Turkey and Syria Discuss Nuclear Cooperation

Siddharth Varadarajan has sent me a link to his most interesting interview with Bashar al-Assad the other day. It is at his blog: Reality, one bite at a time . If you cannot read Blogger, here is the interview in The Hindu. Here is a smaple of the interview:

Varadarajan: Do you think if things move fast, you will make a visit to Beirut?

President Assad: Yes, and about the other aspect as I mentioned because we proved that, we can see now that many Lebanese noted that Syria is working for the sake of Lebanon; the interests of Syria and Lebanon are common. So, the relations should move in the right direction to be better in the future. But the visit of the president, this is related to the formation of the national unity government in Lebanon first. Second, this is related to the discussion between me and the Lebanese president; we have not had any discussion about my visit. But, when I spoke to him after the Doha Accord, I told him that we are ready to help Lebanon and help him personally in his mission. He said we want the help of the Syrians in the future and we said we are ready; we are still waiting.

Varadarajan: And will this lead to opening an embassy in Beirut?

President Assad: Yes, and we mentioned this three years ago and we said that we do not have any problem. But, the problem is that if you have bad relations with any country, you usually withdraw your ambassador and close the embassy. So, how do you open an embassy with a country or government with whom you have bad relations not good ones? Now, when they have this national unity government, it is going to be normal for Syria to open an embassy in Lebanon.

Varadarajan: I have been struck by the paradox in Syria's policy where internally Syrian society is very strongly secular and you oppose sectarian politics and you do not allow that kind of politics in your country, but most of your best friends in the region all come from sectarian backgrounds like Hamas, Hizbollah and even the Iranians. Is this a problem for Syria?

President Assad: Actually in politics, you have to be pragmatic; the first question that you have to ask is who is effective in our region, you do not ask who is like you or who is not. Hamas is effective and important in Palestine. Hizbollah is a very important party in Lebanon, and Iran is a very important country in the region. Without those players, you cannot have stability, you cannot have any solution and you cannot reach anything you are looking for. So, whether you like it or not, or whether you agree with or disagree, you have to deal with them. You do not say like this administration 'black and white', 'evil and good' and things like this; this does not work like this in politics. If you want to solve problems, you have to deal with the players.

Turkey, Syria eye nuclear energy cooperation: agency
Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:57am EDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey and Syria are considering setting up a joint energy company and could build joint nuclear power plants for electricity, Syria's oil minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Turkey's state-run Antolian agency quoted Oil Minister Sufian Alao as saying that the two countries will announce the establishment of a joint energy company in the coming days, which could explore for oil in Turkey, Syria and in third countries.

"We could also enter into cooperation in the nuclear field. I spoke to (Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler) Mr. Guler on cooperation. In the future we could found joint nuclear power plants for electricity production," he was quoted as saying.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei talks to SPIEGEL about Israel's propensity for unilateral action against countries like Syria, the US's tendency to keep the IAEA in the dark and the threat of nuclear terrorism …

"…..The inspection trip will take place from June 22-24, and will be led by my deputy, Olli Heinonen. But it is doubtful that we will find anything there now — assuming there was anything there in the first place…..

Of course, we could toss out everything in the way of collective security systems that we have built up since World War II and say: Let's go back to the Middle Ages and pull out our clubs. This is a decision that must depend upon the international community of nations. I am horrified by how little protest the military action in Syria has triggered…….It's a deafening silence. I especially regret having to say this, but the Arab world is now in a more disastrous state than ever before. There is no longer any solidarity, a common goal or regional cooperation — just mistrust everywhere. Incompetently and corruptly governed, many countries in the Middle East are lurching from one crisis to the next, creating breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. But the real challenge is to wipe out the roots of violence — lack of opportunity and bitter poverty…."

On the horns of dilemma
By Shmuel Meir

Te peace talks with the Syrians took us by surprise. The public discourse is divided between strategists, who hold on to issues of topography and differences in height (”They are up there and we are below – a recipe for disaster”), and the peace-seekers, who have become giddy from the air of the summits (”Everything has already been tied up”).

On the side of the debate are the residents of the Golan Heights (17,000 now, as compared with the 250,000 Syrians who lived there before 1967), and there are also the voices reminding us of the property rights over thousands of dunams that were legally acquired and registered by the Jewish National Fund. As if a private property right imparts sovereign status.

Above all, the Syrian peace is characterized by periodicity. It breaks out, fades away and disappears until the next time around. As if there is no price to be paid for inexplicable delays. As if the peace that was achieved with Egypt and Jordan will never be affected by a situation of no peace with Syria. As if a superfluous war, like that of the summer of 2006, is not a sufficient price.

The public has become accustomed to not receiving explanations from its leaders. Shimon Peres broke off the negotiations with Syria in 1996 on the pretext of elections whose date he had fixed. Ehud Barak allowed the talks of 2000, and the decisive meeting between Bill Clinton and Hafez Assad, to evaporate. The answer to the question of why peace has not been achieved with Syria remains under wraps. The dramatic reversal in the Syrian position in 1991 – readiness for a full peace under the aegis of the United States – was considered insignificant by us and became non-existent. That, even though the Syrians did not back off from their stance, despite the dozens of Syrians who were killed during the Second Lebanon War and despite the incident of September 2007…..

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Syria: Repression of Activists Continues Unabated

Engagement With Damascus Should Include Human Rights (Washington, DC, June 12, 2008) – Western countries looking to increase engagement with Syria should know that Syrian authorities continue to arrest, try, and harass political and human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today. In May 2008, Syrian authorities detained a political writer, began the trial of two activists, and restricted the travel of at least seven others. Amidst increasing calls in Western countries to increase engagement with Syria, Human Rights Watch urged that an improvement in the treatment of these activists be at the heart of any future talks with the Syrian authorities.

Peace mission to Syria: 'Westchester Delegation' does the heavy-lifting by Herbert Hadad

Comments (43)


1. majedkhaldoun said:

In a recent visit to Italy, I found out that the Italian really want Obama to win.

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June 14th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

2. Alex said:

The myth of the Shia crescent
By Michael Broening
Tags: Shi’ites, Israel, Iran

AMMAN – Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz recently offered an unequivocal veto on a key issue in the Middle East peace process: Any return of the Golan Heights to Syria would result in an “Iranian foothold” on Israel’s border and would thus not only be politically naive but irrational.

Mofaz’s statement is symptomatic of a perception that is now deeply entrenched, not only in the Middle East, but in the United States as well. That notion is of a hegemonic Iran that is attempting to dominate the region through an array of Shi’ite proxies. This Iranian fifth column is believed to stretch from Beirut via Damascus and Gaza to Baghdad and finally from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Yemen. Recent armed clashes between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government are, it is said, just another sign of Iran’s hegemonic reach.

Ironically, this perception brings Israel some rather unlikely partners. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt claims that Shi’ites are “always loyal to Iran,” while King Abdullah of Jordan has coined the axiom about a rising “Shi’ite crescent.” This “rise of the Shi’ites” and the resulting “Sunni-Shia divide” is alleged to be creating an ever-widening chasm in the region.
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Although this perception may convince at first glance, it is ultimately based on generalizations that reveal more about its advocates than about the actual reality on the ground.

Take Iraq, where the looming “Shia crescent” is often blamed for much of the chaos. Recent developments in Iraq allegedly point to a fundamental clash between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the region and bear witness to malevolent Iranian interferences. But is Iraq really symptomatic of a greater Shia scheme?

True, sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq have escalated since the fall of Saddam Hussein. But contrary to common perception, Iraqi Shi’ites do not constitute a homogenous block that opposes the supposedly unified Sunnis. Indeed, the opposite is true. In light of Iraqi nationalism that crosses sectarian boundaries, it is farfetched to consider the Iraqi Shia merely proxies of Iran.

Instead, what we are witnessing in Iraq today is not ever-increasing friction between religious communities but escalating internal power struggles within the Sunni and Shi’ite communities. Ongoing violence in Basra and the fighting between Sunni “Awakening Councils” and Al-Qaida in Iraq demonstrate this. In fact, the current escalation points to an increasing political struggle between the federalist position of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and the centralist position of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr. This struggle will ultimately define the political structure of Iraq.

Here is where Sunni-Shi’ite cooperation comes in. Widely unnoticed, Iraqi Sunni and Shia centralists have managed in the last couple of months to form a united parliamentary platform that leaves sectarian tensions behind. More than a hundred followers of former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, Sadr, and others have joined their ranks.

This supra-sectarian platform calls for a central government administration of Iraq’s natural resources and the postponement of the looming referendum to settle the status of the city of Kirkuk.

Change within the government is also noteworthy. Sunni ministers who had been boycotting the government since last year have returned to their posts. Thus, Iraq is seeing both escalating intra-sectarian violence and cautious steps toward inter-sectarian alliances.

And what about Iran? Contrary to the blame games being played out in the U.S., Iran cannot be accused of an unrestrained aggressive stance toward Iraq. Of course, no Iranian decision maker is interested in an American success in Iraq that might well put regime change in Iran back on the agenda. But the rationale behind Iran’s policy of economic, social and military engagement seems to be, first and foremost, defensive. Memories of Iraq’s eight-year war of aggression against Iran in the 1980s have not faded. From Iran’s perspective, any future threat originating from Iraq needs to be averted by ensuring that both Shi’ites and Kurds participate in Iraq’s government.

These complexities are lost on many observers when matched up against the convenient and catchy rhetoric of the “Shia Crescent.” But they have not gone unnoticed among ordinary Arabs. A recent poll by the University of Maryland indicates that a large majority of Arabs in the region consider Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad one of the three most popular political leaders worldwide. Only 11 percent identified Iran as the biggest threat to their security. So if a Shia threat organized by Iran really does exist, why is it being ignored by those whom it purportedly targets – the Sunni Arab majorities?

Rather than objectively describing the actual political situation in the Middle East, the notion of a fundamental Iranian threat is being used to continue unconditional Western support for increasingly unstable regimes. Moreover, the overstatement of the threat posed by Iran is also being used as a convenient excuse for political inflexibility and stagnating reform processes throughout the region.

But exaggerating the supposed Shia threat has a price. Continuous talk of a “Sunni-Shia divide” might ultimately develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Alarmist rhetoric may, in the end, jeopardize rather than protect the status quo in the region.

Michael Broening is director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Amman, Jordan. FES is a political foundation affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Copyright Project Syndicate, 2008.

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June 14th, 2008, 4:53 am

 

3. Honest Patriot said:

Mohamed ElBaradei said: “I am horrified by how little protest the military action in Syria has triggered…….It’s a deafening silence. I especially regret having to say this, but the Arab world is now in a more disastrous state than ever before. There is no longer any solidarity, a common goal or regional cooperation — just mistrust everywhere. Incompetently and corruptly governed, many countries in the Middle East are lurching from one crisis to the next, creating breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. But the real challenge is to wipe out the roots of violence — lack of opportunity and bitter poverty….”

We cannot blame this on Israel.

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June 14th, 2008, 9:21 am

 

4. why-discuss said:

HP

It is Israel who bombed Syria against international law or not? If any other country had done that there would have be a huge international uproar. The media campaign to present Israel as the eternal victim/good guy/good cop and Syria the devil/bad guy is very successful, and who cares about international laws when the US ignores it all the time and veto any Security resolution condemning itself or Israel?
The Arabs are disunited and that plays very well for US and Israel. Just imagine one second all arabs armies united with the help of Iran, Israel would not have a chance to survive. One wonders who is encouraging the divisions?

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June 14th, 2008, 3:05 pm

 

5. Nur al-Cubicle said:

The Arabs are disunited

Balkanization has always played to the advantage of the imperialists so it can use ethnic clients.

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June 14th, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

6. why-discuss said:

Impressive interview of Bashar El Assad: He brings up very clear and pragmatic points. I like to hear King Abdullah or Mobarak or Olmert or Siniora speaking so candidly!

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June 14th, 2008, 3:46 pm

 

7. Nur al-Cubicle said:

French President Sarkozy has dispatched a delegation to Damascus consisting of Mr. Sarkozy’s foreign policy advisor, Jean-David Levitte, and a senior Elysée aide, Claude Guéant, to meet with President Assad on Sunday. (Via AFP)

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June 14th, 2008, 4:22 pm

 

8. Honest Patriot said:

Why-Discuss,

I have no disagreement with your statements. What I have always lamented, and what is echoed by ElBaradei’s laments, is our failure as a group of people to be united, to leverage our abundant resources, to put together a fiercely strong PR campaign to counter the one so successfully implemented by Israel and its supporters, to fight for and restore Palestinian rights through the power of unity, persuasion, economic strength, and credible clout. Instead we have a dismal state of fratricide, inefficiency, and, regrettably, a good dose of fanaticism by some, spawned in part by economic dejection. I’m really not out to put the blame here or there, only to reinforce ElBaradei’s observation. I would, however, not agree with shifting the blame outside our communities. Were it not for our weaknesses and failings, the external forces could not have taken advantage of us. So much more can be done. I don’t know what the solution or catalyst would be. Obsessive emphasis on education would be a good start.

Peace

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June 14th, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

9. why-discuss said:

HP

arab countries have never been united but have never fought wars against each others like the europeans did 2 times in one century.
It took a long time for Europe to unite, it will take more time to arab countries especially when its unification is a threat to Israel and the West who seek control of their supply of energy.
If Bashar and Sleiman join their intelligence and pragmatism, the seed of unity can be triggered by these two small non-oil countries.
Of course lots of opposition will be created to prevent this to happen, but I trust that with the impartial help of Qatar, this may happen.

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June 14th, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

10. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

What do you think of Qaddafi’s suggestion a while back, that Israel should be invited to join the Arab League? If it did, and peace was made with all the Arab countries, perhaps finally the entire region could be united? Then AIPAC could become AMEPAC (America Middle East Public Affairs Committee), and “outside forces” could have little effect on our region. This is my dream of a UME (United Middle East). What do you say – will it become a reality in our lifetime, or is it sheer fantasy?

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June 14th, 2008, 6:22 pm

 

11. norman said:

Shai,

I agree.

I consider the Hebrews as Arabs, Abraham led them from Arabia during the migration of the semitic civilizations through Iraq and Syria to Palestine.

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June 14th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

12. majedkhaldoun said:

My dear Norman;
you are right, the Hebrew are arab, and arab are semitic, our problem is not against the jews , it is against zionism who wants to throw us out of pan arab land, and tell us one group are superior to other, based on lies after lies.

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June 14th, 2008, 7:10 pm

 

13. Shai said:

Majedkhaldoun,

Well, here’s at least one Zionist who doesn’t want to do those things. Once my people have fulfilled their 2,000 year-old dream of returning to Zion, and it seems Israelis are here to stay, I am more than ready to unite with our neighbors.

Norman, if it was up to you and I, we’d have peace in the region already decades ago. Shame that our history and our future are placed in the hands of politicians, instead of sensitive and humane internet bloggers…

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June 14th, 2008, 7:22 pm

 

14. Nur al-Cubicle said:

What do you think of Qaddafi’s suggestion a while back, that Israel should be invited to join the Arab League?

Just a minute, Shai. The Saudis and several other Arab states were prepared to make an historic step forward in relations with Israel in 2004, which Israel rejected out of hand. And until the status of Jerusalem as a place sacred to three great revealed religions is recognized and the city hopefully administered as such, either by the UN or another agency, Israel is getting nowhere with the Arabs and rightly so.

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June 14th, 2008, 7:24 pm

 

15. Shai said:

Nur, I know. I’m not blaming the Arabs for not initiating peace with Israel – they certainly have. In fact, I’ve often referred to the initiatives brought forth at the Riyadh and Beirut Arab Summits as the “Three Yes’s” (as opposed to the 3 No’s of Khartoum). I wish Israelis could understand just how historic and significant these initiatives are, and not miss this opportunity. About Jerusalem, I also wish it was a world-capital, available and administered by all three monotheistic religions in some fashion. In fact, what better location for the United Nations, than Jerusalem? Jerusalem should become a symbol of peace. Don’t you think?

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June 14th, 2008, 7:34 pm

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

About Jerusalem, I also wish it was a world-capital, available and administered by all three monotheistic religions in some fashion.

Shai,

I think all of Israel should be a world-capital. Better yet, I think you Israel should be given back to the Arabs.

There, I topped you.

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June 14th, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

17. norman said:

Shai,

What do you think of Jerusalem united without division or borders set in Jerusalem , with Borrows like New York , Muslim one ,Armenian one syrian oneand each borrow has it’s own Mayer and city counsel with one Mayer elected by all the people of Jerusalem .

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June 14th, 2008, 8:55 pm

 

18. Shai said:

AP,

I think you know what I meant. Don’t try to make me look like a real-estate philanthropist, trying to give away my country Israel (or Jerusalem for that matter). I am not living here, raising my family, so that one day I’ll find myself without a nation. Try to see the advantages, not only the disadvantages, in having a city like Jerusalem become a symbolic capital to all three major religions. By sharing, you might gain, not only lose. I know it’s a strange concept for us to understand.

Norman,

Yes, that is certainly something I could see in the future. But, this future is still quite far away. The distance is spanned not only by time, but indeed by distrust and suspicion. We must overcome these.

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June 14th, 2008, 9:38 pm

 

19. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
What is the difference between Tel-Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem. Why should Jerusalem be shared and Tel-Aviv-Jaffa shouldn’t? Or do you think Tel-Aviv-Jaffa should be shared also?

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June 14th, 2008, 9:49 pm

 

20. Shai said:

AIG,

It is late here, and I’m fading fast, so I’m quite likely to also want to share Haifa, Hadera, and Ramat-Hasharon. Come on, sharing Jerusalem doesn’t mean inviting Kuwaiti representatives to sit on its mayoral board and make decisions for Haredi schools in West Jerusalem. The (futuristic) idea is to enable citizens and residents of the city (Muslim, Christian, and Jewish) to partake in certain administration responsibilities that are much more symbolic than technical. In my so-called UME, there are no Berlin Wall-like structures separating East and West Jerusalem (as there already are today). What is so terrible or scary about such a notion? Why can we not have the United Nations building in Jerusalem? Why must you bring Tel-Aviv into the equation, insinuating a suggestion almost of a traitor? Do you really think I’m willing to give up on my country? Why am I here if that is the case? I could live far more safely and comfortably with my family in the U.S.

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June 14th, 2008, 9:59 pm

 

21. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
It is a question of sovereignity. Who will be sovereign over Jerusalem and FOR WHAT REASON. The reason is important because otherwise, the same principle may apply to Tel-Aviv.

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June 14th, 2008, 10:03 pm

 

22. Shai said:

AIG,

Israelis are responsible for West Jerusalem. Palestinians for East Jerusalem. One day, in my so-called fantasy UME, Jerusalem is its own district, much like Washington D.C.

Yalla, Lyla Tov!

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June 14th, 2008, 10:07 pm

 

23. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
So in Tel-Aviv Jaffa Israelis are responsible for Tel-Aviv and Palestinians for Jaffa? If not, why not?

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June 14th, 2008, 10:16 pm

 

24. Shai said:

AIG,

The Palestinians are going to have their own state, called Palestine. Its capital will be East Jerusalem. They will be in charge, finally, of their own fate. Palestine will include Gaza and the West Bank. It will not include Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh, Lod, or many of the towns and villages inside Israel that were once 100% Palestinian. This is called the “Two State Solution”. If we Israelis didn’t fear the Palestinians, or losing the Jewish majority in Israel, we would accept the “One State Solution”. But since that’s not going to happen right away, Palestinians will not be ruling Jaffa. But they will be ruling E. Jerusalem, and could certainly participate in a joint mayorship of Jerusalem. That would be a fantastic symbolic step towards reconciliation in our region, and would not entail the “much-feared” Palestinian armored tank divisions lined up along the hills of Judea, ready to drive us into the sea.

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June 15th, 2008, 4:01 am

 

25. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Thank you for the clarification. I was getting worried that the Palestinians were going to rule Jaffa right away. I am gald this will have to wait for a few years. I still do not understand though, what is the difference between East Jerusalem and Jaffa except that one was annexed in 1948 and one in 1967?

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June 15th, 2008, 4:22 am

 

26. Innocent Criminal said:

AIG,

I know you’re attempting to sound thick but in fact that’s what you are. So I’ll spell it for you; it’s called C O M P R O M I S E

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June 15th, 2008, 8:02 am

 

27. Shai said:

AIG,

Most Palestinians I say the same things to seem to understand them just fine, and don’t bring up the Jaffa issue. I know you’re almost enjoying playing devil’s advocate :-), and that’s fine, but I really don’t understand your purpose. Are you concerned that I don’t understand my own flawed rationale? Fair enough, but then again, most I talk to do seem to accept these ideas (even if reluctantly). Surely you’re not insinuating, like many extremists on the Right often do, that if I’m willing to give up on E. Jerusalem, then surely I’m also willing to return Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh, Lod, Ashkelon, etc. That it’s just a question of time… To save you the “… but these are YOUR words, Shai… look, you said: ‘But since that’s not going to happen right away’…”, I’ll calm you down by suggesting that I believe a one-state solution will come only if and when my fantasy UME will be established, not beforehand.

Ok, am I back in the “Good Zionist” zone? 😉

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June 15th, 2008, 8:12 am

 

28. CWW said:

I think we learned after the pullout from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 that ceding territory only leads terrorists to think that they have won and has the effect of emboldening them. Therefore, ceding Jerusalem in the end will only lead Israel’s neighbors to begin to ask the same question about Jaffa that AIG asked. If Jerusalem why not Jaffa?

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June 15th, 2008, 1:07 pm

 

29. Alex said:

CWW

You can continue to learn the wrong lessons if that is all you can learn

The lesson you should have learned from Gaza and Lebanon is that you should NEGOTIATE instead of taking unilateral decisions.

When you negotiated with Syria to end the 1973 war, you had a reliable agreement. When you negotiated with Egypt in 1978, your ceding territory did not lead to the Egyptians feeling they won.

You take unilateral decisions, THEY take unilateral decisions.

And another lesson which you probably did not learn either … only a comprehensive solution will work. Trying to use the Syrians to weaken the Palestinians, or trying to use Abbas to weaken the Syirans or Hamas … will not get you anywhere.

And the last lesson I would like to see you learn is the same one that your fellow countrymen AIG and AP like to teach us here … do not always blame it on your enemy.

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June 15th, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

30. CWW said:

Alex, the fact that Israel unilaterally decided to end the occupation of southern Lebanon and Gaza at the risk of its own citizens emboldened Hamas and Hizbollah to continue their violent activities. Somehow if Israel negotiated with these groups and left those areas after having been under fire from them I don’t think that they would have begun the process of laying down their arms and trying to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict (i.e. a negotiation over Shebaa Farms). It’s more likely that you would have seen what you see now. Hamas and Hizbollah would probably have deduced that because Israel left due to their actions (and Israel’s security assessments) if they kept on shooting Israel would retreat even further. Unilateral or negotiated, Israel’s recent pullouts would have led to the same outcome. Rockets from Hamas hitting Ashkelon and Hizbollah building up it’s terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon.

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June 15th, 2008, 1:31 pm

 

31. CWW said:

Alex,

As for your last lesson: Israel has made many mistakes. The PA elections, the settlements, pulling out of Gaza, the way the 2006 War was handled, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon,…

What mistakes do you think the Palestinians or Syrians have made?

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June 15th, 2008, 1:39 pm

 

32. Honest Patriot said:

News from Lebanon:

Aoun Rejects Giving President Two Key Christian Cabinet Seats
http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&72BC2A485D113A58C225746900228926

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has rejected giving the President two key Christian seats in the new cabinet.
“We do not accept giving the President two sovereign Christian portfolios, because acceptance of that would be neutralizing the Christian decision inside the government,” Aoun told his Orange television late Saturday.
“Therefore, the neutral, consensus President should choose between the interior and defense ministries,” Aoun added. “In both cases, what is needed is a Christian-Muslim balance in the President’s portfolios so that there would be a balance inside the government.”
“When the President is being (given control over the allocation) of two sovereign portfolios, then one (post) should go to the Christians and the other to the Muslims,” Aoun said.
He was responding to remarks made by Prime Minister-designate Fouad Saniora earlier Saturday.
Aoun said that the two other cabinet posts should be divided up equally between the opposition and the majority.
Saniora on Saturday said “national and security needs require that President Michel Suleiman names the defense and interior ministers.”
Saniora said the new cabinet would “eventually be formed. Every day we face a small obstacle and we overcome it.”
Beirut, 15 Jun 08, 09:02

All Aoun has done and continues to do is be a spoiler, finding ways to throw tantrums as part of the never-ending venting for being deprived of what he considered to be his God-given right to be president. At this point he simply joins the other bumbling incompetent politicians in Lebanon who have driven the country so many times in the abyss. Only 2 exceptions: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah who has only one (deadly) fault: fanaticism, and Fouad Siniora whose only sin in the eyes of so many here is that of being boring. These eyes are blind to the ability of recognizing the talents of a true patriot and statesman. President Suleiman might also distinguish himself in time. Too early to tell.

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June 15th, 2008, 2:38 pm

 

33. Shai said:

CWW,

I completely agree with Alex. By the way, politicians from the entire spectrum agree that we should not have withdrawn unilaterally, even if it meant staying there another 20 years.

Two points regarding your comments: First, if we HAD negotiated, we would not have withdrawn under fire. Second, why do you expect your enemy to lay down his weapons, as a sign of peaceful intentions? Will Israeli lay down our weapons to show the same? Of course not. We cannot expect Hezbollah (or even Hamas) to become an “environmental protection agency”, instead of an armed militia. The best we can hope for (not even demand), is that once there’s peace, Lebanon will incorporate HA into its regular army units (what Norman often refers to as their “Golani brigade”), and Palestine will incorporate Hamas’s armed groups into their army. Expecting any less of Israel, and any more of the “other side” is unrealistic and shows a basic lack of understanding of real politique in the region.

The claim that withdrawing from Lebanon, Gaza, West Bank, E. Jerusalem, etc. will only encourage greater acts of violence against us, so that given enough attrition, Israelis will eventually “fold” and move out of Jaffa is, at best, ludicrous.

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June 15th, 2008, 3:00 pm

 

34. Shai said:

HP,

How are you? Long time no see… 🙂 Glad to see you around here… even though I haven’t had that much time either. What do you say – will Olmert get anywhere in our “talks” before he’s forced out? He’s got, at best, a few months left. I’m betting on someone from Kadima heading the temporary government after his departure. Can Livni/Dichter/Mofaz(!) reach anywhere with Al-Taqi? I doubt it… Looks like a potential 1-2 year delay, if Netanyahu comes to power. But, if he does, I’m betting HE’LL be the one to sign along the dotted line, sitting right next to Bashar…!

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June 15th, 2008, 3:02 pm

 

35. Honest Patriot said:

Hello Shai. As you know I’m no erudite expert but I can share with you what my commoner instincts tell me, and that is that it will take someone as rightwing as Netanyahu to have the credibility within Israel to make the concessions needed to clinch a deal with Syria. However I do hope I’m wrong and that perhaps Livni – with her earlier-career credentials and her expected credibility with many – including women – can actually fill that role sooner than Netanyahu. From what I understand and see there’s not much hope for Olmert to do much of anything anymore. From this viewpoint his star has pretty much faded completely.

Cheers and Happy Father’s Day !!!

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June 15th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

36. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
The problem is that you don’t have to compromise with me, you have to compromise with the majority of Palestinians that view the right of return as sacred. You need to explain to them why Jerusalem is different from Jaffa. So far you are not doing a good job.

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June 15th, 2008, 3:27 pm

 

37. Shai said:

HP,

I think you’re right, but I’m very doubtful of Livni’s abilities. She’s never really managed anything, always been underneath others. It would take no more than 30 seconds of airtime during the election campaign to present her inexperience. Her so-called “earlier career” in the defense establishment has been greatly overstated. She was apparently not much more than a field operative, like a soldier in a particular brigade, not even a commander. Her statements as of recent (towards the Palestinians, and the Syrians) demonstrate the kind of wisdom an undergraduate in Poli-Sci might have, certainly not a stateswoman, unfortunately…

Happy FD to you too! Let’s see if my wife or two daughters remembered it… 🙂

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June 15th, 2008, 3:29 pm

 

38. Shai said:

AIG, sorry but I’ve got exactly two seconds… but I’ll be back later on.

Come on, you’re acting like you’re AnotherPalestinianGuy now. How do you know the majority won’t accept E. Jerusalem yes, Jaffa no. From all those I spoke to, and I have spoken to many Palestinians (including on this very site), it seems quite clear that they will, although reluctantly, accept the two-state solution. By “accept” it, I mean agree to peace with Israel, the establishment of Palestine, and an end to war. That many will always dream of returning to Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh, etc., is of course clear. We also dreamed for 2000 years to return to the land of Zion. If my UME will be established, in the next 40-50 years, Palestinians will be able to come work and live in Jaffa and Haifa, just as I’d be able to do the same in Damascus, or even Riyadh. As long as that’s a fantasy, so is the notion of Hanniyeh living in Jaffa.

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June 15th, 2008, 3:34 pm

 

39. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I know the majority of Palestinians will not accept peace without the right of return because Abbas insists on it, Hamas insists on it and all polls show that most Palestinians insist on it. On this site I do not recall one Palestinian that accepted it.

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June 15th, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

40. Honest Patriot said:

AIG and Shai,

A combination of a symbolic number of “returns” for the few examples of hardy old folks who, in press reports, showcase their land certificates, etc., along with an extremely generous compensation package for others who agree to settle in the new Palestinian state is likely to yield a compromise. The younger generations are expected to be much more flexible and to see the economic benefit of the compensation package. I’ve always felt that if the fanatics are short-circuited and the people understood what was being offered a peace deal would have long ago been reached.

The folks who should vote on this are the folks affected and not the zealots hundreds and thousands of miles away. What I mean is that the Palestinians involved, including the refugees in Arab countries, should be the ones to vote and not the mullahs of Iran or other Arab politicians out to continue to exploit the Palestinian cause for their selfish fanaticism.

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June 15th, 2008, 4:21 pm

 

41. Shai said:

HP, I completely agree with you, and hope that indeed it’ll happen that way.

AIG, even Joe M. accepted that unfortunately for the Palestinians, there may be no choice but a two-state solution first. Reality is far stronger than any of us, or certainly any of our wishes. If a Palestinian state is finally created, on basis of the 1967 borders, most Palestinians will come to accept it. There will be a solution to the right-of-return, which will be accepted by the majority of Palestinians, and it will likely resemble something very close to what HP has outlined up above. Poles have been taken amongst Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria and, apparently no more than 10% would prefer a return to Palestine over financial compensation. When an agreement will entail both symbolic (physical) return of some (perhaps a few tens of thousands), and huge financial compensation (imagine $450,000 per family, like our Gaza settlers got!, what that would mean for a Palestinian family living in the camps around Damascus). We don’t have to enter the realms of science-fiction to find feasible solutions, which will be acceptable to the majority.

Of course Abbas, Hanniyeh, Mashaal, and others maintain a rhetoric of “nothing less than… full right of return…” etc. Just as Mofaz maintains no giving up on the Golan, Eli Yishai’s eternally unified Jerusalem, etc. What do you expect them to say, prior to a peace agreement? It’s like asking them to lay down their weapons… highly unrealistic.

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June 15th, 2008, 5:18 pm

 

42. Alex said:

CWW,

The two “lessons” are not unrelated … they go together.

If we are to combine them then they will merge into: “It is better to NEGOTIATE with ALL your remaining enemies”

Withdrawing from south of Lebanon was Mr. Barak’s brilliant idea to take away the “Lebanon card” from Hafez Assad at the time.

Instead of continuing to negotiate with Hafez who was in a unique position to deliver both in Syria and Lebanon, Mr. Barak decided to play it smart and weaken Hafez’s negotiating position by withdrawing unilaterally from Lebanon.

If you want an agreement with the Palestinians, then you need a Madrid conference … both Hamas and Fatah will be there … the “moderate Arabs” will sponsor and manage Fatah, Syria will sponsor and manage the second half (Hamas and the Damascus based Palestinian organizations)

Instead Israel prefers to say …. look … we withdrew from Gaza and gave it to Hamas … and we were shocked to see that we don’t have a Vatican’like mini-state there today!

How surprising.

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June 15th, 2008, 5:46 pm

 

43. SimoHurtta said:

I think we learned after the pullout from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 that ceding territory only leads terrorists to think that they have won and has the effect of emboldening them.

Well CWW how has Hizbollah terrorized Israel after Israel was kicked out of Lebanon? The acts by Hizbollah against Israel have been minimal compared to those frequent Israeli violations of Lebanese borders before summer 2006. Hizbollah like Hamas could wage an international terror war against Jews also outside the “area”, but there are very little signs of that. Hizollah is hated by Israel simply because it is in reality the credible Lebanese “national” army which makes it impossible or at least very expensive for Israel to “liberate” Litani water reserves. Lebanese Army is only a little better than normally armed police force, thanks to Lebanese political system.

Of course the “terrorists” won when Israel left Lebanon and when Israel took away the settlements in Gaza. No doubt about that. Israel certainly did not leave Lebanon or Gaza settlements because they “love” Lebanese and Palestinians and respect their rights. Both decisions were made because of severe military pressure which made it to expensive for Israel to keep these areas.

The problem for Israel is that both Hamas and Hizbollah can show some “results” achieved by military pressure. The Palestinian and international side supporting negotiations with Israel have nothing concrete to show. The settlements are expanding, the settlers are becoming more and more agressive – actually it is a “miracle” that Palestinians even waste time in negotiations which seem not to produce anything. The reality is that Israeli policy and inability to make compromises (or even say what they in reality want to offer for Palestinians) make Hamas (and partly Hizbollah) even stronger. Not Syria or Iran.

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June 15th, 2008, 10:27 pm

 

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