A letter from Alon Liel / Chairman of the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society

Dear Alex,

My name is Alon Liel. I am chairing these days the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society that I helped found exactly one year ago. I am an ex-Israeli diplomat and a university lecturer today, who strongly believes it is high time that Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and normalize their relations.

I am writing you because I’ve been following “Syria Comment” and “Creative Syria” over the past year, and was impressed by the level and quality of discussion reached by your readers and writers.  Your topics are interesting, important, and very relevant to Syria, as well as to the region as a whole.

It is precisely at these turbulent times in our region, when Arabs and Israelis are once more engaged in a renewed wave of violence, that I wish to turn to your readers.  While most people today may feel that the continued suffering of so many is only further evidence of an impasse that can only be resolved by force, there are some who still believe otherwise. Not all the opportunities have been explored, not all the suggestions have been seriously contemplated.

Seeing the devotion and sincerity of your readers, I would like to introduce to them some of the ideas that were brought forth at past and recent opportunities, and ask for their opinion. As we believe that Syria is one of the key players in our war-torn region (perhaps THE key player), it could be of great benefit to receive honest and constructive feedback from Syrian citizens about existing and potential initiatives.  I understand that there may be an innate reluctance to interact with Israelis, even online, but I strongly believe that the best way to influence our future is to engage one another in open discussion, and to try to bring about ideas and solutions that are long overdue.

I’m attaching an article written by me some months ago and published in Bitterlemons (a Palestinian-Israeli journal), which outlines some of the ideas that were brought forth at our Track II discussions.  This can serve as a starter for the discussions I’m hoping to engage your readers in.  I want to also extend a very warm invitation to anyone visiting your blog, to also visit our own website (www.is-peace.org/EN), and to participate in discussions there as well.  We have so much to learn from one another, and perhaps it is time we do so.

Article Link: http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/previous.php?opt=1&id=169#690

Alon Liel.

Comments (298)

Enlightened said:

Just back from holidays, happy new year to all, may this year bring peace to all.

Alon, “blessed are the peacemakers……. you know the rest.

“I understand that there may be an innate reluctance to interact with Israelis, even online, but I strongly believe that the best way to influence our future is to engage one another in open discussion, and to try to bring about ideas and solutions that are long overdue.”

While I dont speak for everyone on this site, I disagree with you that we are reluctant to engage with Israelis, in fact we have a few on this site that we engage with and try to maintain some civilized decorum with, even though we are terrorists, barbaric backward looking people seeking your destruction and annihilation (please note sarcasm).

This dialogue is long over due maybe with your input, we can start to know one another, and bridge the divide, in fact if you come over for coffee, you might understand that our needs and future are inextricably linked to yours and your people, and that most of us (perhaps not all of us, much like your countrymen) would like a better future for the Mid East.

PS I like most of your points about the peace park, its a good start with out getting into semantics. How many members do you have in your movement?

January 21st, 2008, 3:35 am


George Ajjan said:

Any and all initiatives should be explored at the grassroots level. Count me among the willing participants.

Speaking from the US perspective, the current administration is hopelessly ideological and opposed to brokering such a deal. But the best hope is for a sensible individual to ascend to the White House in January 2009 and make this a legacy-building first-year project.

January 21st, 2008, 3:44 am


norman said:


The problem I have with your plan is that it intend not to solve the Palestinian problem and secure Israel’s future but to make a deal with Syria with the likes of the treaty with Egypt only as they did with Egypt to neutralize Syria so Israel will have a free hand with the Palestinians and the Iranians , That is as i see a wrong direction and intention , I see a peace treaty with Syria as a way to have peace with Syria , Lebanon , the Palestinians Hamas and Iran as only a comprehensive peace will secure Israel future in the region isolating Syria from it’s friends will not secure Israel future as Israel can win battles against the Arab and Muslims but will never win the war , Israel need peace with it’s Arab and muslim neighbors to survive , Syria can help with that .

By the way i am of people who think that the real Hebrews are Arab Jews and deserve to live in peace in the Mideast like the Christians and other minorities in peace , Their violence against the Palestinians will only make that more difficult people will treat them the way they treat the Palestinians , it is Carma , what goes a round comes around Israel should treat others the way it likes to be treated.

I hope these notes will help change your intention from isolating Syria from it’s Friends to involve Syria and it’s Friends in a full peace , I think i repeated myself few times.!

January 21st, 2008, 4:38 am


Joe M. said:

I am largely in agreement with Norman. I am Palestinian myself, and must say that Israel bares ALL the responsibility for peace with both the Palestinians and the Syrians (and other Arabs). Any talk of “peace” is artificial. As much as the traditional opinion claims a “cycle of violence and mistrust”, it is illusory to believe this. Israel has all the power, all the control. It has its foot on the neck of all other parties in these conflicts. So, while there many be aggravations that are caused by the respective Arab parties, THERE CAN NO BE PEACE UNTIL ISRAEL RECONCILES ITSELF TO THE REALITY OF THE REGION. that reality is that Israel stole its land from the indigenous people, that Israel oppresses the entire region, that Israel’s demonization of the Arabs as “terrorists” and such, only further digs the Israeli grave.

I do not believe that there will be a solution to anything unless it is comprehensive. I must admit that the greed of the corrupt Arab leaders and power of the USA are both great forces, making the situation persist for a long time. In this respect, I am personally astonished that the treaties with Egypt and Jordan have lasted so long. But, as I am sure you are aware, the people in these (and all Arab countries) are bubbling with anger at Israel. And Such corruption can only last so long. At some point there will be a great revolutionary tide that sweeps through the region.

It is with this in mind that I assume you believe now is the last chance for peace. But, unfortunately for you, peace is not simply a treaty. For there to be peace, Israel must recognize its crimes (including the crime of its existence), it must admit to them, and it must repent. In my view, the best way for this to happen is similar to the history of South Africa. Until Israel allows Palestinians the rights of citizenship in their own land, there will not be peace. There will not be peace with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan… In the mean time, there will be periods without war, but there will not be peace.

It is up to Israel. Just as it was up to the whites of South Africa. The Jews have all the moral and political responsibility.

January 21st, 2008, 6:04 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,
I apologize for all my crimes. Please, come kill me in my sleep like your brothers in Hebron did in 1929 and Alex’s brothers did in Aleppo in 47.

On a more serious note, there will not be peace until the Arabs stop living in denial and understand that history has no rewind button.

But don’t worry, we Israelis can wait. Let’s talk again after 50 years of Hamas rule in Gaza and 50 years of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Syria and Egypt and 50 years of Hizballah rule in Lebanon. There is no hurry. I am sure the Arabs will be in a much better position then. We waited 60 years for peace, we can wait another 50.

Don’t all Arabs believe anyway that Israel will disappear soon? Why make peace with Israel. Really, trust yourself, Israel may be gone tomorrow. Don’t rush into anything you may regret later.

January 21st, 2008, 6:26 am


Alex said:

Dear Alon,

On behalf of the other participants in this blog, I want to thank you so much for your kind words.

Over the past few years, Joshua managed to attract an impressive group of Syria and mideast experts … Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Americans, French, Canadians, Australians, Finns, Germans, Italians … and Israelis. Commentators who know how to take part in heated discussions mixed with just enough sarcasm and sense of humor to help lower the temperature when needed.

So this is not a representative sample of the 20 million Syrian population, and it is definitely not representative of the opinions of the government of Syria. But it is a very well informed, highly educated, group. I think you will have all the feedback you need : )

Please feel free to join us here in the comments section whenever you have the time. Your associates from the I.S. Peace society are also welcome to participate.

When details of the plan (or agreement) you reached with Mr. Suleiman became known to the public, we already discussed them on this and other blogs (at Rime Allaf’s blog for example).

From all those discussions, I can summarize the most common objections to your plan in two lines

1) Peace Park implies partial Syrian sovereignty over the Golan.
2) Syrians Can’t allow their government to sell their friends or neighbors for their own selfish benefit.

To you those are the evil “Hamas” “Iran” and “Hizbollah” .. to the Syrian people they are really Half the Lebanese people, half the Palestinians, and … the 71 million Iranian people who consider Syria their best friend in the world.

But there are ways around these obstacles I’m sure. For example … Instead of using Syria to weaken Hizbollah, you can use Syria to moderate Hizbollah … Israel will not win anything if it weakens Hizbollah that it won’t obtain by simply moderating Hizbollah.

Syrians will support “moderating” Hizbollah, not “weakening” them. There isn’t much difference, …except if you wanted to teach Hizbollah a lesson for example.

We understand that Israel has legitimate concerns and we believe there are ways to address them without disappointing or hurting any other people in the Middle East … after all, we want peace with Israel in order to have more friends and less enemies for Syria … help us find ways to be your friends without making new enemies and without feeling guilty and selfish for abandoning our Palestinian friends and cousins. Help us help you feel more secure without making us feel less secure… a peace “deal” that forces Syria to “flip” will turn Hizbollah, Hamas and Iran into enemies of Syria and that will mean that Syrians will feel guilty and more insecure. Peace dividends (higher Syrian GDP) will not make up for the guilt and anxiety…

Thank you again for communicating with us. Hope you find the exercise useful.



January 21st, 2008, 6:38 am


offended said:

Dear Mr. Alon Liel :

Although I have been a believer of total boycotting of Israel (even through internet communication), but your letter is quite intriguing and constructive, and hence I would like to thank you for writing it and assure you that, for whatever it worth, I will listen to you with an open heart and mind…

January 21st, 2008, 8:00 am


why-discuss said:

I doubt very much that Israel will ever renounce to their vision of an exclusive jewish state, They just have added that to their conditions for negotiations. They fear too much the demographic wave and they want to secure artificially their grip on jewish supremacy and power in Isreal. If they do not accept to share the power, there is no future for real peaces. They may be deals but they may be short lived.
Unfortunately Israel was born in violence, both the violence inflicted to jews by the racist christian Europe and by the violence they have inflicted to Palestinians in taking their land by force.
The survival of Israel is only through violence. The interesting part is that Israelis are now shocked by violence.
Just read the Israeli outrage in Israel on Nasrallah’s graphic depiction of the remains of the Israeli soldiers. No as many outrage to see on TV the dying babies in Gaza after the coward cut of electricity ordered by this Israeli embattled governement who lost all its moral values. Nasrallah is responding to the Isralis with the same harshness they are treating the Gaza ghetto. This crescendo of anger and hatred will leave long lived marks on the arab’s mind.
I know people are hopeful, but it may need a century to have these bad feelings finally buried.

January 21st, 2008, 8:51 am


wizart said:

Hello Alon,

I hope your efforts work out. Have you ever been to Davos to discuss this problem with significant world leaders? Among them are world leading experts on conflict resolution. Why not be there?

Best wishes for you from small, beautiful and neutral Switzerland.

World Economic Forum
Davos Grows,
As Do Worries
Of Elite Crowd
January 19, 2008; Page A2

Davos just keeps getting bigger.

This coming week, some 2,500 business, political, religious and cultural leaders, as well as a gourmet chef, make the annual trek to the Swiss ski resort to get together in a windowless cement bunker and think big thoughts about the world — or at least meet a lot of very important people in a very short time. This year, they include more heads of state (27), more cabinet ministers (113), and more chief executives from the world’s top 100 companies (74), than ever before.

Maybe that is because in the wake of the credit crisis, the world is looking a little darker and more bewildering than for some years. Of course, most of the Davos crowd got the economy wrong last January — not a great return on the ticket price of 20,000 Swiss francs, or about $18,200, on top of the 40,000-franc membership fee. But organizers of the World Economic Forum say this year the core topic of the meeting, even more than usual, will be the global economy, how hard it is going to land and how to fix what is broken.

The glitz this year looks likely to be where the emerging money is. Russian brokerage Troika Dialog, for example, is putting on an ice-skating show with Russian skating stars. (CEOs will get a chance to skate with them afterward.) Already there is a buzz among regulars who want to meet people such as Bader Al-Sa’ad, a former college basketball player and investment banker who now runs Kuwait’s sovereign-wealth fund, which is currently helping to bail out Merrill Lynch & Co.

There is a bigger tilt toward Asia this year, reflecting where the economic growth still is, even if there are doubts about how long that can last. Among the co-chairs are the CEOs of China Mobile Communications Corp. and ICICI Bank Ltd. of India. Japan’s prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, chairman of the Group of Eight leading nations this year, is the headlining act. He will give the so-called special address next Saturday, near the end of the meeting.

Associated Press
The World Economic Forum will take place at the Belvedere hotel in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 9. Here, members of the Swiss army install barbed wire to secure the area.
Beyond the economy, the forum is trying to draw attention to growing strains on the world’s basic resources, food and water. Rising food prices have driven land- and water-use issues higher on the agenda. Several big companies, including Nestlé SA and brewer SABMiller PLC, want to highlight the risk to future economic growth and stability in many parts of the world if water isn’t used more efficiently.

In the past, companies have started boutique corporate-responsibility programs at Davos, hoping to make a dent in the 20% of the world’s population that has no access to clean water.

About 70% of the world’s fresh-water supply is used for agriculture. As hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians and others move out of poverty, they want to eat meat, says the forum’s program coordinator on water, Dominic Waughray. That is accelerating demand for water and land, putting pressure on food-commodity prices that are making water a business issue too.

This being Davos, the forum has invited Alice Waters, superchef from the renowned California restaurant Chez Panisse, to add flavor to the talk about food.

January 21st, 2008, 8:52 am


Joe M. said:

Why are yo begging? This man was a life-long servant of a criminal state. Yet you beg “help us help you…” He can use the words “peace” and “dialog” one thousand times. Maybe you forget how many times Yitzak Rabin said the word “peace”… Yet after all these years it is now obvious that Oslo was just a way to consolidate control over Palestine, to conclusively buy off the corrupt Palestinians to serve as a proxy for Israel.

Before you go begging to this man, like the Arab kings begging to Bush, he must admit more than the need for “peace”. Every criminal hides behind words like “peace” and “democracy”. Even an animal like Bush speaks of peace as he bombs children. Before we start begging this man, let’s hear him admit his crimes and the crimes of his state. Admit that Israel destroyed Palestine, that the Palestinian people have a right to the land that was stolen from them, that Israel owes billions upon billions of dollars in reparations to every country in the region for its crimes. That Israel is wrong, that Israel is responsible for the continued wars…

Contrary to the belief of Saeb Erekat (and other corrupt “leaders”), peace needs more than the negotiation of some backroom deal. It requires fundamental change. These conflicts persist because they are born of fundamental problems, not because of the lack of some signed document between politicians.

In South Africa, there was never going to be peace while the racist white elite class dominated the black South Africans. Israel will never have peace until it gives up its entire ideology of power and dominance too. Though I think a one-state is the best way, it is not required. But Israel must have humility and recognize that it now is the oppressor. Israel has “legitimate concerns”, but they are of their own making. Only Israel can address its concerns. The Palestinian violence is simply an excuse for their own arrogance.

Alex, you know better than that. Just because this man has power is not reason enough for you to grovel before him.

January 21st, 2008, 8:57 am


Antoun said:


I can’t help, but share the same skepticism raised by several respondents already.

I welcome your initiative with caution. I have seen many Israeli “peace” initiatives, even online, which always end up as a Zionist diatribe.

You have made the effort to “cross” the boundary (the online boundary anyway) and invite people to engage in dialogue, which may render your initiative genuine.

So count me in (although I am Lebanese, but seeing as how our peace will only come via a Damascus-Tel Aviv agreement, I believe we’re a solid part of the equation).

January 21st, 2008, 9:22 am


wizart said:

Thanks to Alon and Alex for using a tone of respect and initiating a dialogue with a positive, open minded and constructive attitude.
So regardless of past traumatic events on both sides whoever wishes to engage others in future productive dialogues would be advised to maintain a tone of respect, credibility and positivity.

Things to look OUT for are: assumptions, emotional and fatalistic thinking. Things to look for are common interests and mutual respect for differences of opinions. It’s a give and take approach. In cases of give give and no return relationships end.

January 21st, 2008, 9:27 am


Akbar Palace said:

I apologize for all my crimes. Please, come kill me in my sleep like your brothers in Hebron did in 1929 and Alex’s brothers did in Aleppo in 47.

Dear AIG,

Thank you for starting to take responsibility for the Arab-Israel conflict and your offer of annihilation. This is a good starting point. We will put the details into a “peace” agreement like Oslo to get things started.

Here on Syria Comment, we strive for Middle East peace with our esteemed moderator, Dr. Joshua Landis, Director, Center
for Peace Studies University of Oklahoma.

The only thing you didn’t mention in your admission was how you would like to die. Would you prefer to die with Hamas Qassam missiles or would you prefer the more accurate Hezbollah Katyushas? There is always the more theatrical suicide bomb belt method, but your racist wall has made that method a little harder to come by.

Anyway, once you get the paperwork, please pick which method you prefer, and sign at the bottom. We are very much looking forward to living in peace with you at your earliest convenience.

January 21st, 2008, 12:16 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Joe M. said:

The Jews have all the moral and political responsibility.

And the Arabs and Muslims have none. We get the picture. q:op

January 21st, 2008, 12:19 pm


Shual said:

Some of the texts related to the Interview with Turki al-Faisal [A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad cooperation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories.] at Kronberg are now available in english.

Interview: http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=MTAxOTEyMjA2Nw==

Speech of Thielen: http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/bst/de/media/xcms_bst_dms_23674_23675_2.pdf

Strategy-paper: http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/bst/de/media/xcms_bst_dms_23669_23670_2.pdf

Steinmeier [FM Germany, “pro-Syrian”] only in german: http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/cps/rde/xchg/SID-0A000F14-9598C6E5/bst/hs.xsl/nachrichten_84832.htm

January 21st, 2008, 1:12 pm


wizart said:

A successful negotiation will meet the underlying concerns of the
parties. There are four points to a successful negotiation:

o Separate the people from the problem.
o Focus on interests and not positions.
o Generate a variety of possibilities.
o Insist that the result be based on an objective standard.

In addition, a good negotiation will present the various
options fairly. The parties should develop objective
criteria and fair procedures. When the other side attacks,
consider it as an option and improve upon it. Remember that
affirmative answers generate resistence and questions elicit
answers (thoughtful or otherwise). The essence of a principled
negotiation lays the foundation for a discussion of facts and
basic principles.

This work is a gold mine of advice on the art of negotiation.
It will help you to navigate through difficult situations artfully
while deflecting as much resistence as possible. This book will help you because it points out the pitfalls of negotiations between parties; namely, adherence to rigid positions, unwillingless to hear the other side and attacks on people.

The objective of a good negotiation is to
produce a fair result and to set forth rational guidelines
and rule structures for the parties to follow. This work
teaches contrary to the way people typically behave. As such,
it provides readers with scenarios that may not be in their
domain of everyday experience.

The author emphasizes the futility of adherence to rigid
positions without exploring alternatives and agreeing on
fair rule structures to evaluate the issues presented.

Roger Fisher from the Harvard negotiation project provides many practical examples on “the art of negotiation.”


January 21st, 2008, 1:20 pm


ghat Albird said:


… with lecturing to the Arabs that history has no rewind button the setting becomes rather tragically comical coming from a spokesman whose present existance is the fountain head of a fanatic movement whose aim was and is the rewinding of his/their history button back over 2000 years.

While Mr.Liel gestures are encouraging it unfortunately takes the Israeli re-winding of the button as a starting point. In fairness to all and given the physical and natural realities in place a popular movement that would in real-world terms bring about peace, prosperity, safety and welfare to those living within the geographic demarcations of Israel, the West bank and Gaza would entail as a given the goal of creating one state devoid of religious supremacy by any group.

One would think that if the above is undertaken people of good will from all over the world would join in supporting those who undertake such a humane mission.

January 21st, 2008, 1:26 pm


kingcrane jr said:


If you are interested in peace between Arab States and the Zionist entity, there is no need for the opinion of regular people like us. But if you are interested in peace between the People, then a grass-root discussion is really really needed.

I am over 80, and I grew up in Aleppo, at a time where religious affiliation was not as important as political affiliation (anti-colonialists like me were opposed to ass-lickers who fancied a variety of types of Western powers’ derrieres). Some of my closest friends were Sunni Moslims, Jews, secular Kurds (etc) but half of my group were Greek Catholic or Armenian Catholic (I am half GC and half AC myself by birth, but I am an ultra-secularist).

The problems created by the Zionist entity are numerous (and there also many problems NOT due to it):

1-Some Ashkenazi Jews (usually those who hold the power) view Sephardic Jews as second class citizens, so how would non-Jews be viewed?

2-The Jews of “North Aram” (Aleppo) and “South Aram” (Damascus) that I still count as my dear and close friends refuse to live in Israel; most are currently in France, or in the USA. In fact, when colonialism brought us the Zionist entity, it disrupted, for them, the charmed life of the great city of Aleppo between the two World Wars.

3-The solution to the problems in the Middle East should be one that includes all protagonists in the area. The displacement of millions of Palestinians must be at the root of all concerns.

4-Now for my “neo-con” pitch [NOT!] (I hate neo-cons, but once in my life, I will sound like one): if all religious (and not so religious) Jews want to live in the Middle East, there is plenty of room for them. A secular Levant (with emphasis on secular) could be a very good thing for all of us with a Semitic culture. Add to that separation of State and Church, and this could be viable on a long term basis.

5-It is time that we drop all the racial/racist and ethnic considerations out of the equation. Numerous scientific studies have shown the huge similarities between various components of the current Middle Eastern states, including the Ashkenazis who are in Palestine today. What we must talk about is ways to make cultures meet, and have a melting pot of Semitic (and non-Semitic, regional) cultures.

6-It goes without saying that I am an old fashioned Cosmopolitan Arab who has renounced organized religion and organized politics. The perpetuation of the current status in the Middle East, no matter how many peace accords you sign, and no matter how many are included in the process, will fail if the PEOPLE are deceived.

7-A dialogue between citizens is always encouraged, but we need first a new culture that emphasizes peace and justice.

Al Salamu ‘Aleykum.

kingcrane jr, on behalf of kingcrane.

January 21st, 2008, 2:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Why did you not stop the murder of your “dear friends” the Jews of Aleppo in 1947? What was their crime that some rose and murdered them while others like you and your family stood and watched it happen and did not lift a finger?

And you have no shame in claiming Jews as your dear friends after you let them be murdered. The hypocrisy and cynicism of the Arab secular left is beyond belief. One would have thought that at your age you would at least stop lying to yourself.

January 21st, 2008, 3:29 pm


t_desco said:


Selon une dépêche de l’ANI, une grenade a été lancée par un inconnu tôt ce matin dans la région de Wata el-Msaytbé, endommageant les voitures où l’explosion a eu lieu, notamment celle du juge Ahmad Oueidat, assistant du premier juge d’instruction militaire Rachid Mezher, et celle de la belle-sœur du général Moustafa Hamdane. Les FSI se sont rapidement rendues sur place et ont ouvert une enquête pour savoir qui est l’auteur de l’explosion de cette charge.

Cependant, des témoins ont affirmé à Libnanews que la voiture touchée par l’explosion n’est pas celle du magistrat Oueidat, mais celle de son voisin.

Un homme de toutes les missions

Le Juge militaire Rachid Mezher serait impliqué dans l’enquête au sujet de l’assassinat de l’ancien premier ministre Rafic Hariri le 14 février 2005, du double attentat attribué au Fatah al Islam ayant visé des bus à Ein Alak dans la région chrétienne du Metn et faisant 3 morts, de l’attentat le général François Hajj, héros de Nahr Bared et successeur probable du général Michel Souleiman à la tête de l’armée libanaise, le 12 décembre dernier. Dernier dossier à la charge du juge, l’attentat ayant visé un véhicule de l’ambassade américaine au Liban mardi dernier.

Il enquêterait également sur l’implication de membres supposés du réseau de terrorisme international Al Qaida et de leur lien avec le groupuscule du Fatal al Islam.

Le 30 mai 2007, le juge Mezher est également l’auteur des mises en examens pour formation de groupes armés dans le dessein de s’attaquer aux civils, à l’Etat libanais et à ses institutions militaires, ainsi que du meurtre de civils et de militaires, des différents membres du groupuscule islamique du Fatah al Islam. Il a également signé le mandat de recherche du dirigeant de cette organisation, Chaker Abssi disparu depuis la chute du camp de Nahr Bared le 2 septembre dernier suite à de violents combats avec l’armée libanaise qui ont débuté le 20 mars.

Le 19 décembre dernier, le juge Mezher a inculpé 31 personnes suspectées d’avoir des liens avec l’organisation terroriste Al Qaida, désigné comme appartenant au réseau « Bar Elias » du nom du village ou il était implanté. Le réseau terroriste comptait parmi eux, un saoudien dénommé Fahd Abdel Aziz el Ghames, un palestinien ainsi que 4 personnes de nationalité syriennes. Ils sont suspectés d’avoir voulu organiser un attentat contre une église ainsi que plusieurs autres institutions religieuses de la ville chrétienne de Zahlé dans la Békaa à l’aide de voitures piégées.

January 21st, 2008, 3:43 pm


Observer said:

In the meantime, Olmert is not apologetic about breaking the Geneva convention and is proud of his collective punishment. I wonder what the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto think about this, they too tried to resist and were collectively punished. This logic of demonizing and dehumanization is the most terroristic of all

January 21st, 2008, 3:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

ghat Albird,

You lack understanding of what the Zionist movement is. I suggest you catch up on your reading. It is a reaction to history and not a rewind of history.

Why don’t people of “good will” (like you) convince Israelis like me that your vision can work by applying it in ONE Arab country. I want to see ONE Arab country which is a functioning liberal democracy and in which minority rights are respected. You are preaching a vision for Israel that you cannot implement and does not work in your own countires.

Why would anyone take you seriously?

January 21st, 2008, 3:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Eighty percent of my family was deported from the Warsaw Ghetto and other Polish ghettos and murdered by Germans and I have no problem whatsoever with what is happening in Gaza. Here is why:
All the Gazans have to do to make their situation better is stop firing rockets at Israel.

I really wish that all my family relatives had to do was stop firing at Germans like Shual and they would leave them alone instead of murdering them systematically. Unfortunately that did not work with Shual’s relatives. My family were just plain Polish citizens that fired at nobody when Shual’s relatives decided to kill them systematically. In the Warsaw Ghetto alone 400,000 Jews were murdered.

So Observer, instead of having the refugees come to Israel, I suggest you ask Shual to give them Bavaria because they are not coming back to Israel. Who knows, Shual is really nice and has good intentions and you may actually get Bavaria which is really beautiful.

January 21st, 2008, 4:04 pm


Rev Michel Nahas said:

Dear Alon,

I believe in peace, and the possibili thereof. The problem with your plan is the timing, in my opinion. Let’s see:

Syria sever all links with its own alies (which is acually the only reason for you to propose a plan anyway). And Syria gets a promise form Israel, that Israel will engage in peace talks in exchange! (with all due respect: you must be kidding, right?)

Then after the negociations (whatever that means) a bi-national area is created, where the “owner” Syria, does not have any substantial sovereignity on it, having to ask authorization to build or use the land, not being able to use its water, resources, etc. I hope the building permits will not follow the example of building permits issued for Christian and Muslim palestinians in the occupied territories (although history speaks for itself).

Then, you probably (or Israel, don’t make it anything personal, please), will probably define what is “normal relations” , and there will be enough room on the agreement, I suppose, for declairing Syria not having fulfilled all the requirements.

And last, but not least, Israel doesnot have exactly a good record in respecting border lines, internation agreements, and especially territorial sovereignity of its neighboors.

So, Alon, as long as Israel thinks that any agreement has to be advantegeous for Israel alone, I don’t think it will fly. Good deals are only good if they are good for both sides. We want to solve Israel AND Syria’a problems, not Israel’s alone.

Come to us with genuine good will, I’m sure you will be genrously reciprocated.

Rev. Mike Nahas
Quebec, Canada

January 21st, 2008, 4:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Why did you not stop the murder of your “dear friends” the Jews of Aleppo in 1947? What was their crime that some rose and murdered them while others like you and your family stood and watched it happen and did not lift a finger?

Dear AIG –

Please do not respond so harshly to Kingcrane. Preventing Jews from being killed in Syria is really a tiny concern compared to the responsibility of preventing Muslims from being killed in Syria.

You can’t expect to much progress in this area right now.

BTW – With news like this, perhaps peace will come sooner rather than later. I’m sure this will excite most of the participants here, especially Rev. Nahas.

Mr. Peres, who is sometimes dismissed as a dreamer by more cynical Israelis, has in the past embraced and helped to develop some successful notions — like Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He is a strong believer in Israel’s mission to better the world, he says, and not simply sell arms to it. Israel is the 11th-largest arms exporter, as measured by dollar sales, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Mr. Peres, who knew Mr. Agassi’s father, said in an interview that after hearing Shai Agassi speak: “I called him in and said, ‘Shai, now what?’ I said that now is the time for him to implement his idea, and I spoke to our prime minister and other officials and convinced them that this is a great opportunity.”

“Oil is becoming the greatest problem of our time,” Mr. Peres said in an interview in his office. Not only does it pollute, but “it also supports terror and violence from Venezuela to Iran.”

“Israel can’t become a major industrial country, but it can become a daring world laboratory and a pilot plant for new ideas, like the electric car,” he said.

Mr. Peres sees this project as part of his “green vision” for Israel, arguing that what the nation may lose in tax revenue it will save in oil. He also supports a larger investment in solar power, saying that “the Saudis don’t control the sun.”


January 21st, 2008, 5:33 pm


Alex said:

Joe M.

Please note that I use the word “please” often, but I never beg : )

Also, please remember that my personal opinion by itself is not more significant than yours or any other person on this forum. There are no Syria/Israel negotiations here, and I do not represent, or communicate with any Syrian officials.

This is simply a rare occasion to have a meaningful communication process and being polite is a prerequisite.


Waiting 50 years is not an option. If you have not noticed, things started to explode a bit more frequently in the Middle East the past few years … there are many challenges to deal with, maintaining the status quo won’t be easy anymore.

Akbar Palace,

This post is about finding solutions. You have been reading and arguing with the rest of us here for a couple of years now. I know that you have been very alert in detecting what you consider to be non-reasonable opinions, If you had to propose a solution that takes into account the reasonable concerns of both sides … what will you come up with?

Can you tell Alon about your experience and SC learning process?

January 21st, 2008, 5:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I have never seen such a concentration of hypocritical whiners.

1) They live in the West for decades but criticize it while adoring Asad
2) They preach a one state solution in Israel but cannot even implement a liberal democracy in ONE Arab country.
3) They have no problem criticizing Israel but when it comes to Asad all they can say is “what can we do?”
4) They speak about “justice” but conveniently forget how they treated their Jewish population.
5) They speak day and night of international law but the very tenant of international law which is basic human rights is something lacking in all Arab countries. And of course they completely forget the UN partition resolution of 47.

January 21st, 2008, 5:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The only option is waiting 50 years. The Arab world has to sort itself out. When you decide if you prefer Asad like dictators, Nasrallah type leaders, Wahabi states like Saudi Arabia, dysfunctional states like Lebanon or Iraq, or the Muslim Brotherhood let us know.

Because form what I read on this forum, democracy is not an option. It is ok, Israel can wait or on the other hand most Arabs believe it will disappear tomorrow, so what is the rush?

January 21st, 2008, 5:54 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Israel siege of Gaza, blocking electricity,food,freedom, is equivalent to Israel holocaust against palastinians.we will never surrender,or change our principles,we will show the world that Israel is worse than Nazi,shame on whoever defend Israel.
Al Quds is for us, the right of return is sacred.

January 21st, 2008, 6:09 pm


Talal said:

It’s impressive to see that UN resolutions are never mentioned when it comes to Israel… While international wars were launched again Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan because they failed to apply UN resolutions (with the exception of Iraq in 2003, invaded despite UN Security Council’s fierce opposition), no steps are taken to force Israel to respect UN resolutions based on the “land for peace” solution.
Nobody is asking the so-called “international community” to bomb Tel-Aviv with depleted uranium like they did in Iraq and in many other countries. This would be a crime against Humanity… Neither to invade Israel, nor to impose deadly sanctions against Israeli civilians, similar to the embargo that caused the death of more than 500 000 Iraqi children (for which former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said “it’s worth it” – May 11, 1996 at CBC’s “60 minutes”).
Arabs have nothing to be blamed for: no Inquisitions, no Dreyfus, no Holocausts, no Treblinkas… During centuries, Arabs have welcomed persecuted Jews coming from Europe. They even welcomed naively the early Jewish immigrants in Palestine by the end of the 19th century. The creation of Israel destroyed peaceful coexistence between us.
Let’s be realistic: there will never be a real and comprehensive peace unless it’s based on UN resolutions.
Syria and Israel have reached 80% of a peace treaty in 1995 at the time of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin… everybody knows what happened to him. Remember the “outcomes” of the Oslo agreements, at the time Arafat jailed thousands of Hamas activists? the answer: an unprecedented expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Everybody knows why such settlements were never built in South Lebanon, even though the International Jewish Congress and David Ben Gourion claimed the Litani river since 1917.
If Israel is serious about peace, it should recognize UN resolutions and the 80% of the syrian-israeli deal reached between Assad and Rabin in 1995, and achieve the other 20% of the agreement. Israel should also accept to live in peace with either an Independent Palestine or a secular Israel were all its citizens would have equal rights.
Syria will never ask Israel to sever its ties with the United States as a pre-condition for talks, because it can’t, and because such a step would undermine Israel and weaken its army. But it would eliminate the only obstacle for the implementation of UN resolutions. The truth is that Israel would never be able to maintain its army in the Golan Heights, in the West Bank and even in East Jerusalem without the US military and political assistance as well as the Americain vetoes at the Security Council. On the other hand, it’s useless and naive to ask Syria to severe its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Peace can be achieved as soon as Israel will have the courage and the will to recognize the UN Resolutions. Rabin relied on them in his talks with Syria. At the end of the day, History tells us that nothing lasts forever, especially military supremacy. The Israeli defeat last summer in South Lebanon might just a beginning, in the long run. Things should move fast, before it becomes too late for Israel.

January 21st, 2008, 6:21 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

In order to make peace between peoples of the region, there must be democracy in the Arab countries, so the Arab masses can decide by majority; not their dictators on their behalf, whether to have peace or not. Israel must make the necessary concessions, the minimum that the majority of the Palestinians can live with. Hamas and Hizbullah have to make a U-turn and accept the two state solution. So it does not look promising at all. What a tragedy for the region.

January 21st, 2008, 6:33 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

It is ironic that Egypt sends Israel gas and oil, and allow Israel to block electricity and gas, from getting to Gaza.

January 21st, 2008, 6:47 pm


Alex said:

AIG (mini Netanyahu),

I see your triple motivation to turn this discussion useless.

You are escalating the nonsense, the distortion, and your already high level negativity.

So, I won’t bother discussing anything with you.

I have a very basic question to my Syrian friends here:

If we simplify Syria’s options to the following:

1) A Syria/Israel peace treaty based on UN resolutions (242, 338, 497) … including a full and unconditional return of the Golan Heights and no conditions on Syria’s relations with anyone (Iran, Lebanese parties, Palestinians)… basically whatever Syria is officially agreeing to.

2) Waiting for the more challenging and more uncertain comprehensive peace settlement (with Palestinians)

3) Status quo (Is it possible to maintain? … and for how long?)

Which option would you personally choose? .. which option is the best for Syria?

Joe M., you know my position on this topic already (I expressed it above) but I have a rather difficult question for you:

The late Arafat, his associates, and the current president of Palestine all made it clear that they want Syria to not interfere in the Palestinian track .. they want Syria to mind its own business.

Hamas and the other Damascus based Palestinian organizations and leaders have a different idea … they want to wait for Syria and they want Syria to wait for a Palestinian solution as well.

Which option is right from your personal point of view? … and from the Palestinians you know and communicate with … what do you think they expect Syria to do in terms of the degree to which it ties its peace process to that of the Palestinian people.

January 21st, 2008, 6:49 pm


Shual said:

[“I really wish that all my family relatives had to do was stop firing at Germans like Shual and they would leave them alone instead of murdering them systematically…”]

Dear AIG from New Jersey,

the directive said: “collective punishment against Gazans” and not “Germans”. Please read you dircetive more intensive next time.

PS: They can have Bavaria. I am from Baden.

January 21st, 2008, 7:03 pm


EHSANI2 said:

It took the Scots and the English 495 years to make peace. Both were of the same religion and with many similarities between them.

It is unreasonable to expect imminent peace in the Middle East. The differences between the parties continue to run deep.

In my humble opinion, achieving peace in the region will prove to be illusive for years to come.

January 21st, 2008, 7:49 pm


Akbar Palace said:


“Whiners” mamash! “Haval al hazman”!

If you had to propose a solution that takes into account the reasonable concerns of both sides … what will you come up with?

Alex –

I recall discussing the Sadat model. Eygpt now has the Sinai, her pride and her honor. I can’t think of a better situation.

But my friend AIG brings up issues I don’t always think about. That is why it is important to hear the Israeli perspective, because they live and breath the Middle East.

So in this sense, is everything really so good?

With the Sinai and their honor, it seems many Eygptians still aren’t happy. Why is this?

January 21st, 2008, 7:51 pm


G said:

Ehsani, you’ve now been reduced to stealing quotes from other peoples’ pieces and passing them as your own comments?

January 21st, 2008, 8:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I agree to your proposal. The Palestinian refugees get Bavaria.
I think we just found a solution.

January 21st, 2008, 8:25 pm


ausamaa said:

Dear Mr. Alon Liel,

Nice and kind words for sure. The cynic I usually am as relates to the Arab-Israeli conflict, yet, I am a strong believer that one day all will recognise that powrfull weapons and bloody battles would not secure their needs in the long term. And that Peace in the end would require the two adversaries to meet at a negotiating table. Arabs and Israelies Alone if allowed.

However, what Israel really needs is Peace with the Arabs, not Peace with Syria. Israel has Peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, but then what? Can an Israeli tourist walk Amman or Cairo streets with any sense of security?

So trying to do it by piecemeal is not a solution and would never produce results as long as the conflict is not put into its correct context. Land for Peace, yes, but with a full resolution to the main issue being the Palestinians. Peace with justice and without hegmony. That is what is needed. Peace, not Peace Treaties.

For us Syrians, the Golan is an isssue. But it is not the whole issue. If Syria wants the Golan alone and agrees to forget the rest, Israel would gladely give it the Golan and an additional strip half a mile wide on the Western side of Tibreis as well. But Israel knows that Syria is seeking more the Golan, or the return to the eastern shore of Tibries and the boarders of 4 June 1967; Syria wants a “comprehensive” and a “just” peace agreement that includes all peoples of the area.

While I like and appreciate your message, yet when your article says:

“…a much broader one has to be worked out to fit contemporary circumstances. It can be described as “withdrawal for reorientation”–Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a total reorientation of Syria’s regional and global policies”

When I read the above statement in your article, I start to think: here we go again. Someone new is still trying to Flip Syria, to disengage Syria from its natural social and historic character and belonging, to actually strip Syria from all the elements that make Syria what it is. It is geography, history, language, common dreams and goals, songs that brings tears to our eyes together when we here, it is our collective self. It is an Arab issue and not a Syrian issue. It is not a few yards of Syrian or Palestinian or Lebanese occupied land here and there. And it is inseperable no matter how hard many tried in good or bad intention to do.

This will not happen. Syria is part and parcel of the Palestinan and the Lebanese and the total Arab issue. That is what the Syrian-Israeli conflict is all about, and not only about a few kilometers of the occupied Golan, dear as they are.

Are you willing to address the issue in such a context Mr.Liel?

We Syrians and Arabs are!

January 21st, 2008, 8:26 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M. says: “Yet after all these years it is now obvious that Oslo was just a way to consolidate control over Palestine, to conclusively buy off the corrupt Palestinians to serve as a proxy for Israel.”

AIG sees no solution for another 50 years. Brings up many good points: (1) about wanting to see examples of success before signing up for one of the proposed “democratic” stuctures for Israel, (2) about differences between Jews’ treatment at the hands of the Nazis and how Israel is treating Palestinians.

Kingcrane wants to convince the Israelis that they will be OK if they would just institute a 100% secular state (as Iran advocates, by the way), and allow the right-of-return.

Alon is genteel and seemingly affable but proposes a solution that is Oh so blatantly unacceptable to the Syrians (betray your friends and come to papa)

Alex extends a hosptitality hand to Alon but no real anchor for a meaningful compromise.

AP is always enchanting with his irony.

But, folks, no one is offering here a true paradigm shift needed to effect a solution in real time. Yet, as I mentioned many times before, the structure of a peaceful Middle East is known:
– Return to 1967 borders, with adjustments that take into account realities that are impractical to change and with adequate compensation (ovewhelming compensation that is very attractive and, in any case, more than fair)
– Independent Palestinian state including East Jerusalem and overwhelmingly generous compensation for the displaced in 1948 and 1967 permitting effective repatriation to the new state (not to Israel) and an economic package ensuring success of that state
– Guarantee of Human rights and minority rights across all the ME through principles put forth by the UN, voted on by all UN members, and ratified by every government in the ME.
– Engagement and commitment of all governments to not only renounce terrorism but effectively eradicate any of its manifestations across the region
– Tribute to all the martyrs from all the countries, all religions, who paid the ultimate price in the saddest conflict of our time. Joint tribute by all countries in the area. True reconciliation, renouncing of violence, and full respect of individual rights, including freedom of religion.

Israel controls its extremists who refuse the practical imperatives of ceding East Jerusalem and living contentedly within the (approximate) 1967 borders.
The Arabs (Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, etc.) control their extremists seeking the annihilation of the state of Israel. [And, make no mistake, the solution of a secular state with full democracy and right-of-return, is one that will lead to the oppression of the Jewish citizens of that state. Anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or has a hidden evil agenda]

If you net it down to the desire of the individual, whether in Israel or in any of the Arab countries, away from the influence of religious leaders, I am certain that the overwhelming majority would want such a formula for peace to be effected and to close this chapter of history. The needed financing will be gladly provided by the US and Europe. Similarly, advanced surveillance technology will be readily provided to ensure that no new military adventure is attempted.

What’s missing is the will and courage of true statesmen both in Israel and in the Arab world. Such statesmen, when they started emerging in the past, were assassinated (Rabin, Beshir Gemayel). It should not take 50 years. If it does, I have to ask AIG, why are you even bothering with this forum ?? I’m not sure how young you are but I certainly won’t be alive then and anyone I care about and who is still in the region would either have passed away or left the region as I did. No, we’ve got to do better than that…
Come on Alon, Observer, AIG, AP, Norman, Alex, and others on this blog, you’re too smart to let the status quo continue — onwards with some peace activism, the genuine kind.

January 21st, 2008, 8:27 pm


Shai said:

Dear Alex,

It is a great pleasure to return to your blog, especially on this opportunity, where a fellow countryman and ex-diplomat (Dr. Alon Liel) has enabled all of us to engage in discussion about real ideas that were really raised in Track II meetings, and that have undoubtedly found their way also into the halls of the most private rooms of our respective leadership. As many of you may know, Alon Liel has well over 30 years experience as a diplomat, negotiator, advisor, ambassador, and as of recent, chairman of a number of important organizations (one of which is the Israel-Syria Peace Society). He is, by all standards, a true champion of peace. I thank you, Alex, for posting his article, and for enabling all of us to interact through constructive feedback. In’shalla, some ideas will be raised in this forum, which may help Alon (and his counterparts on the Syrian side, as well as others) bridge over difficult issues ahead.

I read all of the comments made thus far, and of course there are a few extreme ones (from both sides), and other, more constructive ones. I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone (Israeli) other than myself here, but clearly I’m not particularly proud of words used by my fellow countryman AIG. He does, unfortunately, represent not a small quantity of people. But most Israelis, thank god, are not like him. He is not interested in making peace, he doesn’t believe in peace, and therefore his words deserve no further attention as far as I’m concerned.

As to the comments made by fellow Palestinians, and especially regarding the demand for Israeli recognition of its crimes against the Arabs and Palestine. As I’ve written in the past, we must be realistic. Though I do agree that in order for Joe M.’s kids to be able to one day play in the backyard with my kids, he must feel that I’ve accepted certain responsibilities about my actions these past 60 years, and may well require a personal apology from me, neither of these will come prior to a peace agreement. In fact, they’ll come years into the future. I do hope, however, that one day they will be vocalized. It took certain American leaders 200 years to make any public apologies to the native Indians in the U.S., not because whites in America didn’t recognize their crimes (anyone studying in middle-school or high-school in the U.S. learns all about these crimes), but because these things take time. A generational gap must probably exist as a minimum between the acts and the apologies. The Palestinians, as well as the Israelis who also believe they deserve certain “apologies”, will simply have to wait. Personally, I believe that if peace is one day reached, and if our peoples begin to interact, it will come.

As to the Syrian commentators, and by this I wish to end my initial (and lengthy) comments. I believe that Alon Liel’s ideas which, again, were brought forth at the Track II discussions, are meant to serve here as a stimulus for open, sincere, and constructive interaction and discussion between us. It’s easy to list a thousand reasons for why a park is an idiotic idea. But can we try to understand why it might be a good idea? Not so that we implement that idea necessarily, but so that we can take the positive rationale, and maybe apply it to another idea. Let us try, as hard as it may be, to put aside the emotions (which are very often completely legitimate), and the innate resistance and distrust, and actually imagine ourselves in charge of that seemingly imaginary task, of making peace between Israel and Syria. For the time being, let us not try to ruin this attempt by making it absolutely dependent on progress along the Palestinian track. If we fall into that “trap”, we may find ourselves talking here again, in 5-10 years’ time, with little progress made, and god-knows what further pain and suffering.

I’m looking forward to the ideas that will be brought up, and to opening up and sharing with all of you.


January 21st, 2008, 8:28 pm


norman said:

Saudi prince offers Israelis a vision of peace
By Paul Taylor ReutersPublished: January 21, 2008

E-Mail Article

Listen to Article


3-Column Format


Share Article

Text Size

KRONBERG, Germany: A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad cooperation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories.

In an interview, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and Britain and adviser to King Abdullah, said Israel and the Arabs could cooperate in many areas, including water, agriculture, science and education.

Asked what message he wanted to send to the Israeli public, he said: “The Arab world, by the Arab peace initiative, has crossed the Rubicon from hostility toward Israel to peace with Israel and has extended the hand of peace to Israel, and we await the Israelis picking up our hand and joining us in what inevitably will be beneficial for Israel and for the Arab world.”

The 22-country Arab League revived at a Riyadh summit meeting last year a Saudi peace plan first adopted in 2002 offering Israel the full normalization of relations in return for a full withdrawal from occupied Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land.

Israel shunned the offer then, at the height of a violent Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Today in Africa & Middle East

As pressure mounts, Israel agrees to allow Gaza some fuel and supplies

Saudi prince offers Israelis a vision of peace

Signs in Kenya that killings were planned

But it has expressed more interest since the United States began a new drive for Israeli-Palestinian peace at Annapolis, Maryland, last November, aiming for an agreement this year.

Turki, who has served as head of Saudi intelligence, said that if Israel accepted the Arab League plan and signed a comprehensive peace, “one can imagine the integration of Israel into the Arab geographical entity.”

“One can imagine not just economic, political and diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis but also issues of education, scientific research, combating mutual threats to the inhabitants of this vast geographic area,” he said.

His comments, on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East and Europe staged by the Bertelsmann Foundation, were some of the most far-reaching addressed to Israelis by a senior figure from Saudi Arabia.

The desert kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest shrines, has no official relations with the Jewish state, although both are key allies of the United States in the region.

“Exchange visits by people of both Israel and the rest of the Arab countries would take place,” Turki said.

“We will start thinking of Israelis as Arab Jews rather than simply as Israelis,” he said, noting that many Arabs historically saw the Israeli state as a European entity imposed on Arab land after World War II.

Turki, brother of the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, holds no official position now but heads the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

He said Israel could expect some benefits on the way to signing a treaty and making a full withdrawal, noting that after the 1993 Oslo interim accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, regional cooperation had begun and the Jewish state had achieved representation in several Arab states.

Those Israeli advances were reversed after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Israel was wary of the Arab League plan partly because it would entail handing back the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, as well as re-dividing Jerusalem. Israel annexed the captured Arab eastern part of the city in 1967.

An Israeli participant at the conference, Yossi Alpher, co-editor of the Bitter Lemons Israeli-Palestinian Web site and a former senior intelligence official, welcomed the comments.

“I was delighted to hear Prince Turki’s description of the comprehensive nature of normalization as he envisages it within the framework of the Arab peace initiative,” Alpher said.

“His remarks should encourage us Israelis and Arabs to deepen and broaden the discussion of ways to reach a comprehensive peace, implement the Arab peace initiative and reach the kind of cooperation that his highness described.”

Alpher said he hoped that once there was a comprehensive peace, Israel’s Arab neighbors would accept Israelis “as Jewish people living a sovereign life in our historic homeland” and not as “Arab Jews” or “European Jews.”

January 21st, 2008, 9:17 pm


Battal Agha said:

Having read all the above comments, I cannot but feel frustrated. Frustrated because the Syrians do not realize that to make peace you have to make concessions. They want everything and perhaps, if Israel behaves, they will extend some kind of cold Peace. That is not going to happen after the Gaza experience … withdrawal and more violence…

January 21st, 2008, 9:46 pm


Alex said:

No peace without Damascus
By Marek Halter

Peace in the Middle East will only happen with the involvement of Damascus. I realize that saying this will surprise some and probably offend others. I have been convinced of this since my first visit to Syria under the regime of Bashar Assad. My visit itself was criticized by several French politicians. Isn’t Syria, after all, part of what President George W. Bush calls the “axis of evil”?

It seems obvious that peace can only be reached through negotiating with one’s enemies. Unfortunately, this common-sense statement is not shared by all. It is mostly a matter of knowing when to start the discussions. The issue is political rather than moral. I believe Syria is now ready for peace.

The presence of the Syrian deputy foreign minister side-by-side with Israeli and Saudi Arabian delegates, the sworn enemies of its Iranian ally, at the Annapolis conference, is an important sign. It is a mistake for the West to continue to isolate Syria, a country with extensive borders with Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, particularly at a time when the United States is wallowing in the Iraqi quagmire and struggling to find a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine acceptable to both sides.

The western policy of exclusion is making Syria increasingly dependent on Iran and its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It results in abandoning Lebanon to the power of Hezbollah. It may even, in the long term, provoke the disappearance of Lebanon as a state, and lead to a war between Syria and Israel in the not too distant future.

“Politics and theology are the only two big questions” the British prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone, declared over a century ago. In the case of Syria, the only secular country in the Arab world, one can still engage in politics and leave theology aside.

The Syrians value their secular society. Even the Syrian Grand Mufti, Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, prides himself on his secularity. According to him, such a position implies respect for other religions. He invited me, a Polish Jew and French writer, to speak to the congregation during Friday prayers in one of the most famous mosques in the Muslim world, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. The reason for my invitation, according to him, was that I am what he calls a khakham, which, both in Arabic and Hebrew means an “erudite.”

A few hundred Jews still live in Syria. Almost eighty live in Damascus and own 20 synagogues in the city, but due to a lack of attendance, only one actually functions. There is one restriction, however: all relations with Israel are forbidden. Syria and Israel may as well be at war.

I visited the community center with Michel Duclos, the French ambassador to Syria. When we got out of the car, the entire Jewish population of Damascus was there waiting to greet us, and applause broke out. Both Albert Cameo, the president of the Jewish community and I were deeply moved. It is rare for anyone to come and visit them.

As a leader of a country in which eighty percent of the population is Sunni, there is no point for Assad in developing ties with Shiite Iran. The Syrian population observes with fear the thousands of Iranian pilgrims, amongst them women dressed from head to toe in black, imprisoned in their garb, who come to pay their respects to the reliquary that traditionally encases the head of Hussein, the son of Ali, the first Shiite Imam assassinated in Karbala in 680. The influence of Islam in Syrian society could lead to the end of the Assad clan and the end of the supremacy of the Ba’ath socialist party. For Bashar Assad, it is a race against time. It is imperative that he begin negotiations with Israel and through Israel, with the West.

It is no coincidence that the latest speech the Syrian president delivered before the leaders of the Ba’ath party dealt almost exclusively about peace with Israel. Unfortunately, as far as I know, neither the Western media, nor the Israeli press, mentioned anything about this.

“We want to resume negotiations,” Bashar Assad said, “The Israelis must realize that lasting peace is preferable to any other form of temporary solution.” The Syrian president went on to say that if it was not possible to publicly discuss the issue of “the return of Syrian land in exchange for peace”, then at least “they should do as Yitzhak Rabin did, and state his position clear in a letter of engagement.”

He was referring to a written promise by the former Israeli prime minister to pull back from the Golan Heights in exchange for a comprehensive peace deal with Syria. This letter, the exact contents of which remain unknown, included, according to our sources, several dispositions meant to test the goodwill of its fiercest opponents in the two nations. The Golan Heights were to be repossessed by the Syrians over a period of 10 years. But Rabin was assassinated, and Assad’s father, who negotiated the deal, also died.

It is obvious that the Syrian president is not a democrat. But then again, are there many democrats at the head of Middle Eastern or African countries? Should we really impose our political views on Syria militarily, as President Bush did in Iraq? Raymond Aron quite rightly stated that “the choice in politics is not between good and evil but rather between what is preferable and what is detestable.”

Peace in the Middle East is inconceivable without Syria, not because Syria is a great power within the Arab world, but because its national pride must be taken into account. Its nuisance power must also not be underestimated. The aggressive stance of the international media toward Syria, accusing the country, rightly or wrongly, of being involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri and of several other Lebanese deputies, participates in closing the gap between the Syrian opposition and those in power.

To open up the European market to the Syrians would be a step toward freeing them from the economic shackles of Iran. Should Israel agree to negotiate with Syria, it would weaken all terrorist groups who have their headquarters in Damascus, including Hamas. In the present situation, only a strong government, such as Bashar Assad’s, can take that first step toward peace with Israel without fear of creating havoc in the streets of the Arab world.

January 22nd, 2008, 1:12 am


Joe M. said:

To answer your question, I have no alliance to any Arab country. Currently Syria is the most hospitable to those seeking justice for the region, but that could easily change. I do not trust the Syrian leadership. On the other hand, I very much trust the Syrian people, as well as all the Arab people of the region. I know that Israel can only survive with dictatorships in the surrounding countries…

As for your specific question the most I can hope from any dictatorship, whether sympathetic to the Palestinians of hostile, is simply not to force a solution on us. As for the Syrian people, I simply want their solidarity. Both solidarity in our specific struggle, and solidarity in our Arab struggle for independence from the tyranny that confronts our region. But, most of the people i know have largely split into two camps: 1) those who have given up and simply want any help they can get, regardless of the cost, 2) those who want Syria or Iran or Hizbullah to take a more active hand in helping us.

I don’t want to try to analyze this any more because the Palestinians are really in a position where we have few choices. My personal belief is that the best thing would be for all the regional countries to become democratic so that we would experience true solidarity from the people, not conditional on how much weapons the USA gives the dictators…
Honest Patriot,
You misunderstand a basic reality of the conflict. THERE IS NO 67 BORDER!!!!! The only border that has ever been drawn is from the Partition Plan. By current international law, the Palestinians have a right to all the land granted to them by the UN in 1947. That is plain and simple. That fact has never been altered. 67 was simply a military line, it was not a “border” by any stretch of the imagination. This is simple fact. Now, just to be clear, I do not accept a foreign body (the UN) imposing a colonial state on my land (or my neighbor’s). But your arrogance in believing that calling for 67 represents some sort of “will and courage” is a joke. It represents a true injustice against those who have been colonized and have had their land and homes stolen from them. It represents peace for Israel, not the Palestinians. You are not calling for peace, but for a formalization of oppression!
Battal Agha,
Does the abused need to make “concessions” to the abuser? Does the murdered need to make “concessions” to the murderer? Did the Jews need to make “concessions” to the Nazis? how many “concessions” should the victimized make to the criminal?

Israel is the criminal, it has stolen land, it has victimized the people of the region, it has continued to dominate and plunder the region. Therefore Israel needs to make all the concessions. It must give up its violence against the Arab people, it must recognize and repent for its crimes. It is not the responsibility of the victim to beg the criminal for peace, it is the responsibility of the criminal to recognize that it has perpetrated such crimes.

You seem like a reasonable person. And I would hope that our children can play together some day. But I hope they do so as equals. Your reference to being “realistic” seems to me a call to accept injustice. Your consistent references to the “years into the future” are discouraging. South Africa is a perfect example of peace happening simultaneously among people and politically. It sounds like you are simply making an excuse by referencing time. Considering that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the USA, I want to point out a quote from his famous Letter from a Birmingham Prison:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Considering this and that 20% of Israelis are already Palestinians, how do you feel about a one-state solution?

January 22nd, 2008, 1:25 am


Joe M. said:

those of you who post articles, can you post the key paragraph and a link rather than the entire article? It makes it mush easier to sift through all the writing…


January 22nd, 2008, 1:28 am


Shual said:

AIG from New Jersey,

the Palestinian Refugees already HAVE occupied parts of Bavaria. http://www.palaestinagb.de/images/Demonstration30062001/08.jpg The official count is at 80 000 in Germany, the inofficial up to 180 000. A strong part of them are christian refugees from EJerusalem [well respected families, even from Israelis]. Thats why their numbers in the “terror-related” cases are extremly low.

You will like to hear that there is a german fascist movement that hides under the Israeli Flag that wants germany to be Palestinian-clean. They are up to 5000 and so the german democracy can stand these idiots.

But this is irritating: The “Friends of Israel” want them Palestinians of Germany to go, but the Israelis say “No into our house”. So your Bavaria-solution is no solution, it creates a problem. Maybe the best thing is to send you all the “Friends” to New Jersey and after you explained them how to behave they can have a place in the Negev, where they can hate-crime against Israeli Arabs, Bedouins aso and live a peaceful life.

January 22nd, 2008, 2:04 am


Observer said:

Le dialogue des sourds.
The Arab countries in accepting several UN resolutions have effectively accepted the presence of Israel in Palestine and some went on to have a peace treaty with it. Yet, culturally Israel will not be fully accepted until the Palestinian issue is addressed through a settlement that is seen by the majority of the people of the ME to be JUST.

The second point is that discussions will be meaningful when and if there is a strategic parity between the parties. The debacle that the US suffered in Iraq will result in its arming Israel to the teeth and even going to war on its behalf with Iran, Syria, and others. This means that Syria will always be in a position of weakness and Israel will see no incentive for real compromise. This is exactly the situation that Abbas finds himself in. He cannot wipe his ass without Olmert’s permission having put all his eggs in the basket of the Israeli establishment.

The Arab regimes are trying to pull the rug from under religiously motivated political movement by pushing for a settlement of the Palestinian issue and by investing their oil wealth heavily in the region with the sole aim of staying in power. They are desperate for an Israeli gesture but of course Ehud obliged them with the collective siege of Gaza and Olmert using the same argument as OBL: you voted for Hamas and therefore you are responsible for what happens to you, the same rethoric that justified the killing of civilians on 9/11

All of these efforts will come to nothing until a new administration comes to the white house and what I mean by that a president that is not an establishment president for I believe that the traditional contenders will not change anything in the core policies of the US only polish the outside veneer.

Therefore, the hard liners in Israel will find all the excuses not to pursue peace. It is in their interest to remain in a state of no war and no peace, acting as a bulwark and an aircraft carrier for the Western powers while using the fear of the “other” to silence opposition and to keep the population in line. Done in a much more sophisticated way than brute dictatorship but with similar results. Look how information was manipulated in the oldest democracy in the world to wage an illegal war.

January 22nd, 2008, 2:21 am


Observer said:

This is from Foreign Policy
What the next President must do
Two of the authors say that US must talk to Syria and visit Iran
Desmond Tutu says US should say I am sorry


January 22nd, 2008, 2:23 am


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M: If there are no 67 borders (and I’m not here to argue history or its interpretation with you), then what the heck are the Arab countries doing proposing (at their Beirut summit) peace to Israel in exchange for going back to these borders?
Nor am I in any way expert at the delineation of borders.
However, the key point here is one of concepts:
Return land, compensate generously and adequately the aggrieved, recognize the reality of – yes – a Jewish state (at least for a generation or so until all of humanity learns to evolve into letting religion be what it should be: a personal devotion and not a sytem of government), achieve reconciliation, work jointly for the well-being of the people.

Accusations of murder going back and forth will lead nowhere.
Yes, Israel has committed crimes. But, hey, what do you call all the attacks against innocent Israeli civilians – from Munich to suicide bombings in the heart of Tel-Aviv ? There is enough cruelty and savagery to go around.
Rigid positions such as yours lead, in my opinion, to the perpetuation of the conflict for 50+ years, exactly what AIG predicts.

In the meantime, life happens, to all of us. Pity the humans. They never learn. Homo homini lupus.

Joe, give us the set of points that consitute the solution, according to you.

January 22nd, 2008, 2:41 am


Joe M. said:

Honest Patriot,
The Arab dictators will say anything for a dollar. You give them military aid, and they are yours. They are the world’s leading prostitutes. They have no morality, no ethics, no principles. They are not interested in peace or justice, only in keeping themselves in power.

Again, the green line is just a military line, and not a border. This is plain and simple. Israel’s border was established in the Partition Plan. That has never changed.

As for my preferred solution, I want a semi-federated one-state solution. I am fine with 2 sub-states as long as they are subject to a national federal law. My preference is for national institutions to be shared relatively equally, with equal rights and appointments to major posts and such… Two national languages, one universal passport and ID, no more green line… But in this situation, there would be no problem with settlements (as they would not longer be an occupation and they could be multi-racial), water rights would be shared nationally, military duties would be shared (though, there would be no reason to fight, so it would be scaled down).

I am only “rigid” in that I will not allow Israel to be such a criminal state, and to get away with its crimes. By your definition, the black South Africans were “rigid” by wanting rights in their own country. MLK was rigid for demanding respect. It is utterly sad that the power imbalance is so great that even the debate is such that the oppressor can paint the oppressed as being “unrealistic” for demanding basic respect.

January 22nd, 2008, 3:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There is one thing that both Joe M. and I can agree, that to have peace in the middle east you need first democracy in the Arab countries. We will just have to wait patiently then. I think that when there are real democracies, open discussion and accountability in Arab countries the chances of war are zero. As for peace, I don’t know.

Joe, once there is a working liberal democracy in ONE Arab country I will start considering a solution such as yours. What you propose not only doesn’t work in any Arab country it doesn’t work in ANY country. The only example, Belgium, is as we speak, falling apart. It didn’t work in Yugoslavia and it even didn’t work in chchoslovakia. Almost 50% of Quebcois even favor parting ways with Canada. Two nation states do not work. History has given a sound verdict on this. (South Africa is not a two nation state, both blacks and whites consider themselves South Africans, and the jury is still out whether South Africa is a success.)

January 22nd, 2008, 3:36 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Those “Friends of Israel” are not real friends of Israel. I speak for myself and I am sure most Israelis when I say that Bavaria should take in all Palestinian refugees and I also support giving each one a BMW.

January 22nd, 2008, 3:39 am


Alex said:


I don’t think a two-nation state will work … not the way things are now. But hopefully in the future…. if few things change.

One of things that will need to change is to really separate religion from politics. The problem is that Israel is all about Judaism, and that many Palestinians have been pushed towards more religious extremism the past few years.

If both “nations” had the same religion, or if both nations were considerably more secular, then I would have been behind your call for a one state solution… but you know that many Muslims would not accept to be governed by a non Muslim, and I am sure many Jews will not accept to have an elected prime minister who might look like a Hamas Sheikh … Which is possible since most elections we had so far gave the most religious party the majority of popular votes.

Not to mention the sharp memory of many people in the Middle East … one wonders if EVERYONE will be able to forget and forgive the violence perpetuated by the other side … or if there will be too many incidents of those who take their revenge whenever they can… and they will have more chances to do so when the two “nations” are mixed. The whites in South Africa did not kill blacks as often as Israel killed Palestinians.

It is not doable before many things change … but I hope it will eventually be the outcome that satisfies both sides.

Thanks for answering my previous question. But your answer was a bit vague… If Syria signs a peace treaty based on returning the Golan Heights (not waiting for the Palestinian track). What kind of support do you hope to have from Syria after they normalize their relations with Israel? … do you think Syria should

1) Take the Golan and try to maintain a cold peace (like Egypt’s)
2) Have relations like the one turkey has with Israel … more friendly but still a supporter of Palestinian rights.

January 22nd, 2008, 4:24 am


ugarit said:

Democracy is no guarantee to decent behavior. Let’s not forget that the US has already killed more Iraqis than Saddam had done in over two decades. The British Empire was democratic and it raped the world. France was democratic when it killed over a million Algerians, etc, etc. Europe industrialized because it pillaged the planet and devoured its natural resources ( a digression I know)

Requiring democracy for peace negotiations is nothing but a red herring.

January 22nd, 2008, 4:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is not a guarantee for good behavior, but it is a guarantee that the policies of the country match what the citizens of the country want.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:02 am


Shai said:


Thank you for sharing the MLK quote. I can understand that frustration we “moderate” Israelis cause upon you, when we seem to identify with your suffering, yet want to dictate “our own” schedule and methodology to your freedom. Joe, you’re not going to like what I say now, but I’ve been arguing recently, after Hamas has taken over Gaza, that Israel should cease from any formal discussions with the PA. That instead, it should allow the Palestinian people to determine who should govern and represent them, and who should determine their future. Only when Israel (and the international community) find a body in Palestine that truly represents the people, should we go back to negotiations. And, if god-forbid it should be necessary, we should enable the Palestinians to have their own civil war, just as you would let us have ours. Israel must be careful not to interfere in those nation-shaping steps, as we have everything to lose, and nothing to gain. How can we talk peace with 50% of the Palestinians, while rolling our tanks and artillery across the other 50%?

In theory, I would have agreed with you about a one-state solution. If you asked me to gamble on the future 100 years from now, I’d say it would look very similar to that. Probably (hopefully) a UME (United Middle East), with open borders, not like in Europe, but like in the U.S. Where Palestinians don’t need a “Right of Return” to live in Jaffa or Haifa, but can do so as citizens of this so-called UME. And I, of course, could go live and work in Amman, or Damascus, or Gaza. But to most of us, this is pure fantasy, and the stuff for night-time stories to our kids, not realistic discussions about the near future. We must separate to one day be able to re-join. We need to enable the Palestinians their god-given right to independence and to their own nation (even if not on all of Palestine). I’m trying not to sound paternalistic here, but I believe I’m representing the view of most Palestinians. Obviously, many if not most Palestinians would not see a fair solution in anything less than a return to the entire Palestine of 1947, but I think today that’s no longer a realistic option (sorry for using the term “realistic” again…)

Look, you’re right that we’re seeking a quick-n-easy solution, but what else can my side seek? A prolonged process, whereby Palestine is not free until every last Israeli leader concedes his/her contribution to your suffering? As I said, I think one day this vocalization would come, but it won’t come now. You’re using South Africa as an example, but I think it’s a very different case there. If the black population in SA was 20%, and the whites 80%, or even 40%-60%, do you think the whites would ever consider an apology? Or, for that matter, handing over control of the nation? That’s what I mean by suggesting “realism” – not about what SHOULD happen, but about what WILL happen, at least in the immediate future. Plus, don’t forget that the whites in SA don’t have the same kind of claims against the blacks. You’re (perhaps legitimately) concentrating all the time on what we’ve done to you, but you’re still ignoring the claims of many Israelis against the Arabs over the past 60 years. One thing is clear, if we want peace in the next decade or two, addressing these frustrations at the negotiating table will probably not get us far. We need to now talk about the future, and later about the past, not the other way around… unfortunately.

Personally, I believe that making peace with Syria would only help us make peace with the Palestinians. There’s a re-education that must take place within the hearts and souls of most Israelis (and perhaps many Arabs), which begins to chip away at the innate distrust, suspicion, even hatred (yes, even mutual hatred, not only yours towards us…) When Israelis will be reminded once again, after 30 years, that the Arab world really does want to make peace with us, a different view of Arabs will develop, and finally empathy could begin to be felt (especially towards the Palestinians). Without it, there’s little chance we’ll ever live in peace next to one another, let alone forgive each other for crimes we’ve committed. I’m convinced Syria IS the key right now. Damascus is the fastest route to Gaza, Ramallah, and E. Jerusalem.

Having said that, I still pray that you and I will one day have coffee together in my home, or yours. And when we do, and a Palestine and an Israel live side-by-side in peace, you WILL have my sincere apology.


January 22nd, 2008, 5:27 am


ugarit said:

Are you saying that US citizens want the blood of Iraqis? Perhaps you’re right. So the citizens of a democracy are accountable for their government’s behavior while citizens in a non-democracy are not. Therefore, US citizens and Israeli citizens are more guilty of their governments actions than any citizen of any Arab state.

I am a proponent of democracy but democracy is no guarantee of decent behavior.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:27 am


Alex said:


It seems you don’t understand AIG’s admirable position. Let me try to explain:


January 22nd, 2008, 5:32 am


Alex said:

Good morning Shai : )

January 22nd, 2008, 5:41 am


Joe M. said:

I think the two issues (Syria’s policy towards the Palestinians and gaining the Golan back) are too directly related to isolate one over the other. I think Syria has every right to its land, regardless of other issues. So, despite the prevailing rhetoric (“land for peace”), I think Syria should not change its policy upon gaining Golan back. Syria is the only Arab country that has solidarity with the oppressed people of the region, and it should not sell them out for its land. Also, it has every legal and moral right to having its land back and should not bargain its independence away for a few sq km of soil (though, strategic and rich in resources as they are).

You reference the situation in Egypt as an option, but it actually expresses my point. The Egyptian people universally hate Mubarak precisely because he favors the USA and Israel over the Palestinians (and Syrians, and other Arabs. even Iran…). Last time I was in Cairo the situation was so tense I thought Mubarak could fall any day (though, the pressure has sense eased some). Yet Assad is generally liked by his people because he is wiling to stand for principle rather than being “flipped” or gaining US military aid. If Syria simply gains a peace treaty with Israel (even gaining its land back), it will become a more unstable place. Too many Arabs see each other as brothers and too many people are emotionally invested in seeing a larger justice than a simple peace treaty would provide.

In this respect, rise of the Islamist political movements is directly related. A Peace treaty with Israel would expose Syria to the type of Islamist movement that currently dominates Egypt or Palestine, or even Iran. I think that the good stance the Syrian government has taken on international affairs is one of the major reasons the Akhwan is so weak there (but forgive me, I have not been to Syria in a long time and am unclear how weak the Islamists are there).

Anyway, my point is that I don’t think you can separate the issues and doing so would be dangerous for Syria. If they can’t gain the land back otherwise, unfortunately I think it is probably best.
We do not agree. I think Israel should become democratic with the Palestinians today. There is no reason to wait (I agree with ugarit). But yes, the Arab countries should become democratic as well. But democracy is much more than voting, and I am suspicious of representative democracy (as it seems to simply justify a ruling elite). Israel has no justification for its crimes, and bares the responsibility to make a real peace. regardless of what the weak parties do.
In terms of democracy in Israel, of course institutions would need to separate religion from politics. That is already the position of the majority of Israelis. And the problem you bring up is only one of thousands of potential problems. But in terms of fundamental solutions, my view is that only the one-state offers a comprehensive chance for peace. The problem with the two-state solution is exactly that it is not comprehensive. They have to pick and choose to negotiate each individual issue (borders, water, land, Quds, settlements, refugees, Israeli racism, “demographic threat”…), where a one-state solves those problems by definition. Of course it leaves many problems to be solved, but none are terminal. Oslo was doomed from the beginning because it was unable to address any of the fundamental issues. A one-state solves them all, and only leaves minor problems to be dealt with.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:51 am


Shual said:

“Bavaria should take in all Palestinian refugees and I also support giving each one a BMW”

Dear AIG from New Jersey,
I can understand that Dan Halutz, the new and best BMW-seller on earth still has not concluded with his past as the best of all generals in the history of Israel. And just as his plan to destroy Hezbollah was a great success [for Hezbollah], we can hope that his plan that you are citing will be a great plan for Palestinians, too.

And I can tell you how Israel can finance that transaction. Cause if you want something from Bavarians … you always have to pay for it, except you are a Saudi. Saudis can demand commissions from bavarian weapon-dealers, but as we know in Israel there is no such thing like a corrupt politician or corrupt BMW-seller that uses insider-information to betray his own people and so [calculate – calculate] € 137.000 for every single Palestinian and the Bavarians will think of it.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:58 am


wizart said:

Democracies are not very good at achieving peace and stability.
Distortion, exageration and saying anything to get elected hardly represents a requirement for creating lasting peace among nations.

The lust for power and greed overcomes all morals and just because there’s a check and balance system doesn’t mean it works that way.
It’s wishful thinking to expect regime changes to solve anything.


Judge for yourself by observing the election and finance process..


A simmering feud between Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama erupted into charges of distortion and exaggeration in a gloves-off presidential debate Monday, with Mrs. Clinton accusing him of representing a Chicago slumlord and Mr. Obama countering that she was a corporate lawyer for antiunion Wal-Mart.

Even in the superheated atmosphere of their fight for the party’s nomination, the statements and exchanges between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama were unusually acrimonious and personal. The debate came as the two campaigns continued to complain about dirty politics and disenfranchisement of voters in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and Sen. Barack Obama gesture during a Democratic presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
As Mr. Obama tried to defend his recent comments about Republican ideas and Ronald Reagan, Mrs. Clinton interrupted and said she has never criticized his remarks on Mr. Reagan.

“Your husband did,” said Mr. Obama, who has accused the former president of misrepresenting his record.

“I’m here. He’s not,” she snapped.

Mr. Obama persisted, suggesting the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters. “There was a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate,” Mr. Obama said. “I think that part of what people are looking right now is someone who is going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we’ve seen in Washington.”

Mrs. Clinton countered: “I believe your record and what you say should matter.”

John Edwards, who badly trails his two rivals, tried to stay above the fray while pleading for equal time. “Are there three people in this debate, not two?” he asked. “We have got to understand, this is not about us personally. It’s about what we are trying to do for this country,” Mr. Edwards said to applause from the audience.

Hillary Clinton, who was close with the Walton family, served on the Wal-Mart board from 1986 to 1992. In 2006, her Senate campaign returned $5,000 to the company’s political action committee while citing differences with company policies.

A blind trust held by Mrs. Clinton and her husband, the former president, included stock holdings in Wal-Mart. They liquidated the contents of the blind trust in 2007 because of investments that could pose conflicts of interest or prove embarrassing as she ran for president.

Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin “Tony” Rezko was a longtime fund raiser for Mr. Obama. Prosecutors have charged him with fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in what they allege was a scheme to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to do business before two state boards.

Mr. Obama’s campaign said Saturday it was giving to charities more than $40,000 from donors linked to Rezko. In 2006, when charges against Rezko were made public, Mr. Obama gave $11,500 in Rezko contributions to charities.

Often speaking over each other, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton clashed over their legislative records. Mr. Obama questioned why the New York senator had voted for a bankruptcy bill that she later said she was glad hadn’t passed, and Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for voting “present” on dozens of occasions while a member of the Illinois legislature.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:23 am


Joe M. said:

To tell you the truth, I do not think Dahlan and Abbas would survive a single week without Israeli and American support. But, I hate to break it to you, it is impossible for Israel to “cease from any formal discussions with the PA” and “allow the Palestinian people to determine who should govern and represent them.” In fact, this is a totally meaningless statement. This is exactly what Israel is doing to Gaza as THIS MINUTE. It is starving the people, cutting of their electricity and fuel, denying them even the basics for existence. This is what you are arguing for.

if you think otherwise you simply must not understand the relationship Israel has to the Palestinians. It is not a relationship of one state to its neighbor. It is the relationship of a Siamese twins. You have so much control over our lives that we literally can not survive without you. when you talk about such separation, you obviously are not talking about withdrawing checkpoints, or giving us the right to import food and goods. As with Gaza, if the Palestinians were closed off even more, they would fight more. And if they fought more, Israel would do the same to the WB as it has done to Gaza.

I personally don’t care whether Israel has political negotiations with Abbas. What good do they do us anyway? But Israel so utterly dominates our lives that it is impossible for us even live if you decide to shut us down.

This view, that it is simply two conflicting parties, is very common among Israelis. Actually, the vast majority of Israelis fundamentally don’t even know the Palestinians exist other than as occasionally dangerous people… You seem like a nice enough person, but it is clear that you honestly don’t understand how extreme the occupation is.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:24 am


Shual said:

Dear AIG,

an update about Bavaria. You will like it!
In all radio-stations throughout germany. In the biggest TV-station in the news. An in the web: http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/israel34.html

Bavarian Clemens Verenkotte [BR – Bavarian Broadcasting Service], located in Jerusalem gives an update about the situation in Gaza and cites John Dugard: Israelis killed more than 40 civilians last week and this is against the law of prohibited collective punishment ….

Hm, AIG, the price… after germans learned that Israelis killed more than 40 “woman and children” in one week … rises to € 187.000. Sorry for that.

PS: Serious: I wrote them that the quote is shit. Dugard talked about ONE women that was killed and over 40 injured persons. They are … not reacting.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:25 am


Alex said:

“Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin “Tony” Rezko was a longtime fund raiser for Mr. Obama. Prosecutors have charged him with fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in what they allege was a scheme to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to do business before two state boards.”

oops .. Tony Rezko is from Hassake in Syria : )

Joe M.,

this is today’s cartoon from Alhayat. It goes with your last comment to Shai

January 22nd, 2008, 6:50 am


alon liel said:

Dear freinds

It is very moving for me to see 36 responses. I hope very much that we can go on corresponding until the day we will be able to meet and drink coffee together. The Israel-Syria Peace Society is a young movement of about 350 members, who believe the time has come for Israel and Syria to finally settle their differences for the benefit of both countries and hopefully the region as a whole.

It will be impossible to respond to all the comments at once. I would like to respond to some. I think the fact the president Bush starts packing is creating our joint opportunity. The Americans might allow themself to mark countries in black or in white, and decide that they ignore those marked in black. I believe Syria and Israel can not go on ignoring each other. At least we in Israel can not afford it. Our movement believes that the Golan is Syrian and that Syria is entitled to regain full soverignity on its territory. Living in Israel we feel that our politicians can not get a majority in the Israeli public at this stage, for a full Israeli withdrawal. The idea of the peace park is originating from the need to enable a majority in Israel for a full withdrawal. The park, if it will ever be created, will enable Israelies to visit the area and invest in the area, while clearly knowing that they are on Syrian territory. We think this is also needed as a start for bileteral economic relations. It is our feeling that such a park can make some difference in the contemprary Israeli attitude to Syria.

The second major issue is the Hamas. It took the Israeli Left 40 years to convince the majority of our public that a Palestinian state is a must. Until we managed to do so, the Hamas gained control of Gaza and has suddenly become the main obstacle to the establishment of the Palestinian state. An Israeli-Syrian peace agreement might make the difference. I really belive that at this stage it is easier for us in Israel to sign and implement a peace agreement With President Assad than with President Abbas.

Regarding Iran. We can not tell Syria whom should she associate itself with. We however feel that it will be dangerous securitywise for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Hights as long as Iran is Syria’s colsest military ally. These are not imaginative fears. We get threats from Iran almost on a daily basis. You should be aware of them when you examine the whole picture. I hope it will soon change, but at the moment these are the feelings in Israel. If you will be able to understand these Israeli worries it will be easier for us to bridge our gaps.

Please go on responding. We will try to involve our members in the dialouge. I hope we will be able to better understand each other as a result of this exchange. Alex, thanks a lot for enabling all this.

Alon Liel

January 22nd, 2008, 7:46 am


wizart said:

Oops..he’s gone a long way although I wonder about AIPAC’s money:)

AIPAC : for those who don’t know is the American Israeli Political Action Commitee which is the most influential body in formulating America’s foreign policy with regards to the Middle East.

Which leads to the most obvious and rarely discussed question..

Is American foreign policy towards the Middle East made in Israel?

The media never discusses these things as they’re considered taboo questions because how could foreigners run America’s policy?

America runs on two things: credit and advertising.

There’s a credit crisis in the news. It’s the work of advertisers to contain the damage and deliver the messages that advertisers want as usual. Only now foreign liquidity is more important than ever so the message has to satisfy a more global audience.

January 22nd, 2008, 8:20 am


In Damascus said:

Completely Un-related and non-political:
Its snowing properly in Damascus for the first time this winter!!

January 22nd, 2008, 11:34 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai said:

I’m not particularly proud of words used by my fellow countryman AIG. He does, unfortunately, represent not a small quantity of people. But most Israelis, thank god, are not like him. He is not interested in making peace, he doesn’t believe in peace, and therefore his words deserve no further attention as far as I’m concerned.

Tell us Shai, how do you know “most Israelis…are not like him”? After Israel’s wonderful experience with the Oslo facade, you would think Israelis would have learned their lesson. I think they have.

You don’t make peace with a thug like Arafat, a peace whose foundation is a mere “hope” that he will abide by it. The fact of the matter is violence increase after the “famous” handshake on the White House Lawn. Suicide “martydom” operations increased, and they only subsided after the wall was built. The peaceniks in Israel were totally embarrased and discredited. But some people never learn.

There’s a re-education that must take place within the hearts and souls of most Israelis (and perhaps many Arabs)…

Perhaps many Arabs? Shai, surely you must be joking. If you want to pontificate about “re-education”, compare Israel’s free press and media to that of the Arab press and media.


Israelis have proven time and again they want peace, but people like Shai, who are willing to trust rejectionists like Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah have yet to fulfill their dreams. And they’re still puzzled and walking around in a daze.

January 22nd, 2008, 12:06 pm


ausamaa said:

Alex, Innocent Criminal,

The logic, and the benifit, of allowing someone like AnotherIsraeliGuy who is vulgar enough to suggest relocating the Palesinians to Bavaria, to keep posting here escapes me.

If that is not anti-human and racial, what is then?

Add to that that such remarks are anti-semite as the Palestinians are semit people.

So why dont you take some action in this regard?

January 22nd, 2008, 1:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Boy are you mistaken.
I have been on record here stating that I would demand Israel gives back to Syria the Golan heights once Syria becomes a democracy.

I am certainly for peace and concessions but peace is only possible if people really want it and unless Syria is a democracy we will never know what the Syrians really want.

What is very sad about your position is that it undermines the democratic forces in Syria. It gives recognition and legitimacy to Asad’s regime and undercuts all democratic movements in Syria.

How can a Syrian or Palestinian who reads your opinion not understand immediately the fundamental hypocrisy there? Do you not support democracy? If yes how can you support oppressive regimes like Asad’s? Why would you treat Asad as a representative of the Syrians?

Until we Israelis do no give the Arab world a clear and coherent picture which states we support first democracy and then a negotiated peace, there will be no progress. Peace is made with people, not dictators.

In the end, the Syrian people see right through your scam. You are trying to cut a deal which would benefit Israel and the Syrian regime but at the expense of the Syrian people who will be stuck with Asad and his oppressive regime for decades to come.

January 22nd, 2008, 2:29 pm


Shual said:

Dear AIG from New Jersey,

“Until we Israelis do no give the Arab world a clear and coherent picture which states we support first democracy and then a negotiated peace, there will be no progress.”
Democracy is a only system of organisation of human cohabitation. It is based on cornerstones like “equal rigths” and everybody can understand the difference to opressive systems.
But peace is not the consequence of a system. In western-style democracys the oppression is splitted. It is not erased. A large part is “privatized”[1], other parts are “institutionalized”. And if you look at Mr. Bush you can see that you can even EXPORT “institutionalized” oppression and be the major cause of chaos and anarchy in other systems.

“Peace” says that you found ways of organizing things without oppression. You need a different structure for that, like “trusts”, “ability to compromise”, “de-escalation-strategies”. You need people willing to cross their own borders, no matter what system of cohabitation they live in. And as long Israel does not make peace with Syria, I give a damn about their “system”, cause in the end, in case of war they are all equal: Democratical Killers or Oppression Killers. And the same thing is valid for Syrians, too.

[1] Well, Alex mentioned “Hassake”: Translated into hebrew-democracy: “An American immigrant was attacked and beaten Sunday night in Beit Shemesh by a gang of ultra-Orthodox zealots, in what appears to be an escalation of tension between religious groups in the city. .. This week, a family in one of the city’s modern Orthodox neighborhoods received warnings and threats because a television in their living room faced a main thoroughfare that borders an ultra-Orthodox housing project. In October, five ultra-Orthodox men assaulted a woman and an Israel Defense Forces soldier for sitting next to each other on a bus bound for Beit Shemesh.” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/946830.html

January 22nd, 2008, 3:06 pm


Observer said:



Some good reading about the situation in Gaza while peace discussions are ongoing. The war is now extended to include the asthmatics, chronic lung disease, infants in incubators ( who voted for Hamas in the womb ) and should be punished.

January 22nd, 2008, 3:10 pm


kingcrane jr said:


Why are any of you bothering to answer the posts by trolls who are here to disrupt the discussions?

A perfect example is anotherisraeli guy, who claims that he knows everything, and knows nothing.

He should take a quick refresher on false flag operations.

kingcrane jr (NOT on behalf of kingcrane, this time).

January 22nd, 2008, 3:49 pm


Dr Riad Awwad said:

Syria, Iran: Lack of police making, and the open gates of Lebanon
By Dr : Riad Awwad

With the debut of the year 2008 and after the speeches of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced the ending of contacts with Damascus in order to reach an agreement on the situation on Lebanon, the international community could believe that Syria’s role in the matter has ended, appreciating that the Damascus regime interprets today’s international evolutions not in 2008`s language but in the one of the `70s which has become obsolete, passing in the pages of history….

[Comment by Moderator: Dr. Awwad, I have deleted 5 of your articles posted here because they do not address the post or contribute to the discussion. In general, Syria Comment discourages advertising. If you wish to draw attention to your writing, you may leave a link with a short description of contents.]

January 22nd, 2008, 3:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As churchill said: “democracy is worst system except for all the others.”

Peace is a state of mind, I agree with you. It is not a necessarry consequence of democracy but there is more likely to be peace between democracies. Democracies rarely go to war with each other because when regimes are really accountable to their people, they will not go to war unless this is absolutely required. Their are tons of historical examples. In Israel for example, a government would not last if it pursues a war that it can’t convince the public is required. Bush became highly unpopular in the US when it turned out that there were no WMDs in Iraq and he went to war without good reason. This is a lesson all US politicians will remember.

And most importantly, peace needs to reflect what the people want. Take the Versaille treaty. Since it did not reflect the wants of the German people, it made WWII much more likely. The peace agreement needs grass roots support and for that you need a democratic regime in Syria. A bad peace can be more dangerous than a no war situation.

January 22nd, 2008, 4:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is that all you can say for yourself?
I see that you are a well acclimated Baathist. When an opinion does not suit you try to shut up the person airing it.
You are 80 years old. Your generation has made an utter mess of Syria. You have been unable to build a modern country and have made Syria one of the most backward countries in the world. When you were 20 there were 50,000 Jews in Syria, now there are a few hundred old people. At least take responsibility for your utter failure.

January 22nd, 2008, 4:08 pm


kingcrane jr said:


Do not feed the troll.

I did once, just for the amusement of other bloggers.

Otherwise, the first rule of blogging is that trolls (in Arabic: dratt ‘ala-l-blatt, like Jumblatt) are least prolific when they are utterly ignored.

January 22nd, 2008, 4:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You just exemplify another form of denial in the Arab world. When an opinion is not to your liking, the person voicing it is a troll. Yes, you are a little more advanced than Asad that calls such people traitors. Bravo.

Fact: You were around 20 when the Jews of Aleppo were murdered for no good reason by their neighbors.
Fact: You claim some Jews are your dear friends.

It is a legitimate question to ask what you did to stop the murder of your “dear friends”. That you ignore such an important event in the history of Jews in Syria when you probably had first hand experience of it is very telling. When you try proposing a solution for peaceful existence without explaining why the Aleppo massacre will not repeat, you are just being a populist.

If you did nothing to save your “dear friends” why should Jews be willing to live together with you?

January 22nd, 2008, 4:35 pm


wizart said:

Did the Soviets become democratic before they ended the cold war?

January 22nd, 2008, 5:01 pm


Alex said:


Since you might want to have a discussion with AIG, I will give you my impression of who he is… we enjoyed his sometimes reasonable, but mostly offensive opinions for few months now.

1) He claimed he is an expert in noise reduction in advanced digital filter design (as in Ph.D. level electrical engineer)

2) He is an expert is Syrian opposition history (often mentioning names from 60’s 70’s …) … he says he just found those from the internet.

3) He has one goal in life … to see democracy in every Arab country. But he is for now putting ALL his energy into one country …. Syria. He is here on syria Comment for hours everyday for few months now. He occasionally criticizes other Arab dictators, and he mentions the other prerequisite “I support returning the Golan to Syria” so that he can appeal to some on this blog with his innocent support for democracy in Syria and the return in the golan heights (after Syria becomes a successful democracy). But 95% of his energy and input here is towards one thing:

“you should wake up and overthrow this despicable regime in Damascus”

So he is here to make us all wake up. He says if the process leads to Iraq like chaos in Syria … so what? … if that is what is necessary. Democracy is worth it. And if it leads to breaking Syria into smaller pieces (Druze country, Alawite country, Sunni country …) … perfect .. because that is whatthe Syrian people want in that case.

So if I have to guess, I would say he is from some “democracy promoting” think thank in the States … you know those Daniel Pipes or Eliot Abrams favorite think tanks who hire “research assistants” .. younger motivated mini-netanyahus who are “focused” on democracy.

In the case of AIG, Democracy in SYRIA … which is another word for: fast regime change and chaos in Syria.

But this my guess, I might be wrong and there might be an explanation why he is proud and excited about Israel’s improved relations with China (a democracy?), but absolutely refuses any communication with “the despicable regime in Damascus” until Syria becomes a democracy… and I am also assuming he is not spending hours per day on Chinese or Sudanese blogs calling for democracy in China or Sudan.

He is all ours!

January 22nd, 2008, 5:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The soviets lost the cold war. They basically fell apart.
We can wait until this happens either to Syria or Israel. That is also a solution.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:05 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not from any think tank or whatever. You got me all wrong. I am just an Israeli business person who has free time.

It is up to Syrians to decide if they want to replace Asad or stay with him. I am not advocating any specific action. So please don’t make up lies about my position.

I do say that as an Israeli, I do not support that Israel have any discussions with Syria until it become a democracy.

If the Syrians want to stay with Asad, that is fine. That is what most Israelis want anyway since they believe Asad keeps Syria backwards both economically and militarily.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:11 pm


Alex said:


So what is your “focus”? … Democracy in general or Democracy in Syria specifically?

Why were you proud of Israel’s improved relations with China but you would be disgusted if you heard that Israel might have good relations with the non-democratic Syria?

Why is it that you used to argue here that Syria will be isolated because the Saudis will make peace with Israel and leave Syria alone. Is Saudi Arabia the place where human rights are respected?

Why do you spend all your free time on a SYRIA blog yet you are so sure that Syria is “backward” and “weak”?

I really don’t care to have an answer to these questions, you can easily make up one that makes you sound like a casual commentator.

I don’t care if you live in Israel, or in NJ as Shual insists … you are welcome here. You represent the 30% (my estimate) of Israelis who are too rigid in their opinions for anyone to try to change… and we need to hear your feedback to understand how they will react to any initiative.

And that answers Ausamaa’s question earlier, not to mention that this is Joshua’s blog … everyone is welcome here.

January 22nd, 2008, 5:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I have no focus. Your hypocritical posts just looked to me as needed to be answered. It is by luck that I am posting here.

I have many times said that I find that Saudi and Egyptian regimes distasteful and for the record I am fully against a peace with Saudi Arabia until it is a democratic country.

I represent the 70% of Israelis that do not bull shit the Arabs like you and the Israeli left do. Why would you trust the Israeli left which is a great defender of democracy in Israel (which is what I like about them) but tolerate in Arab countries what they would be totally against at home?

They are pandering to regime apologists like you who have very narrow interests. Your interest is the welfare of the Christian community in Syria, and you hold this interest above the interest of all Syrians which is to have a free and properous country. I will let other Syrians decide if this makes you a traitor or not. It does make your view very sectarian.

You do not really want peace, you only want to make sure there will not be regime change and you know that during peace negotiations the US and Israel will leave Asad alone. In order to promote your narrow interest, you scare people on this blog with things like Syria breaking up. Yes, democracy is risky, but staying with an oppressive regime for decades more is even more risky.

In the end, your position is really abhorent becuase you live safely in the West, in a prosperous democracy, while advocating against your fellow Syrians having the same opportunity. I am sure most Syrian bloggers see through your charade. I at least, tell it like it is.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:20 pm


wizart said:

The Russians are mostly happy with Putin and if you ask most of them they tell you they’re willing to give up a little bit of democracy in return for stability. The same goes with the Chinese.

They are all worried about the world financial system falling apart because they hold foreign reserves in a sinking dollar while America is in debt thru the wazoo thanks partly to aid to Isreal.

You seem to be as articulate as Netanyahoo and perhaps you have a future in a cabinet position there once the older fellow moves on.
And since you’re in business you probably want to invest in a Ski park out in the Haramon mountains overlooking the lake and you want to get a feel of the likelyhood of peace before you invest?

Are there any Ski resorts in Israel or do you prefer parachutes?

Perhaps Davos will move there later to work on resolving water issues and other pressing world problems like promoting peace.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you for the compliment.
There is one ski resort in Israel in the Hermon mountain. But it is small and very crowded on the few days there is snow. I like to ski in either France or Switzerland.

About the comparison with Russia and China. Do you think it is really applicable? There are huge differences. In Russia and China population growth is limited. In Syria it is a huge problem. I think over 50% of Syrian population is under 20. Also the education systems in Russia and China are miles ahead of the Syrian one.

The Russian and Chinese model will just not work in Syria. Something else is needed.

January 22nd, 2008, 6:44 pm


wizart said:


You welcome.

There is an alternative vision of the role that the United States ought to play in the world, and it is based on the concept of open society. The current world order is a distorted form of a global open society. It is distorted because we have global markets but we do not have global political institutions. As a consequence, we are much better at producing private goods than taking care of public goods such as preserving peace, protecting the environment and ensuring economic stability, progress and social justice. This is not by accident.

Contrary to the tenets of market fundamentalism, the global capitalist system does not constitute a level playing field. In economic and financial matters, there is a disparity between the center and the periphery. And in military matters, there is a disparity between the United States and the rest of the world because the European Union, as distinct from its member states, does not seek to be a military power. There are large and growing inequalities in the world, and we lack the mechanism for reducing them. Therefore we need to strengthen our international political institutions to match the globalization of our markets. Only the United States can lead the way because without U.S. participation, nothing much can be done in the way of international cooperation.

Differences can be a source of value. The fact that we have different priorities may mean that each of us can attain something important without injury to anything important to someone else.

I agree China and Russia are different although that doesn’t discredit their experiment.

January 22nd, 2008, 7:01 pm


Rev Michel Nahas said:

AIG, Shalom (forPeace is made with people, not dictators. all of us)

I really don’t understand you. You said: “Peace is made with people, not dictators.”. Who were Sadat and King Hussein? Pillars of democracy? And who is to say what a democracy is? I lived in the US Midwest, 2 months after September 11. I was ministering to a Protestant church over there. I can assure you that nobody gave more importance to the attacks, than to the then upcoming Farm Bill.

Don’t believe for a second that if Americans would illuminate themselves about the Israeli atrocities, invasion, the breaking of international law, the amount of US money and energy that goes into Israel, that the majority of the US population would support Israel, as they do. And what do you call democracy? The US, is a “Lobbycracy” (sorry, I guess I made out this word).

Who has the guts to go against AIPAC? George Bush First did it, he lost his election. Rep. Rick Moran did it, he had to regret. Why do you think Barack Obama is going to lose this election? Because he is not Zionist enough! So a democracy is an extremely relative notion. Do you have any doubts that Hitler went to power anf governed w/o support of the Germans? Same w/ Castro, Chaves, Assad.

What I can’t get it from you is this: Why do you prefer the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Syria, instead of a Secular Alawite? That’s beyond my understanding, except that in the former case Israel will continue to have or claim “security reasons” not to return Syrian land. To keep Syria a secular regime is, in my opinion, way more important than having a wahabist regime in power. It’s in everyone’s interest, at least everyone in the west!

Explain to us, please!

Your friend, believe it or not,
Rev. Michel Nahas

January 22nd, 2008, 7:03 pm


Shai said:

Alex, thanks for the quick review about AIG. Joshua, I want to personally to thank you for enabling Alon Liel to address your readers/commentators via his letter and article. By so doing, I hope we’ll have a real opportunity to engage in substantive and constructive discussion which, god-willing, will help bridge the remaining gaps between our two nations. Like Alon, I’m 100% convinced that we must find the way to make peace with Syria, and now. There has never been a better time for it, and we cannot afford to lose the opportunity. Our region is in a very fragile state right now, and its future can be influenced by so many different stable and unstable variables, that it is indeed our responsibility to act now in order to secure a better future for our children and for theirs.

AIG, it is important for me to show our fellow readers/commentators some of the major differences between us Israelis, so I’ll address these here:

1. Israel cannot decide what type of government, or governing system, Syria or any other neighbor in the region, should have. We made peace with Egypt 20 years ago, and with Jordan 14 years ago. Were either democracies? Had we waited for them to become democracies, where would we be today? Just as we cannot choose who will lead the Palestinians (perhaps Hamas, Fatah, or someone else), we cannot decide for others. If we wait until Syria becomes a democracy, your great-grandchildren and mine will whisper quietly over our graves “why did you wait this long…?” Is that what you want? Don’t you realize the price we might all pay if we wait? Incidentally, Bashar Assad recently said in an interview to an American station something along the lines of “… you cannot expect Democracy to appear in Syria as quickly or in the same fashion as it did in the West”. Putting aside his own interests (perhaps) to have or not have democracy in his country, can you not imagine that he may be right? Isn’t Iraq a perfect example of this? George W. was sure Iraqis were just waiting for the tanks to roll in, and democracy was going to wash the streets and cities over in a matter of hours and days. Well… maybe not.

2. I don’t think that by making peace with Syria, we are in any way shape or form stabbing ordinary Syrians in the back. The opposite is true. If there is a chance in the world for democracy to ever appear in Syria, don’t you think it may happen faster if Syria was in close contact (even neighborly contact) with a democratic nation? If Syrians are free to visit Israel, and vice-versa, won’t at least some of our values seep through? By the way, as a side note, do you TRULY believe that Israel is a democracy? At least in any sense similar to Western democracies? Do we elect our leaders, or do we elect the parties that choose their leaders? Do we have regional representatives, that have to answer to their constituents also AFTER the election, and not just every 4 years? Do we have direct voting for the prime minister? Does the multi-party system enable real decisions to take place, and policy to be carried out, or do wide-coalitions with parties that have contradicting platforms essentially create a de facto impotent administration that, at best, can hope to survive the four years in office? You know the answer to all these, as well as any other frustrated Israeli does. So he “democratic” is our Israeli democracy, I ask you. And please don’t respond with “…How can you COMPARE our freedoms to those of the Syrian people?” I’m not addressing their hardships (they’re not mine to address, nor yours), but I am also not overestimating our “model society” in the region.

3. And finally, listen, you gotta decide to what camp you belong in life. There are 3 such camps: The ones that oppose peace right now (for whatever reason, innate hatred and distrust of Arabs, all the way to almost-loving them, but not wishing to sign a peace treaty with Bashar until he instates “democracy”… etc.); The ones that are for peace right now (with Ahmedinejad, Mashaal, and Kim Jong Il, if they’re ready to have it with us); and lastly, the ones that don’t know which to choose, so they choose nothing. Israel right now is probably split almost equally amongst those three camps. Since there isn’t a 50%+ majority in the for-peace-now camp, there are no direct negotiations with Syria, no handing over the Golan, and no peace. The minute those 30%+ undecided wake up, and recognize that time in NOT in our favor (any of the parties in the region), and that if they don’t vote for returning the Golan, their children, or their children’s children WILL, except after a lot more bloodshed takes place (perhaps A LOT MORE bloodshed), then maybe they’ll be willing to change. They also called Begin a traitor, and then Sharon in Gaza. Still, I don’t see the Egyptians or Jordanians preparing for war, do you? They’re not particularly happy with us – and you can probably understand why, as the Arab world truly is much more united than we sometimes understand, or wish to understand, at least on the Palestinian issue. We must begin to change that path, and the only reasonable way to start (and it can be done immediately), is to talk to Syria. Never in our 60 year history as Syria been as prepared to make peace with us, and to put an end to our conflict. What right do we have NOT to take them up on it? What right do you or I have to WAIT until our preconditions are met? What right do we have to DICTATE the terms of that peace? People who think that way would have never ended up signing ANY peace agreement with ANY nation in the region. They could, at best, sign a peace treaty with Portugal. But, as we know, Portugal is not our enemy, and isn’t likely to affect our future. Syria, and the Palestinians, and the Lebanese and Saudis and even the Iranians, are. There is a clock out there, and it is ticking. If you’re not willing to listen to it, you may find yourself in a place you never wished to be in, and it may be too late to rewind history then.

Best of luck to you. I still hope you’ll find the way to help Israel and its neighbors today, not tomorrow, or 30 years from now. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to wait.


January 22nd, 2008, 7:09 pm


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

If you’d read my earlier comments, you’d see that I don’t trust Hamas, or Fatah, or certainly not Hezbollah. There’s no “trusting” that needs to be done – they’re not parties to discuss peace with. Either they’re not ready for it, or they’re plainly against it. In either case, we need to enable them to figure out their issues alone, not under our influence, not on our timetable. What I’m suggesting, and what Alon is writing about, is that we cannot and should not miss an opportunity that might be easier to achieve than any of the others. I don’t think we should compare Arafat to Assad, their records are very different, and they are very different (incidentally, one of them is dead). Look, like I said to AIG, you have to decide where you belong. If you’re against peace (now, later, ever), then enjoy your life as it is, keep harboring your anger and hatred, and maybe one day, if the Arab thugs and terrorists actually throw us to the sea, you’ll succeed in proving us all wrong. If you’re for peace, but TRULY for peace, then go to the gym, learn to become more flexible, open up your mind, give a chance to others, and start replacing suspicion and hatred with hope, and at least some optimism (if not actual belief). If you belong to the undecided camp, then at least try not to ruin honest attempts at bridging the gaps, at opening up to our neighbors, at being ready to REALLY listen.


January 22nd, 2008, 7:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

On all three accounts you are wrong.
1) When we made peace with Sadat the cold war was still raging. It was a very important American interest that we make peace with Sadat and that he leave the Soviet camp. Also, Egypt was the largest and most important Arab country. There was a huge startegic benefit for Israel in making peace with Egypt. And let’s face it, by doing so we put back democracy in Egypt for decades.
Non of these things apply to Syria.
2) Which leads me to your second point. The peace with Egypt is highly unpopular in Egypt and all the interaction with Israel has not advanced democracy with Egypt one iota. So your example of Syrians learning democracy from us is easily refuted. And yes Israel is a true democracy. It is a true proportional system in which very few votes are wasted and in which the results truly reflect what the people want. Do you a want a system like the US in which a person without the majority can be president and in which Wyoming has the same number of senators as California? Do you want a system like the French one in which a party with 20% support (FN) does not have one seat in parlaiment because of the regional voting? Do you want a system like the UK in which the same MPs are elected for life because they take control of a district? No thank you. I love the Israeli system. It has its flaws but it is a good compromise for Israel. It makes sures that all minorites are represented in the Knesset and that is excellent.
3) We have to wait because you don’t seem to get that you are not making peace with the Syrians your way, but with the Syrian regime. The two are very different. The Syrian regime does not represent the Syrian people just as Sadat and Mubarak do not represent the Egyptian people and Abdallah II does not represent Jordans. A peace treaty with Asad will just make his hold on power much longer and will build the frustration in Syria that when it bursts, there will much more bloodshed. And the Syrians will remember who helped Asad stay in power. It is a so called “peace” agreement with Asad that will bring tons of bloodshed and unleash the full force of political islam on the middle east. We need to let the Syrians slowly move to a democracy and then to make peace with them that represents their asspirations. You cannot hurry these processes. Your way is the one that will bring more bloodshed, not my way which respects the Syrian people instead of cooperating with their oppressors.

January 22nd, 2008, 7:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How about if I am very felxible but want true peace with the Syrian people and not the oppressive Syrian regime?

Just think, when democracy eventually comes to Egypt the Egyptians will hate Israel’s and the US vehemently because for decades we supported Mubarak and soon his son. What will we say to them when they ask: Why did you support such an oppressive regime? Why did you rob generations of Egyptians of their ability to live a better life?

Frankly, we have no good answer to them. We are just acting selfishly based on our short term interests. Our support for Mubarak is a huge Israeli and US mistake now and it will backfire.

You want to repeat the same mistake with Syria. Unless we come to the Arabs and say: “You have every right to develop and not be oppressed, and we will not support antidemocraitc regimes”, there is no chance for long term peace in the middle east. There will just be wars. We are not telling them what to do, we are leaving it to them. But your way, we are taking the opportunity from democracy out of the realm of possibility.

January 22nd, 2008, 8:13 pm


Shai said:


Now I really don’t get you. Why are you so concerned with democracy in Egypt, or Syria, or elsewhere? What are you, some kind of a judge of “nations with which one should make peace” and “nations with which one should not”? Did someone invite you to do this? Do you have any qualifications to do this? Do you really think History would hire you for that task? If we waited for your “terms” to be met, you and I would have far fewer friends alive today, not to speak of family members, who would have died in another 2-3 wars with Egypt. Of course it was in our interest to make peace with Egypt, and to have Egypt closer to the U.S. Incidentally, there is EVERY SIMILARITY between Syria and Egypt in that respect, because it is absolutely in our interest to have Syria closer to the U.S. and to Europe, than to Iran and North Korea – can’t you see that? And what suddenly makes you so worried about peace with Syrians as opposed to peace with the Syrian regime? Who controls Syria? Who makes her strategic decisions? Who decides what military alliances it makes? Who will decide on whether to go to war or not? The Syrian people, or their leadership? By the way, all those questions, posed at us, the answers are the same – the leadership! You sit there, waiting for “real elections” to take place in Syria, before you offer your generous hand in peace, and you’ll be growing old nice and comfortably in your rocking chair. Except, it ain’t gonna happen. I’m not suggesting that Israeli “democracy” will necessarily influence internal affairs in Syria, but I do know that if Syrians continue to vacation in Tehran and Pyongyang, rather than Tel-Aviv and Eilat, chances for a lasting peace are slightly smaller, don’t you think?

What I love best about so many like you, is the “You’re Just Wrong” attitude. You really DO BELIEVE you’ve got it all figured out. Your truth is absolute, and never-changing. You don’t need to hear opposing opinions, because you already KNOW that you’ll never change your mind. You’re the type who’ll find ANYTHING wrong with something, never to look for what’s right with it. For crying out loud, you can’t even admit to ANYTHING positive to have come out of Oslo (think about the economic effect it had on Europe, Asia, China, and the rest of the world towards Israel, for instance). You’re also the type who, if god-forbid we SHOULD make peace with Syria in the near future, will continue to say “just you wait, it’ll be just like with Egypt, you’ll see…” Because deep down inside, you’re afraid to be wrong. And you’re afraid to shed old skin. You’ve put on cognitive barriers between yourself and your “enemies”, and you’d never be willing to break them. So if I may so rudely ask, why are you here, in this forum? To tell me I’m wrong? To tell me I’m blind to your truth? To tell me I’m reinforcing regimes, rather than people? That’s why you’re here? You honestly expect someone to agree with you? With that attitude, and that outlook on life, you’re defining yourself not as a “wise and knowledgeable” person, but as an irrelevant player. You move nothing forward, and hence, you contribute nothing. AIG, I hope I’m wrong about you, but I’ve got a suspicion I may be right.

January 22nd, 2008, 8:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I will be happy to explain.
First, I disagree with you regarding the strength of the Israeli lobby and the knowledge of what Israel does by the American population. You really underestimate the special relationship between the US and Israel. But we discussed that already.

I do not want the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in power. I would like to see a democracy in Syria. If this means that the MB will be initially elected that is fine. If they don’t deliver what the Syrian public want, they will be replaced.

Now, you will tell me that once the MB is in power they will not leave democratically. My technical answer to you is that then Syria is not a democracy. Democracy includes peaceful adminstration changes after elections. Part of the process of making Syria a democracy is making sure that you trust the MB (or anyone else) to leave power peacefully if they lose elections.

Until you build this trust, you should NOT implement democracy. But how can you build this trust if Asad does not allow free and open discussion in Syria? There must be a dialogoue. How can you build this trust if there a scaremongers like Alex that want to stop even the beginning of the democratization process?

January 22nd, 2008, 8:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am concerned firstly about Israel. And the only way Israel will be a true part of the middle east is if the PEOPLE of the middle east accept it, not some dictators that are strangling their own people.

Where did I say the peace with Egypt was bad? I explained why it was good but also explained the trade off; there will be a huge price to pay for the fact that we are holding up democracy in Egypt.

And of course the Syrian leadership decides things in Syria but the is exactly the problem. It does not represent the Syrian people. Your utter contempt and disrespect for what the Syrian people want is evident in your post. Sorry, that is a cynical position. How would you feel if you were fighting a Shas theocracy in Israel and all the countries around us made peace with it and gave it full support? This is exactly what you are doing.

Just for your information I was for the Oslo process till the suicide bombers started in 96. I make mistakes and often change my mind based on what I see actually happening. And if in the unlikely case we make peace with Asad as you want I will accept the decision of the majority and will do all I can to make it succeed.

The 80% of Syrians that are Sunnis do not vacation in Teheran (or North Korea). You just do not understand Syria. Your reckless proposals are hurting the MAJORITY of peace loving Syrians that want a better life. I am here also to support the silent Syrian majority who has had enough of idealistic idiots that fall easily into traps set to them by wiley and ruthless foxes that just want to stay in power. As long as there are useful idiots like you in Israel, Asad will always have wiggle room.

January 22nd, 2008, 8:44 pm


Seeking The Truth said:


Do you support improved relations between Israel and China? Do you see a difference between the Chinese and Syrian regimes?

January 22nd, 2008, 8:55 pm


Shai said:


I appreciate the “useful idiots like you” comment. At least you kept it to the end.

I don’t really think Syrians “vacation” in Tehran or Pyongyang, it was a figure of speech. And I’m sure those same 80% of Syrians truly appreciate their AIG-man “supporting their silent majority” – they probably couldn’t think of someone better… than you??? One of the purposes of this forum is to actually get to know some of these “silent” Syrians you talk about. Why don’t you listen carefully to what they have to say, and see whether they want you to wait for democracy before making peace with Syria? Ask them whether they appreciate this deep concern you seem to have for the peoples of our region. Such deep and sincere concern, which debilitates you to the point of making you irrelevant. Incidentally, don’t be so sure you know so much about Syria. Take two humility pills tonight, and wake up fresher and less arrogant tomorrow morning, my “fellow Israeli”.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As ususal you ask good questions.

I am much more proud of Israel’s relations with India which is a democracy. As a practicality, I have to accept trade with China which is such a huge part of the world economy. Is this optimal? No. I am proud of one aspect of it which is that it is very difficult to sell to the Chinese, and if you are successful it means you have great products.

I see a huge difference between the Chinese and Syrian regime. Look at the last 30 years and just compare. The Chinese regime has brought amazing development to China. Also, the Chinese regime is a meritocracy. They choose the best engineers to rule them unlike in Syria where you know how the leaders are chosen. The Chinese also do not fund any terrorist organizations. They are also many other differences but the bottom line is that in China the regime is much more worried about the economic well being of its people and is interested in building power based on what it can build and not on what it can hamper or stop like Syria. China is powerful because of what it produces. Syria is “powerful” because it can destabilize its neighbors. Vive la difference.

I wish there was a way to influence China to become more democratic, but in the end the Chinese will have to determine their own form of government.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:10 pm


Alex said:


I got used to AIG’s types … this American administration brought us a whole set of AIGs everywhere … I see them in Saudi newspapers lecturing Syria about democracy (at least AIG’s Israel is more or less “a democracy”) … in Lebanon’ Hariri newspapers telling us how we should be ashamed of the Syrian regime’s corruption and violence (their M14 leaders include the most corrupt warlords Jumblatt and Geagea) … But they all really believe that they are white and the Syrians are Black… it is that simple and clear, and everything in the Middle East has to stop until they deal with the non-democratic Syria.


You make it sound like “Democracy”is like water … without it people die.

As I explained before, I am not against everything you say, you often make valid points.

But the problem with you is that you really do not have good intentions. Everything you call for leads to more destruction of more negativity.

Let me illustrate with one example from your comments above:

We discussed before your reasonable preference to making peace with the Syrian people and not only with their regime.. supposedly because you do not want peace with Syria to end up a cold peace like the one Israel has with Egypt today.

One should assume that you probably prefer to have a dialog with Syrian people before you decide to “risk” signing a peace agreement with Syria.

Yet, you came here (especially at the beginning) trying to NOT communicate with Syrians … anyone you did not like was classified by you as:

Regime mouthpiece
Terror supporter

And the rest of the typical Netanyahu vocabulary.

If I was not the administrator here and if I did not start removing your rude comments you would have continued to “talk” to us with the same arrogance and rudeness.

So … I really don’t think your types are for dialog with the Syrian people… you are simply for destruction and for putting effective obstacles on the road for peace.

Look at the differences between Shai and joe M. … yet they managed to communicate … Shai did not agree to Joe’s one-state solution, but he did not insult him or insult his intelligence.

Going back to your “preference” for peace with the Syrian people, I suggested already that the popularity of the negotiated terms of a peace agreement be measured by allowing a European monitored opinion poll at the time…. I agree that Israelis should know if 80% of Syrians hate them and want to see them dead, or if most Syrians are really happy with peace … or anything in between.

So … What else do you want?

January 22nd, 2008, 9:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I am always happy to exchange compliments with a fellow Israeli.

Don’t you see how contradictory what you say is? How can you listen to the majority of Syrians? Do you not understand how oppressive the Syrian regime is? They heavily censor internet sites. They even censored facebook and they monitor internet blogging. Activists are put in jail often and for long periods of time.

Of course the Syrians can and have much better advocates than me (many of them are in jail ). So what? How does that change anything. And I really don’t care if the Syrians appreciate what I am doing or not. I am not doing it for them, I am doing it for me and Israel’s best interests. I am sure they appreciate you supporting the dictator that oppresses them.

Thanks again for your medical advice but when someone ignores the issues and starts psychoanlayzing the other side it is a sure sign that he has lost the debate.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s be clear. Both you and Sim deserve the following adjectives:
Regime mouthpiece
Terror supporter

Sim is a raving anti-semite (a Finn) as anybody that will read his posts will see. The rest I called you and the Asad regime and I think you are very deserving of each one of them. I always responded to a specific post and gave you a specific example why you earned the adjective. Let the readers judge for themselves.

So that I curse anyone I don’t like is another outright lie of yours and it is quite despicable. When you cannot attack the issues, you attack the person.

As for your proposal it is ridiculous (I think you forgot to put this word in your list). Asad and the regime will always find a way to terrorize the people to vote as the regime pleases. No amount of european monitors can stop that. And also Asad would never allow an open public debate before the referundum. That is essential in order to make this process meaningful.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:35 pm


Alex said:

Alright AIG,

I’m glad your logic is compatible with calling a Finn (Sim) a Baathist and a regime mouthpiece.

Don’t worry, I will still say that you often make reasonable points.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:50 pm


Shai said:


Nice to have you back (though I’m about to call it a night…:-)

As you can imagine, I’ve come across a whole slew of Israelis with differing opinions regarding the Arabs, the chances for peace with Syria, with the Palestinians, etc. But I must admit, I’ve never met an Israeli who was so utterly concerned with our neighbors’ freedoms as AIG “seems” to be. Can you imagine, he must gauge everything in this world on “did a majority want this, or not” tests. Before the EU accepts Poland in, he checks local polls within each EU nation, to make sure that most Belgians, most Spaniards, most Dutch, etc. really were for Poland joining. That god-forbid this decision was made by the EU leadership, and not by the EU itself (or a majority thereof). He claims that he’s not as proud of Israel’s ties with China as he is with India, and admits that “… in the end the Chinese will have to determine their own form of government”. Perhaps if someone asked him if Israel should have close ties with China, out of great concern for the lack of freedoms the Chinese have, he would have said “no”, or at least, “not until they are a democracy”. Not until he can comfortably know whether it is a majority of Chinese people that are for close ties with Israel, or only 50 million people (Communist Party members) that want it because it suits their pockets well.

Truth is, ordinarily I wouldn’t get upset by such views, because a person has a right to think as they wish. But first, it’s not every day someone calls me a “useful idiot” on the internet 🙂 And second, there really is a subtle, unstated goal in this forum (and in others), which is to try to make things better. Why are we all spending hours thinking and writing with each other? Because we have nothing better to do? I’d like to think not. It’s because we really do CARE. Because we really want to consider, and reconsider, and reconsider yet again, everything we thought was true up until now. We want to give a real chance for others to suggest better ways to go about reaching our goals. We don’t want, and we don’t need, people letting us know what fools we are (if we are, then we are, and let us be fools then), and how wrong we are at considering peace (now, later, ever), and how we’re only doing evil by suggesting we talk to each other (democracy with dictatorship), instead of waiting it out another decade, or century, until things are “better”.

Yesterday I happened to send out a bunch of “demotivators” to my friends. Great corporate images, with silly quotes on the bottom. One such demotivator was titled “Consulting”, and said: “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem”. Reading AIG’s stuff, I suddenly get a sense of deja-vu. Funny thing is, he would probably say the same about me and my quest for peace…

January 22nd, 2008, 9:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Please read what I wrote slowly. Fin is just an anti-semite. The rest of the adjectives were for you.

January 22nd, 2008, 9:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Did you know that every European parlaiment has to ratify major decisions as letting additional members in the EU? And do you realize that European parlaiments are democratically elected? So thank you for proving my point.

And how many times can I repeat that it is for the interests of Israel that I want democracy in the middle east because it is the only way the PEOPLE of the middle east (and not your friends the dictators) can make peace with Israel (if they so choose). I for one cannot really understand why you are treating the Syrian people with such utter contempt and why you don’t care about what they think.

Oh, how I wish your quest was for peace. Unfortunately it is for a short term truce with despicable tyrants that oppress their populations. That is not in Israel’s interest and also not in the interest of the Syrian people. Again, how would you feel if Shas forcefully took over Israel and created a theocracy, and you were fighting it (as I would) and our neighbors gave the Shas theocracy legitimacy and recognition? When I get an honest answer from you to this question, I will know that you have at least thought seriously through the issues.

January 22nd, 2008, 10:11 pm


offended said:

Shai, wha a wonderful demonstration. Again, I am glad to hear another voice of sanity from across the barrier….

January 22nd, 2008, 10:26 pm


Shai said:


Alright, I was planning to go to sleep, but for you… I’ll stay alert just a while longer. Look, I claim that your wish for democracies in the region as a pre-requisite for peace is at best unrealistic and at worst irresponsible. It is irresponsible, because you seem to think that Israel’s best interests are served only when we know what the people of the region really believe, and not one minute beforehand. Well, what do you think most Egyptians feel towards you and I? What do you think most Jordanians do? If you’ve ever spoken to either (let alone met them in person), you’d hear things that, according to your rationale, would cause you to dismiss our peace with those nations. Peace is not necessarily love, agreement, or even trust. I can be at peace with you, yet severely dislike you. I’ve personally met with a few tens of Syrians in my lifetime, citizens that were studying abroad, and were returning to Syria afterwards. They all had very harsh things to say about Israel, but a clear majority of them still said they hoped to live at peace with us one day (following the return of the Golan, of course). When we talked, there was no one around to “keep an eye”, they could and I believe did say exactly what they felt (as mentioned, they spared no criticism). I’ve communicated similarly with probably another few tens on the internet over the past few years. How many Syrians have you met? How well do you know Syrians? Can you not imagine that despite their lack of freedoms (information, speech, etc.), they STILL would want peace with Israel? In fact, what reason on earth would cause them NOT to want peace, given of course the issues we know are at hand, including the Palestinian ones.

As for Shas taking over Israel. I am equally as fearful as you of such a situation. But let’s theoretically go there for a moment. So I have to decide whether I want the European Community, the United States, Latin America, Asia, and our neighbors in the Middle East, to have peaceful relations with a Shas-controlled Israel, or not. Do you honestly think I would choose isolation? Of course I would choose peace, because I would know that if there is a chance in the world that someone will place pressure on Shas to change its ways, it would come from the outside. Shas can’t run the country, without the support of other nations. This is precisely why Iranians want peace with the U.S., and why they hate the fact that economic embargoes are placed over Iran. They don’t sit there saying “Oh god, please don’t let that idiot Bush make peace with the Ayatollahs…”, they say the opposite (of course, quietly, when they can talk). The same goes for Syrians. Don’t assume you know what they want – ask them! Don’t be overly-paranoid about their ability to voice their truth – they’ll tell you, and you’ll know. Give it a try – I have a feeling you never did.

Alex – aren’t you proud of my patience? Oh, I forgot, you’re an anti-semite.:-)

January 22nd, 2008, 10:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s see what you are saying. The Jordainians and Egyptians do not want peace with us but it is good we forced it on them anyway. Interesting.

Israel’s interest are not served when we know what people want but when the PEOPLE apply what they want, not when Israel and their dictators force something on them. And nobody doubts that all people want “peace”. The devil is in the details as all the discussions on this blog show and these details need to be discussed between the Syrian and Israeli people and not between you and a dictator.

Why would Shas change its way if there are no sanctions on it? The only way to put pressure on such regimes is isolations and sanctions. If you think Shas cannot run the country without outside support then the way to pressure them is to stop outside support. You really are making no sense. Isn’t that why Palestinians want to boycott Israel and isolate it? The Syrian regime will be strengthened at the exepense of the democratic forces in Syria if Syria is not isolated and sanctioned.

It seems that you know what Syrians want based on speaking to tens of them. I don’t know what they want, but when there is democracy in Syria I will. It is you who are presuming to know not me.

You are also mistaken about Alex. He is not an anti-semite, he is the rest of the list.

January 22nd, 2008, 11:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let me give you another example. Do you think the Kurds and Shias in Iraq wanted Bush to make peace with Saddam or take him out? About them we know the truth. They wanted Saddam out, they did not want a US charm offensive on him because they know what dictators are like.

Here is the difference between us. Let’s assume Saddam approached Israel for peace talks but the price would be that he can continue to opress the Kurds and Shia. You would have agreed to this. I would not have. This is against Israel’s long term interests and also a cowardly move even if there is short term gain for Israel.

January 22nd, 2008, 11:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

My responses to Shai:

If you’d read my earlier comments, you’d see that I don’t trust Hamas, or Fatah, or certainly not Hezbollah. There’s no “trusting” that needs to be done – they’re not parties to discuss peace with.

Eyze hafata’a!

Either they’re not ready for it, or they’re plainly against it. In either case, we need to enable them to figure out their issues alone, not under our influence, not on our timetable.

And while you give them time to “figure out their issues”, how many suicide bombs and missiles are you willing to endure habibi?

Give me a number.

What I’m suggesting, and what Alon is writing about, is that we cannot and should not miss an opportunity that might be easier to achieve than any of the others.

How many times have I heard this BS? Israel has NEVER missed an opportunity to make peace, in fact, she has continually forced peace on a people who clearly don’t want it.

I don’t think we should compare Arafat to Assad, their records are very different, and they are very different (incidentally, one of them is dead).

I think there are many differences and many similarities between Arafat and Assad:


1.) Doesn’t care about the plight of his own people (ha’khi hashuv)

2.) Billionaires

3.) Scared to death to make peace

4.) Never responsible for anything

5.) Supports terrorism and pretends he doesn’t


1.) Assad shaves

2.) Assad dresses in nice suits

3.) Assad is heterosexual

4.) Assad is boring

Look, like I said to AIG, you have to decide where you belong. If you’re against peace (now, later, ever), then enjoy your life as it is, keep harboring your anger and hatred, and maybe one day, if the Arab thugs and terrorists actually throw us to the sea, you’ll succeed in proving us all wrong.

If you have no proof yet that the Arabs are their supporters are an existential threat to Israel, than I hope AIG and others like him will prevent Israelis like you from becoming MKs or government representatives.

If you’re for peace, but TRULY for peace, then go to the gym, learn to become more flexible, open up your mind, give a chance to others, and start replacing suspicion and hatred with hope, and at least some optimism (if not actual belief).

I’m plenty flexible habib. Thanks. I just don’t have to accept terrorism and pretend it is peace.

If you belong to the undecided camp, then at least try not to ruin honest attempts at bridging the gaps, at opening up to our neighbors, at being ready to REALLY listen.

I’ve been listening for years and I’m quite decided. I’ve decided to support those like Sadat who really wanted peace, and I’ve decided to defeat of those like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Fatah who not only have yet to recognize the State of Israel, but are (and have always been) actively at war with her.

January 23rd, 2008, 12:22 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Don’t fault Arafat’s fuzz. He had to use the Soviet shaver he got as a present from Brezhniev.

January 23rd, 2008, 12:54 am


Philip I said:


Israel may be a democracy but it is almost exclusively a Jewish one. If that were not the case israel would have been promoting the idea of a single state embracing the Palestinian Arabs.

The two-state “solution” ensures that the Palestinian state never gets off the ground because it will always be a failed state, by design.

Hamas won the elections in Palestine through a transparent democratic process but that did not suit most Israelis, so it gets isolated, starved and attacked.

If Israelis want to enjoy a peaceful existence in a pure Jewish paradise island, the answer is simple: withdraw behind your 1948 borders. As a bonus, Hamas and the rest of humanity will be only too pleased to reognise and help to protect these borders (not that Israel particulary needs recognition or protection while sitting on a pile of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, watched over by a modern array of spy sattelites). Israel has the upper hand militarily, so no incentive to cede territory and the conflict goes on.

Insisting that Hamas recognises the hegemony of present day Israel and that Syria transforms itelf into a democracy, before making peace with either party, simply serves the Zionist agenda. You know very well that Syrians, under any political system, will never be party to a peace treaty that did not restore Palestinian rights. So you are being disingenuous.

SHAI makes very good points about conflict resolution but fails to recognise all the parties to the conflict. How odd!

January 23rd, 2008, 1:13 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


There are 20% Arabs and other minorites that are Israeli citizens so the democracy is not that exclusive. What could have or should have happened is intersting but not relevant. History has no rewind button.

The Hamas state gets attaced because it fires rockets at Israel. It is really that simple. Per your suggestion, Israel withdrew to the 1948 border in Gaza. That did not help at all did it? By the way, have you read the Hamas charter lately? Their plan is not as you say. They want to get rid of any Jewish state in the area.

I am not disingenous at all. I will demand Israel give the Golan to Syria for peace once Syria becomes a democracy.

And if you thinking that the Hamas is serving the Zionist agenda by not recognizing Israel, you should tell this to Hamas. And it should really be an incentive for Syria to democratize if that would hurt the Zionist agenda.

January 23rd, 2008, 1:43 am


Shual said:

Dear AIG from New Jersey,

“more likely to be peace between democracies”
Egypt, Jordan, even the Saudis show that its more likely for Israel to have peace with states of oppression than with democracies. And its absoluty unlikely to have peace with democracies for Israel, cause there is no democracy in the NE. Even Israel has a looongway to go to become a democracy. The “declaration” to be one and to apply some contents [maybe 72% in 2008] can not be the reason to look down on states that apply only 28%.

PS: Your version of the effect of the Versaille treaty is revisionistic. The use of a item is not equal to the item. You can cut bread with a knive or kill somebody with it.

January 23rd, 2008, 1:45 am


majedkhaldoun said:

It seems this is not syria comment any more,it is aig comment.

January 23rd, 2008, 2:33 am


Akbar Palace said:

–Forum Alert–

Don’t be shocked, but it looks as if the Palestinians are angry again:


January 23rd, 2008, 3:46 am


AmericanGuy said:

I will be happy to explain.
First, I disagree with you regarding the strength of the Israeli lobby and the knowledge of what Israel does by the American population. You really underestimate the special relationship between the US and Israel.


Perhaps it is you who is *overestimating* the ‘special’ relationship between the US and Israel–AIPAC is fighting tooth and nail not to have Keith Weissman come to trial for spying for Israel. This would obviously be inconvenient for the Israeli government, given that they promised ‘no more spying’ on the US after Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying on the US for Israel. (Btw, are you among the Israelis that are pushing for his release?)

I don’t recall any captures of English or French spies much less Iraqi, Iranian or Syrian spies by the US–Is this any way to treat your ‘special friend?

January 23rd, 2008, 3:55 am


MNA said:

This blog should put an end to AIG’s efforts to hijack this blog for his nonsense…. Either that or eveyone on this blog should agree to ignore him, just don’t talk or answer him. I’m afraid that this blog will loose many readers/ contributers because of him. He is giving the worst image of whatever he is trying to represent or defend. I m starting to believe that he is an alka3eda agent who is working very heart at eliniating those who believe in dialogue with Israelis.

January 23rd, 2008, 4:57 am


ausamaa said:

I think we are being carried away by some.

Way, way, way off course…

It is not open-mindedness, nor is it an excercise in open-exchanges.

It is more like the site is being hijacked and side-tracked intentionally.

Something needs to done about it. Seriously.

January 23rd, 2008, 5:56 am


offended said:

Aussama, it’s yet another proof of the Syrian hospitality, don’t you think? 😉

January 23rd, 2008, 6:04 am


offended said:

And oh yeah Aussama, let’s pull the discussion to our side: how’s business goin’?

January 23rd, 2008, 6:05 am


Shai said:

MNA – Amen! These AIG’s and AP’s are useless gits, who come here to teach, not to learn. They are so full of themselves, so in love with their “Let Democracy Win” crap, and have absolutely no sense of real-politique. They sit back, and wait for the world to fit their fantasies. And when they see nothing going their way, they join blogs like these to go “peace-bashing” for a while. They enjoy the antagonism they create, the attention they receive, and truly believe they’re doing the world and the future a great service. To me, at least, it is clear. People like that should be left behind. Their impact on history has, and always will be, NIL!

January 23rd, 2008, 6:10 am


Alex said:


This is your blog, so please tell everyone what you think of my friend AIG’s “hijacking” of this blog.

I am the last person here to enjoy AIG’s comments, but some of them are very relevant… I really prefer to continue hearing his opinion when it represents the mainstream extreme right in Israel.

But …

I suggest the following agreement:

1) Enough with your democracy in Syria crusade … maybe you truly mean it, but almost no one here is buying your reason for being so passionate about democracy in Syria specifically. Besides, you repeated the same thing a million times so far… and you do not represent a segment of the Israeli society in this very special passion of yours…. so I think that after few months of hearing it.. it now sounds like noise.

2) Stop attacking and insulting commentators (like calling Shai an idiot today)…. for a while you were perfect, but this week you are back to your old style.

3) Don’t try to start or to get involved in long arguments with everyone you don’t like … at least not when you go over the same topics again and again.

So basically … if it is relatively new, somewhat relevant to the discussion topic, not rude, not a personal attack, then your comment is more than welcome.

Otherwise .. I will start removing them immediately.

It won’t be fun like before, but it would be more mature and less offensive to everyone else here.

This is my suggestion. I think Joshua is already sleeping at this time. He decides (tomorrow).

January 23rd, 2008, 6:17 am


Alex said:

I know this is not relevant but it is new : )

Iraq will now have a new flag!

they removed the three stars .. the stars were symbolic of the expected (at the time) union between Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

So much changed since then.

January 23rd, 2008, 6:23 am


Shai said:

Good Morning Alex.

I’m hoping today will be a little more “productive”. I’m waiting for other Israelis to join in, and voice their opinion. I hope they’re not turned off by the negative atmosphere created by these AIG’s and AP’s. We’ve been distracted for a while, but it’s time to get back to the real purpose of this forum.

January 23rd, 2008, 6:34 am


offended said:

Alex, Joshua is just too lenient…

I’d have showed AIG the door long time ago…

January 23rd, 2008, 6:38 am


offended said:

Shai, it seems that you and me are close to each other (in terms of time zones)…
I am looking forward to reading your comments and those of other Israelis. Maybe you guys can post questions as well and Syrians here will chime in…

January 23rd, 2008, 6:53 am


Shai said:

Offended, good idea. The forum started out well, with respectful, honest opinions, until the “party poopers” came along…

I think you’re right, we do need to pose some questions for each other. So let me do a few of these:

1) I understand that the idea of a park on the Golan is not acceptable to many. Given the rationale Alon discussed earlier (namely, to achieve majority support in Israel for the withdrawal), can you suggest other CBM’s (confidence building measures) that the Syrians can present towards Israel?

2) Can Syrians accept the fact that for many Israelis, the Golan represents a deep emotional issue. That many Israelis still remember being shelled by Syrian artillery positioned up on the Heights, and fear those days returning. How can we calm those fears? Forget suggesting to them that Israel is the strongest side here – they won’t buy it. They honestly feel we’re the weaker side, the threatened side, etc. How can we speak to their concerns?

3) Can you suggest ways in which Syria can explain her rationale for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, and allying itself with Iran (militarily), while talking of peace? To most Israelis, there is a deep contradiction here, and they fear the latter is a hoax, while the first is very real.

4) I’ve written in the past that a win-win formula must be found, which will enable Bashar Assad to come to Jerusalem. The best way to reach out to Israelis (not just the Israeli government), is by coming here, standing on the podium, and addressing every man, woman, and child. Sadat, our arch-enemy for so long, brought tears to our eyes in 1977, and won the admiration, respect, and trust of most Israelis in those days. Why can’t we find the way to enable Assad to do the same? I’ve heard all the reasons for why not (lose-lose scenario, failure, etc.), but there must be other ways. What do you think?

Let’s start with these for a while. I’m very much interested in your thoughts (and the rest of the readers’).

January 23rd, 2008, 7:11 am


Alex said:


I am working on my answers.

Can the others help me here please? : )

Pick any of the questions, you don’t have to answer everything.

January 23rd, 2008, 7:39 am


offended said:

Shai, I don’t know whether you want to know my own take on these issues, or you’d like to know what I think the answers of the Syrian majority will be?

Anyway I am giving my own thoughts here, and will shed a light on the Syrian public opinion when possible.

1- The idea of a peace park is fashionable, but it will give the impression that Syria will not have full sovereignty over its land. Come to think of it, this is not a disarmament zone or a buffer zone; you are making it compulsory for Syria to grant access for Israelis to enter the park (part of which will be Syrian).
As for confidence building, I can’t think of anything off hand that can do good on this regard. Give me some time to think. But then, why don’t we reverse the question in the mean time: what would the Israeli public like to see Syrians doing as a gesture of good will?
2- The concerns of the Israeli public are quite understandable, however, you need to know that things have changed since the artillery shelling; Syrian people (the majority of them) are sick and tired of this status quo of no-peace no-war. Uncertainty yields anxiety.
3- You have to understand the sentiments here in Syria; supporting Hamas and Hezbollah stems from the drive for Arab solidarity. Hence, my belief is that peace should be comprehensive. On the question of how can Syria justify continuing the support for those two parties while negotiating peace: I will tell you one thing, Israel had never stopped expanding its settlements, or exercising its security operations while negotiating with the Palestinians.
(by the way, what you perceive as support is merely political courting to us, specially with regards to Hamas)
4- As for Bashar going to Jursaleim: I think he was asked this question once in an interview, I can’t recall it right now. But I think he said something to the effect of that he would like such visit to be more productive and meaningful than a photo opt or an emotional speech. And that serious preparations and common grounds had to be reached first…

Shai, I tried to answer your questions with utmost honesty. Now I need you to tell me with honesty: how close are we to each other? (Apart from the time zone thing ; ))

January 23rd, 2008, 8:17 am


Shai said:

Offended, thank you for your answers, this is EXACTLY what we want to achieve here – open, constructive, honest and respectful dialogue. Now to your questions.

CBM’s are super important here, especially for us Israelis. You have to understand the mentality of many Israelis, perhaps most, who truly fear an innate hatred and “dream” of throwing us to the sea, still very much exists within Arabs. We really are afraid of that. When I ask fellow Israelis why on earth they fear this, given our clear military advantages, as well more dangerous strategic capabilities (according to foreign sources), they tell me that I don’t appreciate enough the Arab/Muslim threat. If Iran will possess a nuclear bomb (or more than one), they may well be right in their fear. You and I don’t know what a fundamentalist regime might do or not do with such a weapon. A much less-fundamentalist regime, called the USA, has used two such weapons in the past, let’s not forget. But in the meantime, until this capability is achieved, I believe Israelis should not fear this factor as much as in the past. Still, it seems to be innate amongst us, hence the need for CBM’s. What kind, and how, I don’t know. But I can imagine, for instance, that even by interacting, engaging each other in dialogue, direct and indirect, we are essentially creating these CBM’s. You and I know full well that we respect each other, that we want to reach out to each other, and that we want to put away once and for all our miserable history of crimes, conflict and bloodshed. I very much want to hear of other ideas from fellow Israelis and Syrians (and anyone else of course).

I understand of course your angle on the support/courting of Hamas and Hezbollah. The main problem seems to be the military alliance with Iran. It scares Israelis, not so much because of the weaponry acquired, but more so because of its subtle insinuation of intentions. I agree that seeing our settlements continue to grow, from your side, is very similar. I guess both of us want to maintain these as “negotiation cards” and means of pressuring the other side to do something to change it all. Our respective leaders, and countrymen, however, sometimes don’t get the hint…

As for Bashar coming to Jerusalem, and his response on TV. I personally believe that presidents, and prime ministers, are actually much more important for the symbolic value they hold, than for the actual substantive political and diplomatic capabilities. In fact, can you think of any leader that has particularly excelled in these (with the exception of a few in the modern era, like Clinton for instance). I certainly would NOT send Olmert, or Barak, to negotiate peace with Syria. There are professionals who do a much better job at that, who should be sent. But Assad, and Olmert, appearing in each other’s capitals, could create emotional waves that would resonate for months, years, and decades into the future, which will undoubtedly begin to shatter those history-old walls of suspicion, distrust, and even hatred. It is all about emotion, little about substance, at that level. Sadat’s achievement came on the emotional level. Assad doesn’t need promises made beforehand – he knows how to win our public over, and should take advantage of that. I understand his concern/fears of a losing-face scenario, if he should return without something substantive. But I can imagine some possible formulas that can make him look like a world champion of peace, both at home and abroad. The next morning, every single newspaper in the entire world would hail him as a hero. What an amazing achievement that could be for Syria, and for peace in the region.

As to your last question (and I understand you’re currently in Syria), my friend, you and I are so close, that it pains me to think we’ve wasted so many decades, so much blood, and for what? We’ve worshipped a land more than our values, we cared more about material things, than about human beings. It is high time we put all that away, close this evil chapter, and start building a future for our children, and for theirs, full of hope, peace, and prosperity. Some say it’s a dream. I say it’s a reality, and it’s time to wake up and make it happen. Let’s now find the way, together.

January 23rd, 2008, 8:53 am


Akbar Palace said:

MNA – Amen! These AIG’s and AP’s are useless gits, who come here to teach, not to learn.


“Teach”? “Learn”? Take some of your own advice.

As they say, the term “insanity” can be defined as repeating the same mistake over and over again expecting a different

Meanwhile, “useless gits” are the ones that clean up the mess you the “yefeh nefesh” always seem to create.

January 23rd, 2008, 10:58 am


offended said:

Shai; thank you for your reply. I really appreciate and respect your honesty and you emotions. And the time and energy you are putting into this. I agree with you that peace is mostly about emotions and psychology. Both parties need to feel that they are not being ‘palmed off’ in the process.

You know, even while I am writing to you now, there is this feeling of cynicism that is creeping inside of me. Maybe peace is like getting over a bad relationship; sometimes you need a counselor to talk you through it.

January 23rd, 2008, 11:16 am


majedkhaldoun said:

هجرة اللبنانيين.. من نكبة إلى نعمة
وتفيد دراسة أعدها الباحث اللبناني شربل نحاس أن “600 ألف مواطن هاجروا بين عامي 1975 و2000”.

ويشكل المهاجرون أو المنحدرون من أصل لبناني أعدادا مذهلة حيث يبلغ عددهم في البرازيل وحدها سبعة ملايين، في حين لا يتجاوز سكان لبنان حاليا أربعة ملايين بمن فيهم غير اللبنانيين.
there are many lebanese in France and England,and in USA,and africa.
the figures are appalling.I suspect some are syrian saying they are lebanese.
emigrations due to wars,feeling of lack of security,economic factors,religious factors,ambitions,education purpose,and other social issues.
one thing is important to me,our number in the USA is increasing that one day we will make a difference.

January 23rd, 2008, 1:18 pm


ausamaa said:


The real “business” now is the worry about Lebanon and Gaza… both are being used to make Bush’s Last Stand in the area. He will definitly fail, but the immediate costs are a big question mark!

January 23rd, 2008, 1:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why don’t we let Shai and Alex and his gang talk between themselves for a while. Soon, it will be clear they are “churning water”. The Israeli left after all has nothing new to offer except longevity for Arab dictators.

So guys have fun. I will answer only posts directed to me.

January 23rd, 2008, 2:07 pm


offended said:

Well Ausamaa, I guess we have to look post-Bush then…

January 23rd, 2008, 2:10 pm


norman said:

Israel today = Natzi Germany of yesterday , both are democracy,

i womder how long the arab leader will continue to be coards

Israel ethnic cleansing at work,

NEWS | OPINIONS | SPORTS | ARTS & LIVING | Discussions | Photos & Video | City Guide | CLASSIFIEDS | JOBS | CARS | REAL ESTATE

Tens of Thousands Flee Gaza for Egypt

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; 8:57 AM

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Tens of thousands of Palestinians poured from the Gaza Strip into Egypt Wednesday after masked gunmen with explosives destroyed most of the seven-mile barrier dividing the border town of Rafah.

Gazans crossed on foot, in cars or in donkey carts to buy cigarettes, fuel, and other items made scarce by an Israeli blockade of their impoverished territory. Across the coastal strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, people pushed into buses and piled into rickety pickup trucks heading to Egypt and a rare opportunity to escape months of isolation.

Police from the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, directed the traffic. Egyptian border guards took no action.

“Freedom is good. We need no border after today,” said unemployed 29-year-old Mohammed Abu Ghazal.

Hamas did not take responsibility for knocking down the border barrier erected by Israel as fighting intensified with militants after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. But it seemed unlikely the move could have been undertaken without Hamas’ approval.

The group’s supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, said from Damascus, Syria that Hamas was willing to work out a new border arrangement with Egypt and Hamas’ rival, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that he had ordered his troops to allow the Palestinians to cross into Egypt from the Gaza Strip because they were starving.

Mubarak told reporters at the Cairo International Book fair that when Palestinians began breaking through border in force, he told his men to let them in to buy food before escorting them out.

“I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons,” he said.

Gaza has been virtually sealed since Hamas seized control of the territory by force in June. Gazans are facing critical shortages of electricity, fuel and other supplies, although they have not yet led to starvation.

Any easing of restriction could help stabilize Hamas’ rule.

Israel expressed concern that militants and weapons might be entering Gaza amid the chaos, and said responsibility for restoring order lay with Egypt.

Egypt has largely kept its border with Gaza closed since the Hamas takeover amid concerns of a spillover of Hamas-style militancy into Egypt. But Egypt’s government is also under popular pressure at home to help the impoverished Gazans.

Egyptian public opinion is sympathetic to the Palestinians, and most political analysts believe Mubarak’s regime would face a serious crisis if its forces opened fire on Palestinians during a border melee.

Israel also is in a difficult situation. It is concerned about the free flow of militants and weapons into Gaza, but cannot be seen as criticizing Egypt too strongly, for fear of alienating an important Arab country.

“Israel has no forces in Gaza or Egypt, and the Egyptians control the border, and therefore it is the responsibility of Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly according to the signed agreements. We expect the Egyptians to solve the problem,” said Arye Mekel, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

“Obviously we are worried about the situation. It could potentially allow anybody to enter,” Mekel said.

Palestinians have broken through the Egypt border several times since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and stopped patrolling the border. But none of the previous breaches approached the scale of Wednesday’s destruction, which demolished two-thirds of the seven-mile border barrier.

Gazans walked unhindered over the toppled metal plates that once made up the border barrier, carrying goats, chickens and crates of Coca-Cola. Some brought back televisions and car tires. One man bought a motorcycle. Vendors sold soft drinks and baked goods to the crowds.

Within hours, shops on the Egyptian side of the divided border town of Rafah had run out of most of their wares.

Ibrahim Abu Taha, 45, a Palestinian father of seven, was in the Egyptian section of Rafah with his two brothers and $185 in his pocket.

“We want to buy food, we want to buy rice and sugar, milk and wheat and some cheese,” Abu Taha said, adding that he would also buy cheap Egyptian cigarettes.

Abu Taha said he could get such basic foods in Gaza, but at three times the cost.

Moussa Zuroub, a 28-year-old Palestinian, carried his young daughter Aseel on his shoulders, trudging through the muddy streets of Egyptian Rafah.

“I’m coming just to break that ice _ that all my life, I’d never left Gaza before,” Zuroub said.

In Egyptian Rafah, a market stall selling pistols and ammunition clips for Kalashnikov assault rifles had no customers Wednesday. Weapons are generally brought into Gaza through smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

An off-duty Hamas policeman, who only gave his first name, Abdel Rahman, said there was no need to buy weapons from Egypt.

“You can buy weapons in Gaza, guns and RPGs,” he said, adding that they were easier to find than cancer medicine or Coca-Cola.

The destruction of the barrier began before dawn Wednesday, when Palestinian gunmen began using land mines, blowing holes in the border barrier that runs through Rafah, witnesses said. There were 17 explosions in all, Hamas security officials said. At first, Hamas and Egyptian security officers prevented people from getting through, witnesses said, but by morning thousands of Gazans had massed at the border and overwhelmed police began letting people cross.

Most Egyptian security and police were later pulled out from the immediate vicinity of the border, Egyptian security officials said.

International reaction to the dramatic events was muted.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. wants to see stability in the region, but that “most importantly both the security concerns of Israel and the humanitarian concerns of Gazans be met.”

The European Union was to issue a statement later Wednesday.

Wednesday’s chaotic scenes came almost a week after Israel imposed a tight closure on Gaza, backed by Egypt, in response to a spike in Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli border towns.

Pictures of children marching mournfully with candles and people lining up at closed bakeries in a blacked-out Gaza City evoked urgent appeals from governments, aid agencies and the U.N. for an end to the closure.

Israel maintained that Hamas was creating an artificial crisis but nonetheless eased the closure slightly on Tuesday, transferring fuel to restart Gaza’s only power plant, and also sent in some cooking gas, food and medicine. Israel has pledged to continue limited shipments because of concerns about a possible humanitarian crisis, but Israeli defense officials said Wednesday there would be no new shipments for the time being.

The rocket fire by Gaza militants has sent residents in Israeli border communities scrambling for shelter several times a day. The rockets have traumatized many area residents and killed 12 Israelis in six years. The attacks have persisted despite the closure.

In a clash early Wednesday with Israeli forces near the closed Sufa crossing into Gaza, a Hamas militant was killed, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli military said soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian militants in the area.


Associated Press Writer Ashraf Sweilam reported from Rafah, Egypt.

© 2008 The Associated Press

Ads by Google
Stock Market Crash
What The Feds Aren’t Telling You What You Must Do Now To Survive!

Best Managed Futures
Professional fund management for sophisticated asset diversification

Tire Pressure Tools
Tire Pressure Gauges & Monitors. Top Brands Like SmarTire & Accutire

January 23rd, 2008, 2:37 pm


ghat Albird said:

Some one noted that the above is “an exchange between deaf people”. In many ways it might be but it still, given the constant harping of code name AIG should be obvious to even blind individuals that the arrogance of power is still prevalent as a means of dictating ways and means.

If as some overly claim that Israel is the sole so-called “democracy” in the region there are some fundamental issues that israeli posturing seems to overlook.

The State of Israel was created by a UN Resolution that has never been rescinded as binding. So ipso facto the present policies of the State of Israel are in violations of the wold body’s decisions.

If the State of Israel were to specifically follow the dicta set down for its creation and withdraw to the initial boundaries as set forth by the UN would not that also be enforceable on the Palestinians to stay WITHIN the boundaries as set forth in the same UN Resolution.

If then the Palestinians and or the Syrians were to violate such boundaries israel would be justified in defending itself by any means. As of the moment the justification for defending oneself does not legally [according to the boundaries defined by the UN in 1948] provide Israel with a preemptive right.

The one observation that might induce others to agree to such a view would be:- what if the present roles between the Israelis and the Palestinians were reversed and it was the Palestinians who occupied parts of the State of Israel that was defined in the 1948 UN Resolution and treated the Israelis as the Israelis are now treating the Palestinians. And Syria occupied a large part of the State of Israel.

The issue is a legal one and the State of Israel is in violation. Period. As far who is nice and who is not and who is a democracy who is not or who is a murderer or who is is there is plenty of blame to go around.

The probability that by both sides observing the legal demarcation as set up by the UN with no preconditions and having the UN policing both sides of the borders a modus vivendi could begin.

This thing is not a football game where all sides claim they are number !. Too many men, women and children have died and the inevitability of both having to live side by side becomes more real day by day. One cannot have peace without justice.

January 23rd, 2008, 3:45 pm


Shual said:

“Israel today = Natzi Germany of yesterday , both are democracy,”

c&p + a stupid ns-comparison.

“I’m afraid that this blog will loose many readers/ contributers because of such actions. This is giving the worst image of whatever it is trying to represent or defend. I m starting to believe that this blog is fullof alka3eda agents who are working very hard at aliniating those who believe in dialogue with Israelis.”

January 23rd, 2008, 3:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You cannot have it both ways. The Arabs did not accept the UN partition of 47 and launched a war. After losing this war, claiming that what Israel is holding of Palestine is “illegal” is a joke. The Syrians used the Golan to bombard Israel. Israel had every right to take it in 67.

I think it is great that the Palestinians in Gaza have broken the border and joined Egypt. They should be part of Egypt as they were till 67.

January 23rd, 2008, 4:26 pm


Alex said:

“But Assad, and Olmert, appearing in each other’s capitals, could create emotional waves that would resonate for months”

Shai, one Syrian diplomat told me of a story when he was invited to speak to student of one American University (in the 80’s I think). When he arrived, the pro Israel students received him with a demonstration and they were of course repeating the typical “murderers, terrorists” accusations. He had to cancel and be escorted out protected by security.

He told me this story when I asked him about CBM’s including exchanging visits (not by the president, but by semi-officials).

He told me that the negativity will win. You see what AIG is doing here? .. he is one person only. When in Israel you have 70% who are against peace with Syria, and when in Syria probably the same number has highly negative opinion of Israel, especially after Gaza now for example, the negativity wins.

I will give you a small example: When Bashar visited France few months after he said in front of the late pope in Damascus “those who killed Jesus Christ are now killing Palestinian children” (or something like that), he was greeted with very negative reception by reporters, and demonstrators in the streets. Israel’s friends in the media wrote the worst opinion pieces about him. That was at a time when Chirac was very happy with Bashar (2001 or 2002)

President Bush’s recent visit to the Middle East was another example of how difficult these things are when there is considerable hostility towards some leader.

Bahsar wanted to visit the US a couple of years ago (to attend UN general assembly) … he was told that if he showed up there will be anti-Syria demonstrations to greet him everywhere he goes. So he cancelled.

When Sadat visited, there were quite a few differences:

1) The Americans and their friends in Israel were fully behind it. The hard liners were behaving and respectful… Begin was the hard liner. But he was trustworthy at least. His word meant more that that of today’s politicians in Israel.

2) Egypt “won a war” few years before (even though their army was eventually in trouble). These days most Israelis believe “Syria is weak” … they will consider Bashar a weak leader coming to beg them for help. They won’t “help him” because he is “a murderous dictator” who won’t deserve that help …

The process of reversing the excessive negativity towards Syria in Israel started, which is a good thing, but there a lot to be done before Bashar (or even a lower Syrian official) can visit Israel.

And this is only one of the reasons he won’t : )

There is the very important reason that he does not trust anyone in Israel anymore. in the past President Perez used to be considered a potential negotiating partner, the past few years he positioned himself within all the regional anti-Syria campaigns, P.r. and others. For example his protege Terje Rod Larsen is not welcome in Damascus anymore….

There is almost zero trust these days. A Bashar visit could be a serious trap that burns all of Bashar’s cards.

Remember how Olmert sent assurances to Bashar that Israel will not attack Syria, then few days later Israel attacked?

We will have to find different CBMs : )

An Olmert visit to Syria would be very unpopular too … Syrians are not going to support Israeli peace overtures until they are confident enough that Israel is not trying to take Syria out so that it can finish off the Palestinians.

January 23rd, 2008, 4:40 pm


Alex said:

To give you an idea of how the dignity of the president is a very sensitive issue in our area, look at this news from Turkey:

(any comments form those who used Syria’s ban of Facebook as proof Syria was an exceptionally backward dictatorship?)

Turkish Courts Ban YouTube for Insulting Leaders, NTV Says
2008-01-23 10:48 (New York)

By Ayla Jean Yackley
Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) — Turkish courts banned Google Inc.’s
YouTube for showing videos that negatively depict Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other political and military leaders, as
well as the country’s late founder, NTV said.
A court in the eastern city of Sivas today ordered Internet
service providers to bar access to YouTube on charges it shows
videos that demean Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and the
Turkish armed forces, NTV said on its Web site. Other videos
insult Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established Turkey in 1923, it
said. It is against the law to slur Ataturk.

January 23rd, 2008, 4:43 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Turkish authorities destroyed the bank camera that caught Denk’s assassins.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, the Palestinians blew up the whole damn wall with Egypt and 10s of thousands of people are streaming across in search of provisions. [As Norman reported upthread]. Good for them!

January 23rd, 2008, 4:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I found this video which explains the Palestinian position very well and also explains why there will not be peace in the next 50 years:

The Turkish court ruling proves that Turkey is on the wrong path. It is a very stupid ruling that will lower Turkey’s chances of getting into the EU.

January 23rd, 2008, 4:57 pm


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » News Roundup (23 January 2008) said:

[…] Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 I hope everyone will continue to post to the letter from Alon Liel,  Chairman of the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society, posted below. It has stimulated very interesting dialogue. Alex will be posting a summary soon. I begin this news roundup with a short announcement: Serene Taleb-Agha [serene@hashem.net] has begun a "a list for English-speaking residents of Syria, in particular expatriates from America, Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc. Dual nationals are welcome. We are here to network and share our experiences living in Syria." Here is the group:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Anglos-In-Syria/ […]

January 23rd, 2008, 4:58 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The video clip that you attach perfect demonstrates my earlier comment:

If the Scots and the English too 495 years to make peace, expecting peace in our region soon (if ever) is an illusion.

By the way, that person from Hamas speaks for the vast vast majority of the people of the region.

January 23rd, 2008, 5:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I agree with you. That is why I think what Shai is doing is ultra-naive and playing into the hands of dictators who want to stay in power.

Israel will have to wait until the Arabs become disillusioned from political Islam (and eventually choose democracy). That could take decades.

January 23rd, 2008, 5:20 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Why don’t we let Shai and Alex and his gang talk between themselves for a while. Soon, it will be clear they are “churning water”. The Israeli left after all has nothing new to offer except longevity for Arab dictators.



I will answer only posts directed to me.

I suspect you will still be answering more questions about why you and your government are not willing to allow missiles to fall within your borders and why checkpoints have to be set-up.

And I doubt your answers will satisfy many here. Even the yafeh nefesh.

January 23rd, 2008, 5:30 pm


Alex said:


Things change faster these days … you can’t use the time scales of hundreds of years ago, right? : )

People learn a bit faster now.

Like the considerable learning from the 8-year wonderful experience we had with the neocons and the Netanyahus of this world who took power in Washington. When this era comes to an end in few months there will be a good CHANCE to move forward…

we will see.

January 23rd, 2008, 5:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Arabs have learned very little in 60 years as their continuing successes show. How can a change in Washington make the Arabs fast learners?

January 23rd, 2008, 5:49 pm


Alex said:

The learning will have to be on your side mostly, and when Israel’s positions are more moderate, and when Washington gets back its sanity then there will be reciprocal moves from Syria… for now, it is not Syria which went neocon. Syria is still the same Syria that managed to calm the Middle East during the 90’s.

I hope you and AP will be here to remind me how wrong I was if none of that happens by 2009/2010.

January 23rd, 2008, 6:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Take a look at the video I posted. Your whole point of view is contradictory. You don’t imagine a peace with Damascus without peace with the Palestinians but on the other hand Syria and you support Hamas which do not want peace with Israel (unless Israel is erased of the map of course).

January 23rd, 2008, 6:12 pm


Alex said:

There is no contradiction. Syria’s position is clear, and it has been clear for decades… Settlement based on UN resolutions. If Israel gives the Palestinians what is in those UN resolutions (and in the Arab peace plan) but Hamas refuses, then the Syrians will be comfortable going their own way and settling with Israel separately.

Until then, Syria will try to help the Palestinians get Israel to recognize their internationally recognized rights.

January 23rd, 2008, 6:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why did you erase this part of my post:
The life of the average Israeli has improved immensely since 1990. Can this be said for the Average Syrian? That is what I meant when I said the Arabs never learn.

{Answer: Because we had enough of your innocent role championing of the poor Syrian people. Please stick to the topic we are discussing. If you need to discuss it with me, send an email. Iw ill erase any comments you add here.}

January 23rd, 2008, 6:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not championing Syrian poor or anything like that. I only care about Israel’s interests. I was just highlighting consistent bad decisions made by the Arabs in discussion of the question who has to learn.

January 23rd, 2008, 7:21 pm


Shai said:


Your points are well made. I now understand your angle better. Still, there must be a way to do it. I’ve thought in the past about what kind of a speech I would write for Bashar if I “happened” to be his speech-writer, for such a visit. I saw myself debating some of the issues you described, though not all. And one thing was clear to me – that he would essentially have to address exactly the issue of the risks he is taking by showing up here. Exactly describing how easy it is for him to fail in his mission. In other words, to try to show how despite being fully aware of all the things he (and Syria) could lose by coming, he still chose to come, and here are the reasons why… And then I thought of the reasons, and came up with quite a few. You know what, just for the exercise, here’s an imaginary (short-version) speech I would write for Bashar. Tell me what you think:

“Fellow Israelis, I have come here today knowing I may well fail in my mission. I have come here to try, in the most intimate way, to demonstrate my country’s honest aim and historic and strategic decision to once and for all put aside our differences, and make peace with Israel. Syria and Israel have, for far too long, missed opportunities for peace, and now is the time to make it happen. I will not go into our demands on this occasion, though most of you know what they entail. How we reach these goals, is something that will be worked out at the negotiating table over the next few months. We are ready to make peace, and we hope that you are as well. But until a final agreement is reached, you must understand that Syria cannot begin to change or relinquish any of its deterring capabilities, including its military assets, and its military and political alliances. Just as Syria must learn to accept Israel’s “supposed” nuclear capabilities, so must Israelis learn to accept Syria’s offensive and defensive capabilities. That is, until a peace agreement is made, and implemented. While I stand here before you, our two nations are officially at a state of war. Neither side can be expected to give up any of its options at this stage. Both our peoples suffer from an innate distrust, suspicion, even hatred of one another. And though we do not know if Israel is truly ready for peace, I am here to show our sincerity. We are serious. I wouldn’t risk so much by coming here, if it was otherwise. Peace must be a choice, it cannot be forced. But it must be understood, that as long as peace is not made, and as long as war exists, both sides will continue to pay a heavy price. Our aspirations will not change, even if it takes another 50 years, and we will achieve them, and hopefully by peaceful means. …. and then talking about the Palestinian cause of course, etc. etc. ”

Of course this so-called speech doesn’t cover a lot of issues, and perhaps even the tone is wrong, sounding too “calm”. But the idea is that Assad basically comes here to show he is serious, very serious, yet makes it perfectly clear that Syria still maintains all her options, until that last drop of ink is signed on the peace agreement, and its implementation begins. No promises are made, no concessions, nothing. If you want peace, we are ready. If not, we, but also you, will bear the consequences. It is a peaceful gesture, yet also a threat. Something like this might work, because the next morning, every newspaper across the world (and I mean EVERY) will hail Bashar as a hero in the pursuit of peace, and a tremendous diplomatic pressure will begin forming over Israel (and Syria), to take advantage of this once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. It will be very difficult for Israeli leaders to claim this is all a hoax.

Incidentally, don’t think that Sadat’s visit wasn’t viewed by many as a trick (before he arrived). Our chief of staff himself called it a “trick” before the entire world on TV, and gave orders for elite units to standby ready to shoot down any Egyptian commandos who might pop out of the plane, “spraying” bullets at the entire Israeli leadership that showed up to greet Sadat. Serious people here we really fearing a trick of some sort. It is well known, that as Sadat walked across this line of welcoming party, shaking hands, and being introduced to everyone, upon reaching the chief of staff he said “You see General, this is no trick!…”

Final note, and this is a question about the Palestinians. Given recent events in Gaza, and the obvious ramifications on the Israeli-Palestinian track, what do Syrians think Israel should do vis-a-vis the split between Abu Mazen and Ismail Hanniye? Can Israel be expected to negotiate with anybody in the PA, or anyone else? Is it not the case that essentially the Palestinian people have no leadership at the moment, at least not one that rules over them all? What should Israel do, and is it a prerequisite to any peace negotiations with Syria?

January 23rd, 2008, 7:25 pm


Akbar Palace said:

An interesting response to a pro-Palestinian from another website:


I noticed that you seem to consider the percentage of the Palestinian homeland under negotiation to be an important element in the dispute. This could be so but I find that according to Arab and some pro-Arab third party sources the definition of what the Palestinian homeland actually has changed over time.

For instance, two-thirds of the Palestinian homeland was lopped off in the early 1920’s given over to an artificially created state and ceased being considered part of the Palestinian Arab homeland. The current state of Jordan is entirely made up of formerly Palestinian land and has a population two-thirds Palestinian but just make the suggestion that perhaps it ought to be considered a Palestinian state is anathema to Palestinian nationalists. That part of the homeland and people is gone and forgotten. After 1948, most of that 22 percent of the Palestinian homeland you talk about was considered a sovereign part of Jordan. I remember that right after the 1967 war and for a decade or more after, the argument was made and accepted in many quarters (including the Stockholm International Peace Reseach Institute where I came across it for the first but by far not the only time) that the only part of the Palestinian homeland was pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank was part of Jordan and should be returned to Jordan as called for in UNSC242. At the time I thought it odd that a Palestinian Arab homeland would be defined not by where the Palestinian Arabs are or were but by where the Jews are.

Wael, the Jews have been asked on several occassions to give up a high percentage of the Jewish homeland and have agreed to, on those occassions, if the consequence was the establishment of a Jewish state in the remaining portion. The Palestinians Arabs, when faced with the same offer always refused, not because the portion of their own homeland however they defined it, was inadequate, but because their own Palestinian nationalism was not based on creating their own state but on denying the Jews an opportunity to create a Jewish state. Though you can grumble about percentages of land, certainly the Hamas and probably Arafat at Camp David, are/were not concerned about getting a state for their own people but in denying a state for another people. In truth I really wish the conflict was only over where the border should be. Unfortunately for too many Palestinians the problem remains the existance of a Jewish state.

January 24th, 2008, 11:45 am


Sami D said:

AIG wrote:

“You cannot have it both ways. The Arabs did not accept the UN partition of 47 and launched a war. After losing this war, claiming that what Israel is holding of Palestine is “illegal” is a joke..”

This is largely antiquated, imagined “history” by now. The Arabs did reject the partition resolution (which was a non-binding resolution), as they were expected to. The resolution was to give 55% of the most fertile part of Palestine to Jews who were 30% (thanks to immigration) of the population. Furthermore, the 55% future Jewish state was going to contain 45% non-Jewish Palestinians, a problem if you’re planning a “Jewish State”! That last fact hints that maybe the “acceptance” of the Partition resolution by Israel was tactical, like Ben Gurion stated, as a springboard for expansion and ejecting the Palestinians out of their land. What Israel later conquered, either during 1948, in 67 or via the slow conquest of settlements, presented always as defense against Arabs (“and by the way, I will take your water and land while I am at it”) is perfect proof.

Then there the usual leap, in the Israeli fantasy account of events, from the Parition resolution in 1947 to the Arab “launching” of the war 6 months later. In between, not coincidentally, the Jewish leadership began the ethnic campaign of Palestinians from the areas suggested to go to Israel in the Partition resolution, but also from outside those areas as well. These campaigns were almost always, accompanied by razing of Palestinian villages, to prevent return. Already 300,000 Palestinians (about half of the total 1948 refugees) were forced out by advancing Jewish armies, through campaigns of terror, massacre. The Arabs “launching” of war, was actually a reaction to try to stop the advancing ethnic cleansing Jewish armies which flooded Arab countries with refugees.

AIG wrote:

“The Syrians used the Golan to bombard Israel. Israel had every right to take it in 67.”

Even Israeli hero Dayan disagrees with this account, in addition to all UN observers stations in the demilitarized zone. Dayan said that at least 80% of Syrian bombardment was instigated by Israel, which was slowly encroaching and trying to grab land beyond the armistice lines. But even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the Israeli imaginary-nationalistic account, why did Israel destroy the Golan Syrian villages (like it did 500 Palestinian villages) after driving 90% of Golanis out? Why did it begin “taking” the Golan waters, if its reason for conquest were security not land-resource theft?

Many genuinely peace-loving Israelis, on this blog and elsewhere look to the Arabs to provide confidence-building measures. If only Asad visits Jerusalem and win the hearts of Israelis, then peace would be much closer (Thomas Friedman is partly to blame for this misleading account for the reasons of lack of peace. And Sadat got Sinai not because he visited Jerusalem, but because he launched a war, after Israel rebuffed his 1971 peace overtures). But unless these Israelis realize first that their state was built on the ruins of Palestinian villages, which it deliberately destroyed, including the Hamas target town of Sderot (Najd), ie, that it is the aggressor Israel that needs to make confidence/peace-building measures (the destruction of South Lebanon last year, and the starving of 1.5 million Gazans notwithstanding), not the victim, then peace will indeed be un-realizeable.

AIG wrote:

I think it is great that the Palestinians in Gaza have broken the border and joined Egypt. They should be part of Egypt as they were till 67.

At least you’re consistent with the Zionist (racist and anti-peace) ideology: Less Arabs more land.

AIG, any plan to respond to the arguments I raised against Zionism in earlier threads? Dismissing any argument with a 1000 “My-heart-bleeds-for-Syrian-democracy” or two-liner posts doesn’t count as response.

January 24th, 2008, 4:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Tactical or not, the acceptance by Israel of the partition by the UN and the rejection by the Arabs, puts to rest your LEGAL argument. Legality is on Israel’s side.

There was a civil war in Palestine between Jews and Palestinians from Nov 29, 47 to May 15, 48. The Arab countries chose to interfere in this civil war. They did not obtain any UN resolution that made this interferences legal, therefore, they are the aggressors in the 48 war. Flooding of refugees allows closing borders but no one accepts this (except you) as a reason to launch war in self defense. There is no doubt the Arab countries legally were the aggressors in 48.

As for 1967, let’s accept your statistics for the moment. 20% of cases were Syrian aggression. No problem, Israel has the legal right to take the Golan even if there is ONE case of unlawful aggression from there (and Syria has the right to take the Gallilee for the Israeli aggressions, I have no problem with that).

But in the end, you are trying to sell the “legal” stuff because you lost the war. So let’s move to the “justice” issues. To this I tell you, that justice has been served. The Jews deserve one country and it is ok that the Palestinians have paid a price for it. The price was high because the Palestinians chose the path of violence and the Arab countries refused to accomodate the Palestinians after their fiascos in the battle field. Israel quickly integrated 800,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab world in 48-50. The Arab world could have easily integrated 800,000 Palestinian refugees and everyone would be better off.

History has no rewind button. Nobody is going to bring to life the 6 million Jews that the Germans murdered and the Palestinians are never going to return to the villages Israel took over and leveled in 48. Both are not feasible even if you as a Palestinian refuse to understand this. Israel can only explain this so many times. Obviously, it will take another 50 years at least until the Palestinians understand and in the meantime we will fight. So be it. Nobody said getting and maintaining a Jewish state is going to be just roses or without risk.

PS Could you summarize the points you made in other posts? Sorry I missed them.

January 24th, 2008, 5:00 pm


Sami D said:

AIG wrote:

“Tactical or not, the acceptance by Israel of the partition by the UN and the rejection by the Arabs, puts to rest your LEGAL argument. Legality is on Israel’s side…. The Arab countries chose to interfere in this civil war.”

Rejection of a UN resolution doesn’t mean it’s now LEGAL (let alone moral) to ethnically cleanse the other side. Israel is the main rejector of UN resolutions today, does that mean it’s ok to ethnically cleanse it? The Arab countries chose to interfere in the Israel’s ethnic cleansing (how dare they), and to stop the flooding of neghboring Arab countries with refugees. They were under the pressure of their population to interfere.

AIG wrote:

“The price was high because the Palestinians chose the path of violence”

You mean Palestinians should’ve just peacefully handed Palestine to Zionism? The violence Palestinians “chose” is, first, small in comparison to what Israel did and does to them, second, and mainly, it’s a response to Israeli violence of dispossession and conquest.

AIG wrote:

“History has no rewind button. Nobody is going to bring to life the 6 million Jews that the Germans murdered and the Palestinians are never going to return to the villages Israel took over and leveled in 48.”

First, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is not history; it did not stop in 1948, but is ongoing, via settlements, humiliation, resource theft, building of walls, via making life unbearable for the Palestinians so they would leave. Your delight at the sight of Israeli-starved Palestinians flooding Egypt only adds confirmation to that. “Defensive” wars that Israel launches give cover to a quicker ethnic cleansing bursts. When that’s unavailable Israel settles for Weizman’s “goat by goat, acre by acre” principal. Second, while history has no rewind button, there’s still the issue of reparations and rights; Israel received over 50 billions from Germany, as well as the apologies. Will Israel do the same? While Israel ensured there’s no villages to return to, refugees still have the right to return to their land. Palestinians may choose not to return, but that’s up to them. I realize return is not good for Zionism, but it is a basic human right (no surprise that Zionism stands in opposition to a basic human right). Killing and humiliating them, will only attach them more to the land.

AIG wrote:

“As for 1967, let’s accept your statistics for the moment. 20% of cases were Syrian aggression. No problem, Israel has the legal right to take the Golan even if there is ONE case of unlawful aggression from there (and Syria has the right to take the Gallilee for the Israeli aggressions, I have no problem with that).”

As I wrote, the 20% number was Dayan’s # not mine. The rest of your logic is that of the “morality” of the strong: If you are stronger, you can –AND SHOULD– do what you want, like conquer, kill, steal the resources! Again, that’s Zionism not moral conduct. Indeed your next line says it all: “The Jews deserve one country and IT IS OK THAT THE PALESTINIANS HAVE PAID A PRICE FOR IT.” (My emphasis). (Sounds like another line from 1930s: “Aryans deserve one pure country and it’s ok if the Jews …”) I am not surprised; my goal from responding to your writings (past or future) is of course not to convince you, but to expose, as you helped me do, how Zionism is immoral! (no need to worry about responding to my earlier arguments.)

January 24th, 2008, 6:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Even if the Arab countries were under pressure from whoever to interfere in the civil war in Palestine, their inteferences was illegal and they are the aggressors.

So you lost the legal argument completely.

As for the moral argument, we both know exactly what would have happened had the Jews lost the 48 war. They would be massacred to the last person. All your whining cannot hide the fact that most of the Palestinian misfortune is their fault. It is generally a bad idea to start wars you can’t win because you are overconfident in your abilities. The Palestinians and Arabs chose the path of war and then you complain about its results? In 48 nobody knew who was stronger. The Israeli chief of staff thought the chances of winning were about 50%. The Americans estimated that Israel would lose. It was a toss of the coin. You take stupid chances, you pay the price. If Israel would have lost, that would be applicable to it also. I unlike you, don’t deny obvious facts.

This how your logic works: When I think I am strong, I will use the logic and morality of the strong, hence the aggression against Israel in 48, 67 and 73. When I lose I start whining and try legal arguments. When that fails I try to show how immoral my opponent is while applying double standards like treating the Palestinians like shit and on purpose keeping them refugees forever.

Is it immoral to cause pain in children? Not always. For example, when you are taking out a piece of wood from their finger or when they undergo some medical procedure. All historical actions have consequences that when analyzed in isolation look immoral. The world and history owed the Jews a homeland. Some land had to be found. Palestine was the best and only option. The international community agreed on a solution. The Arabs rejected it and started a war. The result was 22 Arab countries and 1 Jewish state. Looks fair to me. This is no different than the case that a highway has to be built and residents living in its path have to be moved. This “immoral” act happens all the time.

And if you want compensation, let’s talk. But you aren’t getting any land back. Nobody is going to take the “highway” down.

January 24th, 2008, 7:35 pm


Shai said:

Sami D,

I understand your side a lot more than perhaps is comfortable for me to admit. Some 95% of my family was wiped out (gassed, then burnt to death) compliments of Nazi Germany, and the 5% that survived, was willing to do much to ensure their survival, including forming a nation at the expense of others. I don’t think the argument now should be over the legality of what took place in 1948. On that part, I actually believe most international courts would side with Israel, as well as viewing the fighting and driving Palestinians out as a form of self-defense. I understand of course how you view this as ethnic cleansing, though I wouldn’t use those terms. There was no systematic “cleansing”. If there would have been, you would not have seen Palestinian refugees – they would have all been “cleansed”. There was, however, cruel and unthinkable driving out and “erasing” as you called it of many villages, which usually depended on the wills of a particular army commanders in that area. I.e., the Arab villages that still exist today, are usually ones that were spared by a particular general or another, while others were wiped out. Still, as horrible as those actions were (and they were) one cannot possibly compare that to Nazism, or to modern ethnic cleansing like we’ve seen in Yugoslavia, or Rwanda.

The main issue now, as I see it, is right of return, yes or no. While in any other circumstance, where an ethnic minority has been forced out by a past regime, I would certainly expect a right of return to be allowed, here in Israel there is a problem with that. The main problem, is that 60 years have passed, and the state of Israel really has become a Jewish state. Because of the Arab-Israel conflict over all those years, which is still ongoing, most Israelis fear even the thought of losing a Jewish majority in the near future. They would therefore never vote for accepting a right of return of all the refugees. I believe that the most that could be expected would be a partial return (I don’t know how that could be figured, but it would somehow), and of course massive compensation (perhaps far greater than what Jews received from Germany over the years). The “comprehensive agreement” would, at the end, have to include the acceptance of all relevant Arab states, who would incorporate all their Palestinian refugees as full citizens. There is a question here of why this did not happen all these years, and of course the “convenient response” by those states is that had they done so, the world would have forgotten about the Palestinian refugees. Maybe they’re right, but at the very least, those nations could have made the refugees “dual citizens”, and treated them equally like all other citizens (i.e. no “camps”, etc.)

Perhaps in the future, after a generation or two, when Israelis will see that peace really can exist, and that Arabs have stopped wishing to “throw us to the sea”, then our leaders could begin thinking about the apology that is long overdue. As I wrote previously, even American leaders took over 200 years to apologize to native American-Indians, though it was never argued whether the whites committed crimes against them (ethnic cleansing, smallpox).

As for CBM’s (confidence building measures), I very much understand when you say that it is the aggressor, not the victim, that has to create these. But whether you understand or accept it, or not, most Israelis really do view themselves as the weaker side here. You may find it absurd and baseless, but I can honestly tell you that most really do feel this way. I don’t know if it’s a Holocaust-complex that still resides within us, or if it’s a twisted-understanding of 1947-8, or the wars that followed, but the fact remains. Personally, I can completely understand my fellow Israelis viewing themselves as the victim, up until 1967. From that moment on, we were clearly the aggressors, at least when it comes to the Palestinians. By the way, the actual Six-Days War should not be blamed on Israel alone. We know very well today, that the whole thing was instigated by the Soviet Union. The unfortunate result was the vacuum created after the Jordanian army was forced out of the West Bank, and the Egyptian army out of Gaza. Despite numerous attempts to hand these territories to someone on the Palestinian side, there was simply no one there to accept it (as in a “governing body”, not a bunch of “families”). That’s not the Palestinians’ fault, it was their reality. And it’s no excuse for what Israel did with the territories ever since. But clearly, we were no longer the “weak side”, we were the occupier, we were the aggressor, and still are.

As Alon Liel wrote in his article, since in Israel there is not a majority that would vote for either a return of the entire West Bank, or the Golan Heights, we need to find ways of convincing at least 30-35% to move over to the peace camp. To do that, whether it is justified or not, whether it makes sense to you or not, we must create these CBM’s. By showing Israelis that the Syrians aren’t just talking about peace in general terms, but are actually meeting Israelis, and discussing real options and real plans for bringing this about, we’re helping change this political reality within Israel. Even if you’re right about why Sadat got his Sinai (because of war, not because of his visit), which I’m not at all sure you’re right about, if we had another regional war, and many died on all sides, Israelis would STILL have to vote for a return of these territories one day. I’m not sure they would better understand this if hundreds or thousands of them die in a war, than if Bashar Assad visits Jerusalem tomorrow morning, and talks directly to them.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian issue has become much more complicated since the Gaza takeover by Hamas. Hamas has proved that the Palestinians are not united, and that the PA does not truly represent the will of the Palestinians. As such, it is essentially impossible, and now probably plain wrong, for Israel to discuss and negotiate with the PA. I’ve mentioned before that I believe we must now pull out altogether from any formal talks, and wait to see what the Palestinians decide to do from within. We cannot, and must not, influence the outcome. In parallel, we must decide where in the W. Bank we are not going to be 50 and 100 years from now, and begin to pull out. We must of course dismantle all illegal settlements, and all those “legal” settlements which clearly would be handed over if an agreement was made. We must not wait for such an agreement, because right now, whatever would be achieved, would not come with the support of most Palestinians. Perhaps in the near future, if Hamas proves it cannot govern, another majority would take over, and it might win the confidence of the people. Perhaps then Israel would be able to negotiate a final agreement. But for now, we must pull out of probably most of the territories, and leave little for negotiation. What I would have really liked to see in those future negotiation, is actually discussions of compensation, economic relations, humanitarian support, etc. The discussion about whether Palestinians can return to Jaffa, Haifa, Ramla, etc. will have to await another 10-20 years I believe.

Finally, just to really upset my fellow neocon Israelis (most of whom are so patriotic, that they now live abroad, make about 4-5 times as much as the average Israeli, and love to criticize us “doves” while eating at TGIF’s and The Cheesecake Factory for lunch and dinner…), I’ll tell you my personal belief about our region 20-30 years from now. After two-three generations are raised seeing that Jews and Arabs can live together side by side, without violence, with mutual respect, by interacting together, indeed depending on one another (economically), and enjoying the fruits of their peace, an idea will be born that the region should become a UME (United Middle East). I would not be surprised if the model suggested would even look more like the US than the EU, namely that borders would be open, and citizens of the UME would be able to live and work freely in any of its “states”. Culturally, the EU is so varied that it cannot look like the US, at least not for a while. But the future UME can. At the end of the day, our infighting hasn’t lasted thousands of years, but barely a single century. True, the bodies that govern the region today are not democratic, and that would have to change first. But I do believe that the effects of our global-island, and of communication (internet included, look at what we’re doing right this instant…!), would all contribute to a forced change of these systems. There will be no choice for the leaders, they’ll have to either adapt, or be forced out. And that’s why they’ll adapt.

Is all this wishful thinking? Maybe. But I’m willing to keep a printout of these pages for 20, 30 or even 50 years, and if need be, show them to my grandchildren, to prove that I was optimistic enough to consider this a possibility, even now, as terrible things are still happening in our region.

January 24th, 2008, 8:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

In one thing Shai is right. If Asad comes to Jerusalem that would change some of my assumptions about him and I would be willing to reconsider my position. But Asad won’t come, there is nothing to worry about. Just as Hafez didn’t come together with Sadat.

January 24th, 2008, 9:08 pm


yaman said:

Mr. Liel’s attempt to guide the region to peace may be well-intentioned. But it certainly suffers from a few fatal flaws:

1) It links Damascus’ regional interests and activities as if they were based exclusively on territorial sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is in fact not the case since Damascus’ activities are influenced more by its positioning in a regional and international power dynamic rather than questions of territorial sovereignty.

2) In pursuing a road to “peace,” it asks of Damascus precisely what those on the road to war and isolation are asking: the isolation of Damascus from its regional allies (such as Iran, key Palestinian organizations, etc); a change in Syria’s “regional orientation,” which is a euphemism for the abandonment of what it perceives as its interests and independence; a false Syrian sovereignty which does not allow Syrians to live in the Heights, a Syrian military presence (something which Israel has never done, and nobody has ever dared to ask it to do) in the Heights, or even Syrian control of the natural resources on its own land.

3) Finally and furthermore, the only difference Liel’s approach has to that of the hawkish camps is that it seeks mostly non-violent means of eclipsing Syrian independence and sovereignty by bringing it under the wing of US and Israeli control (to serve the interests of those two powers), rather than a mostly violent military confrontation. These are superficial differences at best which might mean no loss of life in the immediate future, but are certainly not a resolution to the current situation.

January 24th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Shual said:

I can only again tell arabs [Sami D] to stop using things, they do not understand. It may be popular, but it gives the impression that arabs can not think of their own.

“Sounds like another line from 1930s: “Aryans deserve one pure country and it’s ok if the Jews …””

1) You can find the methodic manifestation of internal and external enemies “in line” of 1930 in key texts of al-Qubt and his bunch in the near/far-east hemisphere. I can see very much arabs talk about actions of al-Queda, but I NEVER EVER heard of one condemn the plagiarism.

2) To think of a “German character” [in case of americanization], or “Arab character” [dito] is exactly what happens in Israel with the discussions about a “jewish state”. Like in the surrounding arab countries the discussion is an overlay of socio-eco changes and transforming processes [friction between traditionalism and modernism]. The wish of Syrians to decide on their own about the future [including Christians and Kurds and several different sunni-directions] is exactly what Israelis have to discuss and to express. You can see in both countries fundamentalists using excessive xenophobic language. And thats all.

3) People always forget [or do not know, the most of them that threw around NS-comparisons on any possible occasion] that the 4 key principles of the NS-system only described the intervening period of the total war. The total war is the only WAY of the NS-system to GAIN the total power on earth. This final stage of ultimate horror could not be achieved not because some brave americans [or arabs!] saved the earth. It could not be achieved because the system itselve was full of errors.

4) Detectionism: Back in 1943, Germany ran out of … flesh. So the Nazis started a campaign that the vegetarian nutrition is aryan. And thats why all vegetarians of 2008 are Nazis, too.

January 25th, 2008, 2:27 am


norman said:

Looking at what is happening in Gaza and whole Mideast , i do not think that there is any chance for peace , the only way out is an all out war until one side wins and one side loses and i do not mean few days of war but a war till either Israel occupy the Arab lands or the Arabs ( Syria) win and end this no war no peace that is only delaying progress.

January 25th, 2008, 3:57 am


Sami D said:

Dear Shai, Your opening line, as well as the concluding paragraphs, are a welcome step toward bridging the gap. Your courage to recognize what Israel is doing is commendable, but still needs some tweaking, if I may. More on your points:

Shai wrote:

I don’t think the argument now should be over the legality of what took place in 1948. On that part, I actually believe most international courts would side with Israel, as well as viewing the fighting and driving Palestinians out as a form of self-defense. I understand of course how you view this as ethnic cleansing, though I wouldn’t use those terms. There was no systematic “cleansing”. If there would have been, you would not have seen Palestinian refugees – they would have all been “cleansed”.

Ethnic cleansing is the term used by several Israelis from a devoted Zionist Benny Morris, to Meron Benvenisti to Ilan Pappe to describe what Israel did in 1948 to the Palestinians. The term fits exactly the definition: a campaign to drive out a population, by terror, massacre, rape and a desire to remove that natives’ ethnicity to enable the creation of country for the other, preferred ethnicity. It is not mass extermination, it is ethnic cleansing. It is not the ethnic cleansing of Rwanda or the Balkans, nor the Nazi holocaust; it is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. There are similarities and differences with the above, but all are crimes against humanity.

Yes, it was a systematic campaign to drive out most of the population. How else can you create a Jewish State on top of non-Jewish land? Jewish leaders recognized that, and ethnic cleansing is what they had in mind, plotted, planned and executed. Even the theory you advance – an expulsion borne out of war, not design – (Benny Morris’ 1986 one) has been shown to be short. Pappe and Masalha showed it was by design, and it makes sense since, again, no other way exists to create a Jewish state on non-Jewish land. See The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe. You might also want to read the interview of Israeli historian Benny Morris in Ha’aretz here in which he comes out as a true patriotic Zionist, okaying inhumanity to Palestinians for the “higher” demands of Zionism as a true, honest Zionist would do.

Some might indeed see that driving out the Palestinians as a form of self defense. But to think that, one has to forget the context: That the Jews’ then fear of Palestinians/Arabs was similar to the fear John would have if he first were to move in with his relatives into your house against your will, making himself at home, inviting his other relatives too, basically taking over everything and shamelessly planning to turn most/all your house into one for John’s family and relatives. Palestinians rioted (1921, 29, 36-9) when they saw mass emigration of another ethnicity into their land, with the clear and open objective of creating a non-Palestinian state on Palestinian land. It is the Palestinians who had the real fear and would/should be seen defending themselves when they see their land slowly conquered from under their noses.

Again, notice that what Israel continues to do today, constitutes continuation, albeit in slow motion, of the conquest of Palestine. So ethnic cleansing is not something of the past; it is ongoing. The inhumane demolition of Palestinian homes, the denial of permits to build or to live in certain areas, the confiscation of property, the razing of crops (also ongoing against Bedouin Israeli citizens) the locking of Palestinians behind walls, the taking of their water resources, are but a continuation of what went on before. Israelis might be invited to focus on the “self-defense” angle of that, however negligible, but Palestinians are noticing what Israel is doing. More settlements every day, more settlers, more Jews-only roads inside what remains of Palestine (the 22% that is the West Bank and E. Jerusalem) are not a sign that ethnic cleansing — taking more land while pushing more Palestinians out– has really ever stopped. Israel was just busy starving 1.5 million Gazans, or putting them on a diet, as Mr Dov Weissglas noted, (70% of Gazans were made refugees in 1948 so that Israel would maintain a majority Jews), cutting their electricity and supplies. Anyone counting those who die because their respirators or incubators or dialysis machines stopped? Or those 100s of thousands drinking polluted water? Are the starving Gazans expected to provide CBM? Is this crime against humanity a CBM by Israel?

Shai wrote:

“whether you understand or accept it, or not, most Israelis really do view themselves as the weaker side here.”

In fact I do understand and accept that most Israelis view themselves as the weaker side. But that misperception is not the problem of Arabs or Palestinians, but one of Israeli leaders churning out propaganda to control the Israeli population, as is the case of other military democracies. Most Americans were terrified of (the much weaker) Saddam gassing or nuking US cities in 2003, as they were terrified of (the much weaker) Qaddafi in the 1980s. That’s what leaders in democracies do to manipulate their people to accept aggression on other countries, always packaged as self-defense of course. Israeli leaders can make Israelis afraid, to exploit that fear to wage war, or can make them confident, when a peace treaty needs to be signed. They can make Israelis notice Arab overtures for peace (like the many: king Fahd peace plan 25 years ago, to the king abdulla plan 5 years ago, to recognition of Israel’s 1967 borders by the PLO, to the many overtures by Syria), or they can make them not see these overtures, or at best to see them as ruses by supporters of terror. Israeli leaders DO know Israel’s strength, and understand that it is the Arabs who are really terrified of Israeli nukes driving all Arabs into a nuclear holocaust, as opposed to Israelis terrified of Arab rhetoric (not backed by any military might worth mentioning by comparison) of driving Jews into the sea. Syrians are terrorized of what Israel did to southern Lebanon blanketing the area with millions of cluster bomblets after leveling villages, destroying bridges, hospitals, roads, oil depots, power stations, attacking civilian convoys, apartment complexes, committing massacres, and other arrays of war crimes – all in self defense we’re assured. Israelis might be convinced by such “self-defense” and by Israel “weakness,” but the Arabs see the facts — often landing on their heads.

Shai wrote:

As Alon Liel wrote in his article, since in Israel there is not a majority that would vote for either a return of the entire West Bank, or the Golan Heights, we need to find ways of convincing at least 30-35% to move over to the peace camp.

This argument seems central to your message: That somehow, someone preferably the Arabs, need to convince Israelis to know and do what is right, to stop stealing other people’s land (tormenting and starving another people in the process being the byproduct of Israeli “self-defense” that stealing other people’s land in turn produces). So, until we can convince Israelis of such, Israel can continue to do what is immoral against an entire people. That the Palestinians, with Israeli boot on their and their family’s neck, just need to be patient, to try to smuggle out a CBM from under the Israeli boots, until Israelis understand that the Arabs are not inclined to violence by nature, that theft –even from that horrible ethnic group called Palestinians or Arabs—is still wrong. After all, the Indians waited hundreds of years to get an apology.. those greedy and impatient Palestinians. Sorry, but it is the responsibility of Israeli leaders, intellectual leaders, historians, thinkers, philosophers, wise-men, teachers, you, to speak out to convince the Israelis. Gideon Levy and Amira Haas or B’Tselem, or Ilan Pappe or Jeff Halper, have been doing that. I don’t know a Palestinian who wouldn’t bow in reverence to these heroes; they are certainly more respected by most Palestinians who know about them than all the Palestinian leaders. One Israeli CBM would be to honor these people with some awards. But a truly impressive Israeli CBM, on the other hand, would be to STOP building settlements, to STOP demolishing homes, to STOP building Jews-only highways, to STOP taking Palestinian water, to STOP humiliating and killing Palestinians at 500-700 checkpoints (built in between Palestinian cities and towns and villages to make life unbearable), ie a CBM would be for the conqueror to cease NOW the conquering and killing. Is there anything more basic and commonsensical than that? That would really go a loooong way in the CBM arena. The CBM ball is in the Israeli court.

Shai wrote:

Even if you’re right about why Sadat got his Sinai (because of war, not because of his visit), which I’m not at all sure you’re right about …

Check the record: In 1971 Sadat made an offer to Israel similar to his later one (actually more generous). Israel mocked it. Sadat told Israel its rejectionism would lead to war. They mocked him some more. He launched 1973 war, after which the US and Israel realized that it would be best to take the nuisance Egypt out of the conflict, make it a US-Israeli puppet, for the bargain price of the Sinai in return. With Egypt out, the Arabs are weakened and easier to attack and isolate further, as Israel surely did: It invaded Lebanon with massive deaths (20,000 mostly civilians just in a couple of months, which equals the total Israelis killed in wars and Arab terrorism since Israel’s birth!), drove the PLO out, attacked Iraq’s nuclear reactor, intensified repression in the occupied territories, increased colonization, annexed Jerusalem and the Golan, etc.

In closing: Despite the conflict Palestinians and Israelis live in and cherish one land. Both people are like any other: They just want to have normal and peaceful lives. There’s no innate tendency to violence on the part of Palestinians or Israelis. If Israel is willing to apologize sincerely and now not decades later, to the Palestinians, to pay reparations, to allow them to return or to visit their land, to live there if they chose to as equal citizens, (I think a majority might chose not to return) why wouldn’t they both make a great single (binational or otherwise) state? Enough of this trying to draw borders which continue to move in pursuit of Israel’s latest colonies, and enough treating Palestinians as a demographic threat, or the Jewish favoritism innate to Zioinism. In short, enough Zionism! Both people can live together. But before there’s peace, Israel needs to accept the past and to try to correct what’s correctable. If you are familiar with the Arabs as a culture, then you’d realize that they are forgiving and would right away invite you to their house and feed you, welcoming you as one of their own. (When Palestinians rioted in 1929, other Palestinians hid their Jewish neighbors in their homes). But first you have to respect them, and not take their land.

January 25th, 2008, 4:15 am


Shai said:

Sami D,

I agree with most of what you said. There’s no point here discussing points I think we differ on, because at the end of the day, so much has to end, and most of it falls on us (Israelis). It’s a cruel catch-22 which has developed over these 60 years, whereby we do certain things on pretense of self-defense (i.e. “they hate us, so we need to defend ourselves”), then we cause exactly the conditions which make you hate us, then we turn around and say “you see – they hate us!”. Its an endless circle that has been going on for too long. It must be shattered. But we also must be pragmatic, and try to find solutions within the reality that we face, not within a reality we hope would be there.

I kept mentioning CBM’s coming from “your side” (or the Arab side, Syria, etc.), not because I personally need them (I don’t), but because most Israelis do, in order to understand that it is US so very often that created the conditions that brought about our need for CBM’s. There are a number of “heroes”, as you called them, who try to speak out to our nation, telling them of their truth. But they are, unfortunately, deemed almost irrelevant, too extreme, too liberal, etc. And in modern-day Israel, not Israel of the 40’s and 50’s (which was much more liberal, socialistic, etc.), telling Israelis that it is us that need to create CBM’s towards the Palestinians, Syrians, etc. would be almost laughed at. That is our reality, whether you or I like it, or not. There’s nothing fair, or just, about this reality, but it is what it is right now. The only thing that could change it, would be either a very long time that passes in stagnation (unlikely), or a regional war involving all the parties (which will be extremely costly, nothing like the recent Lebanon II), or, yes, CBM’s from the Arab world towards Israel that would convince those 30-35% to change camps. I know what you feel right now as you read this last suggestion, and I understand that feeling. I’m sure if I were in your shoes I would feel the same. It’s unthinkable to you that it is YOU who should calm MY fears down… But my friend, at least for the moment, as of January 2008, that is the yet-further cruel reality of our world and yours.

Most Israelis today are incapable of feeling empathy, or seeing their own misdeeds, on their own. They (we) need help. Personally, I believe we have to start with the “easy cases”, like Syria, because most Israelis do not fear the Syrians as much as the Palestinians who, as we know, hate us… I’m convinced that if Bashar Assad DID come to Jerusalem, and would give the right speech, he would convince enough Israelis to choose peace over war, and to hand back the Golan. When Israelis are reminded once more (after 30 years), that Arabs out there are willing to put the past behind us, and make peace, then I think they’ll be much more open to the idea of giving back the territories in the W. Bank. By then, perhaps the Palestinians will also have a governing body that truly represents their majority, and that controls the entire Palestinian territories, not just the W. Bank.

Reconciliation, I believe, will only start in a generation or two. If Israelis were capable of understanding their part like you wish them to, things could be different, and much faster. But today, they’re not able to do that. Israelis cannot understand and accept suicide bombers, thousands of Qassam rockets, etc. Forget their own crimes, they certainly cannot consider those. But we must get out of this impasse. The region is becoming far less stable, with an Iranian bomb on the way, more unconventional capabilities developed by multiple nations, and a steady rise in tension on the ground. When things head in that direction, there’s a tendency at some point, to release tension, by going to war. And if a regional war takes place, with 3 or 4 fronts, and if by chance someone would make the mistake of introducing unconventional weapons (enough 2-3 little chemical bombs in the middle of Tel-Aviv at a busy time of day), the catastrophes that would ensue could be unthinkable. We could so easily set back this region decades if not more. Things are that fragile right now, I believe.

We don’t have a choice, and we don’t have the time, to do what is right. We now have to do what is smart, which is to traverse the potentially “easiest” and quickest paths towards peace. To me, and I believe Alon Liel as well, Syria is that path. I’m truly sorry that things continue to come at your expense, I wish it could be different right now. Please believe me when I say that. If I thought we could do it your way, I would spare no effort in doing so.

January 25th, 2008, 1:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I’ve mentioned before that I believe we must now pull out altogether from any formal talks…

Finally, just to really upset my fellow neocon Israelis (most of whom are so patriotic, that they now live abroad…

Most Israelis today are incapable of feeling empathy, or seeing their own misdeeds, on their own.


Just a small observation, good posts are not related to the length of a response.

Anyway, I find it interesting that a peace proponent such as yourself is advocating the “pulling out” of any formal talks? And you call us “neocons”? “Neocon”, to me, is a good word. TO me it means you are prepared to negotiate and also expect reciprocity. “Liberal” OTOH, means you are either not expecting reciprocity or (as the Democrats want) you simply want to run away or ignore the problem.

Also, I see you like to talk about “most Israelis”. Most Israelis were for the Oslo facade. Make sure you remind your audience. Also, remind your audience that Ehud Barak stated that he would have joined a terrorist organization if he were born a Palestinian:



Therefore, I suggest you speak for yourself only. There is no Zionist here that doesn’t want peace, and there is no Zionist here who doesn’t want the Palestinians to live in their own state.

Jordanian “Neocons” speak out:

Gaza border remains breached / Associated Press

Chanting slogans urging Islamist Hamas militants to resume suicide bombings against Israel, thousands of Jordanians marched in the capital on Friday to protest against Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Ultimatum set by Egyptians to Gazans – to return to Strip by 7 pm – expires, but tens of thousands of Palestinians are still in Egypt. Earlier, Hamas militants knock over another section in border, allowing even more people to pour into Rafah area

About 8,000 activists from Jordan’s mainstream Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets to support their ideological allies, the Palestinian Hamas group, and hail militants’ success in breaching the Gaza border in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

“The people of Jordan are with Hamas,” chanted the crowds who called on the Islamist group to resume a campaign of suicide bombings and intensify rocket attacks against Israel.

“Oh Hamas hit them with Qassam rockets … Bring the suicide bombers to Tel Aviv ,” they chanted, waving the green flags of Jordan’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

January 25th, 2008, 5:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Your post drives home the real lesson. The problem in the middle east is not Arab against Jew. The problem is political Islam. Unfortunately, the Arabs never learn. People like Alex support Asad who supports Hamas which are the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. This strategy does not make sense long term because it legitimizes political Islam. Asad makes the same mistake when he supports Nasrallah and the Ayatollahs.

This game will end in tears. You cannot unleash political Islam and expect to control it forever. In the end, Asad’s strategy will backfire and the Muslim Brotherhood will take over Syria. Look how Hamas have made a fool of Mubarak. He cannot control his own country’s border and now will be stuck with a fait accompli, Hamas have also taken over the north of the Sinai.

January 25th, 2008, 7:40 pm


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

I thought you agreed to AIG’s good advice of leaving us alone for a while… But I certainly appreciate your good suggestion about response length to good posts. You’re quite confident of yourself, aren’t you? In fact, there’s probably little anyone out there can teach YOU, isn’t there? I’m always impressed by people like that – I tend to “look up to them”, they’re my “role models”. I’m also glad you like to be called a Neocon, certainly more than a Liberal (who doesn’t expect reciprocity), it seems to fit your outlook on things quite well. But people like you are irrelevant to any discussion with the other side (our enemies), because you’ve got nothing positive to add. You only come with your outlook on things, uninterested and quite likely incapable of considering views and interpretations different from yours. So why are you here? To badger us “liberals”? Is that what gets you going each morning? If you can’t bring yourself to say anything positive, or to seek for a solution that works not only for you, but also for the other side, then why are you wasting time typing letters on this forum? Like I wrote earlier, if you think we’re all fools, then let us be fools, and take a hike.

January 25th, 2008, 7:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are not great at showing any humility. How have you shown that you are willing to consider ideas other than yours? Your argument is basically a very weak one: “We have got to try to do something”. That was the argument for Oslo which I supported. But Oslo turned out to be a huge mistake for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Let me tell you when I stopped supporting Oslo. After Rabin was murdered, Peres was interim prime minister. In the period between Rabin’s murder and the election of Netanyahu in the summer, there were a huge number of suicide bombings that Arafat allowed. It was clear to me that he didn’t want peace. After all, if he would have done nothing, Peres would have been elected and would have been a great partner for peace. But Arafat on purpose undermined Peres.

It was clear that large parts of the Israeli population including me, were wrong about Arafat’s intentions. The right were right (ha ha). In that case, it would have been better not to do anything rather than do Oslo which cost a lot of Israelis their life and Palestinians their life and their economy.

This is exactly what AP is arguing. How do you know that making peace with Asad is going to make things better? I think it will make things worse and put more Israelis in danger unless Syria is a democracy.

So yes, the Israeli “left” (liberals or whatever) need to be badgered because they were seriously wrong about Oslo. You owe us more substantial arguments than “what else can we do?” and why the best solution is not to wait until there is democracy in the Arab world. And personal attacks are not making your case any bit stronger.

January 25th, 2008, 8:39 pm


Shai said:


Though I thought we weren’t going to address each other for a while (your good suggestion), I guess that’s now changed. My problem with you and your like is that you look at life through monocles (single lens), and when things don’t go as you want them to, you change camps, you immediately judge, you label, you do anything and everything, EXCEPT try to make better. I agree that Oslo didn’t deliver what we hoped for. But it DID do a lot of good as well, which most of you neocons would never admit. The former Arab-embargo (certain Western products) was lifted, China and much of Asia opened up to us for the first time, most of Europe began siding with us, etc. Oslo failed, but in some realms also succeeded. Still, Oslo was an attempt, and that can’t be taken from it. And attempts also have their value. We don’t know everything about Arafat, but it seems that at times he wanted peace, and at others, he didn’t. Isn’t that something that could also be said about Israel? Are you THAT certain that “we” always want peace? Or do we want peace only when conditions are right, as we see and demand them? Can that be okay for us, but not for the other side? You know as well as I do that the only reason we’re even bringing up the idea of a Palestinian state is because of those murderous acts of terrorism. Barak was right, if he had been a Palestinian, he too would have belonged to such an organization. Hard for us to hear such honesty, isn’t it? Almost makes him a “traitor”, no?

By not being capable of considering peace in the Middle East well before any partner nation becomes democratic, it is you who is churning water. Your demands are so unrealistic (regardless of whether they are the optimal solution, if it was up to us to decide), and will never be realized prior to an agreement, that they’re absolutely irrelevant. You can chirp on for eons, but no one serious is going to be listening. Instead, why don’t you come up with ways we CAN make peace with dictatorships, and ways we CAN thereafter help influence the birth of democratic processes within these nations?

As for personal attacks, I think you’re the LAST person that should say that, no? I still haven’t fully recovered from your “useful idiot” label…

January 25th, 2008, 9:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I am not making demands on Syrians or anyone. I am simply asking: How do you know that trying to make peace with Asad will not make things worse?

Sometimes there is just no way to solve a problem, but any attempt to solve it, or even trying to solve it, makes things worse. That is what I think about peace with Syria. And it is not because I do not want peace with Syria. It is just my realistic assessment of the situation.

And what do you mean no one is listening to what people like me are saying? You yourself admit that the majority of Israelis are against peace with Asad.

About Oslo, I am certain that Peres wanted peace and Arafat didn’t. That was the tipping point where Oslo fell apart. Netanyahu was against Oslo from the beginning, and Arafat made sure Netanyahu would get elected.

January 25th, 2008, 9:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I vote to set AIG’s angle aside for the time being.

No offense, AIG, but by your own admission, “sometimes there is just no way to solve a problem.”

So, here is what I propose: pretending that there is a way to solve this problem, how do the more hopeful Syrians on this blog imagine that Syria can possibly pursue peace while maintaining its cards (Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, etc.)?

This is not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely interested in a response, preferably a detailed and concrete one.

At some point, cards must be played, chips must fall, levees must break, you get the idea.

How do you envision this happening?

January 25th, 2008, 11:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

You’re quite confident of yourself, aren’t you?


I’m quite confident about several things, and not very confident about other things. As far as the Middle East is concerned, I am quite confident about how to make peace. And it certainly is not be the method Yossi Beilin and his liberal cohorts brought to the Israeli public: “The Oslo Facade”.

Israelis once had the reputation of being tough negotiators and tough on the battlefield. Oslo and the last few years have showed this is no longer the case.

In fact, there’s probably little anyone out there can teach YOU, isn’t there? I’m always impressed by people like that – I tend to “look up to them”, they’re my “role models”.

I have learned much from the interlocutors on this forum. Most Arabs here do not recognize your state and your government, yet you blame your fellow Israelis more. That’s quite an interesting lesson, don’t you think? I also learned that there is a minority of Arabs who are sick of the Arab “foreign policy” of aiding and abetting terrorism. But because they are in the minority, and because they are afraid of their government or anyone else monitoring their posts, they do not speak out quite as vocally as you, AIG or myself. That’s quite a lesson too.

But people like you are irrelevant to any discussion with the other side (our enemies), because you’ve got nothing positive to add.

Yes, and the Hamas supporters on this page, well they have so much more to contribute….I understand habib;)

You only come with your outlook on things, uninterested and quite likely incapable of considering views and interpretations different from yours.

I come with my outlook. I am proud of my outlook. And I will continue to share my outlook, until Professor Josh and his sidekick throw me off. Sorry for rocking the boat. I know I can be a nudnik sometimes.

So why are you here? To badger us “liberals”?

Yes. And also to provide a different point-of-view. To remind you that not everyone is sympathetic to Nasrallah and his ilk.

Is that what gets you going each morning?

Yes. That and kawa.

If you can’t bring yourself to say anything positive, or to seek for a solution that works not only for you, but also for the other side, then why are you wasting time typing letters on this forum? Like I wrote earlier, if you think we’re all fools, then let us be fools, and take a hike.

Dear Shai,

I haven’t heard one nice word about Israel from a number of the posters here. Are they always “negative”, or are you just trying to kiss someone’s ass? The same ass that wants your Zionist Entity “wiped off the map”?

January 26th, 2008, 2:43 am


Alex said:

Akbar my friend,

Please remember that Hafez Assad told Clinton that Oslo will fail. You should listen to the Syrians in the future.

But seriously, if you want to know why you have not heard one nice word about Israel here, I will tell you. Because you and AIG are not the best communicators. You made many Syrians here more negative about Israel than they were before they had to read you and AIG on a daily basis.

Did you notice how Aussama and offended both were very polite and respectful to Alon and Shai?

Shai has been here for 2 days only. It will take him some time to undo the effect of your z years of negative publicity for Israel.

January 26th, 2008, 8:22 am


Alon Liel said:

Dear yaman,

I think your comment is very important to the Israeli readers. This in fact is the whole purpose of our correspondence – to undrestant the way each of us, on both sides, are thinking.

I understood that for you, in Syria, the mere fact that we attach importance to the breach of your military alliance with Iran in case of a peace treaty, is seen as an intervention in the independence of Syrian decision making. You see your right to maintain your friendships as part of your soverignity and rightly so.

Our problem is that in our eyes, signing a peace treaty with Israel and staying a military allay of a country or of an organization that we are in an active state of war with us, can not go together.

Another question is if your relations with the contemporary Iranian regime is an ideological alliance or is it a marrige of convinience. We, in Israel had a long time military alliance with the South African apartheid but are ashamed of it today. To keep the wrong ally is not a sign of strength or independence, it is usually a sign of waekness. We realy think your President, Bashar Assad, is not an ideological ally of Ahmedinagad (I hope I spell his name correctly).

Please keep writing – it is helping us to better understand the situation.

Alon Liel

January 26th, 2008, 9:12 am


Shai said:

AIG, Akbar Palace,

If badgering liberals is what you’re all about, then go find yourself an arena that’s into S&M, and have a ball. Here, at least from what I understand, the purpose is quite different. Though not an easy undertaking whatsoever, in fact, perhaps as close to impossibility as one could be, the goals here are to bridge the conceptual, emotional, and physical gaps that exist between Israelis and Arabs (Syrians in particular, because of this particular forum). We are trying to open up to one another, to listen to one another, and to not rule out anything right away. When you read Sami D’s comments, though as a Palestinian talking about his own people’s misery, how can you not at least identify for a second, or two, with what they are going through? How can you not understand that we, Zionists, are much to blame for their suffering? How can you only continue to blame them, or their leaders, for their suffering, and take no responsibility on yourself? You’ve always got an answer to that, besides “yes, I am to blame here, I did and am doing terrible things to the Palestinian people”. But no, your answer at best will include some admission, but quickly accompanied by “but the Hamas, and the Qassams, and the suicide bombers, and the terrorists…” Of course you’d never spend a second considering WHY all these came about, only that since they’re there, we must fight them. We’ve become experts at creating self-fulfilling prophecies (The Arabs Hate Us).

You refuse to consider peace with dictators, pretending to know that by so doing, we’d find ourselves in worse situation that we’re at now. What record of omniscience do we have? You base such nonsense on the case with Arafat and the Palestinians? You mean to say that Assad as a powerful leader of the Syrain nation is like Arafat was in the 90’s? No, we won’t know anything until we try it. Barak also didn’t know that his overnight pullout of Lebanon would come at 0 casualties, and that the amount of soldiers dead per year since the pullout would be about 99.5% less than it was during the average 18 years beforehand. No one knows anything for sure. But there are calculated risks that leaders and nations have to take sometimes, and returning the Golan to its rightful owners (even if they are dictators with ulterior motives), in return for peace with that dictatorship, is more than likely a smart “gamble”. What reason on earth would the Syrians have for not accepting this peace? What’s the worst that we’ll have – Syrians like the Egyptians, that are at best tepid, but quite likely hating us until we end the Palestinians’ suffering? Is that unreasonable? If it was the other way around, would YOU as a Syrian suddenly embrace the Jews while they continue to occupy your cousin’s land?

People like Alon Liel, and myself, see the difficulties that lie ahead, but find no reason to either give up, or wait for that great wave of Democracy you and George W. Bush keep dreaming of. You’re unrealistic, and you’re willing to gamble by believing time is on our side. Well, viewing the growing pressure that is pressing many around to consider military action against Iran isn’t enough to demonstrate the fragility of the situation? Suppose we attack Iran, together with the US and even France, and we destroy 99% of their current capabilities. What do you think is awaiting our future 5 years from now? Or what do you think is awaiting the citizens of the Galil, Haifa, Hadera, and perhaps even Tel-Aviv in such an eventuality? Our region’s barrel of TNT is so close to bursting, plunging us into a bitter war on multiple fronts which, in my mind, could be bloodier than all previous wars combined. Are you willing to take that risk, when a dictator called Assad has been reaching out his hand in peace for some time now, almost begging us to start talking? After all, we KNOW that one day, a year from now or 50 years from now, the Golan will return to Syria. So what are we waiting for? What is a better way to pressure Syria to alter its nuclear aspirations, or its active military alliance (not political alliance) with Iran, peace, or stagnation? Like with the Palestinians, the only way to hope to have peace is by giving the other side something to lose, and especially something that is theirs in the first place.

You want us to make peace when ideal conditions exist, as defined by us. That will never happen – mark my words. And no, the majority of Israelis are not against peace with Assad (like you), but they’re against a return of the Golan right now. If Assad would take the risk and show up in Jerusalem tomorrow to address each one of us, and to show his sincerity in the most intimate way (in person), I would bet most Israelis the next morning would change their mind about the Golan. If they believed Assad, they’d choose peace over a bloody future. What we’re trying to find in this forum, is the way for these so-called CBM’s to appear. What’s you’re proposing, waiting for Democratic nations to first appear in the region, will bring us closer to ICBM’s than to CBM’s…

January 26th, 2008, 11:24 am


Shai said:

AIG, Akbar Palace,

One more thing I want to try to make clear. You neocons like to paint us “liberals” as weak people that are so easily willing to give up on land in return for a quick, fake peace. Well, let’s set things straight. I don’t know if the average Palestinian, or Syrian, or Lebanese, or Jordanian, or Egyptian, is going to continue to dream of throwing us to the sea, even after we sign all the peace agreements in the world. I don’t know if Arab and Muslim children aren’t born with innate hatred towards Jews (though I have a suspicion they’re not). But I do know this – that if I one day have to fight again to defend my country and my people, I prefer doing it when I know they have no legitimate claims against me. When the international community is on my side, and not on theirs. Why is the entire world willing to accept 7 years of daily Qassams on Sderot? If the Palestinians had a state of their own, and such rockets would continue to be lobbed, wouldn’t we finally have the legitimacy to bombard Palestine like never before? I am ready to fight for the existence of Israel day and night, to sacrifice myself and my children if need be to ensure the continued existence of the Jewish people. But I’m not willing to do so, while I know I’m an occupier, an aggressor, causing terrible suffering upon a people that deserve nothing more than I do, but a state they can call home, running water and electricity, food on the table, employment, and the knowledge that no foreign army or nation is master of their fate. Freedom is something that all people deserve, not just us. And when they’ll have their freedom, they’ll finally have the reason to stop hating us. But not a minute beforehand.

January 26th, 2008, 12:00 pm


wizart said:


Why would Israel still be at war with Iran or any country after its conflict with Arabs has been resolved with peace and justice?

Do you disagree that the older conflict needs to be resolved first?

Is Israel interested in pursuing clean sources of energy and sharing its high technology with Syria and Iran to further develop electricity the way the French/Russians help develop alternative sources of energy not only in their own country but elsewhere too?

Who benefits from war other than arm dealers and suppliers?

Who are the biggest manufacturers of weopens? How will you deal with their future loss of income in case peace was finally at hand?

More questions may further lead to better understanding as well.

January 26th, 2008, 12:15 pm


Shai said:


First, I want to thank you for the good suggestions you made earlier about how to conduct this discussion. Second, I believe that nothing would make us happier and more proud, than to develop and share our technologies together with Syria, Iran, Palestine, and any other nation in the region. But what Alon is concerned about is the active military (not political) alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. Most Israelis today find that to be the main issue. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” stuff is really working well on influencing public opinion here, and we need to find a way to change that image. I’ll continue to say it until I’m blue in the face (and then some), but I know that the most effective way to do so would be to have Assad come to Jerusalem. Most people I say this to (non-Israelis) brush it off right away. But I’m sure the same would have been the reaction prior to Sadat’s visit. Public opinion here has to regain confidence in the sincerity of the Syrian leader in his “strategic and historic decision” to make peace with Israel. We have to find the way.

January 26th, 2008, 12:26 pm


wizart said:


I appreciate your critical analysis and value your courage to pursue peace despite the lack of ideal environment for it.

“Courage is not lack of fear. It’s going ahead despite the fear.”

Isreal has a strong military aliance with the United States, the most powerful country in the world, and nobody is asking her to cut off her military nor financial alliance with anybody.

Peace will prevail when Olmert or his future alternative is strong enough to make peace with a strong Syria which believes in peace.

Syria is no stranger to democracy AND it has a strong leader.

January 26th, 2008, 12:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let me answer your last question first. When the Palestinians have a state after a peace treaty with Israel I am sure that you will always have some splinter group that will not accept the peace with Israel and will continue lobbing rockets. It will of course be funded by Iran and/or Syria. The Palestinian government will say they are against it but that they are too weak to control it.

Who are we going to bomb then exactly and what good will it do?

Your basic mistake about Asad is that he has already a lot to lose, namely his control of Syria. That is how he should be pressured. Giving the Golan to Asad will not help the average Syrian and therefore will not created anything more for the average Syrian to lose.

Let’s play your game. If I were a Syrian what would I want? Simple. I would want freedom, democracy and economic opportunities. Not the Golan. Giving Asad the Golan is not going to make anybody like us more and is not going to mitigate any security risk for Israel because what you ask for are things that cannot be measured or supervised. How would you know and verify that Syria does not get aid from Iran and supplies Hizballah? They will always deny everything like they do now. And if they do still work with Iran under the table which they certainly will, what will you do? Go to war to recover the Golan?

The way to pressure Syria is to make it clear to Asad that he is risking his regime. We should learn from the Turks on how they were able to make Asad stop supporting Kurdish terrorists.

January 26th, 2008, 2:17 pm


Shai said:


What keeps amazing me is, that you don’t even bother to ASK Syrians what they want now and need. You claim, under pretense, that they can’t tell you because they fear disclosing the truth. That’s a bunch of you-know-what, because it’s extremely easy for ex-Pats living abroad to tell you exactly what they think, and what their families (parents, uncles, grandparents) still living in Syria want. Stop being a champion of democracy on their behalf, and start being a champion of peace on yours. But, I somehow have a feeling you won’t be doing the latter any time soon…

January 26th, 2008, 3:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are quite a few Syrian opposition parties but their members don’t ususally post here. Bashmann used to post but hasn’t done so in a while. If you listen to them you would know that the problem of the average Syrian is the same as that of any other person.

Nobody on this site would argue that given an opportunity, a majority of Syrians would happily immigrate to the West. In fact most poster’s families did. Ask yourself, why?

The answer is simple: they want freedom, democracy and economic opportunities. This is presuming nothing. That is what most people in the world want and it is not surprise that Syrians want these things also.

But you know what, let’s ask the Syrians on this blog: What does the average Syrian want?

January 26th, 2008, 3:15 pm


Shai said:

Walahi, that must be a first for you! Careful, you might still change…

January 26th, 2008, 3:19 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Akbar my friend, please remember that Hafez Assad told Clinton that Oslo will fail.

Alex –

Did Assad also tell Clinton (or anyone) that peace would fail with Eygpt and Jordan?

Actually, one doesn’t need to ask someone else if peace is possible. Every individual can make an assessment of whether someone can be trusted enough unless the individual is deluded.

But seriously, if you want to know why you have not heard one nice word about Israel here, I will tell you. Because you and AIG are not the best communicators.

Alex –

I’ve heard a few good words about Israel here, but the posters are not regulars. And I’m willing to bet that before we arrived, the same Israel bashers were bashing Israel at every opportunity. Spare us the excuses Alex. You aren’t speaking to the “Yafeh Nefesh”.

You made many Syrians here more negative about Israel than they were before they had to read you and AIG on a daily basis.

Yeah, sure.

Did you notice how Aussama and offended both were very polite and respectful to Alon and Shai?

Of course, because Alon and Shai love to blame everything on their Zionist State.

Shai has been here for 2 days only. It will take him some time to undo the effect of your z years of negative publicity for Israel.


I am please Alon and Shai are here. I think this will be valuable for the forum. AIG and I can plead Israel’s case with anyone who is interested. If Noam Chomsky, Alan Dershowitz, or Hanan Ashwari want to post here, I welcome that as well.

January 26th, 2008, 3:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

[comment deleted]

AIG, you will need to stop this Netanyahu nonsense. I told you before that I will start removing any comments related to your crusade for democracy in Syria and comments intended to start a useless long argument with others. Dont reply to this message.

January 26th, 2008, 3:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AP said:

As far as the Middle East is concerned, I am quite confident about how to make peace. And it certainly is not be the method Yossi Beilin and his liberal cohorts brought to the Israeli public: “The Oslo Facade”.

So then, what?

January 26th, 2008, 4:30 pm


ghat Albird said:

The emotional logic expressed by the gentleman calling himself AIG. Is tantamount to an understandable position of basically. “I beat your ass and you have to eat my shit until you can convince me that you have had enough and will henceforth behave in the manner i got you accostumed to?”.

One is almost tempted to accede to the logic of AIG’s posture and reserve his right, dedication and determination to “overthrow the sob” and do unto him what has been done unto me. Or as the ex-colonial power used to intone, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The Palestinians, Syrians and others impacted by Israel/US policies, actions have no choice in coming to the realization that as Winston Churchill said ” you gotta fight fire with fire”. And since that is the preferred way by the Israelis and supported by their angels then any decision or course of actions they come up with has already been been decided by others. In other words they are boxed into one choice and only one choice and its not even one of their own.

As the oft quoted carpet weaver said, “the moving finger having wrote moves on”.

January 26th, 2008, 5:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

ghat Albird,

First, welcome to the shit dinner! The Jews have been feasting on it for 2000 years. We are always happy to share some with others.

Your position is tantamount to “if I make mistakes I do not have to pay any price for them because whatever happens it is never my fault”.

Sorry, I can’t relate to that. You cook it, you eat it. If it is shit, cook something better next time.

How about taking responsibility for Syria and Egypt escalating the situation in 67 into a war? Do you need a reminder of the rhetoric in 67 promising to throw the Jews in the sea?

January 26th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Sami D said:

Dear Liel, Your sincerity, like that of Shai, is appreciated. If I may comment on some of what you wrote:

Liel wrote:

“Our problem is that in our eyes, [Syria] signing a peace treaty with Israel and staying a military allay of a country or of an organization that we are in an active state of war with us, can not go together.”

The issue is not how to convince the Iranians and Syrians that they ought stand on their hind legs, roll, jump hoops to persuade Israelis they sincerely want to live in real peace; the issue (for you) is how to bring the Israeli perception of reality (as you say “in our eyes”) close to reality. Again, Israeli leadership controlling propaganda and fear, misleading Israelis to think that Iran is a threat, is the issue. They can make Israelis scared, by pointing at plentiful belligerent Arab/Iranian/Hamas rhetoric (like driving Jews into the sea), or they can make them confident by pointing to all the overtures and hoop-jumping (like Syria’s been doing, making peace overtures, rebuffed by Israel) when a treaty needs to be signed.

Iran is not a threat to Israel, certainly not as much as Israel is a threat to Iran. Israel can wipe Iran off the map if necessary. The strong is a threat to the weak; only propaganda can make people in democracies think otherwise. On the other hand, what Iran might indeed threaten, with its support of Hezbollah or the development of its industry and armaments and alliance with Syria, is Israel’s and American hegemony over the region. Iran, Syria, Hesbollah are not supposed to be able to defend themselves against “us”. Add to it that having a lot of oil and gas and not be a US-Israeli client is unacceptable to the master. That’s how a mafia don views things. But US-Israeli leadership can’t sell that to their population; they can, on the other hand, sell fear: Ahmadinejad will wipe Israel off the map, just like Hamas will send “the Jews” and their nukes into the sea with Qassams, or Saddam was gonna nuke Washington 5 years ago, and Qadhdhafi’s assassin roamed Pennsylvania avenue 25 years ago. When the stick of the dictator is unavailable to lead the population into military adventures (as in Israel and the US), manipulating fear of an outside “evil giant” works best.

Iran’s religious mullah, lead by Khamenei, who, unlike Ahmadinejad, have real power in Iran, have stated more than once that they agree with and will go with the Arabs when they sign a peace treaty with Israel based on the international consensus (1967 borders, refugee rights, etc). Anyone in Israel noticed that, (or the Hamas statements showing willingness to recognize Israel beyond 1967 borders, or its truce on suicide bombings)? But again, regardless of what Iranian leaders do or say to really promote peace, Israeli leadership can make their people notice these important confidence-building measures, or they can point to Ahmadinjad’s rhetoric (and take it out of context/mistranslate when necessary) when aggression to achieve obedience is necessary. Israeli leadership can easily say to its people that “our intelligence indicates that Iran is readying its nukes or missiles or whatever against Israel” for Israelis to go back in line of backing aggression — or “pre-emptive self-defense”. All the Iranian attempts to placate Israeli public opinion can disappear in one second, at the finger snap of Israeli/US leaders.

Furthermore, regardless of what extremes Syria goes to show Israelis it is “cross-my-heart swear-to-die” sincere about peace, Israel won’t sign a peace treaty unless Washington sees it in its interest doing so, like Syria accepting a full puppet position, like Mubarak and Sadat, subordinating their foreign policy to US-Israeli interests. Saying it is a matter of what Israelis think or feel is of marginal importance, not least because Israeli leaders can make Israelis think what they want, as elaborated above.

Liel wrote:

”We, in Israel had a long time military alliance with the South African apartheid but are ashamed of it today. To keep the wrong ally [ie Syria keeping Iran] is not a sign of strength or independence, it is usually a sign of waekness.”

I don’t think there’s a comparison between Israel’s alliance with the racist, Nazi-sympathizer apartheid regime of South Africa, with Syria’s alliance with Iran. The mullah’s of Iran are the byproduct of US toppling of democracy in Iran and installing a brutal puppet dictator, not by coincidence was also an ally of Israel, who helped him train his brutal SAVAK. Israeli alliances (like those with Mobutu or Central American mercenaries and death squads) are based on dominance of the poor; Syria’s and Iran’s (however dictatorial their regimes are) is largely based on self defense. Mullah influence inside Iran will wind down once the US and Israel leave them alone. A menacing posture on the other hand, strengthen Islamist influence in Iran and everywhere.

January 26th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Shai said:

Sami D,

Unfortunately, I once again have to agree with most of what you say. There are a number of issues which I think differently on, especially when it comes to Iran being a threat to Israel, or Egypt being a puppet of US/Israeli interests. I think you may be underestimating either the potential threat Iran could pose to Israel (and other nations) should it acquire a few nuclear bombs, or the ability of Egypt to act very much in its own interests, which have quite often been contrary to US/Israeli ones. Having said that, I completely agree with you about the issue of fear. But, let’s be honest, isn’t fear something ALL leaders use, in all nations, when things don’t go their way? I think it’s a real shame that most citizens fall prey to these campaigns, and that is exactly the main hurdle to peace in our region. What I’ve been suggesting, time and again, is for Assad to come to Jerusalem, exactly so that he’ll bypass our leaders, and speak directly to every man, woman, and child in Israel. Israelis would have NEVER given up on the Sinai if it wasn’t for the historic, but more importantly emotional, visit of Sadat to Jerusalem. Too many leaders, advisors, generals, national estimators, in and around the Begin government were against peace with Egypt, considering Sadat’s overtures a hoax. Sami, believe me when I tell you that although I was only 8 years old at the time, I clearly remember adults and children old enough to understand, with tears in their eyes when they broadcast live his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. With that courageous act, Sadat managed to shatter those walls of fear you speak correctly of. Having lost hope in our leadership (Barak, Olmert), I have no alternative but to hope Assad can find the courage to come and do the same to us, 30 years later.

By the way, on the issue of Iran, I personally think quite differently from most Israelis. The way I see it, if Iran is and plans to be, no threat to Israel, then certainly any type of alliance with Syria is harmless, even after we sign a peace agreement. However, if Iran does plan to pose a serious threat to Israel, then here I actually PREFER an alliance between Syria and Iran. What is better for Israel – for Iran to be isolated in the region (and the world), or to have allies that by chance are at peace with Israel? Plus, as I’ve stated before, I honestly believe that peace with Syria would begin the much needed process of the shattering of walls of innate distrust, suspicion, and hatred that exist between Israelis and Arabs in the region. Undoubtedly, peace would also influence our relations with the Palestinians, and will drive us to finally put an end to our conflict.

January 26th, 2008, 7:37 pm


Alex said:

Farewell George Habash (1926-2008)

Sami Moubayed

For the past year, I have been teaching my students a course called “The Palestinian Cause” at the Faculty of International Relations at al-Kalamoun University. We review Palestinian politics from 1918 to 1993. Heavy emphasis is placed on three ‘giants’ of the Palestinian struggle, Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem (1920-1948), Yasser Arafat (1965-2004), and George Habash. I have been writing about Palestinian politics for nearly 10-years now and was never really a fan of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). I always had greater sympathy for the late Arafat and former Fateh veterans like Faysal al-Husseini (Abu al-Abed), Salah al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), and Abu Hasan Salameh. George Habash was—and this is something that must be said on the day of his passing—finer and more honest than them all. He was an impassioned defender of Palestine, and a firm believer in its nationhood. He had an unwavering dedication to his cause, a and a strong moral fiber that reflected on his policies and career, which spanned over a 40-year period. George Habash represented a very antithesis of present-day Palestinian politics: suave, urbane, AUB-educated, secular, independent, and unmarred by financial and moral improprieties. Perhaps his very difference from the ultra-religious Hamas as well as from the ultra-accommodating Fateh was the reason behind his decision to steer clear from public involvement in Palestinian politics as of the mid-1990s onwards.

He had no other life than defending the Palestinian Cause. He will be missed by the generations that grew up listening to his inflammatory speeches, and watching the abundant achievements of his military and political career.

George Habash—better known by his nom-de-guerre—al-Hakim, was born on August 20, 1926, in Lod, Palestine. During the Palestine War of 1948 his family was expelled by Haganah forces towards Lebanon. Habash was a medical student at the American University of Beirut (AUB) when he met Wadih Haddad, another student of the Faculty of Medicine. After graduating first in his class in 1951, he worked in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, and ran a clinic together with Haddad in Amman. He was a founding member of the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM) in 1952, inspired by the charismatic leadership of the new strongman of Egypt, Gamal Abdul-Nasser. Habash was accused of plotting for a military coup that aimed at toppling King Hussein of Jordan in 1957. He fled to Syria before being convicted in absentia, and took refugee in the Syrian-Egyptian Union (known as the United Arab Republic) that had been created by Nasser in 1958. His residency in Damascus was brief–and so was the union–for he had to flee to Lebanon after the UAR broke up in 1961.

After the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, many Arabs lost faith in Gamal Abdul-Nasser. This prompted the transformation, led by Habash, of the Palestinian ANM into the radical (PFLP) on December 11, 1967. Habash became the PFLP’s first Secretary-General. Habash was briefly imprisoned in Syria in 1968, but escaped. In the same year, he also came into conflict with long-time ally Wadih Haddad, but both remained in the PFLP. Habash wanted to refrain from military activity that would embarrass the Palestinians in the international community. He wanted to launch attacks inside Israel. Hadded wanted an international battleground for the Palestinians, to make the world remember that there existed a people—a people in pain—called Palestinian.

At a congress in 1969, the PFLP re-designated itself a Marxist-Leninist movement, and a new faction emerged headed by Nayef Hawatme and Yasser Abd Rabbo, forming the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Under Habash, the PFLP was criticized by the international community for a series of military acts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These tactics, labeled as terrorist in the post 9-11 world, made Habash, the PFLP, and the Palestinian Issue, front page news in the international media. Back in 1968, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said that the “Palestinians do not exist.” Habash and Haddad proved to her that she was wrong.

The PFLP came to blows with Arafat when both were based in Jordan. Habash wanted “not only military but also psychological warfare’’ on Israel, claiming that they had to’’hold the Israelis under permanent pressure.” Arafat disagreed with this policy, preferring a more accommodating policy, given rising tension between the PLO and Jordan’s King Hussein. Arafat was overruled when on September 6, 1970, the PFLP hijacked four jet aircraft and landed them in Jordan. One TWO Flight 741 from Frankfurt and Swissair Flight 100 from Zurick Airport landed at Zerqa, also known as Dawson’s Field, a remote desert airstrip in Jordan formerly used as a British Royal Air Force base. The PFLP then hijacked an El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam (but this was foiled and hijacker Patrick Arguello was shot to death and his partner Leila Khaled was turned over to British authorities in London). Two hijackers prevented from joining the El Al flight instead hijacked Pan Am Flight 93, a Boeing 747 diverting the large plane to Beirut and then Cairo rather than the small Jordanian field. A fifth plane, BOAC Flight 775 from Bahrain, was hijacked on September 9 by a PFLP sympathizer and brought to Dawson’s Field in order to pressure the British to free the legendary Leila Khaled. For many years, the incident was known as “the blackest day in aviation,” until it was surpassed on September 11, 2001. While the majority of the 310 hostages were transferred to Amman and freed on September 11, the PFLP segregated the flight crews and Jewish passengers, keeping 56 hostages in custody, and on September 12 they used explosives to destroy the empty planes in front of the international media.
This event—among other things—sparked off the September 1970 crisis between King Hussein and the Palestinians. As a result, the PFLP was heavily criticized, and internally, Wadi Haddad was accused of embarrassing the movement, and sidelined politically. The PFLP in 1970 renounced international terrorism, but a faction led by Haddad (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations (PFLP-EO) continued to carry out operations abroad, with the PFLP leadership doing little to prevent it.

After the events of Black September 1970, the PFLP went to Lebanon. Habash’s health began to fail him, and he began to lose his position in the organization. The Palestinian National Council (PNC) adoption of a resolution viewed by the PFLP as a first step towards a two-state solution in 1974, prompted Habash to lead his organization out of active participation in the PLO and to join the Iraqi-backed Rejectionist Front. Only in 1977 would the PFLP opt to rejoin, as the Palestinian factions rallied their forces in opposition to Anwar al-Sadat’s peace overtures towards Israel. During the Lebanese Civil War that broke out in 1975, PFLP forces were heavily decimated in battle against Syria and its Christian militia and Lebanese government allies. Later, the PFLP would draw close to Syria, as alliances shifted, but PFLP involvement in the Lebanese war remained strong until the US negotiated evacuation of PLO units from Beirut in 1982, and continued on a smaller scale after that. During this time, Habash lived in Damascus, Syria, and the PFLP became close to Syria’s late President Hafez al-Assad.

After the signing of the Oslo Peace Agreement in 1993, Habash and the PFLP again broke completely with Arafat, accusing him of selling out the Palestinian revolution. The group set up an anti-Arafat and anti-Oslo alliance in Damascus, for the first time joined by such non-PLO Islamist groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which had grown to prominence during the first intifada of 1987. Under the watchful eye of al-Hakim, the PFLP joined the parliamentary elections of 2006, under a new name called The Martyr Abu Ali Mustapha List, and won only 4.2% of the votes. Habash was unimpressed, but not surprised, since the landscape had changed tremendously in Palestine after Oslo. Although his health was failing him he refused to return to the Palestinians Territories, so long as they were under occupation and a flawed peace treaty with Israel.

To the Arabs, he is one of the giants of the ‘resistance’ of the 20th century. To the Israelis, he is a ruthless terrorist whose legacy will continue to haunt Israeli society long after his passing.

January 26th, 2008, 8:41 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Heavy emphasis is placed on three ‘giants’ of the Palestinian struggle, Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem (1920-1948), Yasser Arafat (1965-2004), and George Habash.

Dear Sami Moubayed,

If you think George Habash was a “giant” of the Palestinian struggle, then it is no wonder the Palestinians are still suffering.

Good luck with your students and your madrassa.


January 26th, 2008, 10:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is Alex that posted it. He probably believes Habash was a great person. In fact he was an idiot. He was the cause of Black September which led to the Cairo agreement and the Lebanese civil war.

If any Lebanese Arab thinks Habash was a hero, I would like to know that. Did you notice the Moubayed does not even mention the connection? Again, typical denial of reality and understanding of history. Until the Arabs stop lying to themselves there will be no progress in the middle east.

January 26th, 2008, 11:44 pm


Shai said:

In the meantime… the upcoming Vinograd Report in Israel is going to rock the boat enough that, according to some, new elections will take place as early as October of this year. From Syrian’s point of view, which Prime Minister would you prefer to see at the helm? I know you trust none of them, but still, which is the least-bad? My personal opinion, though I don’t consider myself a hawk, is Netanyahu. I think it will always be easier for a PM on the Right to negotiate with our neighbors than for one from the Left. When Assad speaks with Netanyahu, he’ll know that he’s got most of the nation behind him when it comes to peace. When Barak tried that, it didn’t work with either the Syrians, nor the Palestinians. A bit of an absurd, if you ask me, but that’s the reality.

January 27th, 2008, 4:54 pm


Akbar Palace said:

It is Alex that posted it. He probably believes Habash was a great person. In fact he was an idiot.


And in fact, he was a ruthless murderer who targeted non-combatants. I recall this massacre because I arrived at Lod airport a month after it occurred.


When Assad speaks with Netanyahu, he’ll know that he’s got most of the nation behind him when it comes to peace.


Don’t hold your breath. OTOH, you can bet with a Likud-led government, a repeat of the Oslo Facade will not be on the menu.

January 27th, 2008, 6:12 pm


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

Really? As far as I recall, the largest amount of land given back to Arabs was by none other than two Likud leaders… So yes, if you mean that the Likud won’t go on silly adventures in Scandinavia, you’re probably right – it’ll just negotiate an actual agreement, and then deliver. Print a copy of this – and in 2 years’ time, read it again…

January 27th, 2008, 8:09 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As long as you vote for Netanyahu, I have no problem with any of your analysis. Are you going to vote for him?

January 27th, 2008, 8:51 pm


Shai said:


I certainly won’t share that information with someone who called me a “useful idiot”… (you see, I took it personally – can you imagine what such comments would do to our fellow Arab readers/commentators?)

But from what I’ve written, you can certainly see that I’m suggesting the absurdity of our politics, that enable a candidate who pretends to identify with the side opposed to land “giveaways”, and to talking with terrorists, and to pulling back troops, etc. to be the only one capable of doing so. And, when such candidate achieves power, he does exactly those things, and often more. I still remember Netanyahu saying he’ll never shake the hand of the terrorist Arafat… If I’m not mistaken, he even kissed that very terrorist…

January 27th, 2008, 9:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well at least you are useful. Some people are just idiots.

As for the Arabs readers, I am not here to make friends, I am here to probe their positions until I understand them.

If you believe in what you say, will you vote for Netanyahu? If not, you really don’t believe what you are saying and are just muddying the waters.

We are trying to get an honest discussion going here. Are you going to be part of it or are you going to dance around the issues?

January 27th, 2008, 10:06 pm


Alex said:


Mr. Netanyahu is not my favorite : )

But this is none of my business. Your next prime minister is yours to choose.

January 27th, 2008, 10:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you very much. How about you allow the Lebanese the same option?

January 27th, 2008, 11:03 pm


ugarit said:

AP shows incoherence: “Good luck with your students and your madrassa.”

LOL. You still think that madrassa is some pejorative label?

January 27th, 2008, 11:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How many nobel prize winners have come out of religious islamic schools? How many murderers? Case closed.

January 28th, 2008, 12:07 am


Alex said:


I have an even better idea:

Both Syria and Israel stop interfering in Lebanese and American elections … no Syrian intelligence, no AIPAC … nothing.

January 28th, 2008, 12:10 am


ghat Albird said:

AIG’s stopper.

How about this view zhlub. How many Swedish speak Arabic or Hindu?

Or this. Would there be a Nobel Prize if some who one does not speak Swedish, Norwegian, Yiddish or French created Algebra, etc,.

January 28th, 2008, 12:29 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How about the Syrian intellignece only uses persuasion like AIPAC does and stops murdering people?
Who is stopping Syria or the Arabs of creating its own PAC? The whole budget of AIPAC is only $60 million. Instead of complaining, create the a PAC of your own.

AIPAC uses methods that are democratic and legitimate. Even Walt and Mearsheimer say that AIPAC is legitimate. They just think it advocates things that are not in the US interest. The Syrian intelligence uses murder and car bombs.

January 28th, 2008, 1:09 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

ghat Albird,

Who cares what someone invented 1000 years ago? Where would the Arabs be if the Europeans and Americans did not invent cars that needed oil?

Today schools are ranked by how well they teach science and math. How well are the Arab schools doing that? The scientific output of the Arab world is pathetic especially given the fact that the Arabs invented algebra and therefore have potential that they can’t actualize because of the way the chose to organize themselves.

January 28th, 2008, 1:15 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You changed the meaning of my post with your editing.
“Who cares what someone invented 1000 years ago? Where would the Arabs be if the Europeans and Americans did not invent cars that needed oil?”

I added that these are stupid questions that are irrelevant.

January 28th, 2008, 2:03 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai said:

Really? As far as I recall, the largest amount of land given back to Arabs was by none other than two Likud leaders…


Since when did I say the Israelis should NOT give back land for peace? If you can find me saying that, I’ll take it back and apologize.

I recall stating a few days ago, that no Zionist here is AGAINST recognizing a Palestinian State. OTOH, I don’t think all of your friends here are ready to recognize your “Zionist Project”.

The Likud-initiated peace treaty with Eygpt has worked out rather well. (To the dismay of many of your friends here.) But if you want to join the Likud so you can give up more land (for real peace), that would be a good start. Just be patient. I know Menachem Begin was.

But if your not patient, and you want to force a peace that no one wants (like the Labor-initiated Oslo Treaty), you’ll literally be putting your life in jeopardy.

January 28th, 2008, 3:55 am


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

I’m glad you “trust” the Likud so much, for their patience of course… Remember, Begin was labeled a “traitor” within the Likud and, in many ways, so was Sharon. Few within the Likud agreed with these two when they decided to give up land, and ever fewer thought they’d been patient enough.


You’re right. Some people ARE just idiots…

January 28th, 2008, 5:13 am


Alex said:


The peace treaty with Egypt did not really work well. I wish if you could read Arabic, there is an excellent opinion piece by Egyptian Journalist Mamoun Fandy in the Saudi paper Asharq Alawsat.


Mamoun is one ofAmerica’s favorite Arab writers.So please don’t assume he is a typical Arab hardliner.

January 28th, 2008, 5:19 am


Akbar Palace said:

Remember, Begin was labeled a “traitor” within the Likud and, in many ways, so was Sharon. Few within the Likud agreed with these two when they decided to give up land, and ever fewer thought they’d been patient enough.


Sharon survived peace with Eygpt quite nicely (he eventualy became Prime Minister). So I humbly disagree, the peace with Eygpt did not hurt Sharon’s career one iota. Don’t put so much emphasis on labels and curses, in this part of the world, they have such a short lifetime.

Cheer up, we can make Israel smaller if you just give the Likud a chance!

I wish if you could read Arabic, there is an excellent opinion piece by Egyptian Journalist Mamoun Fandy in the Saudi paper Asharq Alawsat.

I would like to read Arabic one day! Please send free software!

Alex –

I found your picture on the internet…there’s no denying…!


January 28th, 2008, 12:18 pm


Shai said:


I believe we’re completely off track. Though that may be the very wishes of the AIG’s and AK’s out there, why don’t we return to talking about the Track II proposals that Alon Liel discussed? We’re still interested in hearing comments and suggestions from those who believe in peace. I think we’ve heard more than enough from the “democratic-soothsayers”.

January 28th, 2008, 1:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why should Alex and the other pro-regime commenters engage with you? From their point of view, you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

First, you tell them how wrong Israel is in everything and then you tell them that they have to make the first move. It doesn’t make any sense. If as you say Israel is in the wrong, then clearly we have to ammend our ways and it is ridiculous to ask others to make moves for our benefit. And what your position implies is one of two things:
1) Either Israelis know that they are in the wrong and are just mean spirited and do not want to compromise. Or,
2) Israelis are stupid or naive and do not understand that they are in the wrong.
In both cases you portray a great picture of Israel and I thank you for it. That is what makes you so useful.

Then you tell Alex and company how Netanyahu is the answer because only the right can bring peace. However, you yourself will vote for left wing parties, though you can’t admit it because of your strange strategy of arguing which only causes confusion.

In the end, your posts explain why the Israeli left has failed miserably in bringing peace and in convincing Israelis: No coherent strategy and a confusing message to Arabs.

January 28th, 2008, 2:13 pm


Alex said:


I must admit that AIG is partially right. On the one hand I think you are an excellent communicator and this is an opinion that most Syrians on this blog already expressed through their friendly tone when replying to you and really communicating instead of simply arguing like they do with AIG and Akbar.

However … the positions I have been reading are not encouraging. We already discussed them on Creative Forum and you remember that none of the Syrians who participated there was close to liking the Peace Parc, asking Syria to cut relations with any of its neighbors, or anything beyond asking Syria to help you get security and peace and good neighborly relations out of returning Syria’s occupied Golan Heights according to UN resolutions.

I did start writing a long summary (long and boring) to your proposals. But I wanted to see if others here are more flexible that I am. But I realize they are not. They are not replying to your proposals because you are a very polite and respectful man and they don’t want to disappoint you… I think.

Anywy .. I will post what I wrote so far, it is full of typos and unfinished sentences I’m sure, but since you want to read my reaction to the specific points in Alon’s proposal, here are the parts related to CBM’s and Syria’s reorientation.

Comparisons with Sadat/Egypt

To understand why President Assad will probably not decide to emulate President Sadat’s dramatic visit to Israel, even though that visit was useful in changing Israeli public opinion, it is important to analyse both the similarities and the differences between Egypt’s approach and experience with the peace process in the late seventies, and Syria’s options today.

President Sadat inherited Nasser’s Egypt which despite losing the 1967 war, was clearly perceived and recognized as the leader of the Arab world. Following their army’s mediocre performance in the 1973 war, Israeli leaders reached a conclusion that they cannot risk facing another war with both Syria and Egypt. They had three options. Option one was to settle with Egypt alone. Option two was to settle with Syria alone. Option three was to settle with both Syria and Egypt. The price of settling with Egypt was the return of Sinai to Egypt. The price of settling with Syria was the return of the Golan but only as part of a comprehensive settlement… Hafez Assad was not going to sign a separate agreement and desert the Palestinians, or even the Egyptians.

Since Egypt was the largest Arab country and since Henry Kissinger concluded that President Sadat is a much easier negotiating partner than President Assad, there was no doubt that taking Egypt out of the Arab world was the more efficient option.

Sadat knew that Israelis (leadership and government) were convinced of the value of neutralizing Egypt. When he got assurances from a very neutral and trustworthy President Carter that the United States will make sure that the Israelis will not change their minds about the full return of Sinai, President Sadat felt confident enough to take the risky step of visiting Israel.

President Bashar Assad today has a much more unfavourable and uncertain environment.

1) Instead of President Carter, President Bush, vice president Cheney and Eliot Abrams are now in charge of Syria and Mideast policy. They are far from being neutral; they are not friendly to Syria, and they are not motivated to help. This is the same team that considered the option of invading Syria as soon as they finished with Iraq, and changing the Syrian regime by force.


2) With Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan out of the picture, Syria is not perceived as a direct and serious threat to most Israelis. Moreover, Syria is perceived as a weak Baathist country which is about to fall apart. To most Israelis, there is no attractive incentive to reach a compromise with a harmless Syria today.

3) At the time of the Camp David accords there were no satellite TV stations or internet access. President Sadat was able to convince a majority of Egyptians that he has successfully negotiated a future return of the occupied Palestinian territories including Jerusalem. Today, President Assad cannot, even if he wanted to, attempt to make such promises to his people. If Syrians are not ready for a separate deal with Israel then Assad will not be able to deal with it the way Sadat did.

4) In 1977 Egypt’s Mideast was stable. There was no Iraq war on Sadat’s border. There was no International pressure on him to Interfere/Not interfere in the neighbouring Lebanon. There was no Al Alqaeda, no Iranian threat to a nervous Israel …

5) In 1977, Israel’s historic leaders were supportive of the peace process with Egypt. They were all there …Begin, Rabin, Perez, Dayan, Wiseman, Abba Eban. Today, Israel’s current leadership is both divided and unstable.

It is not that Assad is not able to take risks, he takes carefully calculated risks. It will not be wise for him to jump for now.

Relations with Iran/Hamas/Hizbollah (Flipping Syria)

The question of Syria’s relations with Iran can be clarified by quoting Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel’s intelligence agency. Here is what David Ignatius wrote about his interview with Mr. Halevy:

Halevy suggests that Israel should stop its jeremiads that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. The rhetoric is wrong, he contends, and it gets in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.

“I believe that Israel is indestructible,” he insists. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may boast that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, but Iran’s ability to consummate this threat is “minimal,” he says. “Israel has a whole arsenal of capabilities to make sure the Iranians don’t achieve their result.” Even if the Iranians did obtain a nuclear weapon, says Halevy, “they are deterrable,” because for the mullahs, survival and perpetuation of the regime is a holy obligation.

“We must be much more sophisticated and nuanced in our policies toward Iran,” Halevy contends. He argues for a combination of increased economic pressure and a diplomatic opening that attempts to speak to Iran’s “national aspirations” and its shared interests with America and the West — and even Israel.

Halevy, who made many secret visits to Iran during the days of the shah, argues that rather than rattling sabers the West should be looking for dialogue with Tehran. “A creative and constructive approach to Iran’s concerns — not the dreams of their fanatic president to effect the demise of Israel — might move them to see that their self-interest would be better served by taking alternative paths.”

We have argued about Halevy’s strategy in the comments section of this post. https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=473

I understand Israel’s fears from Ahmadinejad’s Iran. He is not very friendly, and Iran is a powerful nation hwhich is in the process of acquiring nuclear technology. But I share Halevy’s opinion that dealing with Iran should not be through the use of force or even through sanctions. You should try to gain Iran back as a friend. You can… but only when you also try to gain, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians as friends… comprehensive peace, not separate deals. I’m afraid Israel is not close to agreeing with this suggestion.

Ahmadinejad’s aggressive statements are a reflection and a reaction to what is happening in Washington. The perceived hostility of the neocons in Tehran (and the rest of the Arab world) is tremendous. Ahmadinejad was the defiant response to this administration’s use of force and threats.


I have always argued that by next year, when this administration leaves the White House, there will be a similar change in Tehran.

Many things can change for the better in 2009.

Until then, flipping Syria is mostly about weakening Syria. … No one is asking the Saudi King to flip (he received and kissed Mashaal). No one asked turkey to flip even though Turkey has good relations with Iran and Hamas. No one asked Egypt to flip even though Egypt allows most of the weapons to Hamas to go through the Egyptian border with Gaza.


Why is it that only Syria needs to flip? … Because Israel and the United States want to weaken Syria. Just like this American administration decided that only Iraq and Syria need to be converted to “democracy” by force.

Iran will not be an easier target if you force Syria to damage its relations with Iran. Iran will simply become more tense and more unpleasant.

The same can be expected in the case of Hamas. Kicking Mashaal out of Damascus has one probably outcome … relations between Syria and the Palestinians will deteriorate. Syria worked for decades to become perhaps the most trustworthy Arab country in the minds of the Iranian and Palestinian people, and Israel is asking Syria to “drop those cards”. These are not only negotiating cards (they are partially), but they are instruments for cooperation in the future for bridging the gap between you and the other parties you need to live with in the Middle East.

If you are seeking peace with Syria in order to be more ready for destroying the Palestinians and Iranians then it is a big mistake. If not, then why do you place such a strong emphasis on destroying Syria’s relations with them?

Many analysts simplify Syria’s relations with Iran to “Iran invested over a billion in Syria’s economy”. This is strange logic. Qatar alone invested much more in Syria without anyone analyzing Qatar’s influence on Syrian policies. Syria worked hard the past 30 years to gain Iran’s friendship and trust, the same way Israel used to work hard on keeping Iran a close ally under the rule of the late Shah. Iran is much more than economic or military help. Read Friedman’s opinion on Iran:


If you ask Iran’s 71 million people “name Iran’s closest friend”, the vast majority will probably pick Syria. Israel and the united States are asking Syria to trade away the close friendship of 71 million people?

So what will Israel get instead of “flipping Syria”?

1) Hizbollah will easily convert itself into a political party and turn its weapons to the Lebanese army. Peace with Syria will mean peace with Lebanon as well. It will mean that Hizbollah is much more moderate and harmless, but not weaker. If Israel is only interested in security then Syria would be happy to help. If Israel is interested in revenge for Hizbollah’s “victory” last summer, then Syria will not be able to help.

2) Hamas will accept to moderate its views. It will practically agree to not interfere even if it officially does not accept Israel’s right to exist. Hamas will agree to a 50 year truce for example if Israel agrees to respect UN resolutions 242 and 338. Again, if Israel wants peace with the Palestinians, then this is something Syria can probably help with. If Israel wants to destroy Hamas and its supporters, then Syria cannot help.

3) Iran … it is up to Israel and the United States to regain Iran’s friendship. When Israel settles with Syria and Lebanon and the Palestinians everything will be easier. Iran will not have frustrated Palestinian people who need its assistance and backing. Syria will not need any military support from Iran (if it really exists today). Hizbollah will be a political party. And Iran will not threaten Israel in such a happy Middle East … that would make Iran quite unpopular with all the Arabs, not only the Israelis. As Halevy said, the leadership in Iran is interested in its own survival. It will not commit suicide by striking Israel with nuclear weapons. They are the protectors of Shia Islam, they will not want to disappear leaving the stage for Saudi Arabia to promote its own interpretation of Islam.

The Iranian threat has been highly exaggerated. It is more likely that there is a need in Washington and Israel to teach the Iranians a lesson for their daring to openly challenge both countries.

Confidence building measures:

Both countries need to produce some CBM’s. Syria is not the only side which needs to reach out.

The Syrians can try this one:

Organizing a large event to honor Syria’s Jews. Large numbers of Syrian Jews would be invited to Syria to participate in the festivities. it will show Israelis that Syria is proud of its Jews even though they are now outside. Syrian Jews would be very happy to come back to Damascus and Aleppo for few weeks to participate in such a festival.

Israel can simply start to use a different tone from the one used in Washington the past few years.

There are no closed doors but … Treating Syria as an equal is a prerequisite to a successful start, or finish, of the peace process… Keep that part in mind and you will know how to get Syria more motivated.

January 28th, 2008, 4:05 pm


norman said:

from the January 29, 2008 edition –
No way to avoid Hamas now
Excluding the militant group won’t secure peace in the Middle East.
By Helena Cobban

Damascus, Syria
Last week, the Palestinian militant organization Hamas masterminded a spectacular “bust-out” into Egypt of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, where Israel has been maintaining a tight siege for many years. That bust-out reinforced the strength of Hamas’s popular support among Palestinians and has started to change the political map of the region.

Isn’t it now time for the United States to find a way to deal with Hamas, directly or indirectly? How can President Bush realize his aim of creating a viable Palestinian state this year if his administration continues to pour energy and funds into the crushing of Hamas, which has repeatedly shown that it has the support of a large proportion of Palestinians?

Yes, over the years, Hamas’s armed branch has committed many violent acts that deserve criticism. But so have numerous others in the Middle East – including militants in Iraq whom the US is now funding and trying to bring into the political process there. Hamas, unlike those newly embraced networks in Iraq, is already an established, broad political movement that has proved its support in national elections. In parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats.

The US had supported those elections. But, instead of embracing the newly elected Hamas leaders, Washington and Israel confined their contacts instead to the Fatah movement’s Mahmoud Abbas. They have encouraged Mr. Abbas to take steps against Hamas and its supporters. Meanwhile, Israel has imprisoned elected Hamas parliamentarians and hundreds of their supporters. And in the past two years, it has tightened the economic screws on Hamas’s main stronghold in Gaza several times.

It was the latest tightening of those screws that provoked the streaming-out of Gazans into neighboring Egypt on Jan. 23. Militants used land mines to fell long sections of the wall along Gaza’s seven-mile boundary with Egypt, and legions of Gaza’s 1.5 million hard-pressed residents then thronged into Egypt to buy everything from food to cooking gas to medicine. Egypt’s security forces fell back. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in several Egyptian cities the day before had shown President Hosni Mubarak he’d have a high – perhaps fatal – political price to pay if he continued to collaborate with Israel in its siege of Gaza.

Meanwhile, the longstanding military tit for tat between Israel and Gaza-based militants from Hamas and other groups has continued. Israel’s extremely well-armed military has killed more than 800 Gazans, including 379 civilians, in the past two years. The Gaza militants have hit Israel with primitive and virtually untargetable rockets that have killed 18 Israelis since June 2004. Civilians on both sides live in fear.

On Jan. 16, I interviewed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in his well-guarded office here in Damascus. He told me Hamas is interested in reaching a cease-fire with Israel, though he said Israel still rejects this idea completely. He said that Hamas – which has a long and close relationship with Egypt’s main political opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood – considers its support within the Arab countries an important asset. While we talked, Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, called. During their five-minute conversation, Mr. Meshaal asked President Saleh to work hard to help lift the siege on Gaza.

Meshaal said Hamas seeks a better relationship with the US. “We are not against the American people, but against this administration. We are not against American interests. Every state has the right to have its own interests – but not at the expense of other peoples.”

The State Department’s designation of Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization had caused big problems for the organization, he admitted. But “American policy is also affected badly,” he argued, “because it finds itself fighting the wrong wars.”

As several past Hamas leaders have done before, Meshaal expressed Hamas’s willingness to engage in a multidecade “truce” (hudna) if Israel agrees to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, including in Jerusalem, and respects the rights of Palestinian refugees. These are not easy conditions to fulfill, and no Israeli leader is likely to fulfill them anytime soon.

Hamas has a greater chance of success winning a more limited cease-fire in the ongoing military exchanges with Israel. Any such cease-fire would have a strong positive impact on Gaza (and on southern Israel). Also, if Gaza’s people can start connecting more freely with the world economy through Egypt, their situation could be further stabilized.

During Mr. Bush’s recent trip to the Middle East, he said some welcome things about his desire for regional peace. But no one can build such a peace while continuing to exclude (and energetically combat) a large, well-rooted political movement such as Hamas.

Washington needs to find a way to talk to the leaders of the movement. Longtime friends in Egypt can help establish a channel. The war-shattered peoples of Gaza and of southern Israel need Washington to help, not hinder, the reaching of a cease-fire.

January 28th, 2008, 5:26 pm


Shai said:


I was sorry to hear that you even-partially agree with AIG… 🙂 Let me make a few things clear:

a) Although I do believe that Israel is very much in the wrong, when it comes to the Palestinians, and in general towards the Arab world today, I’m still asking you (the Syrian side) to try to come up with CBM’s. AIG calls it asking you to make the first move. I’m not sure it has to be the first move, but I am suggesting that we need to see some “moves” or CBM’s. How do I rationalize that? Simple – most Israelis do not think like me, that they are wrong, and therefore we either wait until they do (which might take a year or twelve), or we try to find ways of convincing them that Syria is not such a bad place with such malintentions. If I thought there was a chance in the world to convince most Israelis that it is us that have to create CBM’s towards the Syrians and Palestinians, trust me, I wouldn’t be asking anything of you…

b) As for your (extremely in depth) analysis and response, I must say Alex, and trust me it’s not every day that I say this to “the other side”, I am almost 100% in agreement with everything you’ve said. I agree with you about Assad’s case being a thousand times different and tougher than Sadat’s. I agree with you that Israel should not ask Syria to abandon its allies and its alliances. I agree completely with Halevy’s assessment of Iran, and the way we should be treating it (trying to approach it diplomatically, certainly not militarily). The only thing I think I disagree over is how we treat Hamas. It’s quite difficult for an average Israeli to accept a “50 year truce”. It sounds almost childish. What I believe we should do is, rather, tell Hamas that if it is the ruling party in Palestine, then as long as it does not recognize (fully) the right of Israel to exist as a nation, then Israel will have no relations with Palestine whatsoever (not economic, not even diplomatic). If the Palestinians elect a party to power which doesn’t recognize us, it is as if the people themselves do not recognize us, and clearly there must be consequences to that. Of course, we are talking about a situation after we pull out of the West Bank, through agreement, or unilaterally.

c) The idea of the Park, or of CBM’s, is not a make-or-break situation. What Alon (and I) are suggesting, are ideas that could sound better to Israelis, and might make them change their mind. I personally don’t like the Park idea so much, and I certainly don’t agree with weakening Syria, not because I love the notion of a strong Syria, but because I believe it is against the interests of Israel to seek a US-puppet, and one that has little regional influence. The opposite, and I think I wrote that earlier, in order to help Israel deal with Iran (diplomatically), it is clearly better that Syria remains a strong ally of Iran. Same goes for Hezbollah and Hamas. But I believe Alon is trying to say “Ok, you guys don’t like our ideas, no problem. Help us find some other ones, that might change public opinion here in Israel… even if clearly it is NOT your responsibility to do so.”

d) I must say that the idea of inviting Syrian Jews back to Syria for a few weeks sounds like a fantastic one. But Syria must allow Israeli media (as many as possible) to cover it live, to interview Syrian officials, etc. That would be the greatest CBM I can think of, short of Assad taking that unimaginable trip.

But you see, Alex, this is exactly what we wanted to achieve here. This kind of discourse, ideas, etc. Please let all your readers/commentators know, that by all means, we MUST hear their opinions. We are not afraid of hearing that we’re fools (god-knows we’ve heard enough of that from your AIG and AK), and that our suggestions are wrong. What we want to hear, however, are suggestions of how to still move forward. Any way whatsoever, but forward. No idea is off the list, at least not with THIS group of Israelis. We’re here to listen, to learn, and to think, rethink, and rethink yet again, everything we thought was true.

January 28th, 2008, 7:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I also like the idea of inviting the Jews back to Syria. They should all be given a free copy of the Tlas book that explains how they murder christians for ritual purposes. A lecture in which they will told that they are son’s of apes and pigs by the religion deputy minister will follow. Then, they can tour their property that was confiscated by the regime. In the evening they can have dinner with Mesh’al who will explain to them why Israel needs to disappear. If they have time, they can also visit Aleppo and lay flowers in commemoration of the Jews murdered there in 1947.

I am sure the Syrian Jews will be waiting in line to come to this trip.

I have a better idea. If Asad wants to portray himself not as a complete asshole, how about sending Eli Cohen’s remains to Israel? This is an humanitarian gesture that will not weaken Asad in any way and will generate good will. Unfortunately, Asad is not man enough even to do that.

January 28th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Alex said:


why doesn’t Alon send Joshua a new piece explaining his position one year after the Peace Park idea was publicized?

Joshua can publish that as an updated post.

As for Hamas … remember the conditions when they were elected.

Israel can “remove them” from power in two ways

1) One year of consistent and honest movement towards reconciliation with the Palestinians… no new settlements for example, a new constructive tone.

2) Helping moderate but strong and respected leaders appear on the scene and succeed.. no puppets, no corrupt security officers. You know that there was a WSJ article that said that Hamas has documents that prove Fatah’s security people were spying for Israel in Arab countries … how do you expect the Palestinians to elect such “moderates”?

If you succeed .. then I don’t see why the Palestinians will elect Hamas again.

As for AIG’s garbage (sorry) … you know we discussed all these points before … I told you that Tlass wrote bad things about Syria’s Christians too (saying that their loyalty to Syria must be questioned) and that does not mean his opinions represent Syria. I told you he lives a very liberal life and this is his way of pretending he is religious (by attacking other religions).

You know very well that nothing is confiscated … Syria’s Jews are welcome to come back and take their properties which are well protected by the sate. You know that Assad received already 11 of the leaders of the Syrian Jews in New Jersey two years ago who were very pleased with what they heard from the president.

And did you read this one? .. the Rabi who was invited to pray in the Umayyad mosque this month? .. Syria’s grand Mufti invited him …


Those CBM are already there, you need to stop escaping them.

January 28th, 2008, 8:26 pm


Shai said:


Yes, you’re right – those are indeed CBM’s. Problem is, few Israelis ever hear of them. Let Syria enable not a one journalist Ron Ben-Yishai to secretly enter Syria (under another passport) and cover his story on the attack near Deir-ez-Zur, but rather, 10 well-known journalists, with their TV crew, to go and see and cover all these issues (not Deir-ez-Zur :-)) And then, we’ll have about 5 million articles, and news bits, and documentaries, on all the major channels, and then these CBM’s will become most effective. I know the Mukhabarat won’t love the idea, but never mind, they’ll enjoy the company for a few days… This could really be good, no?

January 28th, 2008, 8:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What you are saying about the property of the Jews is completely and utterly false. The property is confiscated and Jews cannot do anything with it. For example, they cannot sell it and take the money. Do you deny this?

From http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/jewref.html

The Treatment of Jews in Arab Countries Prior to Expulsion


Jews had lived in Syria since biblical times. The Jewish population of the area increased significantly after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Throughout the generations, the main Jewish communities were to be found in Damascus and Aleppo. In 1943, the Jewish community of Syria had 30,000 members. In 1945, in an attempt to thwart efforts to establish a Jewish homeland, the government restricted immigration to Israel, and Jewish property was burned and looted. The government then froze Jewish bank accounts and confiscated their property.

Syrian Jewry supported the aspirations of the Arab nationalists and Zionism, and believed that the two parties could be reconciled and that the conflict in Palestine could be resolved. Following Syrian independence from France in 1946, however, attacks against Jews and their property increased, culminating in the pogroms of 1947, which left all shops and synagogues in Aleppo in ruins. Thousands of Jews fled the country, approximatly 10,000 to the United States, and another 5,000 to Israel, and their homes and property were taken over by the local Muslims.

For the next decades, those Syrian Jews that remained were, in effect, hostages of a hostile regime. They could leave Syria only on the condition that they leave members of their family behind. Jews were stripped of their citizenship, and experienced employment discrimination. They had their assets frozen and property confiscated. The community lived under siege, constantly under surveillance of the secret police.

The last Jews to leave Syria departed with the chief rabbi in October 1994. Prior to 1947, there were some 30,000 Jews who made up three distinct communities: the Kurdish-speaking Jews of Kamishli, the Jews of Aleppo with roots in Spain, and the original eastern Jews of Damascus, called Must’arab. Today, only a tiny remnant of these communities remains.

January 28th, 2008, 9:41 pm


Alex said:

The door has closed on Syrian-Israeli negotiations

Itamar Rabinovich

29 January 2008

Daily Star



Beirut — The prospect of a Syrian-Israeli peace settlement looms over the Arab-Israel and larger Middle Eastern arenas as a potentially significant but ever elusive issue. On the eve of the Annapolis conference, the dormant Israeli-Syrian track seemed infused with new life; a few weeks later it appears blocked yet again.

Such fluctuations are not new to this track. At the height of the post-Madrid peace process, when the Clinton administration and four Israeli prime ministers actually gave the Syrian track preference over the Palestinian track, several intense efforts were invested in achieving a Syrian-Israeli deal. They ended in failure and tilted the peace process toward the Palestinians and Jordan.

During the first six years of the current decade, the Israeli-Syrian track seemed to have lost all relevance due to the convergence of several developments: First, President Hafez Assad’s death and his son and successor’s failure to establish himself as an authoritative figure; second, Ariel Sharon’s ascent to power in Israel and his determination to focus on the Palestinian issue and reluctance to withdraw from the Golan; third, the transformation of the Syrian-Iranian alliance and partnership of the 1990s into an unequal relationship between an Iranian senior and a Syrian junior partner; and fourth, the deterioration of Syria’s relationship with the Bush administration, initially in 2003 over Iraq and then, in 2005, over Lebanon.

The Bush administration’s and the American president’s personal animosity toward Syria and President Bashar Assad was such that when Sharon’s successor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, began to tinker with the idea of renewing negotiations with Syria, he was told in no uncertain terms by Washington that the Bush administration objected to a diplomatic initiative that would help Syria steer its way out of isolation and rebuild its legitimacy in the international arena.

But as noted above, this seemed to change on the eve of the Annapolis conference. It may seem odd that a conference devoted to the Palestinian issue would serve to revive interest in the Syrian track. But in the event, it was precisely the State Department’s fear that Syria would sabotage the quest for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement that led to the renewal of a limited American-Syrian dialogue.

An understanding was worked out that consisted of three elements. First, Syria would participate in the Annapolis conference, thus enhancing its legitimacy. Second, Annapolis would still be solely devoted to the Palestinian issue, but clear references would be made to the need for a “comprehensive” settlement and to Syria’s own turn farther down the road. And third, Syria tightened control over its border with Iraq and may also have promised to help resolve the political institutional crisis in Lebanon.

This trend was reinforced by parts of the Israeli government, particularly those linked to the security establishment that called for renewal of negotiations with Syria. Some of their arguments echoed the reasoning of the 1990s: It was easier to conclude an agreement with a state like Syria than to resolve the complex national conflict with the Palestinians. Other arguments were new, shaped by current realities: Beyond resolving the bilateral conflict, a deal with Damascus would detach Syria from Iran and Hizbullah, transform the strategic equation in the region and diminish if not eliminate the challenge faced by Israel in and from Lebanon.

In fact, intermediaries were employed by Israel to explore the prospect of such a deal with Syria, but to no avail. Assad’s position is clear and unchanging: Syria is willing to renew negotiations based on the foundation built in the 1990s. Furthermore, it is not satisfied with the hypothetical, conditional “deposit” presented then by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin but wants a “commitment” to withdraw from the Golan in return for a “cold peace.” Such an agreement must be bilateral, and “preconditions” concerning relations with Iran or other parties are unacceptable.

The narrow opening offered by Annapolis now seems to have closed. The main reason is Lebanon, where Syria continues to meddle, intimidate and even kill in order to preserve and restore its position. This is totally unacceptable to President George W. Bush, who sees the survival and success of the Siniora government as a high priority. With this frame of mind, and in view of the priority the president and his secretary of state assign to completion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before the end of 2008, the prospect of American willingness to invest in the revival of a Syrian-Israeli negotiating track is remote.

In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert, bracing for the publication of the Winograd Report and fighting to keep the right-wing parties in his coalition (unhappy as they are with the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians), is hardly likely to open yet another political front with the powerful (and presently dormant) Golan lobby.

It is important to remember that this discussion of the ups and downs of the Israel-Syria diplomatic option is being conducted in the ominous shadow of potential military escalation. Assad has stated several times that while he is seeking to renew negotiations with Israel he is also building a military option. Israel’s destruction of a nuclear reactor in its early stages in northeastern Syria last September 6 served to demonstrate how determined and far-reaching Syria’s quest for “strategic parity” with Israel can be.

Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and chief negotiator with Syria, is the Ettinger professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University. His new book, “The View from Damascus,” is due this spring. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons-international.org, an online newsletter.

January 28th, 2008, 9:47 pm


Shai said:

I disagree with Itamar Rabinovich. The opposite – it is precisely at such tense moments that peace initiatives should be considered, if need be via Track II or informal channels (such as Alon Liel). Vegetius once said “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (“If you want peace, prepare for war.”) Most leaders cannot “think straight” when times are nice and calm. They’re forced to look themselves in the mirror when their troops are massing and readying themselves for war, and then they ask “Am I sure I want to do this?”, “Are there other alternatives I haven’t considered?” So yes, unfortunately we are witnessing a gradual rise in regional tension. Maybe we do need to sound (and hear) the drums of war a bit, before we begin to think straight again. Such is life…

January 29th, 2008, 5:22 am


T said:


The “alternative” has been in front of the world for years: If Israel was serious about true peace in the region, they would respect the 2002 Arab Peace initiative offered in Beirut- or even the peace offer from Iran in 2003.
Why were these offers rejected?

Otherwise the Peace Park is a “good-cop” attempt to peel off Syria in order to isolate Iran and further divide the region.

January 29th, 2008, 8:43 am


Shai said:


I don’t think isolating Syria is good for Israel, not in the short run, certainly not in the long run.

As for the alternatives you mention, I’ve been writing quite a bit here about the fact that most Israelis today are not going to vote for a withdrawal either from the West Bank, nor from the Golan Heights. They’ve bought into Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, and are certainly distrustful and fearful of near-future developments of the Palestinians vis-a-vis Hamas. This is the reality on the ground, whether you or I like it or not (I don’t). Alon Liel, and I, and trying to explore other possibilities in light of this reality. This is no longer about what is right, it’s about what’s smart, or what can be done to change things (specifically, public opinion in Israel). I can of course understand your angle, and why you are puzzled about Israel not taking the offers that stand before her…

January 29th, 2008, 11:25 am


T said:

Palestine, Hamas, PA are an excuse, so is Hezbollah. Dismantling those groups, Israel security, normalization was all offered by the entire arab world to you. (Please- no more of the “Axis” nonsense. That is just another neocon PR brand name used to market the World Islamofascist Threat hoax- and so irritating. Sorry to be blunt.)

Bottom line is Israel wants to keep the land/water while giving up nothing.

Well then that is your answer. Israel is not really interested in peace. The decision is made. Just negotiate/distract endlessly until the land is incrementally stolen and your outcome is a fait a compli-aided by enitites like the Golan Peace Park group? Another stalling (or flipping) tactic while giving the world the illusion of a genuine, earnest search for peace?

January 29th, 2008, 12:15 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Assad has stated several times that while he is seeking to renew negotiations with Israel he is also building a military option. Israel’s destruction of a nuclear reactor in its early stages in northeastern Syria last September 6 served to demonstrate how determined and far-reaching Syria’s quest for “strategic parity” with Israel can be.

Alex –

Dr. Rabinovich has lost all credibility. He continues to make up stories about some Syrian “nuclear reactor”. We all know this is a lie.

But he is right about this:

The narrow opening offered by Annapolis now seems to have closed. The main reason is Lebanon, where Syria continues to meddle, intimidate and even kill in order to preserve and restore its position.

January 29th, 2008, 12:15 pm


T said:

There was never an Annapolis opening to start with. Only a PR campaign. Bush went over to enlist support for an Iran attack.

But all this back and forth blah, blah, blah and counter recriminations are just mind junk.

The Arab Peace Offer covers all these issues- especially Israeli security.

When Israel wants peace it is available. Up until now, she wants Water and Land more.

January 29th, 2008, 12:25 pm


Shai said:


I understand your frustration, and anger. I can’t say I would think otherwise if I was in your shoes. But when public opinion in Israel is against peace, you can either sit back and say “… when Israel wants peace it is available”, or you can try to change it. How? That’s what this forum is about, to try to find out if and how it may be possible. As to the eternal claim that all Israel wants is water and more land, I can tell you as an Israeli from the “peace camp” that Israel will ALWAYS want more water, just like any other nation in our region without a sufficient supply of this. What access we’ll have or not have, will have to be settled in negotiations obviously. As for land, I believe most Israelis will be willing to do away with the Golan, as well as the majority of the W. Bank, if they only trusted the intentions of the other side. That’s what we’re talking about now – helping them change this perception.

January 29th, 2008, 3:04 pm


Nour said:


Your continuous attempts at distorting the truth as well as your persistent efforts in shifting the main issue with the cancerous Jewish entity are pathetic. The issue is not individual incidents and skirmishes that have arisen in all societies at all times as a result of particular political developments. The issue is the usurpation of land that belongs to an indigenous people in order to build a nation that is exclusively of your kind. The continuous occupation of Palestine and your consistent efforts in purifying the land from its natural inhabitants so that you may establish your purely Jewish entity are the main causes of today’s conflict in the Near East. To reduce this conflict and our cause to one of a few individual incidents is merely an attempt to obscure the facts on the ground so that people out there do not see your entity for what it truly is, a cancerous, oppressive, racist, criminal, murdering state founded on the blood and suffering of innocent people whose only crime was living on land desired by followers of your twisted ideology.

January 29th, 2008, 4:03 pm


norman said:

Olmert faces new test with Lebanon war report
By Alastair Macdonald and Dan Williams
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert can expect a storm of criticism on Wednesday when an inquiry delivers its final report on the 2006 war in Lebanon.

But though rivals have been quietly jostling for position in case he resigns, possibly even triggering a snap election, many believe he can survive the fallout, just as he did when the government-appointed Winograd Commission slammed his conduct of the war in an interim report nine months ago.

The report will come out at 6 p.m. (4 p.m. British time) on Wednesday.

Though unpopular in polls and having already lost allies from his fractious coalition this month, Olmert has made clear he wants to stay in power and lacks an obvious challenger.

“One thing is clear — the current situation is inestimably better than in the past,” he said last week of the Lebanon border area. “For a year and a half, there has been quiet.”

He also has an influential prop in U.S. President George W. Bush, whose hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal during his final year in the White House would almost certainly be destroyed if Israel turned inward to fight an early election in which right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu would start as favourite.

Olmert insists he has already acted to implement the panel’s early recommendations. Israel’s army chief and defence minister already paid with their jobs last year for what many saw as a debacle against Hezbollah in Lebanon after the guerrillas seized two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in border clashes.

The Commission cannot deliver recommendations that Olmert or others should resign, although the prime minister can expect harsh words from the five panel members at a news conference.

Unlike April’s interim report, the final findings will focus on the last days of the month-long conflict, when Olmert ordered a costly ground assault even as a U.N. truce was in the works to end a war that killed 900 Lebanese civilians and 300 fighters.

Opposition politicians and relatives of some of the 159 Israelis killed in the war, most of them soldiers, are planning protests later in the week, which Olmert’s rivals hope may push him toward the exit. But public outcry was muted after April’s report and subsequent delay may have further dampened passions.


The greatest threat to Olmert may be his own partners in the centrist Kadima party, though they lack a clear mechanism to force him out against his will. The deputy leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, actually called on Olmert to resign after the April interim report. But he stayed on, and so did she.

Much may depend on Defence Minister Ehud Barak, leader of Olmert’s main coalition ally, the Labour party.

Some Labour members believe Barak promised during a party leadership contest in the summer that he would quit the government if the Winograd panel condemned the prime minister.

However, Barak himself has not renewed such remarks and many analysts believe that the former general and prime minister who returned to public life only in September, is unlikely to risk a snap election contest against Netanyahu’s Likud before he has had at least a few more months to rebuild his own support.

Were Olmert to quit, a likely scenario would be that Kadima and its allies would rally behind a new prime minister, possibly Livni, a favourite of Washington and the chief peace negotiator.

She has been positioning herself to be Israel’s first woman leader since the redoubtable Golda Meir in the 1970s.

An early election, that would freeze the most serious peace talks in seven years, could spell disaster for Kadima, formed only in 2005 by then prime minister Ariel Sharon and Olmert, both formerly of Likud, in alliance with defectors from Labour.

One poll this month forecast Likud to win an election with 28 of parliament’s 120 seats, up from 12 today, leading Labour’s 21 and Kadima on 10, down from 29. An election is due by 2010.

A sequence of corruption probes has also dented Olmert’s standing but in other respects time may have been on his side.

His approval ratings, which hit single digits after the war, have rallied somewhat amid a strong economy, revived peace talks an air strike on Syria in September — and Olmert’s revelation he is to have surgery to remove an early-stage prostate cancer.

“The long wait has wracked the nerves of the political establishment,” wrote Israel Hayom newspaper’s Chemi Shalev.

“Olmert’s spin masters are now counting on this — on the only slight differences they hope to find in the text released tomorrow when compared to the interim report, on the exhaustion and on the short memory of the audience.”

(Editing by Charles Dick)


Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

January 29th, 2008, 4:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It seems from your post that you don’t like Israel.
You are a great example of why the Arab world finds it so hard to move forward. Instead of self criticism you take the easy path of denial and blame Israel for the evils of the middeast.

Is Israel responsible that Nasser and Arab-Nationalism did not deliver any improvements to the Arab people? Forget democracy, but there was no Chinese or Singapore or Russia type improvement.

Is Israel responsible that the Egyptians and Jordans did not give the Palestinians a state in Gaza and the West Bank in 1948?

Is Israel responsible for the fact that most Arabs treat Palestinians like shit?

Is Israel responsible that illiteracy rates in Egypt and Syria are 20%?

Is Israel responsible for the dismal state of science in the Arab world?

Is Israel responsible for Asad’s socialist bent?

Is Israel responsible for the Iraq-Iran war?

Is Israel responsible for the way the Maronites and Sunni in Lebanon treated the Shia over hundreds of years?

Is Israel responsible for the stupid Cairo Agreement?

Is Israel responsible for the lack of cohesion in Syria and the fact that the minorites are afraid of the Sunnis?

And the list can go on for quite a while. The main problem in the middle east is not Israel, that much is clear. It is the mistrust between communities and the consequences this has had for governments in the region that is the main problem of the mid east.

January 29th, 2008, 5:06 pm


Nour said:


This is the same tired old line you always put forth. If we criticize and reject Israel for what it is, it does not mean we do not recognize the flaws within our own society that need to be rectified. But the two fallacies you committed is that you assumed that I do not believe we have any fault for our own woes and you ignored Israel’s role in exploiting many of our problems to advance its own agenda.

Be assured that I am the first to criticize our stagnant, backwards social attitudes and mentalities that have led us to one disaster after another. In fact, I believe that it is these very ailments that allowed the creation of an exclusively Jewish state on our homeland. However, I am not naive enough to buy the argument that Israel is innocent and has nothing to do with the continuous instability plaguing the Near East. Israel has always had a dirty role to play in all our destabilizing events. In addition, the US, on Israel’s behalf, has continuously pursued destructive policies in our region in order to maintain backwardness and disorder. The US supported the rise of oppressive regimes only to then use their oppressiveness as an excuse to destroy sovereign countries. It has encouraged different sides to wage war against each other and supported their efforts in doing so. Finally, the US and Israel have consistently made sure that real revolutionary, secular movements, that truly aim to advance our society and achieve true strength and prosperity, are brutally oppressed and suppressed.

You come here and patronize us with your silly contentions that you support Syrian freedom and democracy. But we do not buy it, and never will. We know what the US and Israel have caused in this region, and the true strugglers for freedom in the Near East want nothing to do with your likes, as they fully understand your true aims and objectives.

January 29th, 2008, 5:25 pm


Honest Patriot said:


The answer to all your questions is an obvious NO.

Yet, Israel has indeed provided the Arabs with a very convenient excuse to blame all these evils. What I fail to understand is what motivates folks in Israel to want to continue with this struggle which is clearly not making for a very peaceful life. Is it religious belief? I do understand the fear of annihilation of a small state so many worked so hard to form, but isn’t the way to preserve it to work with those Arabs that have extended their hand to offer a peaceful solution? To me, delaying the engagement with the Arab League initiative and the moderate Arab countries and failing to put in check the extremists in Israel intent on continued expansion is a recipe for disaster. Anyone who doesn’t see this has seriously clouded vision. I really think Sharon was getting ready for such engagement and for a dramatic move to put in place a lasting solution. With Olmert having to prove his credentials, the whole process has been set back perhaps a decade or more.

January 29th, 2008, 5:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


It is not religious at all. I am an atheist and your view of Israel as a religious state is just wrong. But that is another matter.

The main issue is trust. The Arabs just cannot deliver any peace agreement. There will always be some fanatics that want to eliminate Israel and I have ZERO trust that the Arabs will try to control them. When Hamas or some other organization starts shooting rockets at Israel after a peace treaty, what are the Arabs going to do? Nothing.

There is also the problem of the right of return. Also on this the Arabs cannot deliver and therefore there cannot be peace.

So why does Israel have to give back territory and jeopardize its security only to find out that this has solved nothing?

The Arab plan is too vague and this means that it is not serious because it is just a method to obstruct the disagreement in the Arab world. When I see a plan by the Arabs that is clear in its details and has been discussed and supported in the Arab world, I will consider it seriously.

January 29th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

I completely agree with what you wrote. And, as an Israeli, I am ashamed of (the majority of) my people, who do not see this simple truth. Like AIG, so many of them are still suffering for a superiority complex (some from plain racism), which doesn’t enable them to look through their Arab neighbors’ eyes. They cannot fathom that Israel poses the real threat in the region, not the dictatorships, the extremist organizations, etc. They blame, and will continue to blame, the lack of peace on others, never on themselves. Having said that, and here I turn to Nour:


Even if much of what you say is true, and I’m the last person to shy away from criticism, the way you say it makes you as irrelevant as AIG. You both spew such venom and hatred towards one another, that no one in his right mind, certainly no moderate in charge of eventually making that peace, will ever listen to you. The harsh reality you both believe in cannot be discussed right now, because no side wants to be bashed and torn to pieces. If we are to ever achieve peace, much more moderate language will have to be adopted, leaving the hatred either far behind, or deep in our hearts. All those who think they’re going to get peace under their conditions, are simply up for a disappointment, so they might as well take up knitting as a new hobby.

Peacemaking is much more difficult, much more delicate, much more diplomatic. If peacemakers came to the table and let their emotions go, they’d probably be replaced quickly by slightly “better” professionals. From what I understand, this forum is meant to serve as a direct-yet-indirect arena for blogger peacemakers, not peacebreakers (AIG et al.) Incidentally, just to make it clear, I’m not suggesting peacemakers are only those who tell me what I want to hear. They could very well tell me that I’m completely wrong. And they may be right. But they’ll still need to work with me to come up with a solution. That is, if they’re even interested. If not, then why show up on this forum? There’s better stuff on TV…

January 29th, 2008, 6:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

It seems that this thread is lively again. But what some people may have missed if they’re just tuning again now is Alex’s superb proposal for how to address the issue of a comprehensive peace.

It is a must-read… DON’T MISS it.

Alex, wonderful analysis and commentary.

January 29th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Honest Patriot said:


You said: “The Arabs just cannot deliver any peace agreement.”
Egypt did. So did Jordan. You can bet that even Syria, if it signs a peace treaty, will honor it.
Peace with international guarantees works. Heck even in South Lebanon, with the UN troops there, you now have peace on the Northern front. Why are you so fearful? You are sounding a bit like the Israeli equivalent of the rejectionists in the Arab camp. If you don’t trust the Arabs to honor a peace agreement, then what’s the solution you propose? Eternal conflict? Guaranteed Mutual Destruction ? I sure hope you don’t conisder the status quo satisfactory for the Israelis. It won’t last. Without peace, the region will head – slowly but surely – towards a major armed conflict.

January 29th, 2008, 7:31 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

At least we agree that Israel is not the main reason for the problems of the mideast.

“Finally, the US and Israel have consistently made sure that real revolutionary, secular movements, that truly aim to advance our society and achieve true strength and prosperity, are brutally oppressed and suppressed.”

What are you referring to?

January 29th, 2008, 7:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s talk specifics and I will show you what I mean. A comprehensive peace is not a peace with Egypt or Jordan. There has to be a resolution for the right of return. What will the resolution be? How do you interpret the Arab league proposal?

January 29th, 2008, 7:42 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I have always indicated that I understand and anyone seeking true peace must understand and accept that Israel cannot accept the right of return to mean repatriation of former residents and their descendants to the point that, very shortly through the imbalance of population growth, Israeli Jews (religious or secular) become the minority. Clearly the Arab League proposal needs to be negotiated to find an alternative solution to this item — involving very generous financial compensation, managed without fraud so it gets directly to the people, compensation of such generosity that it will be accepted by the greatest majority of those involved. The return can be to the new Palestinian state which, through financial assistance, will have the resources to accommodate the “returnees.” While there are rejectionists in the Arab camp who don’t want to hear this (let alone accept it), and those are prodded by Iran, I claim that a majority of Arab people are willing to entertain and accept the outline I mention (which is not from me but is well known). Ditto for small trades of lands here and there to adjust in a common-sensical way the borders. By golly all these elements are known. I’ve always believed (and said) that the elements of a permanent solution are known. What gets in the way? Extremists on both sides. A lot of them in the Arab camp, yes, but also many in Israel, including those who won’t stop building new settlments, those who justify killing multitudes of civilians just to get at a single human target they consider a terrorist, etc. Therein lies the problem: extremism and rejectionism on both sides (unequally perhaps in absolute numbers but certainly equivalent in proportion to the population).

I think Shai understands this. I believe you would too if the “CMB” advocated by some here are effected.

Bottom line is that – in my opinion – the status quo is a recipe for disaster, disaster whose outcome will not necessarily be in Israel’s favor. This is NOT a threat. It’s an observation. I look at the population growth rates of Iran, of the HA community, of the Hamas community. Then I look at those in Israel in search of a better life and who have the means (financial or intellectual) to seek it elsewhere. Looks clear to me!

January 29th, 2008, 8:00 pm


alon liel said:

Dear Sami, Alex, Shai and other friends

I spent about one hour now reading the new comments. I would like to first respond to Sami about Iran and Syria.
I can easily ignore the Israeli anti-Iranian propaganda. I am old enough to trace it and reject it. It is much more difficult for me to ignore what Ahmet Dinagad is saying directly to the media usually not even related to the Israeli-Arab conflict. I could not ignore what he said about the Holocoast, about the need to wipe Israel out and even about Iran being clean of homosexuals. We do not neet the Israeli propaganda. Ahmet Dinagad is his own propaganda machine. We get it directly from him – live on TV, almost on a weekly basis.
I can easily understand that the Syrian-Iranian alliance is of a deffensive nature for Syria. If it is of a tactical nature it will relax many of our worries. If it is on an ideological nature, we can not ignore it. Please tell me Sami (and the other Syrian citizens corresponding with us) how do you feel about Ahmet Dinagad’s statements about the need to wipe Israel off the map?. Do you support it? Did you hear these statements in Syria? Do you feel he is a rational player? a positive regional player?
Do you really think all he is doing is really to help the Palestinians?

Alex, you suggested I elaborate about the park idea. The idea is a Syrian idea !!!. In the track 2 talks we had it was raised by the Syrian side. Diplomats that recently re-checked in Syria if the idea is acceptable got the answer: – what do you mean?, it is our idea. I keep raising the park idea not because the Israeli government accepts it – it never did. I keep raising it because it was the only interesting and creative(syria) idea that was raised during the two years we were talking in Bern. I see the idea as having the potential of an icebreaker or a deadlock-breaker.
please try to discretly re-check at home with the relevant top level.I also encourage anyone in Syria that has another idea that can serve as a starter to re-ignite official talks to come up with it. Please remember that Israel needs an imaginative idea in order to challange the Americam positon that Syria should be further cornered and isolated. We are a puppet state and the puppet needs a very good argument in odrer to challange the firm position of its patron.

I again would like to express my hope that the dialogue will continue. We are so far the only humble game in the ongoing Israeli-Syrian paralysis.

January 29th, 2008, 8:33 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

I wish more people here in Israel understood what you’re saying, but unfortunately, the extremists and rejectionists have the support of the majority of the population. It is now all about CBM’s (not ICBM’s). If god herself came down and managed to convince Israelis that the Arab world is sincere in its decision to make peace with Israel once and for all, and that once peace exists, those groups and organizations that today swear to its destruction, will most likely subside and/or become purely political, and not military powers, then you’d find most Israelis ready to do what we should’ve done some 40 years ago. Many of the commentators on this forum found it almost appalling that I should dare ask the Arab side to create CBM’s towards Israel, and I understand their feeling. And yet, I just don’t see how Israeli public opinion changes tomorrow morning (with the exception of the Vinograd Report, and its effects upon Olmert), unless something dramatic occurs. Drama in our region doesn’t always have to come in the form of violence. Let us put our brains together, our imagination and our good-will, and seek those solutions, or those CBM’s, that can and will change peoples’ minds. Unfortunately in this case, Israel is a democracy, and one leader or another cannot decide on his/her own the future of the state. Any major decision will likely have to be voted on by the people.

January 29th, 2008, 8:36 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I know and appreciate your position. But that is not that position of over 50% of Palestinians that want a literal right of return to their villages. They will not accept anything else. You could force a solution on them but it will not stop them for putting together new Hamas like organizations.

I am not against what you propose in principal but I have heard enough from the other side to know that it will not be perceived as “justice” and that what you propose is not what they envision as the solution.

And here is the paradox, if the Palestinian state is a democracy it will not be able to control Hamas like factions that will be disillusioned with the agreement, and if it is a dictatorship, it will need an outside enemy and that will be Israel.

There will not be peace until there is some fundamental change in the Arab world that will take decades.

January 29th, 2008, 8:41 pm


T said:


I’m not angry. Just in a very big hurry and low on time. I am not a full-time diplo so I cant be on SC for hours. I have to cut to the chase- and not ramble on about red herring issues.

Mind Junk works. Look at this thread. Almost 250 postings and the real issue has not even been mentioned- the Proposal itself:

1. “Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.”

2, “Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.”

And the bottom line: US-Israel have veto power over everything:

3. “A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.

Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.”

Who monitors Israel to ensure they have changed their orientation? I reiterate my former contention. If Israel, you and the other Peace Parkers are honest, you will respect what your Arab neighbors have repeatedly begged you to consider. The Arab Peace Offer. And it could integrate some sort of Peace Park into its agreement. The Arab Peace Offer is an excellent one and comprehensive. The Iranian or Saudi offers give you everything you purport to want vis a vis security. (But we know security is not the core obstacle.)

I respectfully vote that Alex and Joshua also post the Arab Peace Offer on SC for discussion as well. Mr. Liel and the Israeli FM can give feedback. That would be great!

January 29th, 2008, 8:55 pm


Shai said:

Dear T (I hope you’re not the famous “Mr. T” from the 80’s…),

I do not believe that a comprehensive peace is possible at the moment, given the situation within the Palestinian people. There is no one to talk to right now, as the PA is neither representative of the majority of Palestinians, nor able to enforce its agreements with Israel. But, if a comprehensive peace is not going to take place in the next 1-2 years, is that to stop us from considering and seeking peace with Syria? Is such a thing possible? I believe it is and, in fact, I believe it is the KEY to solving our conflict with the Palestinians. Israel doesn’t seek to isolate the Palestinians, and to broker separate peace agreements with other Arab nations, that’s just the reality of today. Perhaps if Arafat was still alive today, it could have been the other way around – peace first with Palestine, then with Syria.

If you accept that we should still seek peace between Israel and Syria, how do you see talks restarting? I understand very well the reluctance to accept any preconditions – that makes sense. I also understand the concerns of Syria that it should become isolated, unimportant, and a US-puppet in the region. These must not occur. So the formula must take into account Syria’s needs also within the region, not only vis-a-vis Europe and the U.S. So what CAN be put forth which will be acceptable to Syria, and at the same time speak to the concerns of the average Israel, such as were mentioned earlier by Alon?

January 29th, 2008, 9:21 pm


Honest Patriot said:


We don’t know the percentage of Palestinians who want the literal right of return. Those who do – and who won’t settle with a generous financial compensation and an offer to return to a new Palestinian state – are part of the rejectionist camp fueled by Hamas and Iran. Here Hamas and Iran do not (by any reasoned analysis) reflect the majority of the people living under their jurisdiction. People are people. They want a good life for themselves and their families. If it were not for the dire misery and hopelessness of their condition they would not be swayed by extremist positions. If a measure of relief and even comfort is provided for them and hope is created, I maintain that the intensity of the fanaticism and the insistence on literal return would have the wind taken out of them. There will always be fanatics – of one kind or another. Belonging to the Middle East implies the inevitable entanglement with its history of religious fanaticism. The postponement of the hope for a settlement to the 50+ years span or the “decades” you talk about simply amounts to advocating the failure of our generation to have the courage and vision to make things right and leaving a load of crap for our children to deal with. As hopeless and difficult as things may seem, I would not want to take the attitude of “Bah.. too difficult, let the kids and their kids deal with it!” That’s a copout. The cycle of proving that rejectionism doesn’t work has run its course in the Arab world. The majority are ready for a real compromise. They just need a courageous and willing partner. And it can’t be a weak partner. It’s got to be the AIGs and the APs who come forth with the full force of their skepticism.

The world has changed. The world is flat. Technology has changed our lives. The youth of the Arab world – if they are not disenfranchised and thrown into utter misery and despair – are aware and alert enough to understand how to frame the future. The time is now.

Even granting all your arguments – I don’t see how the status quo can hold until things change. The rate of population growth is exponential. And the coefficient in the exponent is a large number. I just don’t see it working.


January 29th, 2008, 10:21 pm


T said:

I see you are not serious about peace, and I’m busy. But Good will & Best of luck to you anyhow!

January 29th, 2008, 10:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I would also not want to take the attitude of “Bah.. too difficult, let the kids and their kids deal with it!”

That is why I am working to better education in Israel and advance technology companies here. My children’s generation will be far richer than my generation and more technologically advanced. This is a clear trend in Israel.

I don’t see how population growth is an issue for Israel. So what if the number of Syrians and Iranians doubles or triples? How is that a threat to Israel? It is technology and economy that make a difference, not the size of the population. In fact, a large poor and frustrated population would weaken Syria and Iran.

I guess after the second intifada and what is happening in Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq, I am very skeptical. I don’t know. Give me a few more years, maybe I will regain some trust. It just looks to me that the Arab world is growing more radical and not less radical and not moving at all towards democracy.

The solution for the Arab youth by the way is not related to Israel. Peace with Israel will not change their situation fundamentally just as Israel’s peace with Egypt did not help Egyptian youth much (at all?). The real change needs to come from within the Arab world but I just don’t see a viable process.

January 29th, 2008, 10:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Of course T is right. You come and tell him how wrong Israel is and then put the onus on the Arabs to do something because your fellow countrymen are stupid or mean and just don’t understand.

Maybe you should reconsider your strategy and become less useful (to the rejectionists and enemies of Israel).

January 29th, 2008, 10:50 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I understand you arguments and good job on pushing technology and R&D forward. The issue I raise with population growth has to do primarily with the population growth at Israel’s border – of people who believe you stole their land. There will be more and more of them, and if they get more and more desperate, they will be led and brainwashed by the evil philosophy of suicide attacks. Sure Israel can develop coping measures but here this is just going to be an escalating game of measures and countermeasures. At the same time, however small the Arab minority within Israel is now, it will grow, well, faster than the non-Arab Israeli population. By the time your 50+ years or decades have passed, Israel will be more technologically advanced but no closer to real peaceful existence for its citizen. I may be wrong but that’s how I see it. You saw the power of the people in the first Intifada. More to come. You don’t have to trust anyone blindly. Like President Reagan used to say, quoting a Russian saying: Trust but Verify.

Anyway, I do understand your views and your points, and, having experienced as I was growing up life in the ME environment (in Lebanon with its plethora of conflicts and contradictions) I fully appreciate how one can develop quite pessimistic views of the potential for peace with the Palestinians. At the same time, there is a certain wisdom that comes with age and distance, and, importantly, with the exercise of empathy when one tries to put oneself in the shoes of anyone of many Palestinians and what they have to endure. Maybe my distance is clouding my ability to see clearly but I sure hope that’s not the case and that what I view as a real possibility for peace is seen by more and more of both sides and moves forward against all odds.

Be Well

January 29th, 2008, 11:28 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

People like AIG, and many others like him, are only able to look at the glass through their eyes. They really cannot do so through their neighbors’ points of view. They believe their truth is the absolute truth, and cannot accept responsibility on their own. They are blind to the time-bomb that is the population increase on our borders (especially Egypt), not fearing the rise in extremism and fundamentalism, and its corresponding exponential threat to Israel’s security. If out of 60 million poor people you recruit 1000 young men and women ready to commit suicide, out of another 60 million, you might recruit a further 3000. And, as time passes, the kind of terrorist acts that could be committed are only getting more sophisticated, and more dangerous. These AIG’s are so sure that time is on their side, that they calmly type their words onto this forum, badmouthing certain people (liberals), fantasizing about democracies, and in general depicting themselves as irrelevant. They wonder how an Israeli can admit to certain faults and responsibility, yet ask the other side to help Israel. It sounds to them contradictory. But that is because they are also incapable of accepting responsibility, while realizing that they cannot, at the moment, do much to fix the damage they/we have caused. I recognize that Israel has, and continues to cause much damage, yet I don’t see the majority of Israelis agreeing to this right now. So what do I do – do I sit there like an AIG telling the other side to first change, become democratic, become nice and huggable, or do I ask the other side to market their strategic decision of making peace with Israel in a different way, in a way that might change public opinion here? We’ve mentioned the term CBM (confidence building measures) many times in this forum. Alex came up with an idea – of allowing Syrian Jews to come back to Syria, to see and visit the places they used to live in, or their families. I added to that idea bringing the Israeli media to cover such a historic visit. That’s an idea that could certainly assist in building confidence. That would certainly help convince a certain amount of Israelis that Syria is serious about peace. Is it enough? Probably not. We probably need something else. Perhaps Eli Cohen’s remains would be considered very substantial. Or, other ideas that we were hoping to bring up here in this forum.

But yes, unfortunately, I do find myself in a funny position – of admitting to doing wrong, yet asking the other side to help me “help myself”, or to help the majority of the Israeli public to change its views, its skepticism, its innate distrust. I wish I didn’t have to ask this of our neighbors, but if I thought we could make those changes on our own, here in Israel, I wouldn’t be spending the time on this forum. I really do have better things to do with my life as well, T. Incidentally, if I wasn’t serious about peace, why am here? I’m not an AIG, or an AK, who are experts at telling people how not-to-do something. I’m here to consider any idea that would bring us closer to peace. T, if you’re not able to hear ideas that are different from yours, why are YOU here? Are you sure YOU’RE serious about peace?

January 30th, 2008, 1:10 pm


ghat Albird said:

Thats rich. That CBM thing. Followed by ….. allowing Syrian Jews to come back to Syria, to see and visit the places they used to live in….a historic visit [no less].

What would really be richer would be a more definitive CBM …. allowing Palestinian refugees to return to the places they used to live in before Israel was created by the UN in 1948.

If there is truly, and there must be, because too much destruction and suffering as well as untold deaths of thousands of innocent people needlessly a serious beginning to peace can only be had with justice. And justice can only come about if its fairly applied.

The time is possibly right for a blind Solomon.

January 30th, 2008, 2:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What you don’t understand is that I do see through the Arab’s eyes. ghat Albird response is the typical one. We have to accept that what we view as “justice” is not what they view as “justice”. See my responses to HP.

I am not demanding anything from our neighbors. My honest analysis is that there will not be peace until the Arab countries become democracies. I am aware this may take decades or never. If they do not want to change or can’t change, they won’t.

You are beginning to understand how weird your position is. Let’s go to the next step. If you can’t convince your fellow countrymen, why do you think you can convince Arabs about your position? Your RESPONSIBILITY is to convince me and others like me in Israel that what you say makes sense. It is not the Arab’s responsibility to do it. It is yours. You are making very strange demands of them and avoiding your responsibility.

The flip side of that is that you are making a pragmatic argument. You are telling the Arabs that they are right but that your hands are tied and that for pragmatic reasons they have to make CBMs. Here, you yourself are doing exactly what you accused me of doing. You are not listening. The Arabs say time and time again that they are not moved by pragmatic arguments. They seek “justice”. They want “justice” before peace.

There is ONE way to get Asad to Jerusalem. It is to make it clear to him that if he doesn’t come, there will be regime change in Syria. That is not exactly a peace plan and I am against it, but frankly this is the logical conclusion of your initiative, if we really want to be pragmatic as you want to be.

January 30th, 2008, 3:22 pm


ghat Albird said:

The Oracle AIG has spoken.

Until and unless he and his associates determine that the Arab nations have become “democratic” according to what he defines what democracy is they better forget about peace.

An added problem of the Arabs as AIG and his associates see it is that they are hard of hearing. They do not listen to what AIG demands from them as a minimum and therefore are not pragmatic.

The wanting of “justice” as a precondition to peace according to AIG is an emotional and childish effort and besides his kind of “justice” is copyrighted and lawful while the Arabs sense of “justice” well again its churlish as well as childish and besides they are not democratic according to AIG’s standards. Which in many instances mean not only being a citizen of Israel but also its arc-angel far away in the so-called New World.

Again it could be time for AIG and crew to define what they consider to be justice and then have the opposing team develop their version of justice and say let the International World Court refine the proposed essence of a just

That would be not only the most pragmatic way but the most honorable way to a universal sense of justice and eventually peace.

January 30th, 2008, 4:06 pm


Alex said:


That is not very accurate.

As I explained in my comments above, it is not that Syria does not want to be pragmatic, but for now there are too many negative environmental conditions and there is little trust between the Syrians on one side, and all the others who did indeed work, to the best of their abilities, to get rid of (or totally weaken) the current Syrian leadership … and believe it or not that includes Israel … if Israel won the 2006 war and destroyed Hizbollah, events would have led to total chaos in Lebanon that would have lead to chaos in Syria … so it is not accurate to say that Israel is preventing the United states from overthrowing the Syrian regime as you and others claim sometimes.

What is needed is enough CBMs from the United States, Israel, and the “moderate Arabs” towards the Syrians … to show them that they are finally ready to accept Syria’s regional role … this is the starting point.

It will take a visit by the next American president to the Middle East .. a visit to Tel Aviv, Cairo, Riyadh, and Damascus… back to respecting the balance of power in the Middle East, not rearranging it to the liking of the United States and Israel.

When in Damascus, the next American president will need to say in very clear words that he/she is committed to comprehensive peace in the Middle East and that Syria has an essential and positive role to play in the various conflicts in the countries neighboring Syria.

That would be something the Syrians can count on … not the other statements that change on a daily basis (like the ones coming from the French the past few months)

THEN … Syrians know that THEY have to do their share of CBM.

But it is not Syria’s turn … Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel, and France need to show that they are committed beyond any doubt to respecting the regional balance of power that we had in the 90’s … Syria ad Egypt will not be marginalized in favor of Saudi Arabia and Israel exclusively.

January 30th, 2008, 4:20 pm


Shai said:


That’s simple enough to understand. Isn’t it, AIG?

I do agree with you Alex, but I still ask myself, if it is indeed “our turn” (Israel, US, France, etc.), but nothing happens, then what? Are we all just so nice and sure that time’s working with us, not against us? Are we patient enough to always wait for the other side? After all, many Israelis, including AIG, are waiting for things to occur first on the Arab side. The Arab side, is waiting for us. We’re assuming, and hoping, that a new administration in Washington will look at Syria very differently. Chances are, that this will happen. But what if it doesn’t, or at least not for a year or two? How do we move forward still? Or, do we just give up for now, and wait? You see, that’s the one approach I’m having a difficulty accepting – the wait-and-see approach. If I thought there was a chance in the world to convince these AIG’s that it is WE that have to show CBM’s towards our neighbors, I would be willing to yell it all day and all night. But I honestly believe that they are incapable of changing. They’re not flexible, they’re closed minded. They KNOW what’s right for this region, for the Arabs, for Syria, for you, for me, they’re got it all figured out. But since they’re helpless in making things happen, all they’re left with is criticism, of others. They’re not trying to open things up to discussion, they don’t believe in new ideas, they don’t want a compromise between what they’d like to see, and what the other side is willing to give. I’m not capable of accepting that stance. To me, it is the biggest form of surrender possible or, worse, a patronizing approach to the whole conflict (WE know what’s best for YOU).

Alex, I understand you want to see “our side” creating CBM’s towards Syria. And I think that by knowing that Sharon was receiving constant updates from Alon following each meeting, the Syrian leadership understood that Israel is serious about peace, and is still searching for that “magic formula” that could change public opinion here. What other CBM’s does Syria need from Israel, before it would consider ideas such as the ones you mentioned earlier, which could have a very significant effect upon many Israelis?

January 30th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Sami D said:

Mr Alon Liel

Just realized that I hadn’t commented on your proposals for Syrian-Israeli peace. It is easy to get drawn on this forum into the usual tsunami of side arguments, forgetting in the process the main post in question. Below is my answer to your main points. But first an answer to your question in the more recent post above:


Please tell me Sami (and the other Syrian citizens corresponding with us) how do you feel about Ahmet Dinagad’s statements about the need to wipe Israel off the map?. Do you support it? Did you hear these statements in Syria? Do you feel he is a rational player? a positive regional player?
Do you really think all he is doing is really to help the Palestinians?

If Ahmadinejad’s statement was about wiping the country Israel and its citizens off the map, then it is indeed repulsive and un-acceptable. However, Iranian experts from professor Juan Cole to professor William Beeman, who are fluent in the language, agree that what Ahmadinejad really said was a “an end to the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem” not the extermination of Jews as implied by Western/Israeli media; somewhat like Reagan’s calling for the end of “the evil empire” didn’t mean a call to genocide or ethnic cleansing of its people. But the main answer to your argument was in my earlier response to you. Quoting myself: “Iran’s religious mullah, lead by Khamenei, who, unlike Ahmadinejad, have real power in Iran, have stated more than once that they agree with and will go with the Arabs when they sign a peace treaty with Israel based on the international consensus (1967 borders, refugee rights, etc)” and “Mullah influence inside Iran will wind down once the US and Israel leave them alone. A menacing posture, on the other hand, strengthen Islamist influence in Iran and everywhere.”

The Mullah rule in Iran is, further, the product of US-Israeli support of the dictatorial Shah before him (while surely crying for democracy and freedom), and toppling of Iranian democracy by the US and Britain. Does Ahmadinejad (or even Hamas) help the Palestinians? I don’t think so, not much at least; but Israel can certainly use him/Hamas as excuse to deepen its repression, starvation and robbing of the latter. Does, on the other hand, Israeli aggression and conquest help the Palestinians (or Israelis for that matter)?

But surely it is not Ahmadinejad’s fiery rhetoric that is making Israel continue its on-going conquest of Palestinian land, is it? (not least because it preceded Ahmadinejad and the Mullah’s rise to power). Israel can stop its massive violations of human rights now. Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, like the Arab countries’ lack of democracy, serves mainly as smokescreens by Israel’s (by contrast) “rational” leaders to carry on with their dispossession.

Furthermore, if we view the Mullah’s/Ahmadinejad’s public rhetoric as irrational (and often rightly so), how should we view Israel’s implicit and explicit threats to bomb Iran, backed (unlike Iran’s) with real ability to wipe Iran off the map? Is that rational? (Even the late Ze’ev Schiff complained about Israel’s repeated threats against Iran, way before Ahmadinejad’s rise, and how Israeli leaders would announce, every time Israel receives new fighter planes shipment from the US, that these planes “can reach Iran”).

I would pick fiery rhetoric over actual destruction and “wiping off the map”, any day, like the one Israel carried out in Palestine, Lebanon, the Golan, while speaking rational and gentle yearn-for-peace rhetoric. (Rabin bragged once during 1992 campaign against Shamir, that Labor can build settlements better than Likud, because Labor does that quietly, not in-your-face, like the Likud).

In short, what matters is not what people SAY (eg, Arab leaders’ tough and menacing rhetoric), but what those with real power DO (eg, Israel and its continued conquest, starvation, destruction, and threats). The Arab leaders’ big rhetoric is usually a reflection of their impotence, while Israel’s “peace” rhetoric hides behind it real power to conquer and force its will on others, as Israel has been doing, while crying peace (“tearful assassins”, Gideon Levy once so accurately described Israeli killers).

Response to your Israel-Syria peace proposals:


Israel announces that sovereignty on the Golan Heights will be Syrian. Syria simultaneously announces that it is severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria and ceasing in any way to assist the insurgents in Iraq. Actual withdrawal from the Golan does not start before these changes in Syria’s policy are fully introduced. A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.

“Israel announces Syrian sovereignty on the Golan” has no real meaning beyond PR when Israel intends to keep its forces (until Syria obeys all Israel and US demands). Regarding “severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria”: Hezbullah and Hamas are the product of Israeli conquest, colonization and domination. A serious proposal for action would be on the part of Israel, to cease and begin ending its conquest and colonization forces of Palestinian lands, robbing the resources. In other words, first the cause must end, then the effect will follow: Israel must begin to end its colonization/occupation THEN Hamas and Hezbullah will have no reason existing.


Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.

Translation: Once Syria has “changed its regional orientation” into accepting Israeli denial of Palestinian and Syrian rights, turning its back on any form of resistance to such, and accepting US hegemony (not meddle in US conquest of Iraq, end relations with Iran) then Syria will be “honored” for obedience, a-la Abbas, Mubarak and Abdualla, all with photo ops with Bush and Olmert, and endless “negotiations” in some fancy resorts — negotiations that will be “aimed at” Israeli withdrawal “within five to ten years”.

Starting to sound like Oslo “negotiations” where Israeli colonization accelerated under the “dove” Rabin, and the goal was to nurture an Arab leader who will accept Israeli dictates, and agree to use his army to police his people on behalf of the occupation, and in return earn crumbs and pats on the back. And when the people don’t like those “generous offers” by Israel, then the 5-10 years might become 20-30 years, coupled with bombardment and starvation, until the next round of “negotiations” and “process” begin, or is set back “on track” to borrow from the plethora of Orwellian vocabulary the accompanies US-Israeli “peace”.


The sides agree that most of the Golan becomes a nature reserve. Israelis and Syrians are not allowed to reside there but are able to visit for tourist purposes and to work in those tourism, agriculture or industrial projects that both sides agree upon.

“BOTH sides agree” on the fate of the Golan?? From “Syrian sovereignty” a couple of paragraphs above to “BOTH sides” have to agree regarding the fate of the Golan? So even after Israel withdraws its army perhaps in “5-10 years”, Israel has to give its permission on what Syria wants to do with ITS Golan? Syria has to accept to turn the Golan to a nature reserve and deny Syrians, especially the ones Israel forced out, to live there and rebuild the villages Israel wiped out (while “yearning for peace” for sure) anymore? So now not even the right of return for Syrians into the Golan, to live with their families or other Syrians to live there. I have a better idea: How about “both sides agree” to end the forced Israeli Judaization of Palestine, the ejection of Bedouin (Israeli citizens) and killing of their crops, theft of water, conquest of the West Bank and denial of refugees’ right to return? It’s not good for Zionism, I understand, but it has the added advantage of being in line with international and humanitarian law.


The entire area of the Golan Heights is fully demilitarized.

Yes, and the same for the Israeli side of the border, starting with nuclear inspection for both.


Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.

Israel must “not [get] deprived” of the water it currently “takes” from the Syrian Golan Heights?? The picture of this “peace” proposal is slowly materializing: Not only does this further mock the “Syrian sovereignty” concept, it also says that Israel can continue to rob the area of its water for Israeli use, only now with Syrian “acquiescence”. Implied too is a low IQ for Syrians or who read this. (The quotation marks in my response, necessary to pry reality out of the Israeli propaganda manipulation, are a hint at what “peace” with Israel really entails.)


Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and establish full diplomatic ties aiming at complete normalization of relations between the two countries and peoples.

Normalization with the Syrian people, like that with the Egyptian or Jordanian people, would ultimately come about only when Israel is honest and sincere about peace with the Palestinians, the core of the conflict, as well as peace with Syria. Your comments here say this is faaaar from happening and that a “peace”of the victors is really the goal.


Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.

How about Israel “looking into the possibility” of standing on the side of international law and the right of people to return to their land? And why should “the international community” take responsibility for Palestinian refugees and not the people who forced them out, took over their lands, homes, shops, villages, bank accounts, crops, lives, everything, taking some responsibility?


The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open. No less important is the fact that the Palestinian window looks tightly closed. The newly beautified Hamas government still does not show any sign of readiness to recognize the existence of the state of Israel.

Israel exists, and has the most powerful army in the region, nukes, and full backing of the world’s only superpower, regardless of whether (the almighty) Hamas recognizes that or doesn’t. In other words, Israel does not really care whether Hamas, largely locked, hunted and starved along with the civilians in the jar of Gaza, recognizes that or doesn’t. This “recognize the existence” issue is largely for propaganda consumption inside and outside Israel. But what does “recognize the existence of Israel” really means for Israel other than for the dispossessed natives to cry “uncle” — to accept and surrender to the loss, and continued denial of their land and basic human rights? Furthermore, Hamas’ leadership on more than one occasion said they are willing to agree to peace if Israel withdraws to the 1967 border (Israel ignored that, sine it doesn’t fit with Israeli propaganda and might embarrass Israel to stop its conquest with the pretext lost).

Most Palestinians have accepted that Israel exists on “only” 78% of Palestine, ie Israel inside the 1967 border. But Israel continues to slowly conquer beyond those borders, starving and imprisoning an entire population. When anyone complains, Israel points to “refusing to recognize the existence” issue; before that, in case one forgot, it was the “Hamas Charter”; and before that it was “Arafat must renounce terrorism”; and before that “We won’t negotiate with terrorists”; and before that “the Palestinians don’t exist”, etc, as Israel rejected many peace overtures and offers by the Arabs over the past 3 decades, all while the Israeli bulldozers and tanks were –are– busy at work pushing out the natives and taking their resources. For the sake of argument: Which borders for Israel is Hamas expected to recognize Israel within, the 1967 ones or the continually expanding ones, now hosing close to half a million Israelis? Is Israel first willing to recognize the 1967 borders, before asking the people it conquered to “recognize its existence”? It is the stronger party, Israel, that has to recognize the existence of weaker (or to just stop trying to erase that existence for now), not the other way around.

Almost the entire presentation of Mr. Liel requires that Syrians commentators accept the Israeli propaganda portrayal of the conflict, which necessitates a reversal of cause and effect: That Israel came in peace, but that the Palestinians and Arabs are the aggressors, perhaps out of “their anti-Semitism.” Not only that, but a continuation of Israeli theft of water resources is expected to be respected and abetted by Syria!! “The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open” indeed, and has been since the beginning, to bow to Israeli conquest and US hegemony. And Syria might just do that, an indication of weakness.

The Israeli window of opportunity for real peace, on the other hand, has also been open for quite some time. Israel has the opportunity to make real peace by stopping its conquest and quest to dominate the region, on behalf of itself and the United States. Another important thing on the path of peace is for you Mr Liel, as for genuine peace-loving Israelis to, at minimum, respect the intelligence of the adversary.

Exchanging Israeli control and domination for a different means to achieve the same Israeli control and domination, using the required Orwellian language (“nature reserve” and “not depriving” Israel of Syrian water, etc) is not only an affront to peace, but an insult to the intelligence of the Syrians people. You make no obligations on Israel to stop any of its aggression, even basic gestures like ending its denial of Palestinian rights. In other words, what you propose is occupation in sheep’s clothing.

To achieve real peace there has to be basic parameters that both sides will agree on: Namely, basic human rights and international law – nothing novel about that. Occupation and subjugation of another people must end, land must get returned to its owners, resource theft ceased, right of return for refugees granted. We can’t dismiss these basic parameters as “impractical” or “not pragmatic” just to allay Israeli people’s insecurity, real or imagined, while in the process watching Israeli state conquer and take other people’s land and resources – the original reason of its supposed insecurity.

P.S. Dear Shai, I regret that I don’t have the time to respond to what you wrote. There is an avalanche of issues/writers and one has to pick and choose to try to address the different points in the limited time available. Maybe in a future discussion.

January 30th, 2008, 8:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If the minimum I am willing to sell a car is for $1000 and the maximum you are willing to pay for the car is $800, then no matter how creative we are, we would not be able to make a deal.

With the Palestinians most Israelis have a fundamental disagreement with what a just solution will look like. Until this changes, all peace deals will be farces and will HURT the Palestinians. Imagine for example an agreement with Abbas that does not include the right of return. It will never work.

So ghat Albird, I make no request of any Arab and certainly do not ask them to be pragmatic. Also, I do not jusdge them for their positions. All I can do is determine what I think is best for Israel to do to advance its interests.

As for Syria Alex, I think there is no going back to the nineties. The US is too committed to the March 14 forces in Lebanon. It is highly unlikely that the US will sell them to Syria. In a year things will be worse for Syria, because of the tribunal, no matter what adminstration is in power. If it is McCain, things will be worse for Syria than with Bush. If it is a democrat things will not be better. Pelosi has already met Asad face to face and supports Bush’s policy versus Syria. In addition, since you believe that there must be a comprehensive peace for Syria to agree, what I say about the Palestinian issue is applicable also to peace with Syria.

January 30th, 2008, 10:04 pm


Alex said:


Don’t worry about Syria’s position next year. Syria will be just fine.

Waiting for Syria to be weaker next year has been an ongoing exercise since Syria opposed the Camp david accords in 1978.

I see you are still waiting with high hopes.

As for your first point about the difficulty in reaching a mutually acceptable “price” for finishing the deal.

The options are

1) You force us to lower our price.
2) We convince you that the $1000 asking price is worth it.
3) No deal.

I think there is a chance for option two. You prefer options 1 or 3.

January 30th, 2008, 11:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


No, I prefer option 3 because otherwise one side is forcing the other and the deal is not “just” and will easily be disowned.

You mean the Syrian regime is just fine. Yes, that is true. But the statistics show that Syrians are not doing well. And yes, one should always have hope that the Syrians will replace their oppressive regime to one that allows them to achieve their potential and from Israel’s point of view allows a peaceful middle east. Asad has made many mistakes over the last few years and he is not playing his card well regarding the tribunal. Dictatorships fall with a crash and it is hard to predict when they fall. But the odds are that Bashar will not die in his bed like Hafez.

January 30th, 2008, 11:18 pm


Alex said:

Shai said:

“Alex, I understand you want to see “our side” creating CBM’s towards Syria. And I think that by knowing that Sharon was receiving constant updates from Alon following each meeting, the Syrian leadership understood that Israel is serious about peace, and is still searching for that “magic formula” that could change public opinion here. What other CBM’s does Syria need from Israel, before it would consider ideas such as the ones you mentioned earlier, which could have a very significant effect upon many Israelis?”


I will try in every opportunity to write about my suggested CBM (festival celebrating Syria’s Jews). And I really hope Syria goes for it regardless of what Israel does. I don’t see it as part of a negotiation process. It would be a wonderful thing to see them back in Damascus and Aleppo … Syrians love to brag about how their country respects and protects all religions … this is not something Israel needs to reciprocate… they still call themselves “Syrian” jews.

But on the other hand … some work needs to be done to convince some milder cases of AIG that the $1000 asking price (Syria’s) is reasonable. For that I will repeat what I said two years ago (and many laughed at me):

You can’t have peace as long as most Israelis perceive Syria as a weak country … about to get even weaker next year.

Not to mention the “evil Syria” perception… who wants to reward an evil and weak adversary?

This is not a CBM .. this is part of a solid foundation for a negotiated agreement between two equals. Israel is “a democracy” (for Jews at least) … so it all depends on public approval.

The Israeli public forgot that Syria is perfectly sticking to all international agreements … in the 90’s they heard it from Prime minister Rabin. Today, all they hear is “Syria is supporting Hamas”.

So the starting point of a process that needs to take few months (in my opinion) is to undo the effects of the extensive media campaign that targeted Syria the past three years.

otherwise, as AIG said … $1000 is too much for Syria.

January 31st, 2008, 1:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You forgot that Syria is also funding and equipping Hizballah and that is a close ally of Iran. These are things Israelis do not like also.

The media reflect the facts, they do not create them, except in dictatorships of course. Syria looks bad to Israelis because of what it is, not because how it is portrayed.

The Syrian panic about the tribunal and its isolation in the Arab world are clear indicators that Syria is in trouble. Also the inability of Syria to do anything after the Sep attack is another strong indication. Syria is weak because it cannot build and be constructive, it can only destabilize its neighbors through destructive activities and by supporting terror organizations. Such a regime should never be rewarded.

January 31st, 2008, 2:37 am


norman said:

Can sombody tell me , What is CMB , and Alex , What are you selling for 1000.00$,

January 31st, 2008, 3:27 am


Alex said:


CBMs = “confidence building measures” : )


As I said … Keep dreaming.

And as I said (part II): “some work needs to be done to convince some milder cases of AIG that the $1000 asking price (Syria’s) is reasonable.”

You, and another 20 to 30% of Israelis (or New Jersey Likudniks in your case) are not easy to convince through logic.

So let’s see … you want us to devaluate Syria’s “price” because Israeli planes successfully destroyed a building by the Euphrates, but we can not apply the same logic to Israel which lost the 2006 month-long war against a few thousand Lebanese militiamen?

January 31st, 2008, 4:41 am


Shai said:


See my comment to AIG in the forum on the Lebanese singer Fayrouz. It sums up what I think he’s all about.

You’re definitely right about the damage that was done through the media to Syria’s image. Incidentally, funny that characters like these AIG’s should suddenly support Israeli media with “… the media reflects the facts, they do not create them…” They’ve been anti-media for eons here in Israel, claiming the media is heavily biased towards the Left. I guess this is what you call “selective hearing”?

I couldn’t agree with you more about a need to depict Syria as a strong nation, and one which very much influences our region. We must engage Syria as an EQUAL partner, not as an inferior one. We might have better planes, and tanks, and nukes, and whatnot, but we still cannot and will not have peace in this region without Syria’s participation. Syria is very much capable of making this come true, and also of making sure that it won’t.

As a general note, and this perhaps is the key to all of our problems in the region, I believe that we must learn to once again respect one another. By respect I don’t mean the kind of respect one general has towards his adversary on the battlefield. That kind of respect leads the sides to fear each other. I mean the kind of respect human beings have towards one another, in accepting the most basic rights we all deserve. In respecting that we also have the right to see things differently. In respecting each other’s right to live not only in peace, but also in dignity. The Palestinians have a right not only to their own nation, but also to feel respected amongst the nations of the region, and of the world. Same goes for Israelis. We want to be respected (not feared) in this region. To know that we mustn’t be ashamed of being either Jews, or Zionists who wanted a land for the Jews. We must find the way to put aside our miserable history, and focus on building a future comprising of peace and mutual respect. It all starts and ends with respect.

January 31st, 2008, 7:44 am


norman said:

Does anybody have any idea how this will impact Syria?.


Israel’s Barak back in pivotal role
His next move could be decisive for the governing coalition — and efforts toward a peace deal in ’08
By Joel Greenberg


January 31, 2008


Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister whose push for Mideast peace failed eight years ago, is waiting in the wings, the fate of the Israeli government in his hands.

The burly defense minister and Labor Party leader is in a pivotal position after Wednesday’s release of an official report harshly critical of the performance of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government during Israel’s war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Barak, 65, a decorated former army general who succeeded the discredited wartime defense minister last June, has been positioning himself for a bid to return to the prime minister’s office, which he occupied in 2000 when peace talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat broke down and were followed by a violent Palestinian uprising.

His next move after Wednesday’s report — possibly pulling out of the government, thereby toppling it, or calling for Olmert’s resignation — could be decisive for Israel’s governing coalition and President Bush’s last-ditch attempt to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact by the end of this year.

While Olmert’s allies argued that the report was not as damning as expected, Barak has to decide whether to make good on a promise to seek Olmert’s replacement or new elections once the Lebanon report is issued.

A moral dilemma

Barak had no immediate comment on the report Wednesday; his aides said he was studying it. Eitan Cabel, a Barak ally and the Labor Party whip in parliament, said Barak had to decide whether to make Olmert personally accountable for his conduct of the war.

“Barak’s dilemma is first of all a moral one: He has a chance to set things right in the eyes of the public,” Cabel said. “There cannot be a situation where there is no responsibility and no one sets a personal example. My sense is that at the end of 2008 there will be elections.”

A former commando and army chief of staff, Barak lost popularity after his failed talks with Arafat and the outbreak of the uprising. Some Israelis accused him of trying to give away too much, while others said he was too unyielding.

After losing the 2001 elections to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Barak went into business for several years, making handsome profits, before returning to politics and regaining the leadership of the Labor Party last year.

Now Barak is poised to shake up the Israeli political map, or, if he chooses, he could grant Olmert a grace period to pursue the revived peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But even as Olmert’s political future hangs in the balance, recent events in the Gaza Strip have raised questions about Barak’s qualifications for leadership.

A Stanford-trained systems analyst, Barak has a reputation for methodical thinking, and is said to like taking apart and repairing clocks. But critics accuse him of serious miscalculation in his policies toward Gaza, where Hamas militants last week blasted open the border with Egypt, undermining an Israeli blockade that had all but stopped the supply of food, fuel and medicine.

Days earlier, Barak had vowed to apply “pressure and more pressure” on Gaza, tightening the blockade with the aim of pressing Hamas to halt rocket attacks on Israel. But the policy backfired and the border was breached, creating new security headaches for Israel and giving Hamas a substantial boost.

‘Pressure cooker’

“Whoever thought that you could put all the people in Gaza in a pressure cooker and they would sing the tune we dictate to them, thought wrongly,” Efraim Halevy, a former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, told Israel Radio.

Matti Steinberg, an expert on Palestinian affairs who served as an adviser to two chiefs of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, said of the blockade policy: “You have no deterrence if you drive people to the point where they have nothing to lose.”

Barak’s acquaintances say he is not one to admit failure easily. After his push for an agreement with Arafat failed at Camp David, he cast the blame on the Palestinian side, saying Arafat was not ready to make a deal.

A few days after last week’s border breach in Gaza, Barak declared that he was sticking to his blockade policy. “The crossings on our side will remain closed,” he said, “except for the transfer of humanitarian items.”

A lackluster tenure

Barak’s seven-month tenure as defense minister has been lackluster, aside from a mysterious Israeli bombing raid in Syria in September that he has said nothing about. The raid, according to some accounts, was on a site that Israel believed housed a facility linked to a nascent Syrian nuclear program.

After the raid, Israel’s military intelligence chief said that Israel’s deterrence, tarnished by the inconclusive war in Lebanon, had been restored. But ordinary Israelis have been more preoccupied with the rocket barrages from Gaza, which have traumatized residents in the border town of Sderot.

“Barak came to the Defense Ministry with the idea that Israel needs him, hoping to renew his public legitimacy,” said Ofer Shelah, a political commentator and journalist. “But he is not gaining prestige as defense minister. … He needed to create a success in Gaza, so he was dragged into desperate measures without thinking them through.”

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

January 31st, 2008, 2:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You can determine whatever price you like given what you understand the situation is. When people differ on their evaluation of what the future will bring the solution is usually to wait for the future. And that is exactly what I am advocating.

The fact that Israel was not at its best in 2006 highlights even more the weakness of Syria. Knowing that Israel was less than brilliant, Syria was still too afraid to retaliate against the Israeli attack in September. What was Asad afraid of? I guess it shows what Asad really thinks about Israel’s strength and Hizballah’s “divine” victory.

If you are so sure about Syria growing stronger why are you so concerned about a peace deal with Israel? Let’s all wait patiently.

January 31st, 2008, 3:00 pm


Alex said:

I agree AIG, we will need to wait. I just think the waiting will last a year to two max. Then there will be an attempt to settle the Syrian Israeli conflict .. it might succeed, it might not.

Syria will get stronger politically, not militarily.

January 31st, 2008, 3:43 pm


Alex said:

Dear Alon,

I think the simplest way to understand Syria’s position is to realize that it really does not change.

When the Syrians feel stronger, they do not start adding more extravagant demands. When they get weaker, the Syrians do not “compromise”

They just wait.

Even in the early days of 1973’s war when the Syrian army was advancing in the Golan, Hafez Assad was going to stick to recovering the Golan Heights, the full Golan Heights and nothing more. He knew what “the international community” was going to tolerate and what they would never tolerate (entering Israel).

Similarly today, even if Palestinians in Damascus call for a Palestine “from the river to the sea”, Damascus is sticking to the classic UN resolutions 242 and 338… nothing more and nothing less… I think the Arab peace plan (ignored by Israel so far) is the most universally accepted, reasonable, and comprehensive compromise.

What parts of the Arab plan do you feel uncomfortable with?

Peace Park:

Assuming Damascus is happy with the Peace Park arrangement in the Golan. Israelis will be allowed to enter the Golan without a Visa and they will have all the privileges they need in the Golan.

Then that means one of two things

1) Israelis will be allowed to go all the way to Damascus (or Deir Ezzore) without a visa.

2) There will be a Syrian / Golan border! … The Golan will not be part of Syria .. the border is still to the east of the Golan.

If option one is the case, then will there be reciprocity? … will Syrian citizens be allowed to enter Israel without a visa? … free trade between the two countries? Israelis who enter the Golan (and Syria) can bring goods to sell in Syria duty free perhaps?

If you want to see how Syrians see the Peace Park idea, here is the discussion from Rime Allaf’s blog. She is the daughter of the late Mouaffak Allaf. There are 114 comments in that post. Most commentators there are not “baathist” at all.


I agree with Sami’s analysis in that part. Iran is not the threat that Ahmadinejad is trying hard to build through words.

When Israel wanted to Attack Syria in Deir Ezzore, its leaders sent messages to the Syrians to reassure them that there will be no Israeli attack. If Iran was to really attack Israel, it would be stupid to tell the entire world about it every week for a couple of years, like Ahmadinejad has been consistently implying.

There is no increased Iranian threat. But there is Iranian “disrespect” to Israel and the current American administration… and there are many negative statements towards Israel and towards Zionism.

This was an expected reaction to the “axis of evil” language in Washington.

I believe they will both disappear next year… no need for Syria to deplore Ahmadinejad’s statements, and no need for Israel to deplore Bush’s statements.

January 31st, 2008, 4:36 pm


Shai said:


You needn’t worry too much about Barak right now. The last thing he’s going to do is push for new elections – at least not now. His popularity is extremely low, he’s been conducting his own polls, and knows he’s got zero chance at becoming Prime Minister if elections were held tomorrow morning. He’s already started sowing seeds of “responsibility” by suggesting the government should not be dismantled now. He may, at best, pressure the ruling party, Kadima, to consider replacing Olmert with someone else (Tzipi Livni? our young and fairly inexperienced foreign-minister). That could actually be quite good for Barak, as he will remain in a very strong position, and will be able to influence things much more with a new, weaker Prime Minister. If he does go for early elections (as he basically promised to do should Olmert not resign, but that was many months ago which, in Israeli politics, is like 1000 years ago), he’ll be risking not only losing out to Bibi Netanyahu, but perhaps not even being a part of the new government. He’ll become a “no-one” in a matter of months, and knowing what he thinks of himself, I doubt he’ll risk that…

If, however, Tzipi Livni does somehow, by some miracle, become Prime Minister, I would certainly not rule out renewed talks with Syria. She’s far more pragmatic than Olmert, isn’t tainted yet with failures like Barak or Netanyahu, and can actually try where others are afraid today. If she’s smart, she’ll put a halt to the current talks with Abu Mazen, and focus her energies where there’s a more realistic chance for peace – Syria. I imagine the next few months will tell whether Olmert is staying in power, or not. If there’s enough public pressure for him to take responsibility for the failed war in Lebanon, and step down, he might have no choice.


I hope you’re right, though I fear that time is not on our side. There’s tremendous pressure building up here, especially with everything going on in Gaza, and the continued shelling of Sderot. A kindergarten has already been hit and, thank-god, no one was killed. If just one child dies in future shelling (which is a daily thing), very little could stop the already weak government from ordering a large-scale operation into Gaza. Then, we’ll be right back in summer 2006, except much tougher. And, if we end up killing a few too many Palestinian civilians (which quite often happens when we get involved in these operations), who’s to say Hezbollah won’t get involved again? And when Israel starts fighting on multiple fronts, we’ll be at war, not settling the Syrian-Israeli conflict (not peacefully, at least)…

January 31st, 2008, 4:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Really? Syria’s position does not change?
In 1967 Syria was for war. After the war it was against negotiations, the famous meeting of the Arabs in Khartoum:
After 73 Syria changed its mind again and gave up taking the Golan by force. It also changed its strategy and made the Golan border a very quiet one.
The Syrians wanted to stay in Lebanon but changed their mind and left because of international pressure.
The Syrians change their mind when you apply pressure to them. That is what history teaches. The Syrians react opportunistically to the prevailing international conditions and change their mind often.

In 73 the Syrians stopped because thier logistics lines were getting too long and they were leaving the protection of the SAMs. It was not because they had taken the Golan and were happy with what they had.

January 31st, 2008, 5:03 pm


Alex said:


Syria in 1948 was not the same Syria in 73, and not the same Syria in 67 when Nasser was “the decider” in the Arab world.

Syria in 1973 did not intend to go beyond the Golan Heights. You can analyze as you wish, you can google and find supporting New Jersey Likudnik analysis online. But Assad was not a dreamer… SAM coverage or not, he did not intend to throw the Jews in the sea.

Read Kissinger.

The Syrians “changed” in 1991 when they decided that the only way they can recover the Golan was through peaceful negotiations. That was a limitation of available options (no war option). But their goals did not change in any dramatic way since Assad came to power in 1970.

Any apparent changes were tactical negotiation tools. Long term (the past few decades) … no real change… What Hafez Assad wanted from Kissinger in 1975 is the same more or less that Bashar wants today.

As for leaving Lebanon … for your information, their army was already leaving Lebanon gradually … the number was 60,000 troops at its peak, when the Syrians were “forced” to leave .. they had less than 15,000 soldiers.

If they were not forced to eave, I think by 2010 they were going to be out anyway… they were removing about 4000 troops per year the last few years.

But in both cases they did not change the basics: They are not allowing Lebanon to be ruled against Syria… Syrian army in Lebanon or not.

And one last thing … they never annexed Lebanon when they had the 60,000 troops and everyone in Lebanon was under their control and President Bush Sr. was friendly to them… unlike Israel which annexed the Golan, and Saddam who annexed Kuwait.

They don’t change their strategic objectives … they do change tactics… even the United States changes tactics under pressure.

January 31st, 2008, 6:11 pm


norman said:


That is an interesting analysis.

January 31st, 2008, 6:26 pm


Shai said:

Here’s a question to George Ajjan,

There is a chance that the Republicans will win the next US elections (small perhaps, but still a chance). If McCain wins, what do you think are the chances he’ll do a complete 180 with regards to Syria? If the Democrats win, can Hillary heal some of those wounds? I know Obama plans to, but I guess having Bill Clinton be the “First Husband” probably suggests that she will get close to Syria again… right? As a Syrian-American, do you also prefer to wait until 2009, or should Israel and Syria try to come up with a formula during the current administration that would work for their “puppet-master”, George W.?

January 31st, 2008, 7:41 pm


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Israeli-Syrian Peace: From Dialogue… to Details & Diplomacy said:

[…] Thanks to all of the excellent participants on Syria Comment for generating a stimulating debate about the prospects and shape of a future Israeli-Syrian peace deal. […]

January 31st, 2008, 8:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

[I said “read Kissinger”]

January 31st, 2008, 8:56 pm


norman said:


Syria and Israel should negotiate a deal for the Mideast between Israel on one side and Syria , Hamas ( Palestine ), Hezbollah ( Lebanon )and Iran on the other side now and ASAP and then present it to the world , It should not be step after step but bold with a full meeting of the parties to sign , probably in Jerusalem .and immediate implementation , no more waiting for the US or any body else ,They have no interest in peace between the Arabs and the Hebrews.

February 1st, 2008, 4:27 am


Shai said:


Interesting idea I must say. But I have a feeling that Iran will not be interested. Syria may, but would Lebanon agree to have Hezbollah represent it and Palestine have Hamas in such talks? I also don’t see Israel agreeing to anyone except Syria, Lebanon (not Hezbollah), and Palestine (via Fatah).

February 1st, 2008, 11:35 am


norman said:

Shai ,
The weak ( Lebanese Gov, Fatah Palestinian authority ) will sign on for the deal when the strong and the ones caring the banner of deffending the Palestinians and the Arab interest sign on ,as for Iran , Syria will convince Iran after a full deal is reached to sign on for the deal to be a go, That is the only way i see for Israel to live in peace and prosperity.

February 1st, 2008, 2:30 pm


Shai said:


While I do agree that the only way Israel will live in peace in the region (and the rest of the nations around her as well), is for Iran to also be in the equation. I just don’t see Iranian and Israeli leaders meeting anytime soon to discuss anything… I do, however, see Syrian and Israeli leaders meeting, and in fact signing a peace treaty. Once the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finished, with the creation of Palestine on most of the West Bank, Gaza, and E. Jerusalem, only then do I see the possibility for Iran to start looking at options. The Syrian-Israeli track, however, is not dependent on the Palestinian progress. At least from what we understand.

February 1st, 2008, 6:42 pm


norman said:

Israel needs to make peace with all of them together .The every body will declare victory.

February 1st, 2008, 10:25 pm


Baruch Shalev said:

Dear Mr. SamiD -I reffer with deep respect to some of the comments you made to Mr. Alon Liel.I am not here to argue, I am seeking deeper understanding of your points,some very well structured points,and I did receive insights from a number of your comments.I did pay atention to you coment about cause and effect and the necessity to go beyond.To target the root causes. How about going one step even farther, and understanding the root causes beyond the arguing, and adress issues from a joint insight- in a pragmatic way. Is this possible in yout understanding ? Since the interconectedness between us people in this region, (and I am a genuine Israeli ) is much more than the political dimension. The issue of the water,for instance, it is not only a political issue with aspects of control or justice, if we do not seek the good of all,no one can survive or bee hapy in a region. Win-win situation is a realistic expectation.To mention another point that you reffered to -the same goes about achieving peace with several neighbouring countries,Sirya and the Palestinians. In order to have real peace, it is needed to work for it actively, like a gardener watering and weeding, it is not sufice to have peace agreements.Therfore, it is not an issue of who should do what first,who is to be blamed most,as we are in this suffering together as well as in the benefits of coexistence,mutual respect and peace. The much needed transformation in thinking is necessary,so I am seeking it first of all as a chalenge for myself ,which demands constant reexamination of the changing realities. Glad that this place enables ud to do this.

February 13th, 2008, 11:13 pm


Baruch Shalev said:

Mr Yaman
Your comments were beneficial to my better grasping the Syrian point of view. If I understand you corectly, you see peace initiatives as an atempt to interfere in the independence of Sirya ?
This certainly is a very sensitive issue and I do need a better understanding of the current situation.
Please continue to share your insight, I am very interested in your original way of thinking – and to better understand the needs of Sirya. Please continue the tread of your toughts,this provides genuine material for better unerstanding. Without understanding -there is no hope.And hope ther is, even in difficult and stressfull times.

February 13th, 2008, 11:49 pm


Sami D said:

Dear Mr Shalev,

Thanks for your comments. They are well taken, and as with Shai above, your sincerity is much appreciated – if not essential to reach a resolution.

Although I agree with the spirit of what you wrote, there are some parts that are either vague or too general. Everybody wants peace; the question is on what/who’s terms. When Israel would like to have peace AND simultaneously increases its control of resources/lands/ borders/air space/policies of its neighbors, then there’s going to be a problem.

“Mutual respect and peace” sounds perfect, except that if we don’t truly address the reason these are lacking then there won’t be a true, honest and long lasting resolution. If we don’t talk about causes and effects, we won’t be able to identify and focus on, and try to stop the cause – where the problem lie— hence making a remedy elusive.

Every grievance that the Palestinians/Arabs have against Israel falls in the “cause” category. Israel is asked to stop taking the West Bank water, to stop taking more and more land, to stop building on occupied territories, to stop humiliating and harassing people at checkpoints, to stop demolishing homes, to stop denial of equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens. On the other hand, every grievance Israel has against the Arabs/Palestinians fall under the “effects” category: Syria must close its Hamas office, Hamas must stop firing rockets, Hezbollah must stop katiousha rockets – all are responses to Israeli conquests and rejection of offers of peace.

When you say that “it is not an issue of who should do what first,who is to be blamed most,as we are in this suffering together” you imply a balance of two sides. Suddenly an oppressed and an oppressor, a victim and victimizer, raped and rapist are on the same level: both have been wronged (semi) EQUALLY. Nor on the power level is there balance: the victimizer has the power, the oppressed is powerless. While that thinking of “balance” is a welcome improvement over “the Arabs are the victimizers, Israelis victims,” it is still far from reality. Furthermore, experience tells me that whenever Israel speaks of the parties’ need to be “pragmatic” or about the “changing realities”, I know this means that Palestinians are asked to relinquish fundamental, basic rights to accept the fait accompli Israel created on the land, from colonies (settlements/outposts) to judaization to control of resources. I don’t imply that this is what you had in mind when you used that word.

I understand most Israeli people want peace (and think of themselves as victims), like the Palestinians and other Arabs. This is not true of Israeli governments and their policies, however, unless one can reconcile two opposites: Israeli government’s on-going colonization/Judaization of the land with peace. Of course I won’t come as close to implying that Arab governments are angels; but their internal dictatorial rule, desire to stay in power and their weak armies make them much more willing to compromise – to the degree that they are often willing to sell short their people’s basic rights.

I regret that I don’t understand what you mean by a “transformation of thinking” or “going one step further [beyond root causes],” outside of what I elaborated above. We can transform our thinking all we want and go beyond arguing, but so long as the conqueror continues the conquest and oppression, while we’re busy trying to transform our thinking, no peace will ever take place. The issue is simple: is ISRAEL willing to share the land it conquered in 1948 with the natives of that land? Is it willing to equally share the resources? Is it willing to stop the conquest, the oppression? Is it willing to treat people equally, not give Jews preferential treatment and treat non-Jews as a “demographic problem”? Is IT willing to accept the Palestinians’ right to exist in Palestine??

On the other hand, are Hamas and Hezbollah willing to stop their attacks on Israel? Noting that these organizations sprang as a response to Israeli policy and lack of alternative means to address legitimate grievances, then once the cause is gone, the effect will have no reason or support for existing. Palestinians and Lebanese don’t just shoot at Israel because they enjoy the ensuing Israeli destruction of their cities, infrastructure, suffocation, death, cluster bombs. They do it because they have pressing rights and livelihood that’s encroached and trampled upon all the time.

Unless we understand and accept the basics, and try to resolve the problem starting with these basics, then I regret that “transformation in thinking” or “mutual respect and peace” will have little substance. Sorry if any of what I wrote sound uncompromising; it only reflects how much injustice has been and continues to be inflicted by Israel on the natives of the land.

February 15th, 2008, 9:29 pm


Baruch Shalev said:

Dear Mr. Said D,
I read carefully your comments,and then read them again.
I re-read recently a wonderful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Dr. Martin Luther King. Thich Nhat Hanh has written several books on root causes, and the interconnectedness of all things which he calls interbeing. His writings express much better my own feelings.

Call Me by My True Names

This is his brief introduction to his poem from: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by him:

In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.
There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.
When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.
After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call me By My True Names ,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Call Me by My True Names
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

February 19th, 2008, 9:55 pm


Stephanie said:

This web site indicates exactly why a peace deal with Syria is so hard. The people on this web site who write expect a one-state or binational solution that will undermine Israel as a country with a Jewish majority. The two-state solution is a two-state solution. Any resolution must be made on the basis of the Oslo Accords and Roadmap for Peace. Also, it is the fault of Arab countries that there were wars before 1967 and again in 1973. To argue that is the fault of Israel is ridiculous.

The purpose of maintaining an Israeli presence in the Golan Heights is to protect borders and maintain security. The status must be negotiated fairly for Syria but the problem had to do with deadlines for a military pullout that couldn’t be reached. The two-faced Syrian government funds militancy in Lebanon and Palestine. They also line military tanks at their border with Israel. That is not peace-making and has nothing to do with self-defense. It is a game of self-serving oneupmanship to approach the peace process with respect to total blame for the other side.

Also, Israel’s land belongs to itself. They legally purchased the land from the Ottoman Empire. The Palestinians as such didn’t own land. You need a land deed for land. One doesn’t own land because one lived on it 100 or 500 years ago. How it was obtained doesn’t even matter. There is Eskimo land in Canada owned several thousands of years ago and now there are people living on it with land deeds, houses and mortgages. I suggest adjusting one’s concept of land usage and ownership to the realities on the ground in the modern age and the parameters of the law in regards to private property rights. Only Marxist-Leninist societies recognize collective land rights.

They also have the U.N. vote to back their existence. Palestinians rejected their own state and started a war against another. If they had accepted the partition in ’47, they’d have a state. Instead they allow the myth of al-Nakba (which denies the creation of Israel and the 850,000 Jewish refugees ousted from Arab lands) to fuel their self-destructive political mentality. It is unfortunate but forces both sides to fight. The stance of the P.L.O. on refugees, borders and land distribution has prevented the Palestinians from getting a homeland as well as militancy and the recent election results.

International rejectionism, religious fundamentalism and racism led to this state between Israel and Palestine. Granted, the creation of a Palestinian state of its own, separate from Israel, with East Jerusalem as a capital, the removal of settlements past the 1967 border and fair deals on land and refugee compensation for both sides is desirable and just. Still, Israel will act in its self-defense as long as it has to. This tragic cycle must end but it begins with Palestinians abandoning militancy and a change in the Palestinian leadership. The occupation is a tragedy and it imposes so many restrictions on their livelihood, prosperity, education and success. It would be nice to end it.

March 9th, 2008, 3:37 am


wizart said:


This sounds a lot more like fiction than a true account of history.

The Ottomans didn’t even belong there in the first place much less be authorized to cash in and hand out deeds on land where Palestinians actually lived or farmed their olive trees and other produce for ages.

Perhaps you can also produce a film showing those Deeds being handed out in the presence of fair dealing international lawyers.

This would not make peace but perhaps a new Hollywood production.

March 9th, 2008, 4:56 am


norman said:


Israel should be Jewish only state if we can have the US and the EU as Christian only states , The Jews then should be treated in the US as the Christian and the Muslims are treated in Israel , that is only fair , don’t you think ,or as always you think that what is for the Jews is only for the Jews and what for everybody else we have to share with the Jews ,

Looking at what is going on in the Mideast makes it clear that Israel only responds to force , The border between Israel and Syria has been the most secure for Israel , still Israel is not leaving the Golan Heights , It is clear that as long as keeping the Golan is not costing Israel anything in blood or money they will stay there,

About blaming the Palestinians for the Ills that they are facing from the Israeli occupation is laughable as i do not remember Israel saying any thing about caring for the Palestinian people whom it made homeless in order to bring settlers from Europe to be an unsinkable Aircraft carrier for the West .

About the Turks giving permission for the Jews to migrate and buy land in Palestine , That did not happen , actually that was one of the good things that the Ottoman did , we all know that the Jews sided with British against Germany and Turkey in the first world war in return for the Balfour declaration.

Please correct you info , we are not naive on this blog.

March 9th, 2008, 5:29 am


Israeli Mom said:

Fascinating post and even more fascinating responses – some outright scary.

I need some time to mull things over, but I hope it’s ok if I can quote parts of Alex’s comment here –
as it relates to some issues I mentioned on a recent post on my blog and which I’d like to develop further.

May 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm


Samir S. Halabi said:

Almost my entire family were murdered in Aleppo Syria in the 1947 pogrom. We have never lived in Israel although we have family members living there since the 1930s.

To state a fact that Arabs were not involved in Hitler’s extermination of european Jewry and not forgetting members of the Jewish faith from Algeria and Libya who also suffered the same fate as the european Jews did by ending up in Hitler’s death camps in Poland together with their Jewish european brethren.

Yes unfortunately there was many Arabs whom willingly participated including the Arabs of Palestine to do Hitler’s bidding, including the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem himself the late Haj Amin al-Husseini who was the Uncle to the late Yasser Arafat (who’s real name was Abdel Rahman Abdel-Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini) The Grand Mufti as you know was the Guest of Adolh Hitler from 1941-45 in Berlin Nazi-Germany. during that period he visited several death camps where they were genociding Jews and other non-desirables on a daily industrial basis. Husseini was extremely impressed with the methods used to eliminate these people from the face of this earth and wanted to employ the same methods of annihilating all middle-eastern Jews as soon as the war ended with an axis victory.

Please don’t brag how wonderful the Arabs treated their Jewish citizens, I can only say that the jews of the arab world lived a dhimmi existence sometimes good sometimes bad, depending on who their ruler was. I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of the few Jews living in Yemen today, the teacher of the Jewish children was gunned down in the street because he didn’t convert to Islam as ordered to by an ex-pilot in the Yemeni airforce, Jewish girls were abduced from their parents and forced to marry old-tribesmen and convert to islam by force. Please don’t forget that many Arabs also moved to palestine in the late 1920s 30s & 40s as the conditions there somewahat improved as more Jews developped the infrastructre, economy, buiding, and health etc. Today well over 50% of the population including 1.3 million Arabs are comprised of the jews and their descendants who were forced out or fled in terror from the Arab-World after the inception of ‘The State of israel’ however today in the Arab world there remains only around 6,000-7,000 Jews at the most which is down from 1,000,000 in 1948 that is what you call ethnic-cleansing and not the other way around.

March 17th, 2012, 6:33 am


Post a comment

Neoprofit AI Immediate Venture