WikiLeaks: Saudi Proposed Arab Force to Invade Lebanon; Makhlouf Sanctions; Mughniya Murder

WikiLeaks cables: Saudis proposed Arab force to invade Lebanon
Foreign minister wanted US, Nato and UN backing for offensive to end Iranian-backed Hezbollah’s siege of government
Ewen MacAskill in Washington, Tuesday 7 December 2010

Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. The plan would have sparked a proxy battle between the US and its allies against Iran, fought in one of the most volatile regions of the world. The Saudi plan was never enacted but reflects the anxiety of Saudi Arabia – as well as the US – about growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East…” [Guardian]

A WikiLeaks cable details a discussion that took place as pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian groups laid siege to Beirut and threatened the government of Lebanese prime minister

Fouad Siniora, seen here with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Photograph: Ali Haider/EPA

The proposal was made by the veteran Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, to the US special adviser to Iraq, David Satterfield. The US responded by expressing scepticism about the military feasibility of the plan.

It would have marked a return of US forces to Lebanon almost three decades after they fled in the wake of the 1983 suicide attack on US marine barracks in Beirut that killed 299 American and French military personnel.

Faisal, in a US cable marked secret, emphasised the need for what he referred to as a “security response” to the military challenge to the Lebanon government from Hezbollah, the Shia militia backed by Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria.

The cable says: “Specifically, Saud argued for an ‘Arab force’ to create and maintain order in and around Beirut.

“The US and Nato would need to provide transport and logistical support, as well as ‘naval and air cover’. Saud said that a Hezbollah victory in Beirut would mean the end of the Siniora government and the ‘Iranian takeover’ of Lebanon.”

The discussion came just days after Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon laid siege to Beirut, threatening the pro-western government of Fouad Siniora, after 17 months of street demonstrations.

Siniora survived, though only after making enormous concessions to Hezbollah. He was replaced by another pro-western leader, Saad Hariri, but Hezbollah remains a force in Lebanon, lionised by many Arabs after defeating Israel in the 2006 war along the Lebanese border.

According to the cable Saud argued that a Hezbollah victory against the Siniora government “combined with Iranian actions in Iraq and on the Palestinian front would be a disaster for the US and the entire region”. Saud argued that the present situation in Beirut was “entirely military” and the solution must be military as well. The situation called for an “Arab force drawn from Arab ‘periphery’ states to deploy to Beirut under the ‘cover of the UN’.”

Saud said Siniora strongly backed the idea but the only Arab countries aware of it were Egypt and Jordan, along with the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

No contacts had been made with Syria on any Beirut developments, Saud said, adding: “What would be the use?”

Saud said that of all the regional fronts on which Iran was advancing, Lebanon would be an “easier battle to win” for the anti-Iranian allies…..

US embassy cables: Israel warns of reprisals against Lebanon in case of rocket attacks
Thursday, 18 June 2009, S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001324
EO 12958 DECL: 06/18/2009
SUBJECT: GOI DISCUSSES LEBANON AND SYRIA WITH HOF
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Luis G. Moreno, reason 1.4 (b) a nd (d)
Summary

1. (C) SUMMARY. On June 10, Fred Hof, Special Advisor for Regional Affairs in the office of Special Envoy Mitchell, held a series of meetings with GOI officials from the MFA and MOD to discuss the situation in Lebanon and Syria and the possibilities for progress towards opening negotiations with each. The Israeli officials expressed cautious optimism over the election results in Lebanon, but did not believe they would lead to major changes in the power balance in Lebanon, or serious reduction of Hizballah influence. However, both Amos Gilad, Pol-Mil Director in the MOD and Nimrod Barkan, Director of the MFA Political Research Division (INR equivalent), told Hof that the Lebanese election results took Syria by surprise, and were a blow for Syrian President Asad. The officials were split over the prospects for Israeli peace with Syria. Alon Ushpiz, Chief of Staff for the MFA Director General, believes Syria is only interested in a process that gives it international legitimacy. However, in a separate meeting, Gilad called Syrian/Iran ties a “marriage of convenience” which could possibly be broken with a peace agreement with Israel and incentives from the United States. On Ghajar and Sheba’a, there was consensus within the GOI that Ghajar can be resolved, but doing so will not have much utility, while Israeli will only agree to discuss Sheba’a within the context of Syria. End Summary….

7. (S) Negotiations with Syria may succeed, Gilad said, because Iran was a marriage of convenience for Syria. He believes Syria would much rather be close to their fellow Arabs and the rest of the international community, if given the chance. Gilad stressed that both the Iranians and the Arab Sunnis despise the ruling Alawite minority in Syria – he recalled that Sadat used to call the Alawites “pagans” – and said the Iranians would like to get rid of the Asad regime at the appropriate time. Gilad noted that Syria did not inform Iran of its nuclear reactor, which was built entirely with North Korean assistance, and did not notify Iran in advance of its proximity talks with Israel. In addition, he said, the Golan Heights have remained Israel’s quietest front, evidence that Syria can uphold its commitments as long its commitments are clear.

8. (C) While Syria may want peace, Gilad cautioned that it may be impossible for Syria to extricate itself from Iran and Hizballah, even if it tried. Hizballah is now an integral part of Syria’s defense concept, and is a more effective fighting force than the Syrian army. But in the end, Gilad stated, Israel only has two choices with Syria: war or peace.

Guardian (GB): WikiLeaks cables: Syria stunned by Hezbollah assassination
2010-12-07

Syrian officials were stunned by the mysterious assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative in Damascus two years ago, triggering a blame game between rival security services and frenzied speculation across the Middle East about who did it. US …

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 DAMASCUS 000804
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/07/2009
TAGS: PTER PREL LE IZ IS SY
SUBJECT: IS NOW THE TIME TO RAISE HIZBALLAH WITH SYRIA?

Classified By: CDA Charles Hunter, Reasons 1.4 b and d.

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Syria’s determined support of Hizballah’s military build-up, particularly the steady supply of longer-range rockets and the introduction of guided missiles, could change the military balance and produce a scenario significantly more destructive than the July-August 2006 war. If rockets were to rain down on Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv, Israel would still have powerful incentives, as it did in 2006, to keep Syria out of the conflict, but it might also face compelling reasons for targeting Hizballah facilities in Syria, some of which are in and around populated areas.

Syria’s current strategic mindset appears to assume Syria could avoid involvement in a new conflict, based largely on its 2006 experience. Syrian leaders also appear convinced that arming Hizballah will increase Syria’s leverage in bringing Israel to the negotiating table. As Washington weighs how to approach Syrian officials in upcoming engagement efforts, discussing Hizballah from the perspective of the regional strategic landscape may help to facilitate a “big picture” conversation in which we could challenge these assumptions and focus Damascus on the importance of taking cooperative steps with the U.S. now. Though raising this subject could well distract from a cooperative approach that shows signs of progress after months of investment, we believe sounding a warning, probably in a one-one-one meeting with President Asad, would be worth considering in pursuit of a broader, more strategic dialogue. End Summary.

———————————-
Is the Strategic Balance Changing?
———————————-

¶2. (S/NF) Syria’s determined efforts to re-arm Hizballah during and after the July-August 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah have consistently grabbed Israeli headlines, most recently with Israeli Chief of Staff Ashkenazi’s November 10 revelation that Hizballah possessed 320-kilometer range rockets. Jane’s Defense Weekly reported October 28 on Hizballah’s deployment of the first guided surface-to-surface M600 missile on Lebanese soil, with a range of 250 kilometers and circular error probability of 500 meters. Public estimates put Hizballah’s stockpile as high as 40,000 rockets and missiles, reinforcing assessments by some experts that this build-up may portend a shift in the military balance between Israel and its northern nemesis. Hizballah SecGen Nasrallah’s recent claims of possessing a capability to “destroy” the IDF may overstate the case for domestic and regional propaganda purposes, but reporting in other channels confirms Nasrallah’s bragging on November 11 that Hizballah can sustain fire on Tel Aviv and reach “all of Israel.” This capability, if fully used, would represent a quantum leap over the damage and psychological terror Hizballah rockets caused in northern Israel during the 2006 war.

¶3. (S/NF) There is overwhelming evidence that shows Syria provided not just logistical and other support in moving the weapons, but was the main source of the  weapons. Syria’s integration of Hizballah into its military doctrine, moreover, means that Hizballah operatives and facilities enjoy a growing footprint in Syria.

¶4. (S/NF) At least two potential consequences flow from Hizballah’s increased capabilities and Syria’s role in creating them: (1) If there is another war between Hizballah and Israel, it will be far deadlier than the 2006 conflict; (2) as in 2006, there would be compelling reasons for Israel to want to keep Syria out of any future war if possible, but there might be a countervailing need to hit Hizballah and perhaps targets in Syria, some of which are located in populated areas.

———————————
Agreeing to Disagree on Hizballah
———————————-

¶5. (S/NF) U.S.-Syrian discussions on Hizballah have tended to “agree to disagree” after hitting the wall of conflicting views on the legitimacy of armed resistance and Israeli occupation. Syrian officials, including President Asad, emphasize their political link to Hizballah and flatly deny that Syria is arming Hizballah. They then defend the right to armed resistance in response to prolonged Israeli occupation of Syrian and Lebanese territory. When convenient, Syrian officials claim they no longer have responsibility for Hizballah, noting “we are out of Lebanon.” President Asad and FM Muallim have also suggested that the challenge of disarming Hizballah would be solved after Syria and Israel signed a peace treaty. This agreement would lead naturally to a deal between Lebanon and Israel, thereby removing the rationale for  Hizballah’s resistance movement and setting the stage for the transition of Hizballah to a purely political party.

¶6. (S/NF) The Syrian government’s strategic view of relations with Hizballah is difficult to assess with high confidence. According to various contacts, President Asad appears to be focused on the possibility of a new conflict between Israel and Syria, but many suggest he believes that the red lines of the 2006 war would be preserved. According to this model, Syria could avoid direct involvement as long as Israel refrained from striking targets on Syrian soil. Syria also seems to be hedging its bets through improved relations with Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia, which, Syrian officials probably hope, would object to Israeli attacks against Lebanon and/or Syria.

¶7. (S/NF) Asad nonetheless appears more convinced than ever that arming Hizballah is necessary for Syrian security and perhaps as a stick to bring the current Israeli government back to negotiations on the return of the Golan. Syrians remain resistant to the notion that Syria bears responsibility for managing a potentially explosive situation that could draw Damascus into a war neither sought nor winnable. They have ably deployed a force field of cognitive dissonance to resist arguments linking Syria’s arming of Hizballah and the future prospects of Syrian-Israel peace negotiations. Israel, they insist, remains the problem, and only a more active U.S. role can bring and sustain a resolution. According to the prevailing Syrian view, however, U.S.-Syrian relations must normalize before the U.S. can play the role of a credible honest broker.

—————————————-
The Cooperative Approach Shows Potential
—————————————-

¶8. (S/NF) As the interagency continues to plot future plans to engage Syrian officials and thinks about how to recruit other countries to support our efforts, we face a choice not only about the level of our engagement, but about the approach itself. Up to now, U.S. efforts have largely focused on developing a cooperative relationship on issues of mutual interest, such as Iraq and U.S. sanctions. Our four month pursuit of military-to-military cooperation on Iraqi border security represented, in effect, a first step toward establishing a broader and higher-level dialogue on Iraqi security issues, including Syrian support of foreign fighters. After the August 19 bombings Baghdad rendered implementation of this initiative impracticable, discussions in late-September shifted toward a possible CT dialogue. This new focus provides an alternative mechanism to continue discussions on Iraqi security issues such as foreign fighters. Syrian officials appear willing to go along with this approach, as long as the emphasis is on building bilateral relations first. After months of investment, our engagement efforts are close to enabling both sides to exchange positive gestures. This cooperation should help to the stage for more focused discussions on a broad range of issues and strategic choices about the future direction of the relationship.

¶9. (S/NF) During this process, U.S. officials have carefully placed markers on key issues, including human rights, IAEA compliance, Bank Aman, Lebanon (e.g., border demarcation), and Palestinians (pushing Hamas to accept the Quartet principles), and the new embassy compound. We have addressed these issues mainly in discussions with Vice Foreign Minister Miqdad and the Syrian Embassy in Washington (with less dialogue between Embassy Damascus and the Syrian MFA). Our view is that the cooperative approach will have more chance of success if we continue to use these channels to deal with such issues, until the relationship can sustain discussion at higher levels that will yield a higher probability of favorable progress.

¶10. (S/NF) Against this backdrop, sending U.S. officials to focus on Syrian relations with Hizballah could distract significantly from our efforts to build a cooperative foothold. There is unlikely to be common ground or any breakthroughs, and a new focus on Hizballah-related issues could further set back our efforts to re-energize the engagement process, not least by spurring the Syrians to demand a reciprocal change in U.S. behavior, e.g., lifting sanctions. Focusing our higher political-level discussions on the issue of foreign fighters provides a more familiar subject with a higher chance for initial progress.

——————————————— —
But Hizballah’s Arsenal Poses Urgent Challenges
——————————————— —

¶11. (S/NF) While the near-term chances for a successful dialogue on Syria’s strategic relationship with Hizballah are much lower, the stakes — the possibility of a regional conflict and significant obstacles to achieving comprehensive peace — are just as, if not more, urgent. Sharing our concerns about the dangers of Syria’s arming of Hizballah, probably best done privately in a one-on-one session with President Asad, could serve to establish the basis of a more frank exchange about Syria’s role, and enable us to challenge potentially dangerous Syrian assumptions as part of a wider strategic dialogue. Recent revelations about Syria’s role in weapons shipments create some urgency in turning Syrian attention toward ending these supplies and restraining Hizballah from making good on its provocative rhetoric.

¶12. (S/NF) We don’t expect these points immediately to change Syrian behavior or its relations with Hizballah, but we believe sounding this warning would put President Asad and others (such as Turkey and France) on notice that Syria’s actions have created a situation in which miscalculation or provocative behavior by Hizballah could prove disastrous for Syria and the broader region. This message could likewise underscore our belief that Syria needs to demonstrate a more active role in achieving peace with Israel and better relations with the United States. Even if a war between Israel and Hizballah does not materialize in the immediate future, we should try find a way to use our ongoing cooperative engagement with Syrian officials to help them recognize their overriding interest and responsibility in preventing this unappealing scenario altogether.
HUNTER

Tuesday, December 07, 2010 4:56 PM

If Syria’s improved relations with France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey can initiate cracks in the Syrian-Iranian axis, then perhaps discrete U.S.-Syrian cooperation could add further stress to these fault lines. A willingness to offer concrete deliverables as evidence of a U.S. desire for improved relations would force Syrian officials to calculate how far they would go in response, providing us with a more accurate measure of their intentions. At a minimum, increased Washington interest in Syria would increase Tehran’s anxiety level and perhaps compound Syrian-Iranian tensions, at a time when Syrian officials themselves may be unsure how they will react to unfolding events.

Guardian (GB): US embassy cables: Strains show in Iran-Syria ties,
Tuesday, 22 December 2009, 03:40 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 DAMASCUS 000880 NOFORN SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA, NEA/I NSC FOR SHAPIRO/MCDERMOTT PARIS FOR NOBLES LONDON FOR LORD EO 12958 DECL: 12/20/2029 TAGS PREL, IR, LE, IZ, TU, SY …

both Gilad and Barkan agreed that the elections were a blow to Syria, which was completely caught off-guard by the results. The Syrian presidential advisors on Lebanon, they said, are now in trouble……

Guardian (GB): US embassy cables: Hezbollah man’s murder fuels fear and loathing in Damascus, 2010-12-07
Thursday, 28 February 2008, 13:07 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 DAMASCUS 000146 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR NEA/ELA, EEB/TFS; TREASURY FOR LEVEY/GLASER; NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/GAVITO EO 12958 DECL: 02/28/2028 TAGS ECON, EFIN, EINV, KCOR, PGOV, SY, LE …

4- feeling of the “street” is obtained from reading (arabic) “syrianews” and counting that 70% of the comments were anti.

5- one dissident xxxxxx “shouted and kissed” the press attache’s cheek upon hearing the news.

6- American Embassy “business contact” xxxxxxxxxxxx, a businessman xxxxxx argued so and so

7- A reporter for xxxxxx said he……

8- xxxxx a xxxxx (foreign?) correspondent working on his piece passed along that

9- a former xxxxx employee of Rami’s empire who had 10- xxxxx knowledge of Rami’s holdings

11- xxxxx supported the designation and said it was overdue and that “one a week for the next three months would pressure the syrians and force them to capitulate”. 12- XXXXXXXXXXXX admitted to Econoff that, after hearing about the designation on Al Jazeera, he had run his own name through Google to see what public information might connect him to Rami. Claiming to have no affection for the Makhlufs or the regime, he said he still could not imagine divesting XXXXXXXXXXXX and remaining in Syria. “I love the U.S.,” he explained, “but my entire life is in Syria. What am I supposed to do, take my family to the U.S. and get a job making 5000 dollars a month, or be my own boss and XXXXXXXXXXXX a better life in Syria?” XXXXXXXXXXXX would not put him in legal jeopardy, he finally shrugged his shoulders and said, “Whatever happens to Rami…happens to all of us.”

13- XXXXXXXXXXXX assessed Rami’s designation as an empty, desperate attempt by the outgoing Bush administration to punish a member of Bashar’s inner circle. A marketing expert XXXXXXXXXXXX asked, “What was the intended message (of the designation)? I looked and looked, but could find very little. The time for such an action was two years ago.” Unless the U.S. could sanction Rami’s Byblos Bank (five percent share) or convince the Emiratis to freeze Rami’s UAE-based assets, he concluded that the designation would have very little teeth and would be regarded by most Syrians as yet another “wayward arrow from the warped bow of George Bush.”

14- XXXXXXXXXXXX characterized Rami’s designation as a “mostly symbolic gesture” that would have little impact on the regime’s policies. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Bashar had already put some distance between himself and his cousin and Makhluf had moved a great deal of his personal assets to Dubai. XXXXXXXXXXXX conceded that most Syrians viewed Rami in a negative light and that his strong-arm business tactics had earned him many enemies. He nonetheless believed that a majority of Syrians, at least the few who had heard about it on BBC or read about it on the internet, would see the act as a last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to punish Bashar.

15- XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had had several run-ins with Makhluf XXXXXXXXXXXX during his tenure, but that Rami had learned “the hard way” from Bashar that there was a limit to how much he could get away with on the basis of his family ties. He predicted that Bashar would secretly welcome any U.S. sanctions against corruption, because corruption was rife in Syrian government and society and had undermined the President’s credibility with the Syrian people

Syria and America: The End of the Honeymoon Period
Saturday 06 November 2010
By Tariq Alhomayed

It seems that the American – Syrian honeymoon has come to an end, and to make matters worse, the Republican Party has gained control of the US Congress following this week’s mid-term elections. Damascus wasted two years of Obama’s presidency, failing to achieve anything; during this period the Syrians dealt with Washington in the same manner that they deal with certain Arab countries, and this is something that can be seen in their response to the statement made by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, in which Damascus called on Feltman to “recognize historical and geographical facts.”
Two years after Washington extended its hand to Damascus, the US is outraged by the Syrian behavior in Lebanon, with the Americans believing that Damascus is contributing to undermining security and stability there. This is something expressed by US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, and Feltman himself reiterated this in his statement that provoked the Syrians. If we add a Republican-controlled Congress to this equation, then we can say that Obama cannot continue opening up to Syrian in this manner, especially as there have long been demands in Washington that the US reassess the manner in which it is dealing with Syria.
When we say Damascus has wasted opportunities, this can be seen in the number of times that US members of Congress have visited Syria, especially the Democrats, without making any progress worth mentioning.

Mughniyeh’s Death
Charge d’Affaires Michael Corbin, 02/28/2008

Contacts report that Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) and General Intelligence Directorate (GID) officials are currently engaged in an internecine struggle to blame each other for the breach of security that resulted in Mughniyeh’s death.

Guardian: After 12 days of WikiLeaks cables, the world looks on US with new eyes
Reaction across the globe to the leaked US embassy cables has ranged from anger and bitterness to extreme indifference

Comments (19)


1. Norman said:

If we look at the behavior of the Obama administration and think, we can reach the conclusion that the US policy toward Syria did not change , It just became less vocal , they continue to isolate Syria while asking Syria to be a puppet to the US and the Israeli interests , The Obama administration does not seem to understand that if they want Syria’s help and friendship they have to get Syria the Golan heights ,the only issue that is non negotiable as president Assad said , it is Syria;s issue , Until then it is Israel who is standing in the way of advancing the US interest , Syria learned from the previous US Administrations , her policy toward the US and Israel is simple ,
(((( DEEDS NOT WORDS )))), In other words , is telling the US and Israel , put up or shut up , until then Syria is going to improve it’s economy and military and prepare for all possibility ,

And the Syrian leadership is prudent in doing that and deserve the respect of all Syrians and Arabs,

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December 11th, 2010, 8:00 am

 

2. Mr.Presidnt said:

Norman,
You wrote a very good and accurate summary about Syria. Syria is in good shape for any upcoming events. it should not fear economic sanctions from Western powers since it integrated its economy with Turkey, China, India,… and other countries by opening its borders. The next Israeli war would be more devastating to Israeli and western interests if it did happen. The next war would not be a war for few weeks. it will most likely be the Iranian-Iraqi type (8 years non stop) using cheap rockets and low technology weapons. It would be a war that would cause the price of oil to double hence destroying an already weak western economy. it would be a two sides even war where both syrian/lebanese AND Israeli cities are showered with rockets. The result would at least cause a good percentage of recent Jewish immigrants to Palestine to flee. Hence, it would produce a better demographic play for the local original population of Palestine. It would finally create a one-man-one-vote for the Lebanese population allowing the majority Shia to finally have fairness and equal human living (by the way I am Sunni).

Mr. President

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December 11th, 2010, 9:01 am

 

3. Ghat Albird said:

Update on Obama’s America’s only “democratic ally” in the world.

JERUSALEM — Scores more Israeli rabbis have added their names to a document calling on Jews to avoid renting or selling property to non-Jews, despite an outpouring of criticism, media reported on Thursday.

Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported that some 300 religious figures had signed the public statement, which warns that “it is forbidden in the Torah to sell a house or a field in the land of Israel to a foreigner.”

The document first emerged on Tuesday, and was swiftly condemned by figures across Israeli society, from rabbinical groups and rights organisations to politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The statement calls for those who rent or sell property to non-Jews to be ostracised by the larger community.

“After someone sells or rents just one flat, the value of all the neighbouring flats drops … He who sells or rents (to non-Jews) causes his neighbours a big loss and his sin is great,” it says.

“Anyone who sells (property to a non-Jew) must be cut off!!”

The manifesto quotes extensively from Jewish writings, including from the Bible. It cites Exodus 23:33, which reads: “Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”

The document initially garnered the signatures of some 50 rabbis, most of them employed by the state and minister to Jewish communities across Israel.

By Thursday, that number had reportedly grown to more than 300, prompting widespread condemnation and calls for Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to take action against the signatories on grounds of incitement to racism.

Weinstein’s office promised to look into the allegations.

“The attorney general has instructed the relevant bodies in our office to examine whether there exist criminal or disciplinary aspects to the document attributed to the rabbis,” Weinstein’s assistant wrote in reply to an opposition MP, in a letter made public by the justice ministry.

Noah Flug, head of the International Association of Holocaust Survivors, told Ynet he was shocked by the content of the letter, saying it reminded him of when the Nazis banned Jews from living near them.

“I remember the German Nazis throwing Jews out of their apartments and city centres in order to create ghettos,” he told the news website.

“I remember how they wrote on benches that no Jews were allowed, and of course it was prohibited to sell or rent to Jews. We thought that in our country this wouldn’t happen.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has called on Netanyahu to discipline state-employed rabbis who signed the letter, and Arab-Israeli lawmaker Mohammed Barakeh called for a legal investigation.

On Wednesday, around 150 demonstrators gathered to condemn the letter in a protest outside Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue

Speaking to Haaretz newspaper, parliamentary speaker Reuven Rivlin described the public statement “as an embarrassment to the Jewish people, and another nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy.”

Despite the condemnation, Menachem Friedman, a specialist on the Jewish world at Bar Ilan university, said there was widespread support for the views in the letter.

“They are expressing the fears of the whole population, particularly those in the poorest sectors of society,” he told AFP.

“The threats that Israel faces comes from Islamism, and the hostile positions the state takes towards the Arab minority contributes to fear and creates a ghetto mentality among the Jews, even though they are the majority in Israel.”

Historian Ilan Greilsammer agreed, saying the sentiments expressed in the letter were merely a reflection of what people were actually thinking.

“The rabbis are saying above what the people are thinking below. What’s new is that they are expressing it publicly.”

Israel has 1.3 million Arab citizens — Palestinians who remained in the country after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 and their descendants.

By Marius Schattner

Source > AFP

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December 11th, 2010, 9:52 am

 

4. Ghat Albird said:

Obama’s State Department threatens All Nations.

“US Warns Against Recognitions of Independent Palestine

Argentine FM Says Recognition None of US Business

Speaking today in Santiago, Chile, Undersecretary of State William Burns condemned the moves by multiple South American nations to recognize Palestine as an independent nation, calling the moves “premature” and insisting such recognitions were unacceptable until Israel agreed to a two-state solution.
William Burns

The comment was not well greeted by Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who expressed annoyance that “once again the United States has publicly expressed an opinion about sovereign actions taken by the Argentine Republic.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted in separate comments today that she believes Palestinian statehood is “inevitable” but will come as a result of the Obama Administration’s negotiations and that the continued occupation of the West Bank was a threat to the “Zionist vision.”

But Palestinians are increasingly doubting the viability of those US talks, particularly as the Obama Administration has abandoned efforts to secure a settlement freeze, meaning the talks will likely remain stalled for the forseeable future. This has led the Palestinian Authority to mull attempts to get unilateral recognition of its existence, and threats from PA head Mahmoud Abbas that he may dissolve the authority if this is not successful.

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December 11th, 2010, 12:03 pm

 

5. majedkhaldoon said:

If STL acuses Mughnieh and Ghamlooshi and Asef Shawkat of killing Hariri,HA may resort to military action,in my opnion this would be limited to Beirut area,and it will be a major mistake because it will invite foreign interference,HA will destroy itself.
the second point,who benefit more from Syria-Iran alliance,this is more to help HA,Syria hopes that HA puts pressure on Israel,through this pressure, Syria may get the Jolan back ,so far Syria has not improved its power,the way to do it is by having Iraq goverment leaning toward Syria,Iyad Allawi would have been better for Syria, The problem with Allawi is that he is friend to KSA,KSA is not helping Syria in Lebanon and not convincing Saad Harriri to abandon the tribunal,Syria wanted revenge against KSA and so Syria switch its support from Allawi to Maliki,this is done against Syria real interest,mistake leads to mistake

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December 11th, 2010, 1:52 pm

 

6. Canadian From Lebanon said:

I support the creation of an Arab force with no Syrians in it to ‘invade’ Lebanon. But I would only support a force large enough to take on Hizbollah, control all of Lebanon and eventually make use of Syrian opposition groups to overthrow the Assad regime. Such force in my opinion must consist of no less than 300000 man well equipped army. It should come mostly from Jordan, Moroco, Egypt and KSA.

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December 11th, 2010, 3:16 pm

 

7. Observer53 said:

To the Canadian from Lebanon:
1. Why not Canadian troops/.
2. The Jordanian and Moroccan and Egyptian and Saudi troops have one mission only to protect the regime, as we saw in several wars that the Arab armies engaged in, no one is willing to die for the glory of this or that regime, but they are willing to fight for their homes and families as we saw in South Lebanon and in Gaza and in Iraq recently.
3. The very fact that a Lebanese living in Canada is willing to allow someone else to come in to make war on a faction within the country is ultimate proof that there is no such thing as Lebanon. As in Syria and in Iraq and in Lebanon these are families with flags and tribes with honor guards. They do not have the minimum to call themselves a nation. This is why it is so easy for foreign powers to get involved in the affairs of the ME and once they are in so difficult to disengage from the region. It is the most backward region on the face of the earth and Lebanon because of its veneer of modernity is the worst of the lot; for its people do not even have a sense of national pride.

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December 11th, 2010, 5:01 pm

 

8. Canadian From Lebanon said:

To Observer53,

I do not think Canadian troops should be sent as part of the ground force. But Canada along with the US may provide aerial support from the sea if Syria attempts to obstruct the troops mission. One possible scenario is for the Syrian regime to be instructed in very clear terms to keep all military movement 50 KM away from the international borders with Lebanon at the risk of getting bombed or even Assad himself and family becoming targets. The last scenario is the most likely to bear fruits as this is the only language he (Assad) understands.

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December 11th, 2010, 6:17 pm

 

9. majedkhaldoon said:

Silly idea,invading Lebanon,

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December 11th, 2010, 6:43 pm

 

10. why-discuss said:

Canadian from Lebanon

wow! that’s ambitious and who will pay for these billions of dollars that force would cost? any suggestion?

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December 12th, 2010, 3:32 am

 

11. Norman said:

Mr.Presidnt ,

Thank you ,

I always said that wars are won by the determination of the people involved not by the technology of the weapons ,

So we agree on this one also .

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December 12th, 2010, 7:15 am

 

12. Canadian From Lebanon said:

WHY-DISCUSS,

Eventually when the Assad regime falls, the billions stashed by the regime will be reclaimed to pay for that cost.

You do not need to worry about these petty issues.

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December 12th, 2010, 8:36 am

 

13. Observer53 said:

This is the same talk that Wolfwotiz said before the invasion of Iraq, the invasion will be paid for by the oil that will be flowing again. This Canadian from Lebanon is one of the chicken hawks ready to sacrifice his/her compatriots for a silly country like Lebanon while he sits in his cozy home fantasizing about a Lebanon that does not exist anymore. Syrian regime despite its many faults and inherent oppression has played its cards extremely well: it insures at a fraction o the cost of maintaining troops that Lebanon cannot become a staging area to attack Syria, it uses the Iranian card to the hilt while keeping enough distance, it build alliances with Turkey and Qatar and it maintains a position of standing up for legitimate resistance. Its methods are downright ruthless but one should not confuse loathing for the regime with a dispassionate analysis of its brilliant machinations.

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December 12th, 2010, 9:16 am

 

14. Canadian From Lebanon said:

Observer53,

I am glad you follow up on Wolfowitz.

But your description of the regime as brilliant requires a huge stretch of the imagination. But this is the norm for those bred by the regime.

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December 12th, 2010, 9:23 am

 

15. Ghat Albird said:

C from L.

Just to clear the air as they say. Lebanon is overflown everyday by Israeli planes and drones and not one of those you are suggesting should form an army and invade Lebanon (that includes SA, Egyptiams, Jodanians, Americans and even Israelis) do not give (the French word I believe is) a “merde” and your belief is that all those people will undertake invading Lebanon as you propose?

That air in Canada must be really ablowing this time of year.

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December 12th, 2010, 11:07 am

 

16. Canadian From Lebanon said:

Ghat Al Bird,

And as a bird, are you having trouble flying in that air?

But really you seem to have reading comprehension trouble. I did not propose the ‘invasion’. I said I support whoever proposed that ‘invasion’ idea made public by Wikileaks. And by the way it is posted in BOLD letters as a title of the main post.

But to answer your concerns, I do not care about Israelis overflying Lebanon as much as I care about Syria arming Hizbollah.

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December 12th, 2010, 1:14 pm

 

17. Ghat Albird said:

CANADIAN FROM LEBANON said:

Ghat Al Bird,

But really you seem to have reading comprehension trouble. I

Come to think of it C from Lebanon. I always did have trouble comprehending the Lebanese I met on several visits to Beirut and Broumana who began a sentence in French and ended it in Arabic and sometimes vice versa. Bet your French comes in handy in Canada.

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December 12th, 2010, 1:49 pm

 

18. Canadian From Lebanon said:

So, what’s your point Ghat al Tayr besides letting us know about your travel itenary?

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December 12th, 2010, 3:34 pm

 

19. Observer53 said:

The brilliance of the regime is neither an acknowldgement of its morality nor of its legitimacy. In previous posts I argued that for all the countries of the ME to progress their current regimes have to be extirpated from their very roots: the roots of intolerance and bigotry and racism starting with the zionist enterprise but equally true for the others. Likewise the Israelis have been brilliant at exploiting the holocaust for the justification of brutal occupation of Palestine, projecting the view of the eternal victim while being the oppressor.
Leave emotions aside, and do not inject morality into the pure analysis of the political situation and one can only conclude that the evil despicable regime in Syria conducted itself brilliantly in this period of turmoil from its interests point of view.
As for all of those chiken hawks sitting in their cozy lounges asking for others to pay and die for the chimera that is the modern ME, they can stay in Canada; after all it will remain a poor carbon copy of the US; with a few exceptions in hockey.

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December 13th, 2010, 2:02 pm

 

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