Liel – “Syrians Serious about Full Reorientation”

The Syrians, Liel says, are serious about a full “reorientation.”  No Hamas, no Iran, no Hezbollah. The Americans vetoed any formalization of the track showing no interest in engaging the Syrians. The Israelis were too scared even to ask the US.

Simon McGregor-Wood, ABC’s bureau chief in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, sent along these very interesting notes of Dr. Alon Liel's presentation to the FPA forum held at the King David Hotel today at 11am. 

Alon Liel was Director General or Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2000-2001 and carried out unofficial peace negotiations with a Syrian counterpart over the last several years. He answered questions about the Syrian-Israeli peace talk initiative. To read the Haaretz reporting on these "unofficial" peace negotiations click here.Alon Liel

An interesting briefing from Dr Alon Liel the former Israeli diplomat who was involved in the track 2 negotiations with the Syrians, that resulted in the non paper peace agreement recently reported by Haaretz.

Senior Israeli officials knew about the process as it happened. They were briefed at every turn.

The Swiss government sponsored the process. (Despite the negative fallout of the Geneva Initiative|) Most talks happened in the Bellevue Hotel in Berne. The Swiss are now very friendly with Damascus. They have established the trust of the regime and are frequent visitors.

Swiss diplomats checked every move in the process with senior regime officials in Damascus (unnamed). The Syrians were feeding into the negotiations with government approved ideas and suggestions.

The Israeli government did not.

The Americans vetoed any formalization of the track showing no interest in engaging the Syrians.

Olmert’s rejection is just a parroting of the US position.

The Syrians wanted to go up a notch with a Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, with an American official present in the room. The Israelis, according to Liel, were too scared even to ask the US. This happened 10 or 11 days into last summer’s war in Lebanon.

The Syrians, Liel says are serious about a full “reorientation.” The deal on offer is far more than an Israeli-Syrian deal over the Golan Heights. The deal would encompass a full engagement of Syria with the international community. No Hamas, no Iran, no Hezbollah. The Syrians are fully aware they won’t get the Golan if they remain within the Iranian axis.

They are willing to wait for the land until their change of heart is proven to be genuine and lasting. This is where the 5 or 15 year withdrawal timetable came from.They are completely inflexible on the question of sovereignty and the 4th June 1967 borders. They want all the land and swaps are a non starter.

They are prepared to be very flexible on other issues, namely Israeli access to the land, for tourism and work, and the security guarantees and demilitarization.

Liel believes peace with Syria is much easier than with the Palestinians now, and for at least the next ten years.The Palestinian internal crisis is so fundamental, it will take ages to resolve.

The Road Map is a joke and a cover up for a peace process. There is no point in talking to Abu Mazen. Palestinian society is completely splintered and a deal with Abbas would never stick. There is no partner for serious negotiations at the moment.

Both Senator Nelson and James Baker recommended opening negotiations with Syria. Nelson accused the White House of pursuing a failed, "ostrich" like policy by failing to talk to Syria. Read the following two stories:

Syria talks may help Israel, Baker says: Former US secretary of state says dialogue between Bush administration, Damascus could cause Hamas to recognize Jewish state. US could also get Syria to stop arming Hizbullah, he tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Comments (9)

Rancher said:

I’m sorry but I really think Baker is an idiot. “dialogue between Bush administration, Damascus could cause Hamas to recognize Jewish state”. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk to Syria, we should. But somebody please tell me how Assad can make Hamas, or Fatah for that matter, give up on a fundamental tenet of their existence?

January 31st, 2007, 4:08 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


Interesting point and i see where you’re coming from. But you have to realize (though I am sure you will disagree) that Hamas, Tehran and co are as extreme as some of Israel’s foreign policy has been over these years. What the Syrians can do, assuming that a just peace agreement can be hammered out, is to blunt such harsh views. They can push Hamas (maybe not as much as they can with Hizbullah) to become more politically involved and put away their arms. Because even if the Syrians come to an agreement with Israelis, Damascus will remain better friends to Hamas than any other Arab country would be. And in such position they can influence them more significantly. And without Syrian approval, Iran can never be as influential in the middle east as it is being right now.

January 31st, 2007, 4:37 pm


Sami D said:

More importantly, innocent_criminal, Hamas/Tehran’s extremism are, at least in good part, a PRODUCT of US-Israeli extremism and policies. In other words, one way to help reduce such, if that’s the real interest on the part of Israel and the US, is to engage in fair and just policies, not simply aim for total surrender, under the PR cover of focusing on otherwise meaningless & endless dialogs/talks/negotiations. The question is not how to make Hamas or Hizbollah abandon extremism, but how to end the first wrong that is the denial of justice & self-determination –Israel-US conquest and subjugation of the Middle East/installation of puppet dictators– that produced this extremism. Even if Syria and Israel agree to peace terms about the Golan/security, the final word is for the US, who sees the Golan as one of many levers to use against Syrian gov, and Israel won’t make any deal until such. Nor will such peace involve justice for the Palestinians, the core victims of US-Israeli policies.

January 31st, 2007, 5:06 pm


Rancher said:


Let me surprise you and agree that there are extreme policies coming from Israel, bulldozing the houses of suicide bomber’s families for instance. I was very interested in your statement that Iran’s influence in the region is dependent on Syria. Why do think that’s the case?

Sami D

What do you mean by “aim for total surrender”? My limited understanding of the situation is that Israel and the US will accept a Palestinian State and even some sharing of Jerusalem, something Hamas and even Fatah totally reject. They want it all. Who is asking for total surrender if not the Palestinians?

January 31st, 2007, 5:46 pm


ugarit said:

Rancher claims: “the situation is that Israel and the US will accept a Palestinian State and even some sharing of Jerusalem”

I have no idea where this information comes from. The Palestinian Authority has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and the sharing of Jerusalem. All of Palestine would be the rest of Israel; hence, the PA has not made that statement. So please tell us what your sources are.

Hamas is another story.

January 31st, 2007, 6:43 pm


Sami D said:

Both Hamas and Fatah have said they would accept Israel within its 1967 borders, ie the international and Arab consensus (which means Palestinians would get 22% of historic Palestine and Israel 78%). Recent example of Hamas accepting such can be found at here. Israel (and the US) rejects that, as it did repeatedly since the mid 1970s. No, what Israel accepts for the Palestinians is a limited “state” that Israel totally dominates, in the form of islands separated by Israeli settlements, highways, military, where Israel would control the border, the skies and the underground water of the fragmented Palestinian “state”. Even Jerusalem, which Israel would allow Palestinians to “share” (after Israel ethnically cleansed most of it) has been redefined by Israel by extending its borders inside the West Bank grabbing yet more Palestinian territories. One of the best ways to understand the conflict is to look at the maps and borders as they gradually change over the past 40 years, and you’ll realize what Israel is doing: devouring day by day, through walls, home demolitions, extension of military zones, settlements, Jews-only highways, etc, more of the West Bank land, locking Palestinians into increasingly tight cantons, taking what remains of their land, water and sustenance, and interrupting their movements and any semblance of an economy via hundreds of checkpoints between Palestinian cities, towns and villages (not between these and Israel, note!). That’s the system Israel wants Palestinians to swallow, and that’s basically total surrender to Israeli domination under the facade of Israeli sacrifice and generosity and Palestinian statehood, met with Palestinian/Hamas “rejectionism”. (It’s a brilliantly evil propaganda system Israel and its allies in the West maintain.)

January 31st, 2007, 6:57 pm


norman said:

Ransher , this might make understand the Palestinian people.

January 31st, 2007, 7:47 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Mr. Bush ought to take note of what the so-called moderate camp of the Middle East region has been up to lately.

> /ADVANCE/ WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Amnesty
>International today called for the immediate and unconditional release of
>Karim Amer, the first Egyptian blogger to be tried for writing blogs
>criticizing Egypt’s al-Azhar religious authorities, President Husni Mubarak
>and Islam.
> Karim Amer, a former al-Azhar University student and blogger, is facing up
>to 10 years in prison for his writings in a trial that resumes today. Charges
>against him include “spreading information disruptive of public order and
>damaging to the country’s reputation,” “incitement to hate Islam” and
>”defaming the President of the Republic.”
> “Karim Amer’s trial appears intended as a warning by the authorities to
>other bloggers who dare criticize the government or use their blogs to spread
>information considered harmful to Egypt’s reputation,” said Malcolm Smart,
>director of the Middle East and North Africa Program. “This is particularly
>worrying as bloggers have increasingly been posting information about human
>rights abuses in Egypt, including torture and police violence against peaceful
> The trial opened on Jan. 18, 2007 before Maharram Bek Court in Alexandria.
>Karim Amer was charged under Articles 102, 176 and 179 of Egypt’s Penal Code.
>Amnesty International has been urging the Egyptian authorities to review or
>abolish this and other legislation that, in violation of international
>standards, stipulates prison sentences for the mere exercise of the rights of
>freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.
> “Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience
>who is being prosecuted on account of the peaceful expression of his views
>about Islam and the al-Azhar religious authorities. We are calling for his
>immediate and unconditional release,” Smart added.
> Background
> Karim Amer was first detained by the Egyptian authorities for 12 days in
>October 2005 because of his writings on his blog ( about
>Islam and the sectarian riots which took place in the same month in
>Alexandria’s Maharram Bek district. These riots followed reports that the
>video of a play believed to be anti-Islam was being screened in a Coptic
>church in the district.
> After he was charged and released, disciplinary measures were taken
>against him and he was dismissed from al-Azhar University in March 2006. The
>university’s disciplinary board found him guilty of blaspheming Islam.
> He was summoned to appear before the office of the Public Prosecutor in
>Maharram Bek district of the city of Alexandria on 7 November 2006 following a
>complaint made against him by al-Azhar University. The Public Prosecutor
>ordered his detention for four days on 7 November, which was later extended
>for a further 15 days, to allow further time for investigation. He has
>remained in detention since then following a series of extensions. While in
>detention, he was kept in solitary confinement and in incommunicado detention
>and was only allowed visits by his relatives last week.
>SOURCE Amnesty International

January 31st, 2007, 7:53 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

The comments made by ‘Rancher’ are of course par for the course, for much Middle American pays reel, who do not have much detailed knowledge of the intricacies of inter-state interaction in the Near East. Hence, his absurd statment that the USA and Israel will ‘accept a Palestinian State and some sharing of Jerusalem’. There is in fact, no evidence that any Israel government has ever put on the table a ‘sharing’ of Jerusalem. Even in the negotiations between Barak and Arafat in late 2000, early 2001. Barak offered up something which was close, but, not the real cigar. And, of course even Barak’s concession made to Arafat were immediately withdrawn by Sharon, when he defeated Barak in the elections and came to power.
As for the current American government, well Bush’s statement of two years back in which he essentially turned his back on over 35+ years of
agreed American policy, and said that contrary to
Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 of 1967,
Israel was not, repeat not, required to give up, and return, all the lands conquered during the Six Day War, in return for Peace.

As per Baker’s remarks: what can one say, except that he while not attempting to openly embarrass Bush, probably shares the contempt and dislike for
current American Near East policy, that his ex-colleague, General Scowcroft has for it. And, indeed, I and, Professor Landis, most Near Eastern
academic specialists, and most readers of this
online journal. I myself, while not holding up much hope that anything can salvage the American position in Iraq, do feel that upcoming debacle calls for even more, not less active American peacemaking activities in the region. The very last thing that the Near East needs at the moment iis the (still) submerged Israeli-Syrian antagonism over Golan and the Lebanon coming to life again, like a Frankenstein Monster.

February 1st, 2007, 6:36 am


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