syrians today, the Golan is more important than peace.

    I’m arguing that the second statement does not follow automatically from the first one, based on pure logical reasoning; even if it is true. In other words, using the principle of logic alone, you cannot deduce the second statement from the first one.

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    September 5th, 2008, 9:14 pm

     

    28. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Seeking,
    I think you can. If A is more important to you than B it just means that you prefer A to B. What other meaning did you have in mind? Of course you would also need to add that Syrians are rational which is certainly the case to make a logical deduction.

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    September 5th, 2008, 9:26 pm

     

    29. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG,

    Now you have omitted the first statement completely, and simply restated the second one, which I’m not trying to find out whether it is true or not.

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    September 5th, 2008, 9:37 pm

     

    30. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG,

    This exchange is not about whether the second statement is true or not. It is about whether you’re allowed to infer that it is true based solely on the first statement. I’m talking here in purely logical point of view.

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    September 5th, 2008, 9:50 pm

     

    31. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Seeking,
    Do you not agree that if A is more important than B to me then I prefer A to B?

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    September 5th, 2008, 9:54 pm

     

    32. Seeking the Truth said:

    AIG,

    First statement: The Syrians today will not agree to peace without getting the Golan back.
    Second statement: This means that for the Syrians today, the Golan is more important than peace.

    What I’m trying to say, you cannot conclude the validity of the 2nd statement given only the 1st one.

    Of course, if A is more important to me than B, then I prefer A to B. But this is not the question. The question is: if Syria will not agree to B (peace) without A (Golan), does this mean that A is more important to Syria than B? The logical answer is: not necessarily.

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    September 5th, 2008, 10:41 pm

     

    33. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Seeking,
    Only if the Syrians are not rational. No?

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    September 5th, 2008, 11:03 pm

     

    34. offended said:

    AIG opines:

    You do not have any argument whatsoever except that Syria is allowed to pursue its interests by all possible means while others are not allowed to do so.

    This argument is an exact reciprocation of your own argument with regards to Israel’s interests and military might. I am glad you’ve seen how childish and whiny your position is.

    Dear Shai, right on brother! I am the ultimate optimist and believer in peace. Good night.

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    September 5th, 2008, 11:13 pm

     

    35. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Offended,
    No it is not my argument at all. It is often your and Alex’s arguments. What the regime does shows that it is smart, while all the others are selfish. You are not fooling anyone.

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    September 5th, 2008, 11:42 pm

     

    36. trustquest said:

    Wizart,
    “What I really feel is missing in many what’s called underdeveloped countries is a real fight against institutionalized corruption and a plan to revamp the legal system because I think that would lead to more internal stability and to a more viable and real economy.”
    This is what intellectuals should concentrate on before even talking on foreign policies which used as a vehicle by Politian and corruption leaders to ride on and the looser is the well being of pubic and the state.
    Thank you for you kind words and I hope for the Middle East what Pakistan has achieved so far. It was my dream to attend the Layek school but I did not. My house was near that school. It is a wonderful school in a main road in Damascus and it was may be the only school with standard size room and building. Since the military baboons took hold of the country till now, they could not build one similar. That is why Sarkozy came to build another one replacement for the ruined one. This school and all other missionary schools were providing the best education for kids. The Socialist Baath Party with it Arab National slogans strip these schools from their identity and did not compete with them; they force them to change name and force a lot of materials on them. It did not take more than a decade when all the officials start placing their children in the same schools that they claim that despised. Bashar Assad went to this school and got his HS Diploma from. When his brother died his father the dictator with his officials’ cronies changed the school name to Basil Assad. Basil Assad in Arabic means: the courageous lion in contrast with the other meaning of Layek: freedom of thought and freedom of religion, I like other in the civil society was watching our dignity and our values from tolerance to education tarnish during that period.

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    September 6th, 2008, 1:21 am

     

    37. Nour said:

    AIG’s argument is equivalent to telling the victim of an armed robbery who says that he refuses to forgive the armed robber until the armed robber returns his belongings to him, that he cares more about his belongings than he does about forgiveness.

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    September 6th, 2008, 4:24 am

     

    38. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Nour,
    The analogy is different. It is that of a person who keeps on trying murdering another person and in one unsuccesful attempt the person he is trying to murder gets hold of one of the murderer’s weapons thus making the next murder attempt more difficult. And then the murderer says he wants peace but only if he gets his weapon back. What will he do when he gets it? He of course will try murdering again. And why should the murderer get his weapon back anayway? He is clearly the aggressor and has no right to the weapon.

    That is the correct analogy.

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    September 6th, 2008, 4:45 am

     

    39. offended said:

    Exactly Nour.

    If the victim of the armed robbery, however, wanted to spare himself future mugs and robberies, he should publicly forfeit his rights to restore his belongings.

    Daylight gangsta’s mentality.

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    September 6th, 2008, 4:49 am

     

    40. Alex said:

    AIG,

    Your “peace for peace with Poland” was really a “land for peace” … forget what Jews used to own in Poland … the world is compensating you nicely with … Palestine .. Jerusalem … Your favorite “land” on planet Earth!

    And Syria SAVES millions of Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians … something that selfish Israel does not do… so you really can’t compare. Israel’s influence o its neighbors is either negative, or very negative. Syria’s is either highly positive, or slightly negative.

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    September 6th, 2008, 5:04 am

     

    41. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Offended,
    Go learn some real history, the kind written in the censored books you are not allowed to read, and you will learn that in 1967 Syria and Egypt were clearly planning to “throw the Jews in the sea”.

    Alex,
    The world is compensating us with nothing. If the Jews would not have won the war of 1948, in which not one world country sent troops to help Israel, Israel would not have existed. In fact most countries were quite sure Israel would be annihilated in 1948. The world gave Israel nothing and certainly Poland gave Israel and the Jews nothing.

    The influence of the Syrian regime is hugely negative both inside and outside Syria. The proof about the inside is simple. Just see the huge difference between Israel and Syria economically all because of the regime. This is without discussing how Asad rules the syrians by fear. About the outside, listen to what the Lebanese not affiliated to Iran say. Listen to what the US and Europe say about why there are sanctions on Syria. It is quite simple, because it is a terror state that tries to destabilize its neighbors.

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    September 6th, 2008, 5:20 am

     

    42. Alex said:

    AIG,

    “The fact is” …. Your last point does not need any serious response from me.

    At this point I will take Zenobia’s advice.

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    September 6th, 2008, 5:30 am

     

    43. offended said:

    AIG said;
    Go learn some real history

    You are right, after listening to your BS for a while, one is in dire need for something real.

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    September 6th, 2008, 6:23 am

     

    44. Nour said:

    AIG,

    Your analogy is laughable at best. Anyone with half a brain can see who the criminals and murderers are. But maybe I should try your method and take a group of people to another country and claim part of it as mine, and if they try to stop me I’ll call them murderers and take more of their land.

    In any case, your words mean nothing. We know who you are and the whole world knows who you are, and I guarantee you “Israel” just like all occupiers and colonialists in history, is going to fall. It’s only a matter of time, as you are an unnatural entity which has to consistently maintain absolute military dominance and superiority in order to keep itself afloat, while the people of that land are going nowhere. And if you think that “Israel” can go on indefinitely on its course, then I suggest you revisit those thoughts.

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    September 6th, 2008, 3:01 pm

     

    45. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    Nour,
    Yes, the whole world knows who Israel is and that is why Israel trades with all the world with preferable trade agreements with Europe and the US while Syria is under sanctions and can bearly trade with anybody. Why are you living in such denial?

    My analogy is accurate and you will continue to be sanctioned and considered a terrorist until you wake up and realize the there is always going to be a Jewish state in the middle east and there is nothing you can do about it except learn to live with it in peace. The sooner the better of course but if you want to test your long term theories about which country will exist 20, 30 or 50 years from now, I have no problem with that. The last 60 years have proven conclusively the inherent advantage of Israel over the Arab states in their current structure and each year that passes the distance between Israel and its Arab neighbors grows.

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    September 6th, 2008, 3:11 pm

     

    46. Alex said:

    “and each year that passes the distance between Israel and its Arab neighbors grows.”

    1) Wrong.
    2) Have you heard of cycles? … or do you think that growth, in the case of Israel, will be forver a one way street?

    You see, for more than sixty years, Damascus was the capital of an area that stretched from Spain to India. The Umayyad Empire.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Age-of-caliphs.png/800px-Age-of-caliphs.png

    Being a thousand times more impressive than your incredible Israel today, I’m sure there were ASG’s at the time thinking they were indestructible like you think today.

    Anyway … Nour, Offended and AIG, please let’s not get into the same argument again.

    AIG … 6 comments per day for the next week.

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    September 6th, 2008, 3:22 pm

     

    47. ghat Albird said:

    As mentioned in one of my previous comments and using the analogy of “the mountain coming to Mohamed” this is the time that its Israel’s turn to request from the Syrians, et al what conditions are acceptable to them. Cause the “moving finger having writ moves on”. Israel’s moment in the sun has passed.

    The following extract from a commentary in a leading US journal enunciates in no unertain terms that….Israelis are increasingly confused and even
    distraught about the future. Yet they face a stark choice: engagement with the real Middle East and the demands it makes upon Israel for justice, democracy and territory, or escape from it.

    The danger for the Jewish state is that, given the choice between convincing Middle Easterners that Israel can be a good neighbor and leaving the neighborhood, more and more Israelis are attracted to the latter…

    Most unsettling of all is the interaction between two logical but mutually reinforcing trends. Israelis are embracing coercive and unilateralist policies that destroy whatever is left of its image as a potential good neighbor. Arabs and Muslims can be expected to treat signs of Jewish abandonment of the region as encouragement to forget any inclination they may still have to make peace with the Jews rather than wait them out….

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    September 6th, 2008, 4:29 pm

     

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