U.S. policy turnabout may enable Israeli-Syrian talks

Published by ALEX 

By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

Washington gave Israel the green light to accept Syrian President Bashar Assad's call for peace talks, in a change of position accompanied by several preconditions.

The Bush administration has given Israel permission to discuss the future of the Golan Heights, security arrangements and Israeli-Syrian peace accords if it agrees to talks with Syria.

However, Washington has stipulated that Israel must not agree to any negotiations, even indirectly, on the United States' position, or on the future of Lebanon.

Furthermore, Israel must not make promises to Syria regarding U.S. policy. According to the new position, Washington will deal directly with Syria on these matters.

Lebanon would also not be discussed in negotiations between Syria and Israel.

Syria's role in terrorism, the presence of terrorist organizations in Damascus and its involvement in smuggling weapons to Hezbollah and the Palestinian territories are currently issues which the U.S. is not discussing with Syria.

Iran and its military connection with Syria is also not a topic that is open to discussion at present.

The American position changed due Syria's participation in the Arab League summit in Riyadh.

During the meeting of Iraq's neighbors, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem adopted a moderate position. Rice then held a private meeting with Mualem.

Rice intends to invite Syria as well as Palestinian representatives and Israel to an international summit on the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to a plan being drafted by the U.S. State Department.

If this occurs, the American position regarding possible talks between Israel and Syria will no longer be relevant.

Comments (22)


1. bilal said:

Bashar is ready to give up anything to save his long neck including the Golan. That is why the Israeli are pressuring to conduct peace talks with him. We Syrians should make it very clear to Israel that whatever peace treaty with Syria has to be signed by a democratically elected government in order to be respected by the Syrians. For sure Bashar and his 250 puppets do not represent the people of Syria nor does he protect the Syrian interest. He is only after his own interest.

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May 21st, 2007, 6:40 am

 
 

3. t_desco said:

Not one but two brothers of Youssef al-Hajdib killed:

“Parmi les tués, « les deux frères de l’un des Libanais arrêtés en Allemagne, l’été dernier, alors que le groupe, formé de six personnes originaires du Liban, s’apprêtait à placer des bombes sur une voie ferrée. Il s’agit d’une famille originaire du Akkar », affirme une source informée qui croit également savoir que le nom de guerre de l’un des deux frères tués hier à Tripoli est « Saddam ».”

From the same article:

“Selon un témoin qui se trouvait dans les environs du premier immeuble où s’est déclenchée la bataille, les attaques au mortier et aux mitraillettes avaient permis aux premières heures de la matinée de tuer plusieurs rebelles de nationalités diverses, dont un Yéménite et un Bangladais.”
L’Orient-Le Jour

“Security sources said Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were among the dead Sunday.”
WP

“Lebanese security officials said Fatah Islam has up to 100 members who come from Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as local sympathizers who belong to the conservative Salafi branch of Islam.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV station reported that among the militants killed Sunday were men from Bangladesh, Yemen and other Arab countries.

Although the group’s base is the Nahr el-Bared camp, one of the scenes of Sunday’s clashes, it has quietly expanded to the adjacent port of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni city known to have Islamic fundamentalists.”
AP

(my emphasis)

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May 21st, 2007, 9:51 am

 

4. idaf said:

On the Lebanon clashes..

It’s actually pathetic listening to the “blame it on Syria” crowd on whatever happens in Lebanon. I’ll bet you 100$ that when/if the first endemic of bird flue takes place in Lebanon, little Hariri and the M14 bunch will jump up and down on TV screens to similarly state that “we all know who’s behind this”.. The M14 bunch is trying to save face and politicize this as usual by sending the following message: don’t blame us [the government] for our incompetence in securing the country. Unlike other human beings “we the Lebanese” are god’s angels on earth. We don’t have extremism and we don’t kill each other. If it happens (and it did happen over and over again) then it’s always harb al-aakharin ala ardina (“others’ war on our land”). It’s always the Syrian mukhabarat’s fault.

This Lebanese “blame Syria” pathetic culture actually reminds me of the pathetic state of mind that prevailed in Syria (and the Arab world) since 1967 where all and every problem and government predicament was blamed on Israel by the public (even if these were social, health, economic or educational problems, not to mention security ones). Fortunately, most Syrians (and Arabs) have matured and grown out of the old “every thing is Israel’s fault” culture that was exploited to the fullest by successive regimes to manipulate public sentiments and delegate the blame to Israel. Israel did have a hand in many of the Arab world’s problems but most of the blame was on the Arab regimes themselves. It should be clear to the Lebanese that the same thing is true about Syria.

Lebanese should rid themselves of this culture that’s causing them most of the trouble they’re in at the moment. They should grow themselves out of it as soon as possible. This self-victimization will only cause Lebanon more trouble. More politicians (Lebanese and non-Lebanese), governments and non-state actors will exploit this state of mind at the expense of Lebanese public interest.

One more thing to say on Syria’s alleged “influence” or “control” over Islamist extremist groups.. I might be able to believe many things on the Syrian regime’s role as a trouble maker in the region, control of Islamists (whether in Lebanon, Iraq or elsewhere) is absolutely not one of them. Two simple reasons.. 1st Islamists do not work for who they see as “infidels”. 2nd, the Syrian regime has learnt a hard lesson in the 80s about Islamists. It has burnt its fingers and I don’t think that it’ll play with these matches again. They know that such groups will eventually grow out of control and when they do then the regime will be the next target. Especially in Lebanon, the Syrian regime would not play the Islamist card (assuming that it actually could) because this will definitely spill over to Syria, and when it does, the regime will loose its credibility as a security provider in the country thus loosing its most important source of public legitimacy. This is of course, not to mention that when it comes to Fateh el-Islam, Syria had already clashed with them and killed some of their leaders. The group’s leader is on Syria’s most wanted list for months.

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May 21st, 2007, 12:04 pm

 

5. MSK said:

[I had written this comment in response to Majedkhaldoun’s “For the millionth time: who is the true beneficiary of this crime? It’s obviously not Syria!” comment, which he’d now deleted.]

MK-

the true beneficiary of this crime: Panama.

See, the more unstable the MidEast, the more int’l shipping (from Asia to Europe & East Coast) is using the route through the Panama Canal instead through the Suez Canal.

So … maybe you should look for the culprits in Panama. Those Central Americans are devious characters. They don’t stop at nothing, not even at instigating those pacifist Islamists in the Nahr al-Bared Camp into going against everything they believe in & stand for … to react with force (instead of their usual non-violent methods) to the evil provocations of the Lebanese Army. Come to think of it, do we even know for sure that those “Lebanese” troops are not, in fact, Israeli troops who just PRETEND to be Lebanese? (Or maybe they’re Panamanian – they do all look alike. And, in any case, just like THE media, each & every int’l shipping company is controlled by the Jews anyway …)

–MSK*

PS: I have no idea if the Syrian regime is connected to Fatah al-Islam in any way, shape or form or has any idea what they’re up to. At this point it’s perfectly plausible (& hence my #1 guess) that FI is operating on its own. They don’t need any outside help or instigation to clash with the Lebanese state. But as for “cui bono?” – YES, the Syrian regime DOES benefit from anything that destabilizes the current Lebanese government, just as it benefits from any discord in Lebanon. However, that doesn’t mean that the ‘Asr al-Sha’b is behind each & every attack in Lebanon.

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May 21st, 2007, 12:57 pm

 

6. DJ said:

Matt, have you consider writing SitComs as a career instead of squandering your taunting talents on couple of average Syrians?

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May 21st, 2007, 1:33 pm

 

7. majedkhaldoun said:

I do not know his education background,clearly he did not get it,that tells about his level of intelligence.

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May 21st, 2007, 2:07 pm

 

8. Atassi said:

DJ US Envoy Says No Pressure On Israel To Shun Syria
401 words
21 May 2007

Dow Jones Commodities Service
English
Copyright 2007, Comtex News Network. All Rights Reserved.

RAMAT GAN, Israel, May 21, 2007 (DJCS via Comtex) —

The U.S. ambassador to Israel Monday said Washington is not pressuring Israel to rebuff Syrian offers of peace talks, denying reports that the Americans have been urging Israel not to talk to Syria.

Ambassador Richard Jones’ comments came as an Israeli daily reported that the U.S. has reversed its position and given Israel the green light to talk to Syria. He said both independently oppose such talks for the same reasons.

Speaking at an academic conference, Jones said the U.S. had never put any pressure on Israel. While not referring directly to the report in Haaretz, Jones said Israel and the U.S. share the same view of Damascus.

“Do American and Israeli foreign policies differ on Syria? Does the United States stop Israel starting peace discussions with Syria? No. No,” he said.

“Israel is not negotiating with Syria because Israel doesn’t trust Syria anymore than the United States does,” he told the conference at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.

The Haaretz report said previously the Bush administration had warned Israel not to respond to Syrian overtures in any way that could be seen as thawing the diplomatic chill between Damascus and Washington.

It said that in a recent visit to Jerusalem U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israel should “avoid even exploring” a positive response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s calls for talks.

While news reports periodically say Syria wants to resume peace talks with Israel, broken off in 2000. Israel says there is no room for dialogue as long as Damascus aids Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and violent Palestinian groups.

An Israeli government official said Monday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert doesn’t seek Washington’s approval for talks with Syria, and the U.S. has never tried to block such contacts.

Jones said that while the U.S. keeps a close eye on Syrian activity and is working to step up implementation of a U.N. arms embargo against Hezbollah, it sees no immediate Syrian military threat to Israel.

“We certainly would view a build-up of force in Syria as a source of concern,” he said. “In this regard I would stress our commitment to the qualitative military edge for Israel.”

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May 21st, 2007, 3:08 pm

 

9. norman said:

.S. envoy says no pressure on Israel to shun Syria, but both say no to talks
The Associated PressPublished: May 21, 2007

RAMAT GAN, Israel: The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Monday said that Washington is not pressuring Israel to rebuff Syrian offers of peace talks, denying reports that the Americans have been urging Israel not to talk to Syria.

Ambassador Richard Jones’ comments came as an Israeli daily reported that the U.S. has reversed its position and given Israel the green light to talk to Syria. He said both independently oppose such talks for the same reasons.

Speaking at an academic conference, Jones said the U.S. had never put any pressure on Israel. While not referring directly to the report in Haaretz, Jones said Israel and the United States share the same view of Damascus.

“Do American and Israeli foreign policies differ on Syria? Does the United States stop Israel starting peace discussions with Syria? No. No,” he said.

“Israel is not negotiating with Syria because Israel doesn’t trust Syria anymore than the United States does,” he told the conference at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.

Today in Africa & Middle East
Fighting between Lebanese Army and militants continuesShiite haven in Iraq has both benefits and pitfallsAfrica’s once-great colleges are overcrowded and crumblingThe Haaretz report said previously the Bush administration had warned Israel not to respond to Syrian overtures in any way that could be seen as thawing the diplomatic chill between Damascus and Washington.

It said that in a recent visit to Jerusalem U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israel should “avoid even exploring” a positive response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s calls for talks.

While news reports periodically say Syria wants to resume peace talks with Israel, broken off in 2000. Israel says there is no room for dialogue as long as Damascus aids Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and violent Palestinian groups.

An Israeli government official, speaking Monday on condition of anonymity according to civil service rules, said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not seek American approval for talks with Syria, and the U.S. has never tried to block such contacts.

Jones said that while the United States keeps a close eye on Syrian activity and is working to step up implementation of a United Nations arms embargo against Hezbollah, it sees no immediate Syrian military threat to Israel.

“We certainly would view a buildup of force in Syria as a source of concern,” he said. “In this regard I would stress our commitment to the qualitative military edge for Israel.”

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May 21st, 2007, 3:44 pm

 

10. ausamaa said:

Lebanon Clashes,

Perhaps the most informed website to provide coverage and background comments on this crisis is http://www.angryarab.blogspot.com Assad Abu Khalil knows the various actors and the environmet better than a lot of people.

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May 21st, 2007, 6:52 pm

 

11. Atassi said:

“””Where is the outrage? Why are no Lebanese groups or parties speaking out against the indiscriminate pounding of the Palestinian refugee camps? And why it is not being reported–certainly not in Saudi/Hariri media nor in US media–that the fanatical takfiri groups, like Fath-Al-Islam, have been beneficiaries of Saudi/Hariri funding. Read the article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker.

Posted by As’ad at 9:50 AM 17 comments”””

— Seems your As’ad is very well informed personality indeed !! What a Joke !!!

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May 21st, 2007, 7:33 pm

 

12. Atassi said:

Another reckless adventures !!! Guess who will be paying the price for this childless none sense and reckless act of desperation !!! No comment

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May 21st, 2007, 7:37 pm

 

13. ausamaa said:

ATASSI,

WRT ur comment above, Assad Abu Khalil comments about the crime against the Palestinian civillians (the indiscrimenate pounding of the refugee camps) in the camps was the only one of its kind I encountered today and yesterday.

BTW, what did you not like about his remarks? And if you have not noticed, he is on “your side” of the fence as far as Syrian affairs are concerned!

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May 21st, 2007, 7:47 pm

 

14. Atassi said:

The fact being for the Palestinian civilians and other groups to allow this group to come and stay in the camp and establish a base was a fatal error. He needed to address this fact. The Lebanese army has the full right to extract this element and throw them in Hell as they belong to..
Ps. I thought you and Alex are on my side of the fence!!! 🙂 shame on you two if not !!!

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May 21st, 2007, 8:34 pm

 

15. ausamaa said:

Attasi….
You want the Palestinian “civillians” in the camps to prevent an “armed” Takferi group from operating in their midest??? Do yourself a real favore: grow up or get lost, whichever you can manage to do faster! Samir Ja”ja has more “human-sense” than you.

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May 21st, 2007, 9:24 pm

 

16. SimoHurtta said:

YES, the Syrian regime DOES benefit from anything that destabilizes the current Lebanese government, just as it benefits from any discord in Lebanon.

MSK might I ask you how does Syria (its regime) benefit from any disorder in Lebanon? Difficult to imagine how a chaotic Lebanon in civil war would benefit Syria and its regime in any way. What are the economical, military and diplomatic benefits for Syria? Certainly not economical (no trade and less Syrians working in Lebanon). Certainly not military (Syrian army can return only to Lebanon only if USA allows it (again)). Certainly not diplomatic (the isolation gets only worse).

Even in the Finnish television news a Finnish military “expert” told the interviewer that Syria is behind this. Naturally he (like other western experts) did not waste time in telling the audience why on earth should Syria escalate the situation just when Syria has had some minor diplomatic success in coming out of the isolation.

The number one explanation that Syria wants to create chaos to block the UN Hariri trial is rather difficult to understand. It is most certain that chaos in Lebanon only increases the will to start the trial.

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May 21st, 2007, 9:33 pm

 
 

18. Akbar Palace said:

Bilal said (and I’m almost falling off my chair in disbelief):

We Syrians should make it very clear to Israel that whatever peace treaty with Syria has to be signed by a democratically elected government in order to be respected by the Syrians.

The Israelis are realists. They know that day is centuries away. I’m a naive neocon, so I am hopeful that day is only a few years off.

But in any case, I share your thoughts. What’s the word? Inshallah?

Conspiracy theorist MSK states:

the true beneficiary of this crime: Panama.

…Come to think of it, do we even know for sure that those “Lebanese” troops are not, in fact, Israeli troops who just PRETEND to be Lebanese? (Or maybe they’re Panamanian – they do all look alike. And, in any case, just like THE media, each & every int’l shipping company is controlled by the Jews anyway …)

Either MSK has been victimized by the Arab media or he has a funny sense of humor.

SimoHurtta said:

MSK might I ask you how does Syria (its regime) benefit from any disorder in Lebanon?

SimoHurtta,

Syria has always benefited from disorder. Without disorder the Assads have nothing to do except sit on a throne and dream of Holy Golan. Without thinking too deeply, is it beyond the realm of possibilities that Syria could return to the “Western” part of Greater Syria?

As for me, I pray Israel stays South of the border and lets the international community (yawn) deal with this issue. And yes, you can bet the Hezzis will be calling soon.

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May 22nd, 2007, 1:00 am

 

19. Ziad said:

العربية.نت تكشف حقيقة قرابته بضابط استخبارات كبير
دعوى قضائية بسوريا ضد “مفاوض” شهير زار اسرائيل

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2007/05/21/34686.html

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May 22nd, 2007, 2:09 am

 

20. Ziad said:

Alex is on Holiday so it is super quite here… he is not ,he is occupied to give his soul and blood and repeats some qurdahi slogans.

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May 22nd, 2007, 3:50 am

 

21. Philip I said:

“Jones said that while the U.S. keeps a close eye on Syrian activity and is working to step up implementation of a U.N. arms embargo against Hezbollah, it sees no immediate Syrian military threat to Israel.”

“We certainly would view a build-up of force in Syria as a source of concern,” he said. “In this regard I would stress our commitment to the qualitative military edge for Israel.”

So, in the view of the US ambassador to Israel, Syria poses no military threat to Israel and the US will make sure it never will. Therefore, Syria can only negotiate with Israel from a position of weakness and give concessions, otherwise the occupation of the Golan continues.

Hafez Assad concluded in the mid 1970s that he would not even try to achieve military parity with Israel. This was not just because Syria could not afford the cost, or Russia would not supply advanced weapons systems, but also he knew that his narrowly-based regime would collapse if he were to lose another battle and another chunk of land to Israel (remember that he was our clever defence minister when Syria lost the Golan in 1967 and he bragged about total victory on day one of the 6-day war).

So for thirty years, our regime has done nothing except to build special forces and militias to protect itself against the population and cause trouble in neighbouring countries. By now, we could have built a strong and professional army that could pose a real threat to Israel. Negotiating from a position of weakness will not bring back the Golan it its entirety or guarantee peace in the future.

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May 22nd, 2007, 4:52 am

 

22. SimoHurtta said:

SimoHurtta,

Syria has always benefited from disorder. Without disorder the Assads have nothing to do except sit on a throne and dream of Holy Golan. Without thinking too deeply, is it beyond the realm of possibilities that Syria could return to the “Western” part of Greater Syria?

Well Akbar, you great political analyst, I rarely have read such a stupid comment as you made. Akbar you really do not “think deep”. Disorder in Lebanon makes getting “Holy Golan” back harder not easier. Even you should be able to figure out that.

I can think about several reasons why disorder in Lebanon (and other neighbouring countries) benefit Israel. = Israel doesn’t loose economically of disorder and makes continuing its despotic rule in the region easier. Why do you Akbar think that Sharon went to Lebanon in the past – to increase stability and create peace. 🙂

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May 22nd, 2007, 4:55 am

 

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