Waging Peace in Atlanta, by Britta Froelicher

Posted by Alex

Waging Peace in Atlanta

By Britta Froelicher

Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East Peace Education Program

Written for Syria Comment / 12-16-2008

Is peace about to break out between Syria and Israel?   Are the talks sponsored by the Turkish government going to lead to a lasting peace agreement between the two countries?  Will the Golan Heights be returned to Syrian control soon?  What part can Turkey play?  What about the new Obama Administration?  And how would this affect the regional balance?

Over seventy people gathered in a fully packed room in Atlanta to learn answers to these questions on December 16th.  The panel discussion featured the Honorable Imad Moustapha, Syrian Ambassador to the USA, and David Cuthell, Executive Director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown University, and was moderated by Dr Maia Hallward of Kennesaw State University.   The event was jointly organized by Britta Froelicher, Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East Peace Education Program, and Tarik Celik, Director of the Istanbul Center.  A second event scheduled for January 13, 2009 will feature the Honorable Reda Mansour, Israeli Consul General, and a similar format.

Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha

Dr. Mustapha gave details about his role as Syria’s representative in the US during the Bush years and the challenges of what he described as the lowest point in American-Syrian relations.  He reminded listeners that, while American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has stated that “Syria is the source of all problems” in the Middle East, in the three major conflicts in the region – Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon – Syria is not the occupying or invading power in any of them.

He reviewed the recent history of peacemaking efforts between Syria and Israel.  Syria and Israel are in a continuing state of war, he told the audience, and Israel continues to occupy the Golan Heights.  Over a quarter of a million Syrians are, according to the Ambassador, internal refugees from the Golan, while another 46,000 Syrians live under Israeli occupation and have almost no rights.
Despite this, he said, Syria remains committed to its strategic initiative for peace.  Its goal is to recover lands through peaceful means.  “Syria,” Dr Moustapha said, “believes it should give non-violence an opportunity.”

“For the past fifteen years,” he said, “Syria has not wavered on being willing to negotiate peace.  Israel has been the party that refused peace talks.   We lack from the Israeli side the presence of an Israeli leader who lacks the presence and the leadership to make peace with its northern neighbors.”
So far, he told the crowd, a peace treaty has almost happened twice. Yitzhak Rabin agreed to the principle of land for peace, putting this down in writing and gave to President Clinton in what Moustapha referred to as the ‘Rabin Deposit’.  Israel, at that time, was willing to withdraw from entire Golan in return for peace and peace talks began. The bilateral issues were not that contentious and a draft peace agreement quickly began to form. Unfortunately, the Rabin assassination led to collapse of peace talks and Prime Minister Netanyahu vehemently rejected the idea of land for peace.

Later on, Ehud Barak revived the same ideal of land for peace when he came to power in Israel.  The Rabin-era draft agreement was not used so the process started from zero. Again, the US served as broker and a second draft peace agreement was drawn up.  However, once again, Israeli politics intervened.  Barak stated that he was unwilling to lose an election by making peace first yet lost the election and no peace was made.  Then, Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister and, again, the categorical rejection of the notion of land for peace became Israeli policy while, under the Bush Administration, American views towards the peace process altered.  After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Syrian-American relations collapsed and, according to Ambassador Moustapha, the Americans began to advocate a policy of “isolation and regime change” towards Syria.

Into this atmosphere, Moustapha recalled, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began sending messages to the Syrians through intermediaries that he wanted peace talks and was stalled by the opposition of the Bush administration.

The discrediting of President Bush allowed an opportune moment for one country, Turkey. Turkey is well positioned in this role due to excellent relations with both Israel and Syria.  “Syria,” Moustapha stated, “is only allied to its own national interests and the Pan-Arab cause.”  Even so, Turkey is currently Syria’s largest trade partner and shares a long common border.  Dr. Moustapha also referred to the extraordinary personal chemistry between the leaders of Syria and Turkey, calling them “unprecedented” and stating that , on a personal level, the closest leaders to Syrian President Bashar Asad, were Reccep Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Qatar.

Dr Cuthell expanded further on Turkish Syrian relations and what Dr Moustapha had described as “wasted decades bickering and small petty hostilities with Turkey,” as well as on Turkish-Israeli relations. For many years, Turkey’s relations with Israel were based on what Cuthell called “a common anti-Arab view”.  During the Cold War, Turkey largely ignored its southern neighbors. That has changed in recent years as Turkey’s role with the Arabs has shifted. As Turkey has become more Islamicly oriented, Israel has “taken a fall”. Further, during the Intifada, Turks saw an explicitly Arab point-of-view and that won over a lot of people.   “Disdain for Arabs has decreased”, he noted.  At the same time, Turkey was deliberately working to improve relations with all its neighbors.

The current Justice and Development Party government began rethinking Turkey’s foreign policy and took note of Turkey’s central location.  With Syria, two of the key problems were water rights and the Kurdish issue.

“Turkey has an abundance of water,” Dr Cuthell pointed out and could use it as a tool for dealing with its neighbors.  Both speakers referred to how, when the Turks began building dams on the headwaters of the Euphrates, the Syrians became deeply concerned that their access to waters from the river would be limited. In 1998, the two countries came close to war over this. However, in recent years, the “whole issue vanished due to the growth of goodwill to manage bilateral issues,” Dr Moustapha noted.  “Turkey is now willing to give more water than requested.”  Where a will for good relations exist, he pointed out, such issues are always solvable.

In addition, in the 1990’s, Turkey accused Syria of giving haven to Abdallah Ocalan and others in the armed wing of the Kurdish separatist PKK guerilla movement.  When the Syrians made clear that they were no longer willing to do so, solutions became viable.

While Turkish-Syrian relations were becoming increasingly friendly, Turkey maintained its close connections to Israel.  Rather than seeing this as a hindrance, Ambassador Moustapha said, the Syrians saw an opportunity: “instead of trying to persuade Turkey to break relations with Israel, we think it is better to get the Turks to use their good office to try and find a solution.”  He characterized this as part of the general Syrian view that rather than persuading pro-Israel supporters to turn against it, it makes more sense to get them to support the Israeli peace camp.

In this context, the meetings in Istanbul between the three states promise a great deal.  Turkey has a topnotch diplomatic corps that engages in dialogue and will talk to anybody and is seen by both as an honest broker; historical ties and credibility are there on all sides.  The talks appear to be about to resume.  In a document released on December 15, the Syrian government has outlined their definition of six Geographical points that define the Golan Heights, including the eastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.  Disputes over this area led to a breakdown of talks in 2000. The area of square miles was controlled by Syria until 1967, the Syrians point out, though the Israelis argue that, under the British mandate, it was a part of Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is once again preparing to travel to Istanbul to further peace efforts.

Many in the audience wondered if is it possible for Syria and Israel to achieve peace without the US serving as an honest broker. “I have a problem with the term honest and impartial applying to the US,” Dr. Moustapha responded. “The chief four negotiators of the US during the Clinton Administration, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Robert Malley, and Aaron David Miller, none of them claimed to be impartial. Of course, the US is absolutely pro-Israel. When the US tries to negotiate between Israel and the Arabs, it always does from a pro-Israel point. The US opposes any occupation except for Israel and the US will blindly support Israel … we do believe, despite that, there is a role for the USA and without it peace cannot be achieved. It hasn’t happened yet because of American opposition. The Turks were able to kick-start the peace process and were willing to take the risk. The Turkish ambassador reminded me yesterday how upset the US was when they learned of the talks. Even in Syria, the belief is that the USA is the only country with leverage on Israel and, had it not been for the US veto, there’d be a stack of UN resolutions. Had any other country done what Israel has done in Gaza, the whole world community would visit it with its wrath.  … We still need the US to come and play a role in the peace talks.  The US is morally responsible for Israeli actions and … since the invasion of Iraq, the USA has decided to become a part of the region. Now the US has a double responsibility to the region.”

Dr Cuthell noted that the US has very little role as interlocutor but will clearly have a role as guarantor of any peace agreement. At the present time, though, he said that the US doesn’t have credibility in the region. Certainly, he noted, the US cannot offer troops to guarantee a peace but could offer verification. He stated that he “expects a tremendous rebound for the US in the coming year” and thinks that the USA can regain credibility in the region.  All parties are looking for an America that is committed to using diplomacy and solving problems.

Both speakers noted that, if peace comes between Israel and Syria, Lebanon will definitely benefit. “The Lebanese and Syrian tracks are intertwined,” Dr Moustapha stated.  “Most probably, peace between Israel and Syria will lead automatically to peace between Israel and Lebanon.  Israel will never know security as long as a policy of occupation remains.  The only way for Israel to secure its northern borders is by ending the conflict and signing peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon.”
The two speakers, however, clashed over the role of Iran in Lebanon.  “Iranian influence has potential to create a lot of mischief,” Dr Cuthell noted.  On the other hand, Dr Moustapha said he was “unsure how the Iranian presence is destabilizing when the President of Lebanon just said the opposite.”  He further wondered, “why should Syria be ashamed of having good relations with Iran?  What did Iran ever do to us?” and recounted the past of Arab-Iranian relations.  He contrasted this with Israeli policy in Lebanon, bringing attention specifically to the use of cluster bombs dropped in mass numbers in 2006.  “From Morocco to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, “ he reminded the audience, “Hezbollah is highly regarded as a national liberation movement.  The overwhelming majority of Arabs are very proud of Hezbollah.” 

Over all, both speakers seemed to feel that the potential for real peace was strong, especially with the presence of a new American administration. However, Israeli politics might yet again prevent it. “In the past Israeli foreign policy has fallen victim to domestic policy,” Ambassador Moustapha noted. “If Kadima and its allies win, then Tzipi Livni will become Prime Minister, and then peace will go ahead. On the other hand, if Bibi wins, then there will be no peace talks at all. However, many prominent Jewish figures in the USA have told me that despite Netanyahu saying there are no peace talks, these are only electioneering …. And Netanyahu has to deal with the new American president.” 

Both expect to see a real will for peace emerge and definite steps towards confidence building on all sides.  If this happens, they expect that Turkey will play the role of an honest broker; the historical ties and credibility are there with both parties. Probably, the US will not play nearly as central a role as in the last century. But conversations towards real peace will likely emerge.

“Turkey will probably be the place,” the Ambassador said, “where these conversations happen and where we can look for peace in the Middle East.”

Comments (24)


1. Alex said:

Dear Britta,

Thank you for taking the time to share with us the highlights of this interesting event. We are lucky that you are a fellow Syria Comment reader!

It is interesting that Ambassador Moustapha continues to sound upbeat about hte future of the peace talks, yet he states that if Bibi is elected (which is a very likely outcome) then Israel will stop those peace talks.

Another interesting answer from the discussion that followed, is the “most probably” that peace with Syria will automatically be followed with peace with Lebanon.

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December 19th, 2008, 4:28 am

 

2. norman said:

Olmert: Peace treaty with Syria possible
Says removing country from ‘axis of evil’ is in Israel’s best interest

updated 12:58 p.m. ET, Thurs., Dec. 18, 2008
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that it is possible to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Syria.

Olmert said that the indirect Israel-Syria talks mediated by Turkey over the past several months can lead to direct negotiations. He told a conference of the Institute for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, “A peace treaty with Syria can be achieved.”

Olmert also called for efforts for peace with the Palestinians, while warning that Iran threatens the region, not just Israel.

Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. Peace talks broke down in 2000.

Return of the Golan Heights
Syria demands return of the Golan Heights, a strategic territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel insists on full peace in return. The peace talks ended eight years ago with the two sides near agreement but unable to bridge the final gaps. The indirect talks began earlier this year.

Olmert said a peace treaty would break the ties between Syria and Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. “Syria does not have to be part of the axis of evil,” he said. “Syria wants to reconnect with the West and the United States. Removing Syria from the axis of evil is an Israeli interest.”

Olmert could not guarantee success in peace talks. He said, “How will we know if we don’t try? How can we try if we are not prepared to take any risks?”

Olmert plans to travel to Turkey next week for meetings where the talks with Syria are likely to be discussed.

‘Painful concessions’
Olmert called for serious negotiations toward a peace treaty with the Palestinians, though that would require “painful concessions.”

The Likud Party leads in polls ahead of Feb. 10 elections, and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said that he would concentrate on economic cooperation instead of a peace treaty. He has also opposed trading the Golan Heights for peace with Syria.

Olmert warned, “An Israeli government that does not show flexibility, political initiative and readiness for significant and painful compromises to win peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians is liable to be pushed into a corner, bring on itself harsh international criticism that would be harmful from the security and economic points of view.”

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December 19th, 2008, 4:35 am

 

3. Leila Abu-Saba said:

This article will get linked on my blog as a Sign of Hope.

I just blogged a shoe protest at the White House – Code Pink throws shoes in honor of the Iraqi war dead. I’ll blog your sign of hope tomorrow, after the shoe link gets some exposure.

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December 19th, 2008, 6:22 am

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

Leila abu-Saba,

Can you explain to the forum why Code Pink never threw shoes when Saddam Hussein was in power during his 35 year reign?

In comparison, far many more Iraqis died under his self-appointed “leadership”.

Thanks,

AP

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December 19th, 2008, 11:53 am

 

5. Nour said:

AP,

You’re still posting propaganda. Nowhere near as many Iraqis were killed by Saddam than were killed by Bush. Moreover, Bush is an OCCUPIER, plain and simple, and people do not like to be occupied by a foreign power, especially one that proceeds to destroy their country and tear up their social fabric. Bush is a criminal, no matter how you like to spin it, and he deserves much more than a shoe at his face.

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December 19th, 2008, 12:51 pm

 

6. norman said:

Israel opposition leader dismisses Syria talks

Published: December 19, 2008
Israeli right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured on a trip to Paris, on Friday dismissed peace efforts with Syria led by interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. (AFP Eric Feferberg)

TOOLBAR
Print StoryJERUSALEM, (AFP) Israeli right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday dismissed peace efforts with Syria led by interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
“The concessions made by the Olmert-Livni government to the Syrians do not and will not obligate a government that I shall head,” Netanyahu, a former prime minister, told Israeli public radio.

Netanyahu, of the Likud party, leads opinion polls ahead of February 10 elections that will determine who will replace Olmert, followed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Olmert heads to Ankara on Monday to discuss Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria that were launched in May.

He stressed on Thursday that “a peace accord with Syria is in the realm of the possible.”

He said the talks “have proven that there is a substantial chance to advance towards a peace agreement and they pave the way to direct negotiations.”

But critics, even within the governing Kadima party, insist that as caretaker premier Olmert has no mandate to negotiate.

“If one day an accord with Syria is possible it will be reached by a duly mandated government,” said Tzahi Hanegbi who heads the parliamentary foreign affairs and defence committee.

“It is not credible that a transition government which has no mandate should solve in a few weeks a conflict that has lasted several decades,” he said.

Israel and Syria have held four rounds of Turkish-brokered indirect discussions since the peace efforts were relaunched in May.

The talks were put on hold shortly after Olmert announced on July 30 he would step down over a series of corruption allegations.

Direct negotiations were frozen eight years ago after Israel baulked at Syrian demands for the return of the whole of the occupied Golan Heights, right down to the Sea of Galilee, the Jewish state’s main water source.

Israel seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981, in a move unrecognised by the international community.

© 2008 Agence France-Presse

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December 19th, 2008, 1:57 pm

 

7. norman said:

Shai, This is for you,

Meridor ‘Working Very Hard’ to Create Golan Giveaway Coalition

by Gil Ronen

(IsraelNN.com) Former Minister Dan Meridor said Thursday in a behind the scenes conversation at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv that he is “working very hard” and “making every effort” to convince Binyamin Netanyahu to “make history” by changing Israel’s posture towards Syria and the idea of ceding the Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty.

Meridor, who chaired one of the sessions in Thursday’s exclusive conference on Security Challenges of the 21st Century said this in a private – but not very quiet – conversation with one of Israel’s top advertisers and strategic advisors, Moshe Teomim, after the session ended.

Teomim (left) talks to Meridor as tycoon Alfred Akirov listens.
Israel News photo / Gil Ronen
Another influential figure at the conference told conidantes that Meridor, who supported Kadima in the previous election but recently rejoined Likud, told him he was ‘working hard’ to put together a Likud coalition with Labor and Kadima.

Netanyahu has said that he is interested in creating a coalition with Kadima and Labor.

In his speech at the conference, Meridor said it was of the utmost importance for Israel to move ‘very quickly’ and make its diplomatic positions known to the new United States administration, before the window of opportunity closes. “President Obama has the world’s trust and we should utilize this,” he explained.

Teomim Says He Sold Bibi ‘Economic Peace’
In the same conversation after the INSS conference, Teomim boasted to Meridor that it was he, Teomim, who sold Netanyahu on the idea of advocating an “economic peace” with the Palestinian Authority. “I gave [the idea] to him ten months ago,” Teomim said. He added that in retrospect, however, he thinks the idea was not a very good one.

Netanyahu has made talk of an “economic peace” his staple answer when asked about diplomatic initiatives vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Olmert with Prof. Itamar Rabinovich. Alfred Akirov is at center.
Israel News photo / Gil Ronen
Meridor also told Teomim that he agreed with nearly everything that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his speech before the conference. He said that his only points of disagreement with Olmert were regarding the Second Lebanon War, which Meridor thinks Olmert bungled, and the “attack on the justice system” by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. Olmert’s speech was largely devoted to the prospects of peace with Syria.

Teomim owns the Gitam/BBDO advertising firm and soccer team Hapoel Tel Aviv. For many years, he served as Shimon Peres’s close advisor. Peres, now Israel’s President, is the former head of the Labor party and an architect of the Oslo accords.

Meridor has publicly voiced support for negotiations over the Golan with Syria.

From the People Who Brought Us the Disengagement
Meridor is considered very close to Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch. This matter came under journalistic debate when Merisor’s name was floated as a possible Justice Minister in 2006. According to Attorney Yossi Dar, Meridor and Beinisch routinely go out with their families “to concerts, holiday trips etc.”

Meridor’s name has also been mentioned as a possible Minister of Justice in Binyamin Netanyahu’s future government. Another candidate is Gideon Saar. Saar was an aide to both Beinisch and Arbel and is also considered very close to them. According to a Haaretz report, however, the post will probably be offered first to former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin if the Likud forms the next government.

According to reports in Haaretz and other sources, Teomim and Meridor were both present at a series of meetings that were held at industrialist Dov Lautman’s office in late 2003, which included former Shin Bet Israel Security Agency heads Ami Ayalon and Yaakov Perry; Dalia Rabin, daughter of slain Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin; and Labor strategic advisor Tal Zilberstein. The meetings were reportedly intended to “motivate Ariel Sharon to initiate a move to dismantle settlements” and led to the Disengagement from Gaza. Lautman was also present at the conference Thursday.

Sadat All Over Again?
Meridor’s brother, Salai, compared the current Turkish moderated Syrian talks with former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s efforts to reach a peace agreement with Israel in the 1970s, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and the ceding of the Sinai Penninsula.

“If they choose to move à la Sadat, then we’ll know that we have contributed to a significant change for the better, not only for us, but for the world,” Meridor told The Washington Times.

“A peace treaty would lower the possibility of war, break the strategic ties between Damascus and Teheran, lead to the expulsion of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas headquarters from Syria and would stop the cash flow to Hizbullah,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the INSS conference Thursday.

Olmert said that a deal with Syria would cause it to break away from the “axis of evil,” thus severing the connection between Iran and its proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas.

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December 19th, 2008, 2:31 pm

 

8. Ghat Albird said:

“Read the extract cited below from an Israeli website that the UN, US and Russia will pre-empt any actions that Bibi anticipates taking once he becomes PM.”

US, UN try to handcuff Israel before Netanyahu is elected.

At the urging of the US government, the UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution declaring peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians “irreversible.”

The resolution makes no room for changing circumstances or non-compliance by the parties involved.

It appears to have been passed in response to Israeli prime ministerial frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated intention to alter the flow of the peace process as a result of Palestinian non-compliance.

The opening resolution, which was co-sponsored by the US and Russia, refers to the Security Council’s “commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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December 19th, 2008, 2:40 pm

 

9. Akbar Palace said:

Where was Code Pink when Saddam was in power?

Nour said:

You’re still posting propaganda. Nowhere near as many Iraqis were killed by Saddam than were killed by Bush.

Nour,

I don’t post propaganda, I post fact. Moreover, the number the anti-war IBC comes up with does NOT distinguish between civilians and combatants (aka insurgents).

Over 250 sites have been reported, of which approximately 40 have been confirmed to date. Over one million Iraqis are believed to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to be in mass graves.

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/27000.htm

http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

BTW – The US (legal) occupation is currently being carried out at the request of the Iraqi government and the UN.

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December 19th, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

10. AIG said:

AP,

Saddam was an occupier of Iraq by definition since he was a dictator. He assereted himself by FORCE over the Iraqis, most of which did not want him. So what if he is Iraqi? Say that the US would have appointed a fully Iraqi government headed by Iraqi exiles. Would then Nour say it was not an occupation? No, he would call it a puppet regime and an occupation even though it was headed by Iraqis. This is what in fact he calls the Saudi and Egyptian regimes as well as the current Iraqi government. What in fact Nour looks at is whether the government is a US ally or not. He does not care about the welfare of the people or their right to try to be democratic, he cares about US “hegemony”.

The underlying problem is Arab nationalism. The problem is that it is a good idea but impossible to implement because there is no Arab nation. There are a bunch of warring tribes and clans and sects and ethnic and religious minorities which cannot find anything in common. The only way they can live together is under a dictator. So the Arab nationalists have sold their soul to the dictators in order to maintain the facade of Arab nationalism in the faint hope that this is how Arab nationalism will emerge. The problem is that having the dictators takes a huge toll on Arab societies and makes them laggards in development and modernism. So in the end, the price for the faint hope of Arab nationalism is too high and will leave the Arabs in a worse position.

Eventually, as democracy comes to the middle east, many smaller autonomous regions will emerge that will allow real nation building. A good example is the Kurdish region of Iraq. But this will take decades. In the meantime, it is the Arab people that will continue paying the price as the current dictators will be replaced by Islamic ones.

If I were an Arab, I would demand that the US interfere in Arab countries and help setup democracies. I would tell the US to learn the lessons from Iraq and make the next intervention better instead of just accepting the current dictators as a fait accompli. That is the only way to get rid of the dictators. The Arabs cannot do it by themselves.

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December 19th, 2008, 3:37 pm

 

11. Nour said:

AP,

You’re posting propaganda. Claims made by the US State Department are not facts, they are American propaganda aimed at justifying American policies and actions. As for Iraqbodycount.org, their estimates of Iraqi dead are nowhere near realistic. They only post deaths that are reported and officially recorded. The Lancet and Opinion Research Business have given much more accurate accounts of actual Iraqis dead after the US invasion.

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December 19th, 2008, 4:36 pm

 

12. Shai said:

Norman,

Dan Meridor is a wise man. I’ve heard him speak on numerous occasions, and I’m glad he’s back. I was somewhat surprised at his choice to return to the Likud (as the article points out, he supported Kadima in the last election), but perhaps he’s like me, accepting that only the Right can realistically deliver a peace agreement, because it automatically has the support of the entire Left, plus some on the right. Perhaps Meridor is interested in being in the only place that could make these dramatic changes. If what the article says is true, and he is indeed working very hard on convincing Bibi to go the Syrian track, then we may yet see some surprising developments in the coming months.

If, on the other hand, Bibi adopts his peace-for-peace ideology, also beyond the campaign, then we’re in for another 3-4 years of violence and bloodshed. Somehow, I must say, I doubt he’ll let it happen. He wants to be written down in the history books as the man who brought an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I’m sure of it.

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December 19th, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

13. Shami said:

Bashar Asad should solve his problems with the syrian civil society and intellectuals before looking for a deal with the israelis and the americans.I hope that the world will not give him the cover that enjoyed his father before him.
Even if timid ,Such as this european moderate protest published in the french government site may show that Europe is going in the right direction in its talks with the regime.There must be no deals at the expense of the syrian people if not the future of Syria and Bashar himself will be hazardous.

http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/europe_828/presidence-francaise-du-conseil-union-europeenne-juillet-decembre-2008_19010/pesc_19034/decembre-2008_19282/syrie-ue-deplore-maintien-detention-michel-kilo-mahmoud-issa-19.12.08_69553.html

Syrie : l’UE déplore le maintien en détention de Michel Kilo et Mahmoud Issa (19 décembre 2008)

Déclaration de la Présidence au nom de l’Union européenne

L’Union européenne déplore la décision de la Cour de cassation syrienne refusant la libération anticipée de Michel Kilo et Mahmoud Issa.

Sans vouloir se prononcer sur la légalité de la procédure suivie, l’Union européenne demande la libération immédiate de MM. Kilo et Issa, condamnés pour avoir simplement appelé les gouvernements syrien et libanais à normaliser leurs relations et à délimiter leurs frontières en signant la « Déclaration Damas/Beyrouth Beyrouth/Damas ».

En cette année de célébration du 60ème anniversaire de la déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme, l’Union européenne attend des autorités syriennes qu’elles respectent leurs engagements internationaux, en particulier au titre de cette Déclaration et du Pacte International relatif aux droits civils et politiques, que la Syrie a signé et ratifié en 1969.

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December 19th, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

14. Idit said:

“He reminded listeners that, while American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has stated that “Syria is the source of all problems” in the Middle East, in the three major conflicts in the region – Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon – Syria is not the occupying or invading power in any of them.”?

Imad Moustapha is such a crook.

Syria is nothing but a troublemaker.

knowingly harbouring Al-Qaida operatives on their way to Iraq, supporting Hamas and Hizballah financially and militarily and the list goes on.

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December 19th, 2008, 9:39 pm

 

15. Akbar Palace said:

Nour,

It is no surprise that you are in denial.

The Middle East would do a lot better if they held their leaders to the same standard they hold Americans and Israelis.

More propaganda:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/oct/13/iraq

http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/view.php?articleID=3040

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December 19th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 
 

17. trustquest said:

The image which many tried to gvie to the Syrian president as secular intellegenet is completely contradict the forces in action and the forces building up strength inside Syria. It is lilke he is building his enmies.

Syria: Terror’s made-to-order milieu

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JL20Ak02.html

By Michael Scheuer:served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in 2004. He served as the chief of the Bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is the once anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror; his most recent book is Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. Dr Scheuer is a Senior Fellow with The Jamestown Foundation.

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December 19th, 2008, 10:58 pm

 

18. Nour said:

AP,

I’m not the one who is in denial. You want to pretend that the US is a force of good and that the Iraqis should feel blessed to have the honor of US troop presence on their soil. You want to deny that the US has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and that it has destroyed the entire country. I never denied the brutality of Saddam, nor do I pretend that he was a good guy. But there are certain social and political circumstances in our region that have led to the rise of these dictators. Part of the problem has always been US interference in the region and their creation of continuous instability. And whatever the relation between the people there and their leaders, this does not give a right to the US to obliterate an entire country and reduce it to chaos and lawlessness.

As for the links you provided, they are merely reports of American claims by western media sources. I do not deny that there were a lot of people killed during Saddam’s rule, but most were victims of the Iran-Iraq war and its surrounding consequences. This is not to deny that there were many people tortured and killed by the thugs of Saddam, but again, that still doesn’t justify US occupation of Iraq, and to criticize Iraqis for opposing this occupation is downright hypocritical.

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December 19th, 2008, 11:26 pm

 

19. Ken Hoop said:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/dec/16/dick-cheney-iraq-war-wmd

Scott Ritter confirms the US occupation far more brutal than Saddam Hussein’s rule.

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December 20th, 2008, 1:00 am

 

20. Akbar Palace said:

AIG,

Exactly. Anything America does is horrible, and anything my anti-American despot does to me, my family, and my country is just fine.

If I were an Arab, I would demand that the US interfere in Arab countries and help setup democracies.

AIG,

Correction: If you were an enlightened Arab, who has not yet been brainwashed by the government-controlled media and clergy.

As for the links you provided, they are merely reports of American claims by western media sources.

Nour,

The uncovering of the 300,000 dead in Saddam’s mass graves was accomplished by the internation efforts of several countries.

…but most were victims of the Iran-Iraq war and its surrounding consequences.

Really? All the graves were on the Iranian border? I’m not sure of that. I’m not sure the bodies in the graves were that old.

And please, tell us more about the “surrounding consequences”. I find it facinating how one excuses the Arab thug so richly, yet never let’s the Americans off the hook for anything. And the insurgents. When will you and Code Pink be throwing your shoes at jihadists?

Ken Hoop,

How how was “the US occupation far more brutal than Saddam Hussein’s rule” if over 3 times more Iraqis died under Hussein?

BTW – YNET is reporting some sort of “breakthrough” between the GOI and the GOS. Will Assad be meeting Olmert??

Stay tuned….

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December 20th, 2008, 3:24 am

 

21. Nour said:

AP,

How many people died in the US under Abraham Lincoln’s rule? Wasn’t it in the millions? Do you find it excusable in that case that millions had to die because Lincoln insisted that the Union must be preserved? And would you have found it justifiable for a superpower to take over the US and overthrow the government because mass graves would have been found of dead Americans?

Iraq was in an eight-year war with Iran that was encouraged and supported by the US. The war resulted in many deaths on both sides of the border. In addition, while in the middle of the war with Iran, the Kurds were armed and encouraged by the US to rise up against the Iraqi government. Saddam responded by blasting Kurdish regions, as he wasn’t going to allow the Kurds to overthrow his regime or to secede from Iraq. Many people were killed and that is very unfortunate, just as it was unfortunate that millions of Americans had to lose their lives in the US Civil War. But that doesn’t justify what the US did to Iraq, and it should be considered a serious crime by any standards. When 5% of the population is killed, 20% displaced, and a whole generation pretty much erased, how can it be considered as anything but a heinous crime against humanity? In a just world, Bush would be tried for war crimes.

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December 20th, 2008, 6:09 am

 

22. Idit said:

Alex

The syrian regime, Not Syria.

I stand corrected.

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December 20th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

23. Jihad said:

Eli Khoury is nothing more than a right-wing fanatic who wants us to believe that he is “civilized”. He is as those fanatics like him in the Guardian of Cedars and the Lebanese Forces. Back in 2007, he told Michael Totten, a Zionist fanatic like him, “99 percent of our problems are Syrian. “An Alawite government in Syria is good for us. Just not this Alawite government. Anything, even a bin Ladenist government, would be better than the Baath government.” I understand why Eli Khoury wants a ben Ladenist government in Syria because he is already in bed, not only with fanatic Zionists, but also with fanatic Wahhabis who enjoy the all the sleaze they see in some quarters in Beirut which “love life”. Speaking about the 2006 Zionist aggression on Lebanon, Eli Khoury has said: “If the Israelis were smarter there would be a lot more pro-Israeli opinion in Lebanon,” adding that “Most of us – [i.e. those who love the sleaze life in Beirut] sympathized with Israel’s response for the first couple of days, until they bombed the airport.” And this Eli Khoury, who pretends to work for the renaissance of Lebanon, although a Zionist-Wahhabi-Sleazy one, wanted to blockade Muslim Shiites areas in Lebanon and bombard them. There will be renaissance in Lebanon only when Fanatic-Wahhabis-Sleazy people like Eli Khoury are behind bars.

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December 22nd, 2008, 1:44 pm

 

24. St. Andrews, Syria and the “heritage” of Hafez al-Assad said:

[…] wife Britta Froelicher had a deep political interest in Syria. She has previously hosted a political event in which she invited the Syrian ambassador to the USA – Imad Moustapha – to explain […]

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June 18th, 2011, 5:35 pm

 

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