What Happened on Day One of Annapolis?

In this news round up on the Annapolis Conference, I begin with the significance of President Bush's opening remarks.

Here is the text of Bush's Speech on Monday, made at the opening ceremonies of the conference. Bush's words will probably be the most important aspect of the conference. We all want to hear him take "possession" of the peace process. He did not do this on Monday. Instead, he repeated the standard pablum of the last 7 years.

Bush's speech cannot be read as promising for Syria. Syria was not mentioned.

The stress was on Democracy – Democracy as a precondition for any concessions to Palestinians.

The only concrete help for Palestinians offered by Washington was to assist democratic "capacity building." Bush avoided any mention of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is the basis of international law and has been the starting point for all previous peace efforts. He stressed that peace must come through a "negotiated settlement," which is code for the Palestinians giving up hunks of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. "Negotiated Settlement" rejects international law and the 1967 borders and accepts the concept of a solution based on the balance of power between Israelis and Palestinians, which is very lopsided in Israel's favor. It means Palestinians will have to accept further land loss. Many were hoping that Bush would backtrack on his previous promise to Israel that it would not have to return to 1967 borders and could keep settled parts of the West Bank. Bush did not backtrack. Instead he seemed to confirm his previous promise by not mentioning 242. Here is the key paragraph.

The Israelis must do their part. They must show the world that they are ready to begin — bring an end to the occupation that began in 1967 through a negotiated settlement. This settlement will establish Palestine as a Palestinian homeland, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. Israel must demonstrate its support for the creation of a prosperous and successful Palestinian state by removing unauthorized outposts, ending settlement expansion and finding other ways for the Palestinian Authority to exercise its responsibilities without compromising Israel’s security.

The only oblique reference to Syria was a reference to Lebanon. Bush stressed the important of cultivating "Democracy" in Lebanon, which is code for defeating Hizbullah and empowering Sunni Lebanese and Saad Hariri's Future Movement over Shiites, pushing out Syrian influence, and defeating the Lebanese opposition. He made no mention of Lebanese compromise or a negotiated settlement, which must have been music to the ears of the March 14 movement.

Bush to Syria: Leave Lebanon alone
Nov. 27 (UPI) —

U.S. President George Bush on Tuesday used a Middle East peace conference to warn Syria against interfering in Lebanon's effort to elect a new president.

Some 40 nations are attending the conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where Bush announced an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to begin talks on a peace treaty immediately.

Toward the end of his remarks, Bush turned his attention to Lebanon, which has been divided by pro- and anti-Syrian factions. Bush urged the Arab world to let democracy prevail.

"The Lebanese people are (in the) process of electing a president. That decision is for the Lebanese people to make, and they must be able to  do so free from outside interference and intimidation," Bush urged. "As they embark on this process, the people of Lebanon can know that the American people stand with them and we look forward to the day when the people of Lebanon can enjoy the blessings of liberty without fear of violence or coercion."~

The following is a selection of articles:

Syria informed Mesha’l and Tehran that “Golan is a national priority, Hamidi, al-Hayat (Translation by mideastwire.com)

Ibrahime Al-Humaydi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 27: “Knowledgeable sources confirmed to Al-Hayat yesterday on the eve of the convening of the international conference in Annapolis that peace with Israeli is a “strategic choice” for Syria. The sources stressed the importance of Israel “withdrawing from all occupied Arab lands” and the importance of the conference acting as a “launching pad” for negotiations along all the peace tracks. Palestinian sources announced to Al-Hayat that the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem received yesterday the head of the Hamas politburo Khaled Mesha’l after he met with the Iranian ambassador in Damascus Hassan Akhtari. The sources added that Al-Muallem “explained to Mesha’l and Akhtari the reasons behind Syria’s decision to attend the conference”.

“The sources announced that Al-Muallem “focused on the status of the Golan Heights as a top national priority for the Syrians and that it is not right to convene an international peace conference without discussing the Golan issue whether it had a serious chance of launching serious negotiations or if it was just a platform for reciting attitudes and points of view”. Syrian officials pointed to the statement issued by the late Syrian president Hafiz Al-Assad ahead of the launching of the peace process in Madrid in 1991 in which he announced: “it is not right for the nation that a conference to solve the Arab-Israeli struggle be convened while the issue of the Golan Heights is not included in its agenda”. The Syrian delegation to the conference is headed by the deputy foreign minister Faisal Al-Miqdad…

“Syrian sources clarified to Al-Hayat that Damascus’s attitude is based on the fact that “peace was and still is a strategic option”. After the sources noted that the past seven years were distinguished by two things: the absence of the peace process from the agenda of the American president George Bush and the lack of a political will for peace in the government of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, they noted that the Syrian officials “remained steadfast in their attitude calling for resuming the peace negotiations and stressing the necessity of working towards just and comprehensive peace vis-à-vis the Israeli refusals and American obstructions”…” – Al-Hayat

Report: Bush, Rice won't address Golan issue
Jerusalme Post

Neither US President George W. Bush nor Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will mention Syria or the future of the Golan Heights in their speeches Tuesday, Channel 10 quoted a State Department official as saying Monday.

However, the official said, Syria's delegate to the parley, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad, would be permitted to address the Golan issue if he wished.

The report comes after an editorial in the Syrian daily Tishrin published Monday declared that Syria would " attend the Annapolis conference in order to examine the US's commitment to peace."

According to the writer, the Syrians are pessimistic because of the Americans' past history.

"Syria agreed to attend the Annapolis conference but it is not naïve. [Syria] knows Israel does not want peace and is responsible for the seven-year hiatus in the peace process."

Syria's quest to regain Golan takes new shape
Reuters – By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Under the gaze of an Israeli tank, Syrian bulldozers slice through rocky terrain to build roads just inside a ceasefire line separating the occupied Golan Heights from the rest of Syria.

Apartment blocks will follow for thousands of refugees on land facing their hilltop village of Adnanieh, which was lost to Israel in battle 40 years ago along with the rest of the Golan, a fertile plateau south of Damascus.

More than 1,000 flats for refugees from Adnanieh are planned, and infrastructure is being laid out for housing schemes facing other occupied villages, government engineer Hilal al-Ghaeb told Reuters.

"These projects are a message to Israel. The refugees will no longer be scattered in slums and camps all around Syria. Soon they will live here and stare right at their Israeli occupiers," Ghaeb said.

The Golan is at the focus of Syria's participation in the U.S. sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which starts on Tuesday….

Among Golan refugees, who number 600,000, counting their descendants, Annapolis meanS little.

"Israel is feeling very comfortable with U.S. support higher than ever and the Arabs in shambles. I look daily across this line and see Israeli settlers cultivating more of our land," Hassan Ibrahim said.  Continued…

The Annapolis Summit
Sami Moubayed
Annapolis Has No Legitimacy Without Syria
November 26, 2007: Washington Post Global

Syria finally decided on November 25 to attend the U.S. peace conference in Annapolis. This came only after the U.S. incorporated the Golan Heights issue into the conference agenda, after Syrian protests that it would not attend unless the occupied Heights were on the conference table. Had Syria not chosen to attend, the conference would have been doomed to fail. The reason is simple: the Americans cannot talk peace in the Middle East without Syria.

Not much has changed in terms of Syrian demands towards the Middle East peace process since Madrid, 1991. I’ll first detail the story here at length, because I believe it to be a prelude to what will happen at Annapolis on November 27.

On March 6, 1991, after the liberation of Kuwait, President George Bush Sr. gave his famed victory speech, saying: “We must do all that we can to close the gap between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The Syrians believed him and showed enthusiasm towards what came to be known as the Madrid Peace Conference. The Israelis, led at the time by Yitzhak Shamir, did not. They were distracted by an international conference, co-sponsored by the U.S.S.R., which would bring them face-to-face with all of the Arab countries.

Seven days later, Bush sent his Secretary of State James Baker to meet President Hafez al-Assad in Damascus. Before the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Edward Djerjian advised, “Nobody can predict how long this meeting’s going to last. So be careful how much you drink. Assad will not leave the room. If you drink too much, the forces of nature will overcome you!”

After the meeting, Baker told the U.S. President, “Assad gave me the clear impression that he is serious about pursuing peace, but that he will be a tough nut to crack!” Assad told his American guest: “A peace conference should not be convened just once and then disappear. The conference should be re-convened whenever necessary.” Assad insisted that the U.N. co-sponsor the event, but Baker replied, “Mr. President, the Israelis will not accept the United Nations—they hate the United Nations.” Baker promised a U.S. guarantee to get the Israelis to withdraw from the Golan. The Syrians went along with that—and the rest is history. …..

The Syrians were, and still are, unimpressed by the Israeli conditions for peace, which included halting Syria's cooperation with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

All of these recent events help explain why the Syrians are worried as they head off to Annapolis. Countries interested in peace don’t go around flying into their neighbor’s airspace without permission, especially when the two countries are in a state of war. They don’t fire missiles into other countries’ territory. The last time I checked, this was called ‘war-making’ rather than ‘peace-making.’ But despite all that, the Syrians have been committed to peace since Madrid and are willing to try Annapolis. But it’s doubtful that Annapolis will lead to a breakthrough, with George W. Bush in the White House, and Ehud Olmert in power in Tel Aviv.

The real goal at Annapolis
Mohamad Bazzi, Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow
November 27, 2007
Christian Science Monitor

This week's Mideast summit in Annapolis, Md., is bound to fail – unless the Bush administration makes sure that the gathering leads to renewed Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. That could be the first step to ending Syria's isolation and giving its renegade regime fresh incentive to reform. …

The Annapolis summit is a crucial opportunity to woo Syria away from its increasing reliance on Iran and North Korea. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can actually deliver on a peace deal with Israel – unlike the weak Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of the Gaza Strip to the militant group Hamas in June. The Israeli-Syrian peace track can move faster than Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, where the two sides are still far apart on the central issues: Israeli settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees, and the final status of Jerusalem. ….

Syria's leaders have consistently said that full peace is possible, but only if they recover all of the Golan. In 2000, President Bill Clinton led marathon talks between Assad's father, Hafez, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Those discussions collapsed over a sliver of land that would have given Syria access to the Sea of Galilee, a major source of water for Israel. To reach a final settlement, the US must push Israel and Syria back to negotiations – without preconditions. ….

Mohamad Bazzi, who was Newsday's Middle East bureau chief for four years, is the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Condi's Road to Damascus | 11/27
GLOBAL VIEW By BRET STEPHENS Wall Street Journal

Remember Nancy Pelosi's spring break in Damascus? Condoleezza Rice apparently does not. When the House Speaker paid Syrian strongman Bashar Assad a call back in April, President Bush denounced her for sending "mixed signals" that "lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact they are a state sponsor of terror." Today, said sponsor of terror will take its place at the table Ms. Rice has set for the Middle Eastern conference at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

[Bashar Assad]

Only at Foggy Bottom would Syria's last-minute decision to go to Annapolis be considered a diplomatic triumph. The meeting is supposed to inaugurate the resumption of high-level negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, with a view toward finalizing a deal on Palestinian statehood before the administration leaves office. On a deeper plane of geopolitical subtlety, it is supposed to bring Israel and the Arab world together in tacit alliance against Iran.

This raises three significant questions. First, how does Syria's presence at Annapolis affect those goals? Next, how does Syria's presence affect U.S. policy toward Syria? And what effect, if any, will all this have on Syria's behavior in the region?

Much is being made of the fact that, in accepting the administration's invitation, Syria apparently reversed a previous decision, coordinated with Iran, to boycott the conference. This plays into the view that Syria can be persuaded to abandon its 25-year-old ties to Iran and return to the Arab fold, thereby severing the encircling chain that links Tehran to Damascus to southern Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. High-profile ridicule of the conference by Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who called it "useless") and spokesmen for Hezbollah and Hamas add to the impression that Mr. Assad may be prepared to chart an independent course — all for the modest price of the U.S. agreeing (with Israel's consent) to put the issue of the Golan Heights on the conference's agenda.

It really would be something if the Syrian delegation could find their own road to Damascus on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. But that would require something approximating good faith. The Syrians' decision to be represented at Annapolis by their deputy foreign minister — his bosses evidently having more important things to do — is one indication of the lack of it. So is the Assad regime's declaration (via an editorial in state newspaper Teshreen) that their goal at Annapolis is "to foil [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's plan to force Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state." And lest the point hadn't been driven home forcefully enough, the Syrian information minister told Al Jazeera that Syria's attendance would have no effect on its relations with Iran or its role as host to the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

At best, then, Syria will attend Annapolis as a kind of non-malignant observer, lending a gloss of pan-Arab seriousness to the proceedings. At worst, it will be there as a spoiler and unofficial spokesman of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. If it's clever, it will adopt a policy of studied ambivalence, with just enough positive chemistry to induce the administration into believing it might yet be prepared for a real volte face, provided the U.S. is also prepared to rewrite its Syria policy. Recent attestations by Gen. David Petraeus, that Damascus is finally policing its border with Iraq to slow the infiltration of jihadis, suggest that's just the game they mean to play.

What price will the U.S. be asked to pay? Contrary to popular belief, recovering the Golan is neither Syria's single nor primary goal; if anything, the regime derives much of its domestic legitimacy by keeping this grievance alive. What's urgently important to Damascus is that the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri be derailed, before the extensive evidence implicating Mr. Assad and his cronies becomes a binding legal verdict. No less important to Mr. Assad is that his grip on Lebanese politics be maintained by the selection of a pliant president to replace his former puppet, Emile Lahoud. Syria would also like to resume normal diplomatic relations with the U.S. (which withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after Hariri's killing), not least by the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the 2003 Syria Accountability Act.

No doubt the Syrians believe the U.S. can deliver on these items: Dictators rarely appreciate the constraints under which democratic governments operate. Yet there is no credible way the U.S. can deliver on the first demand, and only discreditable ways in which it could deliver on the second. The administration may be tempted to re-establish normal diplomatic relations and ease sanctions, which is about as much as it can do. Yet Damascus would view these concessions either as signs of niggardliness or desperation, and hold out for more.

Put simply, there is nothing the U.S. can offer Mr. Assad that would seriously tempt him to alter his behavior in ways that could meaningfully advance U.S. interests or the cause of Mideast peace. Yet the fact that Ms. Rice's Syria policy is now a facsimile of Speaker Pelosi's confirms Mr. Assad's long-held view that he has nothing serious to fear from this administration.

So look out for more aggressive Syrian misbehavior in Lebanon, including the continued arming of Hezbollah; the paralysis of its political process; the assassination of anti-Syrian parliamentarians and journalists; the insertion of Sunni terrorist cells in Palestinian refugee camps, and the outright seizure of Lebanon's eastern hinterlands. Look out, too, for continued cooperation with North Korea on WMD projects: Despite Israel's September attack on an apparent nuclear facility, the AP reports that North Korean technicians are back in Syria, teaching their Arab pupils how to load chemical warheads on ballistic missiles. And don't hold your breath expecting Syria's good behavior on its Iraqi frontier to last much longer.

In the meantime, we have the Annapolis conference, and the one-day photo-op it provides Ms. Rice. In the spirit of giving credit where it's due, the least the Secretary can do is invite the Speaker to the party.

Comments (57)


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1. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Bush did not mention 242 and 338 but Olmert did and said they would be a basis for negotiations as well as the letter from 2004 that Bush sent Sharon. Your interpretation is wrong if you assume that the Palestinians will have to lose more land. The idea is that land will be swapped, if a settlement stays, the Palestinians will get compensated with land from Israel somewhere elese.

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November 27th, 2007, 7:32 pm

 

2. why-discuss said:

AIG
do you think the public opinion in Israel is ready for such sacrifices for peace? Don’t you think the extreme-rightist groups will try to derail any attempt to give back land considered ‘sacred’, the Golan and most of all part of Jerusalem? Don’t you think they may resort to violent actions such as assassinations?
From outside we see that Israel has its own potential ‘terrorists’ within the governement. That would be a real test of Israel claimed democracy, if the majority is seriously commited to peace.

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November 27th, 2007, 7:50 pm

 

3. IsraeliGuy said:

Why-Discuss, public opinion in Israel is 100% ready for sacrifices.
Not for ALL sacrifices, which the various Arab sides demand from Israel, but for some.

Some issues are sacred to Arabs and some are sacred to Israelis.
For an agreement to be reached, it will take major sacrifices from all sides (Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and the Arab world) on some of their ‘sacred’ issues.

As long as all sides will maintain their positions on their ‘sacred’ issues, there will be no peace.

If I may, let me ask you the following question: which of the 2 following issues is more important to you? Please prioritize.

1. Achieving peace with Israel (no more wars, no more bloodshed, no more threats, security and stability for Syria).

2. Getting the Golan.

If you MUST prioritize, which of the 2 has a higher importance?

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November 27th, 2007, 8:39 pm

 

4. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why,
I don’t know. It depends on what deal Olmert brings. The devil is in the details. But I assure you that the deal will not include the Golan. This was clear from the first day of the conference. Israel has zero strategic interest in negotiating the two deals in parallel (also the US). It has always been one or the other. And since Olmert committed to the Palestinian track till the end of 2008, the Syrian track will not happen.

What Olmert will do is negotiate a deal and call elections. If he wins the election the deal will be signed, if not… I hope Abu Mazen will do the same in the Palestinian territories otherwise the treaty will not be worth much.

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November 27th, 2007, 8:52 pm

 

5. Nour said:

Bret Stephens offers a conclusion based on accusations for which no credible piece of evidence has been presented. He offers as established facts the claims that Syria is responsible for the recent assassinations of Lebanese politicians, the support of Fateh el-Islam, and the establishment of a nuclear weapons program.

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November 27th, 2007, 8:54 pm

 

6. Disaffection said:

AG, same question can be posed to you from a Syrian perspective, what’s your priority?
Acheiving peace with Syria (no more hostilitity, no wars directly or indirectly, Hizbolla shelling, suicide bombing, knowing your neighbouring a staunch ally of Iran/Hizbollah/Hamas)

or keeping the Golan?

NOW – From an arab perspective, would you rather:

achieve peace with the Arabs surrounding you (who no matter how many pieces of meaningless documents their non-representative governments autograph, they will hold that same grudge and never forgive or forget), compensating the displaced Palestinians and negotiate their right of return.

or remain confined within a wall.

This isn’t about whats sacred, its about the series of crimes committed to force-establish the Israeli state and seeking justice. Refugee camps were not meant to be a permanent solution. The Palestinians have got to be compensated.

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November 27th, 2007, 9:17 pm

 

7. Hello said:

A just peace is a lasting peace.
Part of me wants to believe that a just process is a sure outcome of the meetings, the other part have doubts, more no trust in the Israeli ruling party.

Zionism and humanity are parallel in our experience. Since the immigration of the Jewish people from the second quarter of the nineteenth century to the creation of the state of israel.

Why not denounce zionism ?

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November 27th, 2007, 10:56 pm

 

8. why-discuss said:

AIG and IG

What are the chances Olmert peace deal be accepted if very probably part of Jerusalem may go back to Palestinians, part of the west bank and financial compensations to be paid to Palestinians?
In view of the already low popularity of Olmert, would Isrealis swallow that for peace together with US and European garantees of protection?
How much public opinion trust the USA for that, in view of the change of administration next year?
Abbas would have a very difficult task to have a deal accepted by Hamas. I think it may happen only when the arab allies of Hamas, mainly Syria is satisfied with the deal, i.e getting back the Golan. As long as Syria does not get back the Golan, it will continue encouraging Hamas in its antagonism and will spoil the deal.
Therefore the Golan is key to neutralize any antagonist forces in the region, including Iran.
Iran repeatedly said that they will accept whatever palestinians decide, therefore if Syria cease supporting Hamas, Iran will too.

That is a heavy burden on Olmert’s shoulders, don’t you think so?

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November 27th, 2007, 11:49 pm

 

9. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why,

Thank you for confirming that Syria is a spoiler.

This time Syria will be put in its place if it spoils. Every one of the 40 countries represented in Annapolis wants the peace process to succeed except Syria. If Syria spoils the effort, it will be further isolated. And, as I said before, this time around it is risking a war.

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November 28th, 2007, 12:32 am

 

10. why-discuss said:

AIG

Wouldn’t you spoil the deal if part of your territory is occupied and no one cares? Syria will spoil the deal if it does get back its land, the Golan and this is totally justified in my eyes… I would add that in this case Israel is calling for that by refusing to release the Golan and they would be the real spoiler.

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November 28th, 2007, 12:41 am

 

11. IsraeliGuy said:

Why-Discuss, if I’m examining the current Knesset, the odds that a peace plan will be approved there are less than minimal.

When you count hands, that’s the only reasonable conclusion one can reach.

If you’re asking me, the most that Olmert can do is reaching a deal with the Palestinians and call for new elections.

In recent polls, Olmert’s Kadima party got 13 seats (it has 29 today).
Maybe after today’s conference it would get 2 or 3 more.
Anything higher than that will be a surprise for me.

Either way, the odds that Olmert will be the next prime minister here are less than 5%, in my opinion.

The odds that Olmert will reach a deal with the Palestinians is also less than minimal.
I honestly can’t see how the 2 sides bridge the gaps (which are enormous).

Even if a miracle happens and Olmert and Abu Mazen will reach a joint deal, it will not be accepted by Hamas under any circumstances – even if Syria will pressure them to do so with all its power.

Hamas is not Syria’s employee and even if they’re expelled from Damascus, they can move to Iran.

Regarding peace with Syria, again – there’s no parliamentary or public support for any deal which will put the Golan in Syrian hands.

If you’re asking me for a forecast for the next year or so, we’ll see intensive talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which will not lead to any practical result.

I feel that the Palestinians know this too and play the game for political survival reasons.

A few days before the conference, the Israeli media published that senior Palestinian officials, have recently bought homes in Arab countries like Egypt and Dubai.

They probably did it for a reason.

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November 28th, 2007, 1:06 am

 

12. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why,
No I wouldn’t spoil the deal. I would democratize my country and become friendly with the US. That is what is best for the Syrian people. I would not ferment war. That is utterly immoral (not that the Asads care).

And the reason people stopped caring about Syria is because of how the regime is acting. They have very few friends and the conference just proved how isolated they are.

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November 28th, 2007, 1:07 am

 

13. why-discuss said:

IG

I agree with your analysis except for what you say about Hamas.
Hamas is totally Sunni and their support has always been from Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia financially and politically by Syria in the name of palestinian solidarity. Iran has stepped in Gaza when it was abandonned by Saudi Arabia and to try to influence arab policy towards the US.
Iran is 90% persian and Shia and not arab and if you know about the historical rifts of these two moslems sects, you would understand that Iran’s support for Hamas is only tactical and not strategical and may stop at any time.
Therefore Syria does represent a key support for Hamas leadership. For Syria, Hamas represent only one of the cards it can use to get back the Golan and to obtain a compensation for the hundred of thousands of Palestinians that were expelled from Israel and forced to live in Syria. Syria can impose its will on Hamas and not vice-versa. One recent example is the fact Syria went to Annapolis contrary to Hamas’s opinion.

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November 28th, 2007, 2:01 am

 

14. IsraeliGuy said:

Why-Discuss, I think that Syria has some ‘tactical’ influence on Hamas and will continue to have that, as long as the relationship between the 2 are good and while Hamas HQ is in Damascus.

If Syria will radically change its policies (something that I don’t think will happen) and will kick Hamas out of Syria, it’s influence over them will substantially decrease and probably disappear.

As long as Hamas HQ is in Syria, Assad can press them on relatively minor issues, but don’t have the power to ‘flip’ them to an organization which will recognize Israel, dismantle their armed forces, stop terror and recognize the 2 state solution as the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Assad doesn’t have the capacity to convert Hamas to Fattah 2.

I agree that Iran’s relationship with Hamas are marriage of convenience (same as with Syria), but after (supposedly) losing the Syrian sponsorship, the Iranian one will just become stronger.

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November 28th, 2007, 2:36 am

 

15. norman said:

The Huffington Post
Welcome | Edit preferences | Logout | November 27, 2007 Log In | Sign Up | November 27, 2007 Home Politics Media Business Entertainment Living All Blogs All News 23/6 Home > The Blogs > Rep. Tom Lantos Site Web
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Rep. Tom Lantos| BIO | I’M A FAN OF THIS BLOGGER
Syrian Foreign Minister at Annapolis: What a Difference Six Months Makes
Posted November 27, 2007 | 06:25 PM (EST)

——————————————————————————–

Read More: Annapolis, Annapolis Peace Conference, Iran, Israel, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East, Mideast, Syria, Thomas Lantos, Breaking Politics News

I want to commend the Administration for conducting a sober, serious, and hopeful conference on Middle East peace today. The task ahead is difficult, but the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue launched by today’s conference creates new possibilities that the obstacles will be overcome. One thing is absolutely clear: there can be no peace without dialogue.

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In that regard, I was particularly pleased that the Administration invited Syria — albeit under the guise of its membership in the Arab League “Follow-Up Committee .” And I am pleased that Syria chose to accept the invitation. This invitation constitutes recognition by the Administration that the only hope for peace with Syria is through dialogue, not isolation.

This recognition is belated at best. After all, last spring, the White House press operation vehemently denounced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for actually wanting to speak with Syrians in Damascus.

The Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the conservative talk radio circuit went apoplectic. As did, I am sorry to say, the Washington Post editorial board, which called the Speaker’s visit “counterproductive and foolish.” It was neither. (The critics conveniently ignored the fact that three Republican Members of Congress met with the Syrian President the day before he met with the Speaker, and two more Republicans were in to see him the day after her visit.)

I’m delighted that the Administration, however indirectly, has now acknowledged the error of its ways and has come around to embrace the idea of dialogue. I can only hope it continues down this path — with Syria, with Iran, and with others.

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liveandlearn (See profile | I’m a fan of liveandlearn)
negotiations over the future of israel and palestine that do not include a representative for hamas are destined to fail.

Reply | posted 08:52 pm on 11/27/2007
Kermugeon (See profile | I’m a fan of Kermugeon)
We can only hope Congressman. In spite of what many of the knee-jerks say about the dearth of diplomacy on the part of the Bush administration I’m a bit more optimistic as Annapolis feels more serious than the weekly slumber parties hosted by the previous administration.

I do disagree however re: Nancy’s Syria visit. It’s primary purpose seemed to be to embarrass the sitting administration and she only succeeded in making herself appear amateurish (foolish if you will) and elevating the status of a damn nasty dictator.

Reply | posted 08:16 pm on 11/27/2007
joebaggadonuts (See profile | I’m a fan of joebaggadonuts)
Seven long years of isolationist crap and you want to commend them for putting on a show at the eleventh hour?

Congress has an 11% positive rating for a reason.

Reply | posted 07:52 pm on 11/27/2007
Liberterna (See profile | I’m a fan of Liberterna)
Seriously, what’s the point of having a congress if the white house will do as it pleases.

Even Roman Emperors kept the senate for show.

If we proclaim to the world that Democracy (the American Variety) is the answer. Then we must show true debate and problem solving in our elected bodies.

Today, all we have is a partisan dog and pony show of political talking points designed specifically for when the cameras are rolling.

We need to fix our own house. The senate and the house of representative need to declare their independence and become part of the solution. Otherwise, get into the private sector.

Reply | Parent | posted 08:49 pm on 11/27/2007
PeterM (See profile | I’m a fan of PeterM)
“the Administration, however indirectly, has now acknowledged the error of its ways”.

I just burst out laughing when I read this. Recent events indicate that nothing can be further from the truth and considering that this praise comes from someone very heavily invested (together WITH the Bush administration) in Israeli expansionist interests gives it that much less credence. It makes for a great theater drama though!
Bush had 7 years to attempt this and Israel just bombed Syria but suddenly there is a “serious” conference.
IPAC democrats are as trustworthy when it comes to ME policies as the Bush junta.

Reply | posted 07:01 pm on 11/27/2007
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November 28th, 2007, 2:43 am

 

16. majedkhaldoun said:

US and Israel will do everything to seperate Syria from Iran, this Annapolis meeting aims are;
1) Isolate HA so US can attack Iran.
2) make it possible to encourage all the gulf countries to invest their huge money in Israel,and end the boycot.
3) gain more time through unproductive negotiations.

If there is any pressure on Syria to seperate from Iran, they may offer to give the Golan Heights back, Syria must consider in the next few days to announce withdrawal from this conference, this will put pressure on some other Arabic countries to pull out,too.
Syria must never fall in that trap.

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November 28th, 2007, 3:09 am

 

17. norman said:

Syria went to the peace conference to show that it wants peace which the real Syrian intention, now we should see what Israel intention ,
Syria is a friend of Iran because Iran supports the Syrian right in the Golan and the rights of the Palestinian people ,
Going to the peace conference gave Syria a place it could not have gotten if it stayed out , Looking at how much AIG and AG are upset makes me sure that Syria did the right thing by participating in the peace conference .
Israel should know by now that Syria can negotiate for the Lebanese , Palestinians ( at least who count of these groups )and Iran for peace in the Mideast.

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November 28th, 2007, 3:28 am

 

18. norman said:

Syria says Israel ties only after full withdrawal
Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:23am IST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Syria told a U.S. peace conference on Tuesday that Israel should pull out of occupied land before Arab countries would normalize ties with the Jewish state.

“The establishment of normal ties with Israel … must be the fruit of comprehensive peace and not precede it,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal al-Mekdad told a closed session of the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“To phrase it clearly and decisively that this (normalization) comes after the total Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 Arab land,” he said in a speech obtained by Reuters.

“We are sincere in seeking a comprehensive and just peace and posses the political will to achieve it.”

Talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000 after Damascus declined an Israeli offer to withdraw from most of the Golan Heights but not what Syria described as the full occupied territory.

Syria had made it clear that it would only attend the talks in Annapolis if the Golan was on the agenda. The demand was met by Washington which accuses Damascus of supporting militant Palestinian and Lebanese groups.

Mekdad reiterated the Syrian position that Israeli occupation of Arab land was the root of instability in the Middle East.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

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November 28th, 2007, 3:40 am

 

19. majedkhaldoun said:

My dear friend Norman;
going to Annapolis was not a mistake, but split from Iran is in no way acceptable, it is a trap.

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November 28th, 2007, 4:34 am

 

20. jo6pac said:

Hi
Syria wasted their time coming, this just a Photo Op and nothing more. GWB can say he tried and as an American I have hope for the next WH but not alot. Sorry we just don’t get it and don’t want to.

jo6pac

Norman I hope someday we could all work together but until we see others not the way we want but they way they are and work from there, well.

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November 28th, 2007, 4:51 am

 

21. offended said:

Israeli Guy,

You can’t dissociate ‘peace’ and ‘Golan’ and then ask which is a more urging priority. Syria had made it clear that no peace can be achieved without the return of occupied Golan.

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November 28th, 2007, 5:47 am

 

22. Alex said:

Randa Tekkidine in Ahayat with a very different tone from her usual Syria bashing.

She is saying that although the original plan was that syria would pay in advance (help Lebanon elect a pro west president) before France rewards Syria with improved relations, the Syrians managed to get what they wanted without paying in advance and without paying anything at all.

مستقبل العلاقة الفرنسية – السورية
رندة تقي الدين الحياة – 28/11/07//

خلال مناسبات عدة، علنية أو خاصة، قال الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي إن شرط تطبيع العلاقة بين فرنسا وسورية هو عدم عرقلة الأخيرة انتخابات الرئاسة اللبنانية. وأكد باستمرار التزامه بالمحكمة الدولية والكشف عن المسؤولين عن اغتيال رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية السابق رفيق الحريري ومحاكمتهم، كما أكد باستمرار أن الحوار والتطبيع مع سورية لن يتما قبل أن يكون للبنان رئيس. حتى أن بعض أوساط قصر الاليزيه كان يؤكد دائماً أن «على سورية أن تدفع مسبقاً، وبعدها نكون مستعدين للتطبيع وإعادة العلاقات معها». أما الآن فقد اصبح الحوار الفرنسي – السوري طبيعياً، وبدأت المحادثات الأميركية – السورية في أنابوليس، ولا يزال لبنان من دون رئيس، وجميع الأوروبيين يتحدثون مع النظام السوري، ولا يبقى إلا أن يزور الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد باريس أو أن يزور ساركوزي دمشق. فقد وجهت فرنسا رسائل عدة إلى القيادة السورية، وحملها أهم معاوني ساركوزي، الأمين العام للرئاسة الفرنسية كلود غيان.

وينبغي الاعتراف بأن الرئيس السوري نجح في رمي الكرة في ملعب فرنسا عندما طلب من المبعوث الفرنسي أن يقوم البطريرك الماروني نصرالله صفير بإعداد لائحة بأسماء مرشحين للرئاسة، لأن لفرنسا علاقة تاريخية مع مسيحيي لبنان. وكان هذا المسعى ذكياً وبعيد النظر، لأن لسورية علاقات واسعة في لبنان، وتأثيرها على الأرض، بعد 30 عاماً من سيطرتها على القرار السياسي فيه، ما زال عميقاً وقوياً عبر حليفيها «حزب الله» و «حركة أمل». وكانت سورية تدرك أنها نتيجة التحالف بين «حزب الله» وطرف مسيحي أساسي هو العماد ميشال عون، يمكنها أن تظهر لفرنسا أن الفشل سببه اللبنانيون أنفسهم وليس سورية.

وهذا ما حصل بالفعل. فعندما ذهب غيان مجدداً إلى دمشق ليسأل الرئيس السوري عن وعده والتزامه خلال الاتصال الهاتفي الذي أجراه معه ساركوزي، قيل له إن سورية التزمت بما تعهدت به على صعيد الضغط على «حزب الله»، وان على فرنسا أن تضغط على أصدقائها المسيحيين، وفي طليعتهم عون، لأنه العائق أمام الانتخابات الرئاسية. وكانت هذه خطة سورية ذكية، أدت إلى رمي الكرة مجدداً في الملعب الفرنسي عبر التذرع بالعائق ميشال عون.

صحيح أن العائق هو عون، لأنه بقي حتى اللحظة الأخيرة يقول إنه أفضل المرشحين للرئاسة.وفيما كان كوشنير يعمل على التفاهم معه، تبلغ في دار السفارة الفرنسية، بالمبادرة التي أعلنها عون خلال مؤتمره الصحافي، ما حمل الوزير الفرنسي على ادراك أن المسعى الفرنسي وصل إلى فشل نهائي.

فما الذي حصل، ولماذا جاءت مبادرة عون على نمط ما أعلنه الأمين العام لـ «حزب الله» حسن نصرالله في خطابه العنيف الذي ألقاه غداة اللقاء بين الأسد وغيان في دمشق؟

السبب أن التحالف العوني مع «حزب الله» استراتيجي على جميع الأصعدة السياسية والمالية والتنسيق بينهما دائم ومستمر. ومع أن اتصالات ساركوزي بعون والحريري كانت تنبع من نية طيبة لأنه يريد فعلاً أن يتوصل لبنان إلى تسوية، لكن المسعى الفرنسي اصطدم بخبرة سورية الواسعة في الساحة اللبنانية. فالرئيس السوري تمكن من تحسين العلاقة مع فرنسا من دون أن يدفع أي ثمن مسبق. وكما كان يقول والده الراحل حافظ الأسد لكل زائر غربي كان يطالب بخروج القوات السورية من لبنان: إن سورية دخلت إليه بطلب من اللبنانيين. وهذا كان صحيحاً لأن الرئيس الراحل سليمان فرنجية هو الذي كان طلب ذلك، والآن يعتمد الرئيس الابن الاسلوب نفسه.

وصحيح أيضاً أن اللبنانيين مختلفون في ما بينهم داخلياً، ولكن دور سورية مهم وأساسي، والسؤال الآن: ما هو مستقبل العلاقة الفرنسية – السورية في غياب رئيس للبنان

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November 28th, 2007, 8:00 am

 

23. abraham said:

As expected, the Annapolis Conference is an abject failure. This was readily confirmed the moment Bush stepped up to the podium to blather in his usual incoherent style. No need for day 2, everyone can go home now.

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November 28th, 2007, 9:27 am

 

24. idaf said:

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper:

France gave an official invitation to Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem to visit Paris and finalize the Lebanese president issue.

In addition, Paris said that a follow-up conference to Annapolis in Paris will take place on Dec 17 and another one in Moscow to discuss the Golan in early 2008.

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November 28th, 2007, 9:40 am

 

25. offended said:

Idaf,
The 17th of Dec Paris conference is believed to be more like a ‘meeting of donators’. You know, to encourage people to have peace; you need to give them some incentives. And since Annapolis doesn’t bode well so far, one would wonder where the money is going to go to.

On the other hand, reading the notorious Randa Tekkidine gives you the impression that the Syrian regime might have been smart enough to participate in Annapolis only to get a free pass to Paris and Moscow. (oh …the shrewd old Syrians!)

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November 28th, 2007, 10:49 am

 

26. idaf said:

Finally.. a breakthrough on the Lebanese President issue? It seems that Lebanon will have a military president once more. If so then the Lebanese should learn that the most secular candidate will always get to become president at the end of the day (Lahoud and now Suleiman have proved this during the last 10 years).

Now the only thing that can block this settlement (that threatens only Jeajea and Junblat’s interests in Lebanon) is another assassination that shifts the popular sentiment back to those two extremists. However, it would be hard this time for the Saudi financed media in Lebanon to push its usual “Syria strikes again” propaganda as General Suleiman was actually supported by Damascus since day one (if anything he is the most pro-Syrian on the list of 6 candidates approved by Maronite Cardinal Sfeir).

I think the reason for this last minute change of heart by the Sunni group in Lebanon is the fact that the pro-government “majority” in the Lebanese parliament has seen a clear shift in France’s approach to Syria. In other words, little Hariri could not control Sarkozy as his father controlled Chirac.

Let’s see how Gen. Michael Oun will react. The article follows:

Future movement reverses decision and backs army commander as president
The Associated Press
November 28, 2007

The largest bloc in Lebanon’s deadlocked parliament has dropped its opposition to the army chief becoming the next president, bringing Gen. Michel Suleiman one step closer to being the new head of state and ending Lebanon’s year-long political crisis, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

The apparent breakthrough, announced by legislator Ammar Houry after weeks of political deadlock, came just one day after the Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland — a meeting that Lebanon’s powerful neighbor, Syria, had chosen to attend.

It had been widely expected that tension between the United States and Syria would ease after Syria’s participation at the Annapolis meeting. That was expected to affect the Lebanon political crisis, because the Syrian-U.S. tension has, in part, played itself out through Lebanon’s complex politics.

Suleiman is seen as a uniting figure, who both the U.S.-backed majority in Lebanon and the pro-Syrian opposition — as well as outside players — can back. All sides appear to view him, at least for now, as a relatively neutral player who can guarantee that no side in Lebanon’s fractured politics dominates the other.

Houry, a legislator with the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, said the bloc had reversed its previous stand against amending the constitution to elect a sitting army commander.

“We declare our acceptance to amend the constitution in order to reach consensus on the name of the army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman,” he said.

Hariri is effectively the leader of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority, and his support is tantamount to the majority’s acceptance.

Houry’s statement described Suleiman as “symbol of the unity of the military establishment which has given martyrs and blood in defense of the nation against the enemy and against those who threatened civil peace.”

Suleiman is also respected by Hezbollah, which is leading the opposition, suggesting that after months of being unable to elect a new leader, the republic may once more have a president.

The wild card remains whether Michel Aoun, a leading Christian opposition politician, a former army commander and a presidential candidate himself, would go along.

Parliament has been deadlocked since September on electing a president and failed to pick a head of state before President Emile Lahoud left office on Friday, leaving a dangerous power vacuum.

All sides, however, have accepted the military’s role in keeping security.

The legislature was scheduled to meet again on Friday to try one more time to elect a leader.

But Houry said that arrangements were unlikely to be finalized by Friday’s session, suggesting it would be put off to a later date.

Suleiman’s name had previously been floated as a candidate, but that would have required a constitutional amendment to allow senior state employees to run while still in office.

The 59-year-old general, who has been commander for the last nine years, appointed with Syria’s approval when Damascus ran the show in Lebanon, has been doing the rounds of the leaders of Lebanon’s disparate communities this week.

He is credited with keeping the military together in the political upheaval since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Saad’s Hariri’s father, in 2005 and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

He is also a staunch supporter of Hezbollah’s right to fight Israel and refused to crush anti-Syrian protests.

But since last year’s Hezbollah war with Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel, Suleiman has distanced himself from the Shiite Muslim guerrillas.

Suleiman rose to national prominence particularly since the army crushed al-Qaida-inspired militants in three months of fighting in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, a battle that cost the army more than 160 dead. The battle ended with hundreds of Fatah Islam militants killed or captured.

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November 28th, 2007, 2:21 pm

 

27. norman said:

Anapolis was a photo opp , yes it was a photo op for Syria , everybody is talking about Sytria seeking peace .
the Lebanese decided that they can axcept the army cheif as president , that is the first win for Syria from going ,
Majed ,
I would not worry that Syria will leave Iran as Iran is the only all the time Syria’s freind.

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November 28th, 2007, 2:24 pm

 

28. IsraeliGuy said:

Annapolis, the day after – here are a few web survey results from Israel.

Walla.co.il, the 2nd most popular site in Israel, have asked: “Who won in Annapolis?”

* Olmert, who gave a dramatic speech – 9%

* Abu Mazen, who received promises – 8%

* Bush, who won some pleasure towards the end of his term – 16%

* They’re all irrelevant, they all lost – 67%

Number of web voters: 2,992
http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/11480/@poll.results

Nana10.co.il, the 5th most popular site in Israel, have asked: “A peace agreement in 2008 is…

* [A Hebrew word which means “let’s hope it will happen”] – 39%

* A disaster for Israel – 23%

* Unrealistic – 38%

Number of web voters: 1,165
http://www.nana10.co.il/

NRG.co.il, the 6th most popular site in Israel, have asked: “An agreement with the Palestinians within a year is…”

* Possible – 14%

* A dream – 86%

Number of web voters: 1,140
http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/664/545.html?pvot=2;1664545

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November 28th, 2007, 2:56 pm

 

29. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ron Ben-Yshai tells it like it is:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3476641,00.html

Bush won the jackpot, America the big winner of Annapolis conference; Syria the big loser

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November 28th, 2007, 3:10 pm

 

30. idaf said:

Vatican: Palestinians have right to return

VATICAN CITY, Nov 28 (Reuters) – A senior Vatican cardinal said on Wednesday that all Palestinian refugees had a right to return to their homeland.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican department that formulates refugee policy, made the comment as U.S. President George W. Bush was set to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.

“Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to return to their homeland,” Martino said in response to a question about the 44-nation conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

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November 28th, 2007, 3:13 pm

 

31. kingcrane jr said:

This WSJ guy is full of it. The only sponsors of terrorism (in the Middle East and beyond) are those who use “shock and awe” to submit the people to their own brand(s) of democracy, with emphasis on DEMO as in demolition derby. Last time I checked, Hamas (despite their sectarian agenda, I am an ultra-secular Christian Arab after all) won the elections. Incidentally, should they start holding frequent “elections” and rigging them until Abbas wins one? That would take an eternity. More elections to continue legitimizing the puppet who can’t get an erection. That (an erection) would take an eternity and a miracle, but hey with “modern medicine” everything is possible…
Lame, lame, lame. I am surprised Josh links to this article, but hey, it is a huge step up from Tony Badran(t), the useless neocon appendix.

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November 28th, 2007, 4:11 pm

 

32. kingcrane jr said:

I forgot:
IDAF,
Your post is priceless.
But the Stephens article is worthless.

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November 28th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

33. CWW said:

Israeli Guy,

I agree that the only way a deal can be concluded is if compromises are made on those issues considered sacred by both sides. I just wonder though if Abu Mazen is able to make such concessions. I get the impression that conceding anything is very difficult for his constituency. There are also many issues which they see as sacred.

The same goes for Syria with respect to the Golan. Syria was offered the Golan Heights according to the pre-1948 border and it rejected it. It was unwilling to compromise in the interests of peace. The nature of the regime in Damascus might have been inclined towards keeping the state of animosity with Israel for its own reasons. Regimes of this nature are also averse to compromise.

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November 28th, 2007, 4:39 pm

 

34. Alex said:

CWW,

The Golan will be offered in full back to Syria when they eventually sign that peace deal. This is not a place where the Syrians NEED TO compromise… the only argument for “compromise” is that Israel is too powerful to respect international law.

I am sure a majority of Israeli citizens will be convinced eventually that their country needs to respect international laws.

UN Resolution 497 (December 17, 1981) calls on the State of Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan Heights. The most important provision is “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect” (section 1).

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November 28th, 2007, 4:56 pm

 

35. Alex said:

A new article by David Shagoury on Creative Forum’s topic on Syrian foreign policy:

David’s article

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November 28th, 2007, 4:59 pm

 

36. CWW said:

Alex:

If Syria wants the Golan Heights back they will, to that extent, have to compromise. Compromise may simply mean ending their support for terror groups. But international law will does not compel countries to do anything (int’l rel. are anarchic). Nor will it compel Israel to forfeit land of strategic importance to a hostile power. I agree with you that the Golan will only be returned in the context of a peace agreement, however, I don’t really see the relevance of international law when it comes to the Golan going back to Syria.

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November 28th, 2007, 5:10 pm

 

37. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
When there is democracy in Syria, Israelis will listen to international law arguments. Until then, it sounds like hypocritical self serving propoganda by people what do not respect the human rights of their own citizens, which is the basis of international law.

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November 28th, 2007, 5:14 pm

 

38. Bashmann said:

A humiliated Syria at Annapolis.

Today as delegates from 40 different nations convene at Annapolis, MD for a Middle-East peace conference between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a mid-level Syrian delegation headed by deputy foreign minister Faysal Mekdad drags its tail among the conferee’s begging for attention.

A Jerusalem Post article yesterday said “Neither President Bush nor Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice will mention Syria or the future of the Golan Heights in their speeches Tuesday, Channel 10 quoted a State Department official as saying Monday”.

So as expected in his opening remarks at United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, President Bush deliberately failed to mention any Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations which have been the aim and the holy-grail for the Syrian regime acceptance of the invitation to Annapolis. Instead President Bush used the occasion to stress the United States commitment to back the nascent democracy movement in Lebanon represented by the March 14 forces led by Sa’ad Hariri to support the election of a President in Lebanon without any foreign intimidation or interference from its neighbors; a clear warning sign to Syria to stay out of Lebanese political affairs.

This begs the question on everyone’s mind, why did President Bashar Asad change his mind about attending the conference? And what is the advantage for Syria in taking such a step that would alienate its current allies, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas? Did Bashar fall for the repeated pleas to attend the conference from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan as a first step for him to mend bridges with Washington?

Syria has come a long way from the days of the late Syrian President Hafez Asad when it was the focal point in any peace negotiation in the Middle-East. Today Syria chose to participate in a conference despite its well known objective, which was to tackle the Palestinians and the Israelis problem, a move that enhances the view of its feeble position in the region. The long anticipated issue of the Golan height’s which Syria insisted on it being on the conference’s agenda was never a priority to neither Washington nor Tel-Aviv. Yet Syria seemed to be pleased with a bone at its plate by adding the issue to the conference agenda at the last minute but only mentioning the “Syrian/Israeli track” without any preludes of the Golan Heights or Occupied Syrian territory by Israel.

It is another missed step and short sightedness of a regime in Damascus that seems to be barely holding on to the end of a very short rope for its life.
Syria is isolated regionally and internationally, and with an international tribunal looking into the killing of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the possible involvement of members of the Syrian regime in it, Damascus hopes to shift the attention of the world once again by looking civil at a conference which it hopes would bring it out of its isolation and into the spot light and the center of attention for the region.

However, a humiliated Damascus has gotten its first disappointment in President Bush opening remarks. I’m afraid many more are yet to come.

Cheers

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November 28th, 2007, 5:24 pm

 

39. Akbar Palace said:

Bashmann,

Please don’t be too hard on the Baathist Syrian regime. They’re confused right now and they’re having a hard time determining whether peace or terrorism is best for Syria’s future.

Give them another few centuries to make up their mind. One small mistake could prevent Bashar’s great-grand child from assuming power.

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November 28th, 2007, 5:37 pm

 

40. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

So true AP. And wouldn’t that be a tragedy?
And do you think there will be still people like Alex around that will praise the Asads for their ability to stay in power at the expense of the Syrian people?

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November 28th, 2007, 5:57 pm

 

41. Akbar Palace said:

And do you think there will be still people like Alex around that will praise the Asads for their ability to stay in power at the expense of the Syrian people?

AIG –

Once the Assad Dynasty is no more, the Great Protectors of Syrian Baathism will find another hero to cling to and defend. I’m not worried about dear Alex and dear Professor Josh. They’ll find someone else or spend more time with their spouses.

Have you run into any Saddam Hussein apologists recently?

I rest my case.

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November 28th, 2007, 6:51 pm

 

42. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Actually, there are a ton of them on Al-Jazeera. He is being called a “martyr”. Its always the same secular, leftist, Arab nationalist, Azmi Bishara clones that know that they have zero place in an islamic or democratic middle east based on natural borders.

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November 28th, 2007, 6:57 pm

 

43. annie said:

To AIG
This is from an article by Jef Halper about the famous letter from Bush to Sharon which totally voids rs 242
“WHAT is the problem? The missing piece, the crucial document that subverts any viable two-state solution, a factor in Israel’s strategic considerations mentioned by Olmert as an aside only a few days ago, is Bush’s letter of April, 2004, to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon. This little-noticed document fundamentally changed the parameters of what is to be discussed in any “peace process” and what Israel’s obligations are under the road map. It is considered by the Israeli government as perhaps the most crucial element in its effort to retain the major settlement blocs and in that way foreclosing the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

The essence of the Bush letter, which was subsequently ratified by the House of Representatives by a vote of 407-9 and by the Senate by 95-1, is the following passage: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

In one seemingly innocuous sentence, President Bush fatally but knowingly undermined UN Resolution 242, the very basis of the two-state solution since 1967 and of his own road map initiative, by nullifying the requirement that Israel return to the Green Line (with agreed-upon adjustments) so that a viable Palestinian state might emerge”

See Maan News Agency

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November 28th, 2007, 7:22 pm

 

44. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Annie,
You interpret 242 as stronger than it actually is. But aside from that, it is just plain wrong that a viable Palestinian state can only emerge if Israel withdraws to the green line.

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November 28th, 2007, 7:40 pm

 

45. norman said:

المعلم: مؤتمر أنابوليس فاشل بالفعل فيما يتعلق بسورية الاخبار السياسية

اعتبر وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم أن مؤتمر أنابوليس للسلام فشل بالنسبة إلى سورية ومحكوم بالفشل بالنسبة لمفاوضات السلام بين الإسرائيليين والفلسطينيين.

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November 28th, 2007, 8:07 pm

 

46. Bashmann said:

Norman,

No kidding!!!

Cheers.

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November 28th, 2007, 8:12 pm

 

47. ausamaa said:

Syria and its people have many lovers. A lot of people seem to care about their well being, their freedome and their prosperity. At the top of the list would be the names of ISRAELIGUY, ANOTHER ISRAELIGUY, and AKBAR PALACE.

But be cafrefull what you wish for. It may come true….!!!

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November 28th, 2007, 9:41 pm

 

48. kingcrane jr said:

Ausamaa,
Do not waste your time with these trolls, brother.

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November 28th, 2007, 10:05 pm

 

49. Disaffection said:

AIG, please dont regurgitate manure with your girlfriend AP. Aljazira wouldn’t call Saddam a “martyr”. Dont know where you come up with most things you say around here. your probably confusing an Iraqi Bathist being interviewed for a reporter. I guess through your racist eyes they all look the same, right?

As for our honourable leadership in Damascus, as expected, the outcome of this summit so far is yet another slap in the face. not only will they achieve nothing, but dig their own grave further. which isn’t such a bad idea as long as they dont drag Syrians with them.
أجا ليكحلها آم عمها

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November 28th, 2007, 10:09 pm

 

50. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are a ton of Saddam apologists on Al-Jazeera as people being interviewed. You are right, it is not an Al-Jazeera position and I did not mean to say that.

I have to say though that the Bisahra clones mostly say the same crap and I do get confused between them.

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November 28th, 2007, 10:16 pm

 

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