Why Turmoil in Iran Will Not Cause Peace Between Israel and Syria

Western analysts ( See the three articles excerpted below) argue that the troubles in Iran will cause the weakening of the Islamic Republic and lead to Syria’s loss of trust in Iran. They further argue that this will create an opportunity for the US to “flip” Syria,  which means getting it to cut support for Hamas and Hizbullah and sign peace with Israel.

This argument makes little sense to me. Let me offer two reasons why I fail to be convinced. 1) How will Iran be weakened by cracking down on liberals, reformers, and factional opponents? Is this something the Iranian government has not done many times before? Did Iranians believe that Iran was a liberal republic before the elections, such that everything has now changed, as some Western analysts seem to believe?  Will the Iranian government now forswear the development of nuclear power, abandon its support for Syria, or collapse into political chaos? I doubt it.

2. Will Syria decide to sacrifice claims to the Golan in order to sign a peace agreement with an Israel that refuses to trade land for peace? That is the implication of all these analysts.  What will the US or Israel offer Syria that it was not offering prior to Iran’s disputed elections to make Syria abandon its foreign policy priorities of retrieving its occupied land, not abandoning Lebanon to America’s and Israel’s sphere of influence, and supporting Palestinians in their struggle to retain ownership of their land.

Many Americans and Israelis share a belief that they can solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by breaking the Arabs. The analysts recorded in the following articles seem to be swayed by this conviction. They may turn out to be correct, but it will take many more decades of struggle before we will know. In the mean time, I doubt that the events in Iran will bring a sea change in regional attitudes toward Israel or the balance in power.

[End]

p.s. In reference to the last excellent article copied below by Yigal Schleifer which reports on the growing tensions in Turkey over the revelations that elements of the Turkish military have been hatching a plot to discredit or even topple the government of the AKP. This article underlines that rule that greater democracy in Middle Eastern countries brings greater opposition to Israel and its unjust treatment of Palestinians. Western analysts somehow seem to believe that greater democracy in the Middle East will bring greater acceptance of Israel’s expansion beyond its 1967 borders. This logic doesn’t make sense to me.

Read Basil Hakki’s review of Benny Morris, One State, Two State, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2009. Hakki does an excellent job of getting the zibdeh.

In Iran Turmoil, U.S. Sees Chance to Gain Sway in Mideast
By JAY SOLOMON and PETER SPIEGEL in Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and its Middle East allies are looking to capitalize on Iran’s political crisis to reverse strategic gains Tehran has made across the region, said U.S. and Arab officials.

A principal early test case for that evolving U.S. strategy will be Syria, which plays a critical role in helping Tehran arm and fund militant groups Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

U.S. strategists are assessing whether Iran’s inner turmoil will force its clerical leaders to rein in support for those organizations and focus instead on quelling domestic dissent.

Or, as some U.S. strategists fear, whether Iran’s leaders, feeling weakened at home, will seek to expand Iran’s overseas operations in order to appear strong.

President Barack Obama has long stated his desire to woo Syrian President Bashar Assad away from his military and economic alliance with Iran. That could help stabilize Lebanon and advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, two leading sources of conflict in the region.

The White House decision this week to return an American ambassador to Damascus after a four-year hiatus was made, in part, by heightened hopes in Washington that Iran’s internal instability could force Mr. Assad to rethink his partnership with Tehran, said U.S. officials.

U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials have visited Damascus in recent months, in an effort to nudge Syria to break with Tehran and cooperate in promoting regional stability.

“If Syria feels the Iranian situation is unraveling, that’s a good thing from our perspective,” said a senior Obama administration official working on the Middle East. He said the U.S. has been pushing Damascus to curtail Hamas’s military activities and to pursue direct peace talks with Israel…..

Iran and the Syrian Gambit
Howard Schweber, Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
June 26, 2009

…..Our bigger long-term concern is with Iran’s role in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. This week two things were announced. First, the U.S. is sending an ambassador to Damascus. Second, Jimmy Carter — working with Egypt and Syria — may have worked out terms for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier whose capture by Hamas was one of the triggering events of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. HaAretz reports that Shalit’s release will take place within a few days as part of a prisoner exchange, and that the initial proposal was floated by Carter during a visit to Damascus and Gaza last year.

These stories may very well be connected, and they point to the almost incredible possibility that the U.S. may finally be ready to have a serious foreign policy in the Middle East. For what it’s worth, I have been saying for many years that relations with Syria are the key. Here’s just one reason: if Syria can be brought on board with a peace effort, Iran no longer has direct supply lines into Lebanon. Meanwhile, Syria has itself been supporting Hamas in Gaza (hence its role in negotiating the release of Shalit) as well as meddling in Lebanon. But while Syria has been notoriously difficult to deal with in the past, there is no reason in principle why progress cannot be made. Assad is an opportunist, not a mad ideologue, and certainly not a religious fanatic. (The single stupidest neocon phrase — against some pretty tough competition! — has to be “the Shiite Crescent,” an arc of states comprising Iran, Syria and Lebanon that are supposed to represent the religiously defined threat to American interests. Since Syria is less than 5% Shiite and is ruled by an Alawite minority, it was never terribly clear what this was supposed to mean.)

What Syria wants is simple: they want the Golan Heights back. Which is where the U.S. comes in. There have been repeated points at which Israel and Syria came close to substantive negotiations on the issue of the Golan, only to see those efforts fail. But there has never been a sustained and substantive American presence in the dialogue. If Assad can be persuaded that Syria has more to gain by engagement with the West than by an alliance with Iran, that immediately improves the situation in Lebanon, improves the security of Israel’s northern border, and improves the situation in Western Iraq. Syria’s participation in arranging the release of Shalit — even if that ultimately doesn’t happen — is a powerful and positive sign that Assad is open to the possibility.

Then there is the third U.S. interest and a tantalizing possibility: that Iran might resume its cooperation with U.S. operations in Afghanistan. As this piece from Stratfor nicely explains, Iran’s 500-plus mile border with Afghanistan, strong ethnic connections to Afghan Pashtuns, and available ports make it an ideal partner. In other words, at the very same time that the U.S. has a strong interest in limiting Iran’s reach to the West beyond Iraq, we may have another strong interest in encouraging Iranian engagement to the East. The Sunni attacks against Shiites in Iraq are part of the larger conflict between Sunni radicals — think Taliban — and Shiite Iran.

So the Obama administration has had to play a very careful hand: do nothing to repeat the stupidity that helped launch Ahmadinejad to the presidency; develop the opening that Jimmy Carter has helped develop and initiate an engagement with Syria in the hope of isolating Iran to the West; and at the same time look ahead to the role that the version of the Iranian regime that emerges out of a compromise in the Assembly of Experts might play in Afghanistan. This week, Obama and his State Department have done all three brilliantly.

Laura Rosen in the CABLE

….Obama’s hand may actually have been strengthened and Iran’s weakened by some overlooked recent events. Among the factors they cite: the outcome of recent elections in Lebanon, in which a pro-western coalition won a majority over a coalition that includes the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the eagerness of Iran’s leading regional ally Syria to engage with Washington, Arab states’ generally positive response to the Obama administration’s strong push to negotiate Middle East peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. Beyond the Middle East, Obama’s aggressive non-proliferation initiatives and “reset” with Moscow could also end up increasing pressure on Iran, they said.

“From 2003 to 2009, Iran was on a roll,” one senior administration official said Friday. “Expanding its sphere of influence, benefiting from a changed balance of power in the region, and generally optimistic about its world. Many said it was not possible to engage because Iran was so strong and thus disincented to do so. ….

“The chessboard is moving demonstrably in the U.S. direction.” That is the takeaway, said Congressional Research Service Middle East analyst Kenneth Katzman, from recent assessments by administration officials. “What I heard them saying is, ‘Let’s take advantage of that now, while we have the chessboard, and try to get a nuclear deal and get that resolved, rather than the whole ball of wax.’”

Added Katzman, of the perceived trend: “The strategic picture in the Middle East has moved to the U.S. advantage. The Lebanon elections, reengagement with Syria, stability (?) in Iraq, have added up to a shifting chessboard against Iran.”But he added, while there is some optimism that regional and global trends are working to the U.S.’s advantage on Iran, there is also diminished expectation that near-term engagement is likely to occur. At the earliest, it’s not expected — if at all — until the fall. …

And indeed, not everyone is feeling optimistic. “My understanding is the president has had a much larger vision,” said one Washington Iran analyst on condition of anonymity. “He wanted a strategic dialogue with the Iranians, he gave them a pathway into the western camp that benefits the west, the people of Iran, and the larger picture: peace and stability in the Middle East…..

Byman did think Iran would be feeling uncomfortable about some regional trends, including renewed Washington engagement with Syria, as well as the U.S. drawdown in Iraq. “The Syria thing is real in terms of pressure on Iran. Iran has only one strategic ally in the Middle East: Syria. The U.S. drawdown from Iraq is real. It reduces the vulnerability of America.” …..”

Roger Cohen in the NYTimes: “We need President Obama to put engagement [with Iran] — still the right medium-term objective — on hold in the name [of Iranian women].”

Iranian Cleric Calls for ‘Ruthless’ Punishment of Protest Leaders

TEHRAN, June 26 — An influential Iranian cleric on Friday urged “ruthless” punishment, possibly including execution, for leaders of protests against a disputed presidential election, while President Obama intensified his criticism of a crackdown on the Iranian opposition and rejected President…(By Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin, The Washington Post)

Lebanon:
BBC, Saad Hariri has become the country’s new prime-minister.

BBC Cen Asia: Paper Mulls Syrian Leader’s Failure to Visit
2009-06-27 08:18:59.933 GMT

Text of report by Armenian newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak on 18 June headlined “Unprecedented”

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s visit stood out because of an unprecedented fact. His agenda did not include a visit to Tsitsernakaberd (Genocide Memorial) although it is one of the required protocol points for official visits.

Yesterday morning the Armenian president’s office announced the Syrian president’s agenda, giving details on his meetings and places of visit, but Tsisternakaberd was not among them.

Let us remind you that a visit to the Genocide Memorial is required during visit by all high level officials (beyond the level of foreign
minister) arriving in the Republic of Armenia. Actually, Al-Assad is the only visiting head of state for whom the protocol procedures have been breached.

Let us mention that a similar incident happened in 2007 during the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinezhad, although a visit to the Genocide Memorial was on his agenda. Since he left Armenia one day earlier, he did not manage to visit the memorial.

‘Coup Document’ Raises Tensions in Turkey
Yigal Schleifer | 24 Jun 2009
World Politics Review

ISTANBUL — Allegations that elements of the Turkish military may have been hatching a plot to discredit or even topple the government of the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) are threatening to raise military-civilian tensions in Turkey and further widen the country’s deep political divide. At the same time, the allegations are also raising questions about how the plot against the AKP fits into an ongoing investigation into another coup attempt, known as Ergenekon.

This latest Turkish political crisis was sparked when Taraf — a hard-hitting liberal daily that has been severely critical of the military in the past — published a document on June 12 entitled, “Plan to Combat Islamic Fundamentalism.” The four-page document, allegedly signed by a colonel in the military’s psychological warfare unit, outlined ways in which the AKP government could be weakened. Among them, the document suggested “mobilizing” moles within the party and stoking anti-Armenian and anti-Greek sentiments in order to strengthen the nationalist opposition.

The plan also called for discrediting the pro-government Gulen movement, Turkey’s largest and most powerful Islamic brotherhood, by planting weapons and ammunition in its members’ homes and even linking it to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Police found the document while searching the office of a lawyer who is representing a retired colonel linked to the Ergenekon case.

The Turkish military, which has initiated an investigation into the document’s authenticity, quickly distanced itself from it. When asked during an interview in the influential Hurriyet newspaper if an order to prepare such a plan could be issued by the military command, Turkish top general Ilker Basbug replied: “I even consider this question an insult. Such an order was never given.”

In a statement issued on June 15, the military said that it wouldn’t tolerate personnel “whose behavior and thoughts were incompatible with the principles of democracy and a state of law.”

Although AKP officials have taken steps towards legal action against the military regarding the document, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to take a more reconciliatory approach after a meeting with Basbug to talk about the allegations.

“Efforts to stir up mistrust between institutions will harm . . . Turkey as a whole,” Erdogan said. “The military High Command has shown responsibility and sensitivity from the moment this story broke.”

Still, even if both sides are trying to make nice, troubling questions remain. If the document exposed by Taraf is genuine, did it originate in the upper echelons of the military — which has not hesitated to intervene in Turkish politics in the past? Or was it the product of disgruntled officers unhappy with the increasing amount of civilian control the government is exercising over the armed forces? Either way, the document could be an indication of a military that is having a hard time kicking some of its old habits: Basbug’s predecessor also had to deal with restive underlings who hatched coup plots in 2003 and 2004.

The possibility of the leaked document being a forgery has not been discounted, at least not among members of the secularist press and Turkey’s political opposition. Some observers have suggested that what’s really being played out here is not a confrontation between the military and the AKP, but rather one between the generals and the influential Gulen movement. Media outlets affiliated with the movement have been among the quickest to accuse the military of being up to no good in this current crisis.

“Let’s push aside whether the document is real and get into the deep,” Ismet Berkan, editor of Radikal, a liberal daily owned by the pro-secularist Dogan Group, recently wrote in a column. “Everything we witness is in fact a psychological war. The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, is on one side, and the Gulen movement on the other.”

Ultimately, regardless of who actually wrote the contested document, the affair is another reminder of how deeply polarized Turkish politics and society are right now. Opponents and supporters of the AKP are unable to find common ground on most issues, with each side quick to accuse the other of wrongdoing. As an example, several pro-government papers recently reported that investigators were almost completely certain that the document in question is genuine. Some pro-secularist papers, meanwhile, reported that investigators were almost completely certain the same document is a fake. Ultimately, this kind of split does not bode well for Turkey’s political stability.

“Look at the situation through the eyes of ordinary people now. We are living in a country of psychological wars and excessive information pollution, and we do not know whom to believe,” Radikal’s Berkan wrote in his column. “Poor us!”

Assad sent tub of hummus to Olmert
By JPOST.COM STAFF, Jun 25, 2009

In a peaceful gesture two years ago, Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a tub of hummus to then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, Channel 2 reported Thursday.

According to the report, Assad was meeting a visiting US businessman in Syria and asked what Olmert liked to eat.

The businessman said hummus particularly tickled the then-prime minster’s taste buds, and so the Syrian president sent the tub, which eventually reached Olmert via Jordan.

Comments (88)


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51. Ford Prefect said:

Avi, you got Syria confused with Germany.

Majedkhaldoun, nothing is wrong with asking for the Palestinians’ right of return. What is wrong is the notion that Zionists have no place in the Holyland. Who is the visa officer who decided this?

Norman, Amen!

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June 29th, 2009, 6:13 pm

 

52. Avi said:

No FP this is the bare truth it was the truth for iraqi jews it was the truth for yemini jews today also!!just look at al jazeera on youtube,when you refuse to accept the truth of the jews living in arabic countries you will understand maybe better the conflict and not only germany; believe me; germany had many friends in syria during the second world war!And no norman only israelis decide who comes in and out for the moment it iscalled self defense and when you deny the history of jewis who come from arab states you deny the history of jews in germany also!But still i got no syrian response because they do not know the history of jews in syria they only care about themselves!

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June 29th, 2009, 6:20 pm

 

53. EHSANI2 said:

AVI,

To live in an apartheid-like state and refer to others as racists is rather ironic.

What reaction do you expect from the Arab world given the modern history of Israel?

1-800-flowers?

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June 29th, 2009, 6:30 pm

 

54. Avi said:

and what did you give us jews before “Israel” flowers?at least it is allready good that you admit the genocide of my people Eshani?But apparently you still are rasists and genocidal nothing has changed plus israel an apartheid state there are 1.5 million arabs inside israel proper that must be really bad apartheid!Our people never did to you what you did to us?and yes we will fight for our respect every time you attack us you rasists!and yes the truth is different from your propaganda lies!

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June 29th, 2009, 6:34 pm

 

55. EHSANI2 said:

Where did I discuss the genocide of your people you genious?

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June 29th, 2009, 6:38 pm

 

56. Avi said:

“at least it is allready good that you admit the genocide of my people Eshani?” it was a question ,and i dare you to answer it and i am talking about the jews of Aleppo the jews of Damas and the jews of Beirut,the ones that survived got saved by some christian lebanese??but this i am sure you don’t want to know right geuious? Actually syrians have their own resposability in creating Israel just like germany!Or maybe it was the so called flowers you were talking about eshani?And do i have to speak about hebron the massacre of 1929 and the mufti of palestine that was really a great friend of hitler and his last solution actually none of you are victims you are oppresors this is how i see you!

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June 29th, 2009, 6:52 pm

 

57. majid said:

“What is wrong is the notion that Zionists have no place in the Holyland.”

“Einstein once remarked that, at the end, minds that create a problem cannot be expected to solve it”

As you may notice, dear FP, the above quotes are your words. Since you seem to appreciate Einstein’s genius and insight, may be you should inquire more about the person. I recall reading a biography of his some time ago. I remember reading he was offered by the zionists to move to Palestine and they even tried to lure him by offering him the honorary post of Presidency. You know what? He was indeed a genius not just because of his scientific achievements. He chose to be a real free Jew than a fake zionist slave and he turned down the offer.

Do you think, as an Arab, who has witnessed this saga unfolding in front of your eyes during the last 60 years with all its tragedies can now decipher this man’s behavior and match his foresight?
You know what else? It is obvious he didn’t have your advantage of witnessing the outcome of zionism, and yet he made the right choice! Amazing!!

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June 29th, 2009, 7:21 pm

 

58. Avi said:

Majid Einstein had israeli citizeship and he helped a lot of universties open in israel, also he left some valuable knowledge on the nuclear so when the french helped us to build dimona reactor in the 50′s they were surprised by the knowledge we had!and by the way he did actually refuse presidency but not because he was not a zionist or didn’t love israel but because he said he was not suited and did not know well enough the country again majid your rasist lies and propaganda to keep you in check with the little genocide of my people !rasist!your continous lies that by anymeans are good to prove that jews have no right to israel!thank you for proving my point.

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June 29th, 2009, 7:31 pm

 

59. Off the Wall said:

There is a place for Jewish People in the holy land, as well as in Syria, but there should be no place for any exclusive ideology or practice anywhere, be it South Africa, Syria, Israel, or here in the US.

Post Zionist Israeli citizens do struggle in Israel. These conscientious people, who woke up to the facts of the birth of their state and realized the pain it caused others and the oddity of their fear based nationalism are looking both outward and inward. As avi demonstrated very well, the brain washing has reached an unparalleled fantastic level in Israel akin to the legendary 1984 book. Just consider his laughable attempt to silence our fellow commentator AP. I had a mental image of AP shaking his head in disbelief finding someone being not only more royalist than the king, but in fact deranged in manners the respectable AP himself find unacceptable. It is a good thing for our AP and for others to see their donations at work. Since I can not stop my tax dollars from going to Israel, I want, at least to make sure that it goes towards psychological counseling and towards better educational curricula. I am counting on AP and Yossi’s support in this. :) after all we have a shared interest in that.

Given the colorful intellectual life in Israel, I would tend, against my better judgement to classify avi as “Bin ladenite Zionist”. Like all ben-ladenites, he paints a romantic picture of the ideal, his imagery is full of lions, blood sacrifices, twisted heroism, machismo discourse, fighting and war. It is an image of a Utopia that is only achievable through purity be it religious, or racial. Real history becomes irrelevant and made-up myths, legends and exaggerations rule the day. There is only a place for absolutism where negotiation serves only one purpose, the surrender of the enemy. And relativism, middle ground, or co-existence are only conditioned on the mythical purity. We have our own avis, who want to die like lions even if their glorious death comes at the cost of burning the entire forest, what a megalomania.

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June 30th, 2009, 3:03 pm

 

60. Friend in America said:

I concur that Syria will not (probably should not) relax its ties with Iran in the short term future. The outcome is too uncertain and the speculation on how the unrest might alter negotiations with Israel is idle conjecture. It is time to take a deep breath and just wait. The situation in Iran is still at the tipping point. The outcome is not predictable at present.

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June 30th, 2009, 3:10 pm

 

61. Akbar Palace said:

There is a place for Jewish People in the holy land, as well as in Syria, but there should be no place for any exclusive ideology or practice anywhere, be it South Africa, Syria, Israel, or here in the US.

Post Zionist Israeli citizens do struggle in Israel. These conscientious people…

Just consider his laughable attempt to silence our fellow commentator AP. I had a mental image of AP shaking his head in disbelief finding someone being not only more royalist than the king, but in fact deranged in manners the respectable AP himself find unacceptable. It is a good thing for our AP and for others to see their donations at work. Since I can not stop my tax dollars from going to Israel, I want, at least to make sure that it goes towards psychological counseling and towards better educational curricula. I am counting on AP and Yossi’s support in this.

OTW,

cc: Avi

Thank you for the term “respectable AP”, I hope you weren’t being sarcastic. And yes, your “mental image” was accurate.

So now you have it, the far Left, the far Right, and the Center (moi) all represented at the same time here on SC. Let me just say that even though that I sense a lot of emotion from Avi, and though I share his concerns, I am ready to sit and THINK of solutions. No one has tried to “silence” me. I just didn’t see an attempt at dialogue.

I take issue with your term “exclusive ideology”. All ideologies are permitted in Israel: communist, capitalist, Jewish, Islamic, Christian, atheist, homosexual, even anti-Zionism. There is no law against espousing any of these ideologies in public or private, and none are exclusive.

The only thing that makes Israel a “Jewish State” is the Law of Return, and the holidays. To date, this is what the majority of Israelis want. Many countries as well as the Palestinians have similar laws.

As you might imagine, the term “Post Zionism” gets on my nerves. Right now, Zionism is alive and well.

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June 30th, 2009, 7:12 pm

 

62. majid said:

“As you might imagine, the term “Post Zionism” gets on my nerves.

Amazing! Sometimes I feel I have to agree with someone who can only see his state of mind. But, of course that is the whole issue. His state of mind is zionism. You get an A on this. So-called Post-zionism is a marketing tool for those who want to get away with stealing whatever they stole already and get an applaud from the dispossessed. So they are all die-hard zionists usurpers of the land. Post-zionism does not exist. So do not worry.

What is Law of Return if it is not execlusivity? Palestinians have the Right of Return to pre-1948 Palestine, they also have a right for compensation from zionist thieves and an apology. How does that work with a zionist or even a so-called post-zionist?

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June 30th, 2009, 7:36 pm

 

63. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

OTW,

I think it’s a little bit too easy to dismiss Avi as “paranoid”. What Avi recognizes correctly is that his way of life as he knows it is in danger. Like it or not Avi has grown in a Jewish country with Jewish symbols of state, holidays, culture, etc. Like most people, he identifies with the identity he was brought up on and looks wearily at things that can ruin his world. Because his state hasn’t been accepted by its neighbors as legitimate (for whatever reasons), Avi is not paranoid, just panicky.

What people like Avi sense, quite correctly, is that the two-state peace negotiations are a sham. Beyond being willfully or just naively blind about how the Israeli side is insincere in these negotiations, they are actually very aware of the Palestinian insincerity and of the illegitimacy of the Palestinian negotiators. The bone of contention boils down to this: the logic of the two-state solution is the logic of a divorce. It’s a recognition that the two peoples are not interested in living together in the same state, at least not in the foreseeable future. Thus, like in all partition plans that preceded it, the assumptions of both Israel and the international community (but not of the Arabs) is that one state would be “Jewish” and the other would be “Arab” (that doesn’t preclude the possibility of minorities in either of these states). Obviously, the desire of Israelis to live in a “Jewish” state is in conflict with the Palestinians desire to exercise the right of return, however it is not clear that the refugee problem is the sole reason for the rejection of Israel. Many claim that you simply cannot accept a non-predominantly-Arab entity in your midst. Both sides are playing along so-as not to appear as the ones that are rejecting “peace”, with “peace” here being the vision that Americans have which we should all be very happy with, but in reality nobody is.

So… tension in Israel is building up. Something will have to give. I have no doubt in my mind that some of the Israeli desire to go to war with Iran is coming from a belief that under the cover of an Armageddon, they will be able to finish what they didn’t get to finish in 48 and 67. On the Palestinian side, things are more relaxed. They can just wait and perfunctorily participate in the peace process, each time saying “no” to proposals and never coming with a counter proposal. In the mean time Israelis are stewing up in their existential fears and world opinion is getting ready to endorse the one-state solution. What is there not to like about it?

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July 1st, 2009, 12:40 am

 

64. Akbar Palace said:

What is there not to like about it?

Yossi,

I agree. Like my father used to say, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”!

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July 1st, 2009, 1:07 am

 

65. SimoHurtta said:

I agree. Like my father used to say, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”!

But Akbar it is already broken. Israel is very high on the ranking list of failed states. Only a bit less failed than Syria and Egypt are. If Israel is not fixed it will be soon so broken that it can’t be fixed.

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July 1st, 2009, 4:56 am

 

66. jad said:

Yossi
With all due respect, I disagree with half of what you wrote, you weren’t being fair magnifying the Israelis fear of the Palestinians and Arabs without showing the other side of the conflict and the bare truth that Palestinians are under the Israelis occupation and it’s not only me the Syrian who is saying that, the whole world including the Americans agree on this fact.
The Palestinians are the only people on earth who are under an ugly occupation, and the sad truth is that the majority of the Israelis are treating them in the most disgusting way possible that we as human can’t and won’t understand or accept regardless of our race or religion and it makes us really mad about what we see. The Palestinians are not a myth and they deserve to live in peace and above all FREE and PROUD human being.
Avi likes characters need not to be justified but the opposite. Radicals, racists, full of hate people should be stand against wherever we see them and not to justify any of their paranoia because they won’t understand that as we do, they will take it as a support for their cause.
The irony about that character is that he managed to absorb the worst of Jews and Arabs sides by being Paranoid, Obnoxious, Rude, Lost and Proud of all of that… :)

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July 1st, 2009, 4:57 am

 

67. majid said:

“The irony I saw about that character is that he managed to absorb the worst of Jews and Arabs sides by being Paranoid, Obnoxious, Rude, Lost and Proud of all of that…”

JAD,
It is better to use the word zionist instead of Jew. Arabs don’t have problems with Jews and Judaism per se. When a Jew or even non-Jew becomes a zionist then he/she becomes an Arab/Palestinian enemy. You also cannot equate Arabs with the Jews (zionists) as in your statement. Can you equate murdered victims (Palestinians) with murderers (zionists)? It doesn’t make sense.

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July 1st, 2009, 5:11 am

 

68. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Jad,

I guess my point was kind of subtle, or rather weak. I was trying to depict the situation for an average Israeli, without making a moral judgement. To accentuate my point, if you are on a death row, then your fear of immenent death is not a paranoia, and it doesn’t matter for that question whether you are innocent or guilty.

Of course the occupation is immoral, ugly and barbaric. Of course that the right of return is founded in international law and UN council resolutions, but if Avi were to grant these, what would he be left with? His entire world would be ruined. So, you invent the myths that you need to believe in to keep you in a safe place, from a mental perspective.

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July 1st, 2009, 5:21 am

 

69. majid said:

Well, well, well…
Within five comments a snake changes skin so easily.
I wonder if SH’s comment has anything to do with it.
Myth or failed state, wouldn’t that be the same? So why not assimilate? It should be easy for a snake skilled at skin-shedding!! And paranoia would disappear at the same time.
Win win.

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July 1st, 2009, 5:34 am

 

70. Yossi (Rumyal) said:

Majid,

I really don’t know what I did to warrant your repeated personal attacks on me. If you believe that my positions were inconsistent in some way, please enlighten me, I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic, as long as you can watch your manners.

And with regards to assimilation, sure, let me take you up on that. What does it require? Spell it out so I can evaluate it. That’s exactly the type of honest requirement-setting that people in Israel need. Then they can think rationally whether they should go for it or go out in a bang.

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July 1st, 2009, 5:48 am

 

71. jad said:

Majid,
I state many times on here that I’m an Anti-Zionist, Yossi, Shai and AP knows that it’s not a secret and it’s a belief that i wont change period. I’m a pro-Palestinians and I’m with their cause of having their freedom but that is not going to be a problem for Shai nor Yossi, they know and understand that and we keep respect each other for our personal differences.
I used what I meant because Zionist is a political movement and not all Israelis are Zionist and not all of them are bad, there are many of them who are fighting the occupation smarter than the Palestinians are doing, some Israelis are closer to me and you in their morals against the occupation than a hardcore Zionist who support everything ugly in the occupation.
Shai is a peace activist, his political ideas are not of my business, Yossi is the same, I do respect them equally for what they do and I do respect them as human first before thinking of the political party they belong to. I can’t ask them to do more than what they are doing that’s the most they can offer, if they pass this line they are betraying their own country, so I appreciate any effort they do and I respect their decisions.
Here are some sites founded and run by Israelis, should I consider those people Zionist and refuse to communicate with them too or should I be smart about my goal and try to open my eyes and look beyond their personal issues and respect their hard work and their fight for freedom from the within? you decide:
http://www.icahd.org/eng/
http://desertpeace.wordpress.com/
http://www.btselem.org/English/index.asp
http://draykcab.wordpress.com/
and many more, so you tell me now, should I call all of them Zionists?

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July 1st, 2009, 5:50 am

 

72. jad said:

Majid,
Could you please be less emotional and more respectful for people on here.
We all here for one reason, to communicate and understand each other points and not in competition.
So I personally ask you to stop attacking other respected men on here namely Yossi and Shai without a reason, it takes the whole conversation down the drain.
Please!

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July 1st, 2009, 5:56 am

 

73. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Majid,

I really don’t know what I did to warrant your repeated personal attacks on me. If you believe that my positions were inconsistent in some way, please enlighten me, I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic, as long as you can watch your manners.

And with regards to assimilation, sure, let me take you up on that. What does it require? Spell it out so I can evaluate it. That’s exactly the type of honest requirement-setting that people in Israel need. Then they can think rationally whether they should go for it or go out in a bang.

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July 1st, 2009, 5:58 am

 

74. jad said:

Yossi,
Thank you very much for the explanation.
I do understand your point, I wasn’t trying to argue at all, I just wanted to challenge what you wrote to get some more clarity, that’s all.

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July 1st, 2009, 6:03 am

 

75. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Jad,

And I have no problem clarifying when needed… Sheesh I’m not *that* sensitive. Just don’t call me animal names :-)

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July 1st, 2009, 6:09 am

 

76. majid said:

JAD,
What you said is fine and full of reason. But you also have to be aware when someone who claims to be a peacenik but rejects flatly the right of return (which he and shai did some time ago in discussions with me) then that raises questions in my head right away about his claim to peace activism. Even in his last comment (64) he dodges the issue by laying it on UN resolutions and justifying its rejection due to the avi’s. He doesn’t come out straight and spell his own opinion on the issue. What about the mythical Law of Return? He seems to be OK with that. Why should a Russian, an Ethiopian, and an American be given the right to settle in the land at the expense of its rightful owner? There are double standards here. To me anyone who believes or condones this so-called Law of Return automatically classifies as a zionist. Do you have any doubts about that?

His comment 64 is clearly biased in favor of swallowing the whole of Palestine in order to satisfy the avi’s.

“In the mean time Israelis are stewing up in their existential fears and world opinion is getting ready to endorse the one-state solution. What is there not to like about it?”

He is savoring and enjoying the idea of the theft. I know you objected to him, and I totally agree with what you said. But I still fail to see the difference between him and the avi’s. To me they’re the same. I do not see how they can be of any help.

If as you said, they cannot offer more help to the cause and they are genuine with their desires, then the best course of action for them is to keep silent and avoid providing such misguided analyses which would only indicate their preferences to certain agendas. Such analyses only aim to circumvent the right of self determination of the dispossessed which has already been recognized by the whole world. By such effort, they are aiming to take it away from them.

Having said all this, I do admit that there are quite few (or even many) who would be entitled to be called Jews as we Arabs understand the term. But we need to be vigilant and capable of making the distinction. That’s my whole point.

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July 1st, 2009, 6:23 am

 

77. jad said:

Majid,
I understand every word you wrote in your comment and I would fully agree with you if we are real politician or news reporter with some specific and clear agenda in our heads which is not the case here, we all are politically amateur who are not even politician in real life. We are some kind of average Abouahmad’s chit chatting about some news and we all are politically incorrect, so to ask for us to be very clear and not to contradict what we write couple weeks ago is a bit difficult don’t you think?

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July 1st, 2009, 6:40 am

 

78. majid said:

OK JAD I got your point. But we’re also involved in a sort of group effort which may cascade. So we still have to be careful. Do not forget the issue of normalization. We’re all stepping on that by conducting such exchanges even though it is on individual level. But, what kind of peace they achieved with Jordan and Egypt? They only got the cold peace. They cannot get the real peace from us without addressing the problem. Real peace happens on the individual level. We cannot put the cart before the horse. Just keep that in mind. And please do not take it as if I’m being overbearing.

YOSSI,
When you go to the US you become American and melt in the melting pot. That is assimilation.

Jews who want to come to the Arab World become Arabs. They still remain Jews but they cannot be zionists. They learn the language and abide by the general customs. They have to prove their good conduct by abandoning and disavowing zionism and their militaristic enterprise and servitude to foreign powers. That is assimilation in the Arab World.

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July 1st, 2009, 6:55 am

 

79. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Majid @71,

I wish you were courteous enough to direct your criticism directly at me, but you are not. Here is what I have to say to *you*, Mr. Majid.

My ancestors initiated this conflict by colonizing Israel. Since then both sides have exacerbated the conflict and made it intractable. I am not optimistic about any sort of peaceful solution. I wish that the Israelis and Palestinians would find a formula that works for both of them and that they both view as fair. To the extent that the sides are just BS’ing each other, that’s just a recipe for horrendous violence down the road, as we have seen after Oslo.

What possible solutions are there? There’s the two-state solution, and the one-state solution. And when I refer to the one-state solution I’m talking about one democratic country from the river to the sea. This is mostly a position supported by Palestinians, so your accusation that this amounts to “gobbling up” land is either dishonest or comes from lack of knowledge of the subject matter. I suggest you check out Ali Abu-Nimah’s talks and book on the subject.

The two-state solution, that Israel, the PA, and the international community are supposedly committed to, is based, as I said, on the logic of a divorce of the peoples where each gets its own state in which they are constituting a majority and have the freedom to define the country as they wish. Well how can a Jewish state be Jewish if it has a Palestinian majority, which is what would happen if Palestinians are allowed to exercise their right of return, into the Jewish state? So this, as stipulated, doesn’t work. Something needs to change in the ingredients of the deal to make it work. The only way this could work is if the Palestinians would give up their right to go back into Israel. Now why would they agree to that? I think that by default, they won’t, and they shouldn’t. The only way they could be persuaded is by swapping the right of return for land. Then, if a significant amount of land (i.e., inside 48 borders) is offered, then it could be argued that the returning Palestinians would be settled there, in their “original land” (loosely speaking). In other words, if the land needs to support an equal number of Palestinians and Jews, or a larger number of Palestinians, and we’re playing by the dichotomic rules of the Jewish vs. Palestinians state, then the area of the Jewish state cannot be 78% of the land, leaving the Palestinians with 22%. The Jewish land will have to be significantly smaller. This is one possible way to reach an agreement, but the Israelis won’t accept it, and the Palestinian side doesn’t offer it. Why? Because neither one really believes in the two-state solution.

Then there is the one-state solution. This would be, so we are to believe, a democratic country of all its citizens. This country will recognize the rights of the Palestinians and the Jews to live in equality in the land. It will recognize the right of the Palestinians to return, and it will also allow Jews (and maybe everybody) under religious persecution to take refuge. These are all ideas espoused by Palestinians such as Ali Abu-Nimah. Since the Palestinians will be a majority in the country, and since no official Palestinian has ever explained what this country might look like, the Jews fear it will be a place of intolerance in which they will be persecuted, or a dictatorship like most Arab countries. They view this option as an invitation to suicide. What would it take to make this work? What is required is a democratic Palestinian leader of the stature of Mandela who would explain how such a country could be created, would assuage Jews’ fears and would rally Palestinians and Jews around him. But, alas, nobody rises to the challenge.

Here is a scenario of Palestinian return that I oppose: suppose all the Palestinian refugees arm themselves and say that they should be admitted into the country, in order to kill all the Jews there. That would be just to the Palestinian refugees, but it wouldn’t be just to the people who will be about to be slaughtered. That, I oppose. I wonder if you would find fault in that?

I hope this clarifies my personal preferences (not that they are consequential in any way).

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July 1st, 2009, 7:25 am

 

80. Off the Wall said:

Yossi

My friend, I also am an opponent of the two states solution. But being a Syrian, I have no say about that, and I would not assume the right of my Palestinian brother to decide on their own course of action. If their decision is to strive for a two states solution, then i would do my best to ensure that their state is viable and that means, among other things, opposing any plan of continuing Israeli hegemony over their affairs, and rejection of anything less than what they decide to agree upon. I would however explain what I perceive as the danger of this solution.

Personally, though, I see in the two states solution a frantic attempt to delay the inevitable, which is a truly multi-ethnic society that must be re-constructed at great pains. The two state solution is a solution that caters to intolerance and mistrust, and to a mutual notion of purity that I have come to detest. Yet, it is also a solution that is justified on the Palestinians side by the draconian occupation and by the continuing theft of their land and of the vitality of their livelihood for the sake of few new immigrants enjoying the fruits of the Zionist dream under the protection of a state, which according to AP, whose voracity on the subject i have no reason to challenge, is a state that tolerates a broad and wide rainbow of ideologies. Yet that state, can not bring itself, people and government to recognize the dispossession and the great human tragedy that continues to unfold as a result of its creation and of its guiding political philosophy. A state that continues, cabinet after another, and opinion pole after another, to display a level of racism that is at odds not only with its claim to democracy, but with the history of the Jewish people.

To Israelis and to most Jewish people, opposing Zionism may seem racist. But I know for sure that to a reasonable majority, Arab opponents of Zionism have not a hint of antisemitism or of a racist agenda. To them the matter is very simple, it is the dispossession of their brothers and sisters to establish a state that puts being a Jew above everything else.

Now, if i am to agree, and I do, that you, being born in Israel, or Shai and his precious daughters are entitled to live there happy and secure, i must also think of my nieces and nephew, whose Palestinian father’s eyes tear every time he speaks of his ancestral homeland. Without a right to return, literally to his own village, which was destroyed, his existence is deemed less worthy than the existence of someone whose connection to the land is also an emotional construct that is at least two thousand years further removed than his own. How is that not exclusive and not racist. Can avi explain that to him or to his children. He did not lose a war, nor did his father, a school teacher, who was a teenager then.

I have been struggling with the question whether Israel’s existence can be detached from Zionism? I do not know the answer, but in my attempts to find one, I have tried set aside being an Arab, and to put myself in the shoes of a 19th and early to mid 20th century secular Jewish person living in Europe. Hard as it is, Zionism, would be appealing, especially if I am told that accomplishing the dream would cause no one harm since the land would be empty . Edward Said, vilified by both sides, tried to impart such an exercise when he argued that empathy is a precursor to a reasoned dialog. However, if I am to see myself as a modern secular Jew of the 21st century, the idea would be much less appealing, especially knowing that the land was never empty, nor it is now, and knowing that the “purity” component of that dream runs counter to my modern intellectual standards of human rights. I think of all people, you get my drift.

As for what would avi be left with, i think he would be left with a great opportunity to build something wonderful. Something that transcends the narrow definition of who we are into what we are. My nieces are waiting to partake in such an enterprise, so are countless numbers of my Palestinian friends, none of them wants to push anyone into the sea, all they want is a recognition of their humanity, their rights, and of the injustices their father and their grandparents suffered.

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July 1st, 2009, 7:31 am

 

81. Off the Wall said:

AP,
By the way, I was not sarcastic. I meant what I said. However, you know that the mental image I spoke of resulted in a menacing smile recognizing the Irony and Chutzpa of the whole situation.

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July 1st, 2009, 7:44 am

 

82. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Majid @73,

Yeah well I think the Israelis really appreciate their independence (and also their military, and foreign alliances). In the current situation they would flatly decline. This can change either by making their lives more miserable, or by making assimilation more attractive. Now if you go back to what I wrote about the one-state solution, I’m basically proposing the latter (what else would I propose…). I hope you’d also agree that showing that you can expand your ranks by your virtues, rather than by coercion, will be a great victory of the spirit.

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July 1st, 2009, 7:51 am

 

83. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

OTW,

Thank you for your comment of immense thoughtfulness. I couldn’t find a word I disagreed with. A large part of my appreciation of America is that it lets me and my kids grow in a pluralistic society that includes both Jews and Arabs. I find it ironic that Seattle has a Jewish-Arab summer camp for kids, yet in Israel such things are rare. In again reminds me of the possibilities that are present in our latitude as expats who have seen other configurations of society.

Now my million $ question to you would be this: what you’re saying makes so much sense, how come we haven’t seen Arafat of Abu Mazen say the exact same things? In what way would it weaken their hands?

I have two theories about this.

The first, which you alluded to, is that it seems a longer term battle that will not alleviate the problem of the occupation in the short term. I actually think that this is not a correct calculation, because the sides cannot agree on a two-state solution anyway.

The second, which I dread, is that the Palestinian leadership knows that it cannot vouch for the safety of the Jews in a unified state and therefore, out of responsibility, it doesn’t offer this proposal.

What do you think?

(I’m going to sleep now and will check again tomorrow…)

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July 1st, 2009, 8:09 am

 

84. Akbar Palace said:

OTW,

I concur with Yossi, it was a good post, and a fair description of your feelings on the matter.

You said:

If their decision is to strive for a two states solution, then i would do my best to ensure that their state is viable and that means, among other things, opposing any plan of continuing Israeli hegemony over their affairs, and rejection of anything less than what they decide to agree upon.

Your Palestinian brethren HAVE decided on a “two state solution”, there is NO question about. Obama has a lot on his plate, and I can’t believe he is going to send George Mitchell all over the world in order to find out that the Palestinians want something different than a two state solution.

Now, I don’t know what Hamas wants. I guess my point is, if the Palestinians can’t decide what they want after 60 years then they may set themselves up for another loss, especially if a second War of Independence ensues. It may be decision making time again, like it was for Arafat. Again, what can the Palestinians live with?

On your dream of a One State Solution, I share your dream of Jews and Arabs living together in One State: Palestinians and Jews could have preferential immigration status, Muslim and Jewish holidays are enforced, Arabic and Hebrew are equally used in government documents, etc. But that is a utopia that doesn’t mesh with reality.

I’m sorry to say, Israel has been yearning for independence for 2000 years, and the Arabs/Palestinians have been fighting against this. Unfortunately, I don’t think humans have evolved to the point where they can discuss and resolve these issues before resorting to war and violence. They couldn’t do it in 1948, and I don’t think they can do it now.

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July 1st, 2009, 11:59 am

 

85. Shai said:

OTW,

I join Yossi’s (and AP’s) impression with your comment. I too agree with every word of it.

Unlike Yossi, however, I am not sure that a two-state solution isn’t truly sought by at least the majority on each side. It is a fact that two former-Likud prime ministers in Israel, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, were elected into power specifically over their crystal-clear agenda of withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza, in order for a Palestinian state to be created. Both men spelled it out well before their elections, during their campaigning, and after getting elected. There is a reasonable probability (I believe) that had Sharon not fallen ill, he might have continued the withdrawal also from the West Bank. Olmert was too weak, misguided, and preferred killing Lebanese and Gazan citizens over pulling Jews out of illegal settlements. Still, fact remains that most Israelis elected these two leaders.

I may be in agreement with Yossi, that a two-state solution seems very unlikely at this stage. This is precisely why I so strongly support the Syrian-track. Sooner or later we must leave the Golan. It isn’t ours, and we’ve been holding on to it illegally for over 42 years. It is by far the easiest conflict to resolve, and it could have a “spillover” effect which might create a better environment of trust for all sides. I do not wish for it to, in any way whatsoever, undermine the long overdue freedom of the Palestinian people and right to their own nation. I simple see it as a first-step that should be taken. I think anyone “gambling” on the Palestinian track first is not reading the reality on the ground correctly, and will again be disappointed.

As for the Right of Return, I absolutely agree with anyone that sees this as double-standard and, to be quite honest, as a racist policy. I wish my country could be an Israel without the “Jewish State” part. In fact, I long for that day. Not only for the sake of all those non-Jews who indeed suffered and are still suffering the consequences of this racism, but also for my sake and for the sake of my children, who deserve to live in a nation that is truly free to all. Having said that, I do not see how a fair Right of Return could be feasible or accepted in the near future (say 10-15 years). I cannot see how 51% of Israelis of today will agree to have a full right of return to any or all Palestinian refugees to their old homes and villages inside Israel. I hope this will change one day. As you’ll recall me say so many times before, I dream of a UME (United Middle East) in my lifetime, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims life in peace together, under one “nation” or union of nations.

I truly believe that your nephews, OTW, have as much a right to live in Israel/Palestine as I do. To be completely honest, they probably have a greater-right. But as you know, most Israelis cannot even contemplate this now, let alone utter the words. At least a generation of peace (even cold-peace) must pass, I believe, before Israelis can begin to shed their paranoia and fear of the Arabs. This is unfortunately the reality, that the bully suffers from a psychosis which the victim cannot fix, except through time. And, since I also do not see a Mandela-type leader rising out of the Palestinian streets, or Israel’s for that matter, I don’t think we’re talking a year or two, or five.

My fear, is that if we do not reach some peaceful agreement soon (such as with Syria), that this pressure-cooker that is Israel and our region, will eventually explode yet again in a horrific regional war. And that this time, tens if not hundreds of thousands will die. Some might claim that this is precisely what is needed, in order to move forward. I hope they’re wrong. I hope we can at least achieve some solutions, which will undoubtedly be deemed unfair to some sides (perhaps to all sides), but that will at least put a final end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. But I also understand any Palestinian that dismisses any solution which does not include a full right-of-return.

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July 1st, 2009, 9:25 pm

 

86. Avi said:

If i am 2 make a 1 state solution does that mean with hamas?does hamas want jews livilg in their one state solution?hamas is 50 percent of palestine?How am i as ani= israeli going to live with these guys that want my demise??

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July 4th, 2009, 3:23 pm

 

87. Avi said:

Plus zionism as my liberation movement from the oppressed societies that jews lived in (europe and the arab world)you want us to give up???ok would arabs give up islam??

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July 4th, 2009, 3:27 pm

 

88. Avi said:

And as for a land without a people ,it was i think the rhetoric was used for the land the jewish national movement bought or owned at the time legally!!!and yes zionism calls for peace with its arab neighboors if we are not talking about the little minority of strong extremists ‘zionists’ we have in our tiny country!I think i do not agree on the defenition you give to zionism at all.

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July 4th, 2009, 3:35 pm

 

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