Mitchell to Syria; Arafat Murdered?

US Middle East envoy Mitchell heading to Syria

(AP) – The U.S. State Department says the Obama administration’s special Middle East envoy is heading to Syria.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says George Mitchell plans to arrive Friday for his second visit in Damascus since he took up his post.

State Department Walks Back Suggestion U.S. Will Exert Financial Pressure on Israel
By Nina Donaghy, FOXNews, Thursday, July 23, 2009

The State Department on Thursday brushed aside any suggestions that the United States is contemplating financial or economic pressure against Israel to prevent it from building settlements and push it back to the negotiating table with Palestinians.

The State Department on Thursday brushed aside any suggestions that the United States is contemplating financial or economic pressure against Israel to prevent it from building settlements.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that there had been a “misinterpretation” of remarks made by deputy spokesman Robert Wood earlier this week.

Wood said reports of such action were “premature,” setting off alarm bells among the Israeli media that the U.S. is considering that option.

“We are not contemplating such action,” Crowley said. “Clearly, this is why George Mitchell is in the region today talking to all of the parties that we believe what they need to do is to set conditions, to resume negotiations so that all of these issues can be resolved through peaceful negotiations.”

Mitchell will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories Sunday and Monday, following a weekend stop in Damascus where he will meet Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moualem, Mitchell’s second visit to Syria since being appointed special Mideast peace envoy.

Turkey has also said it is prepared to resume mediating peace talks between Syria and Israel but Crowley would not comment directly on the prospect of the talks re-starting.

“We’re trying to see what Syria’s prepared to do, you know, to move toward a comprehensive process. We’re also trying to develop bilateral issues that we have with the Syrians, as well.”

In Israel, Mitchell will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has so far said he is ready to pursue a peace process but Israel will only accept a demilitarized Palestinian state. Washington and Israel are also deadlocked over where to draw the line on a freeze of Israeli settlements. Washington wants to see an end to all settlement activity. In the meantime, it is also calling on Arab neighbors to show signals of recognition toward Israel.

Arafat’s Death: What is behind the Qaddoumi Accusations of Murder?

Tarek writes:

I think the story of Qaddoumi’s accusation toward Abbas that he had something to do with Arafat’s death is worth looking at. This has Syria written all over it. Qaddoumi as you already know is Syria’s man in Fateh and while Assad has alluded to Arafat’s assassination a few years back everyone discredit his comment as a ploy to deter attention from the Hariri tribunal. So it’s interesting that Qaddoumi, or more likely Damascus, have chosen to reignite this accusation now.

I can only guess that it is some sort of (desperate?) payback for what Abbas has been doing to undermine Hamas in the territories or the unlikely attempt of coup within Fateh. I am not sure how much can this damage Abbas & co, i guess it really depends on what type of evidence they have. But audio tapes can be easily discredited and if there is more convincing evidence i am sure a backdoor deal would be made long before it could ever reach the public. That said, as the author of the Khaleej Times article states, negative public perception could very well be bad enough.

Here are some interesting articles.

Sami Moubayed, Who really killed Arafat?

Al-Jazeerah (in Arabic)

Alex writes:

Tarek this is not a desperate move against Abbas … Syria does not do that. Remember that at the height of pressure from Lebanon’s M14 figures, the Syrians never shared in public anything against Hariri and Jumblatt for example … after decades of Syrian presence in Lebanon, they surely have plenty to share if they wanted to.

Syria’s deal with Saudi Arabia (and the US) is getting stuck partially because of Egypt. Mubarak seems to be not able to make any deal that gives Syria the Ok to be the main Arab party in peace negotiations (and one of the main players in Iraq, and Lebanon …)

This is probably intended as a warning … to weaken the only card Mubarak can play: His alliance with Fatah and Abbas.

When Hamas took over Gaza from Fatah they collected a number of documents which were sent to Damascus … Syria never used them publicly against Fatah. I heard there is so much serious dirt to be used if and when Syria decides to.

Tarek replies:

“I tend to agree with you Alex. The word (Desperate) was added to cater to the Syria’s critics who will call this another desperate ploy to hinder the US-KSA-EGYPT allies in the region. Obviously this is a calculated move, if they were desperate they would’ve pulled this card years ago during the Hariri tribunal fiasco.”

In FP, (Via FLC)

“… these five intelligence chiefs have leveraged their skills and connections to gain influence far above their pay grades.
* Omar Suleiman, Director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service
* Meir Dagan, Director of Israel’s Mossad
* Qassem Suleimani, Commander of the Quds Force, IRGC
* Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Director general of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency (GIP)
* Assef Shawkat, Former commander of Syria’s military intelligence agency, current deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military

David Ignatius on the CIA: A generation ago, former officials say, the CIA had recruited and trained a team of Lebanese agents to assassinate people involved in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.

Haaretz: US Loan Guarantees

“… He added that Israel would prefer not to use them. “I don’t see any need to use them in the near future,” Steinitz said. “But it’s good they are there.”

The guarantees have been instrumental in allowing Israel to raise money more cheaply and in sovereign ratings upgrades by credit rating agencies. Israel still has $3.8 billion left to use by 2011 after already issuing $4.1 billion in bonds backed by the U.S. and a $1.1 billion deduction for Israeli settlement building and concerns over the West Bank security fence…….

…………Palestinians are looking to set up a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.”

Comments (15)

norman said:

I wonder if Arafat will become Israel’s Hariri, and a way to force Israel into submission to the US demands as they tried to do to Syria,
What do you all think,?

July 24th, 2009, 1:08 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


Arafat was “murdered” by the AIDS virus.
He was forced into submission, and then was murdered by huge
This is what I think.

July 24th, 2009, 4:09 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Norman – Not a chance in hell IMHO

Amir – not very constructive but LOL

July 24th, 2009, 10:40 am


SimoHurtta said:

Something there is to hide with Araft’s death, because Abbas as the successor of Arafat has never released a report by Arafat’s French doctors on what killed Arafat. And the question why there was no autopsy. Either the cause is to embarrassing to Arafat’s family and legacy (the Israeli speculation) or it is to dangerous to his followers and movement. If it would have a death because of normal natural causes what would be the motive not to release the report.

Abbas could any day end the speculations especially the Israeli “theory” by releasing the report, instead he has tried to silence the “discussion”. Surely the strongest motive had those who wanted Arafat to “vanish” fast. Amir in Tel Aviv don’t “you” always brag how sophisticated your medical and pharmaceutical industries are?

July 24th, 2009, 11:52 am


Akbar Palace said:

More on Cairo-born Yassir…

July 24th, 2009, 3:13 pm


norman said:


I still think that Arafat was killed with Polonium 210,

AIDS does not kill people that fast in 2004 , there are many medication for that .

Magic Johnson has been living with the disease for more than 10 years .

July 24th, 2009, 7:11 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I really don’t care who killed this freak, this son of 60,000 Sharmuta’s,
(Please, do not “moderate” me on this.. it’s not me, I’m just quoting
here another freak: ).

And AIDS is indeed a treatable syndrome, given one admits
of having it, and is willing to take the right medications.

July 24th, 2009, 8:25 pm


Alex said:


When General Tlass called Arafat “the son of 60,000 ********” it was a calculated move that was quite effective … Arafat at the time was negotiating with the Israelis and he was reported to be about to make some additional concessions. The Syrians promised President Clinton that they will not interfere in Palestinian affairs (like they used to in the past perhaps).

So, I guess General Tlass found an effective way to force Arafat to declare publicly that he will not compromise over Jerusalem and the right of return … And he did make those clear statements right after Tlass accused him publicly of stripping to the Israelis and Americans.

Syria’s relations with Yasser Arafat were rarely good. But he was never personally a target .. they could have eliminated him easily of course.

He later took part in the funeral of President Hafez Assad and saluted him as one of the great Arab heroes … after that gesture, and after sticking to a clear negotiating position, there was less hostility from Damascus towards Arafat.

July 24th, 2009, 8:40 pm


Alex said:

Similarly … this month Farouk Qaddoumi’s threat to reveal what he has can lead to some results.

Knowing Qaddoumi (who is one of the most respected Palestinian figures), he certainly can backup his accusations with convincing proof.

Dahlan might need to retire:

July 24th, 2009, 9:00 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


You do not have to “translate” M. Tlass for me.
I see the picture of late Imam Humeini on his desk, and can figure for
my self.

This General is nothing but a war criminal, and necrophiliac.

How would you feel if an Israeli minister would have presented a war-loot,
he stole from a Syrian soldier, killed in action..?

This violates the rules of Geneva. The remaining and belongings of
slain combatants, should go back to their families.

Generally speaking, this shows the quality of your leaders,
that no-one legally elected, and is impossible to throw from power.

July 24th, 2009, 9:30 pm


Alex said:

In a recent opinion poll, 91% of Arab viewers of Aljazeera said that they believe Qddoumi’s accusations that Abu Mazen and Dahlan took part in Arafat’s assassination.

The Palestinian authority closed the offices of Aljazeera in the west bank to protest the TV station’s position on Qaddoumi’s accusations.

تسميم عرفات.. تشخيص بنكهة سياسية يكشف شرخا فتحاويا
راسم عوض الله : الاردن

التقطت فضائية الجزيرة الخيط وبثت سلسلة تقارير تلفزيونية وأخرى على موقعها الكتروني، ما أثار زوبعة من التساؤلات، ذلك أن الاتهام صدر عن الرجل الثاني في حركة فتح ليؤكد “بالتوثيق” وجود تواطوء بين إسرائيل وخليفة عرفات أبو مازن ومسؤول الأمن الوقائي السابق في قطاع غزة محمد دحلان.

الرد جاء سريعا من السلطة الفلسطينية التي أغلقت مكاتب الجزيرة في الضفة الغربية، واتهمتها ب”الانحياز” في تغطيتها لصالح حماس الإسلامية. وأكد عبّاس وآلة السلطة الإعلامية أن ما يصفها القدومي ب”الوثيقة”
نشرت بأشكال مختلفة سابقا على عدة مواقع إسرائيلية وحماسية في قطاع غزّة.

في السياق، احتدم التراشق بالاتهامات بين مواقع الكترونية تدور في فلك السلطة وأخرى تابعة لحماس.
وواصلت الجزيرة تشريحها للغز عرفات، عبر تخصيص حلقات حوارية، خرجت إحداها بتصويت نتيجته أن 91 % من متابعي موقع الفضائية القطرية يعتقدون بأن أبو مازن ودحلان شاركا في مؤامرة اغتيال عرفات.

July 24th, 2009, 9:41 pm


Alex said:


I am not defending anyone, I am simply explaining that there is more to the 60,000 ****** statement than the seemingly bizarre motive. And it should be remembered at this time when Qaddoumi attacks the integrity of Abou Mazen… the important story here is that Syria might be applying more pressure on Abou Mazen like it did when General Tlass attacked Arafat a decade ago.

What is so wrong with Tlass keeping the autographed picture of Imam Khomeini? … even though you and I are not compatible with many aspects of his ideology, the Imam is probably revered by a vast majority of the Iranian people. He is much more popular than President Obama I would imagine.

As for his keeping of the watch of the Israeli pilot who was attacking Syria (not defending Tel Aviv) … I think I will not cry yet for this savagery on the part of a Syrian official who is violating “the rules of Geneva”

I really hope you are not serious about that last statement Amir … that would be hilarious. Israel that does not respect tens of UN resolutions .. Israel that kills Palestinians and makes their lives miserable is not a country that you should be proud of if you were saddened by the scene of the captured watch of a captured Israeli pilot attacking Damascus.. no one died as a result of keeping that watch .. the Israeli pilot’s body was returned to Israel.

Reminds me of comments I read in Haaretz by Israeli readers who wanted Israel to send its IDF to teach Syria a lesson for attempting to build some nuclear weapon (allegedly) .. the same Israelis who are fine with their country having hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Amir … the assumption that Israelis like you have .. that Israel is moral an its enemies are thugs is … racist.

I’m sorry to tell you that there is nothing mild about it.

Our non elected officials vary from the wonderful people who really want to serve, to the ugly corrupt thugs.

But for the past decade, our non elected officials did not kill a small fraction of the innocent people that your elected officials killed.

Keep that in mind.

Make peace with the Arabs then you can genuinely enjoy the moral superiority of having elected officials.

July 24th, 2009, 9:57 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:



The right order should be 180 degrees reversed.!!

First elect leaders who represent you, then we’ll sit with them and
reach an agreement,between: the Arab people (legally represented), and
the Israeli people (legally represented).

Thomas Jefferson once said (I’m quoting here from Michael Oren’s book ‘Power, Faith and Fantasy’ )
That “.. A treaty that you sign with a dictator, will last, as long as
the dictator is alive”.

This is very true. Do you think that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty
will last after the Egyptian Junta goes? .. I’m not sure.

So first democracy and real representation, and only THEN.. peace.

July 24th, 2009, 10:38 pm


Alex said:

Totally unrelated

N.J. Corruption Probe Shines Unwelcome Spotlight on Syrian Jews
Friday July 24, 2009

DEAL, N.J. — This wealthy seaside town might not have a Syrian Jewish community at all if it hadn’t developed as a summer escape for Brooklyn’s Syrian Jews, more than 10,000 of whom visit each summer.

Indeed, in the Syrian Jewish community, Deal is known as “Brooklyn
South,” and the approximately 1,000 who stay here year-round have built a dozen or so Orthodox synagogues, several religious schools and a wide selection of kosher restaurants.

On Thursday (July 23), federal agents arrested five rabbis, two New Jersey state legislators, three mayors, and dozens of others in a political corruption and money-laundering probe that spanned from Hoboken to Israel. The sting has brought an unwanted spotlight to the Syrian Jewish community, which has long tended toward insularity.

“These are only allegations. All these people are innocent until
proven guilty,” said Yosef Reinman, an author and rabbi in Lakewood’s sizable Orthodox Jewish community, which is less than 20 miles from Deal. Though he is not Syrian, Reinman has worked with Syrian Jews for more than a decade.

“Even if some of them did stuff over the line, it should not reflect on the community,” he said. “They help the poor. They service people in hospitals. They go to visit people there, entertain them, cheer them up, it’s a very big thing.”

Among the Syrian Jews arrested were:

— Edmund Nahum, 56, principal rabbi at Deal Synagogue in Deal.
Authorities said he laundered $185,000 between June 2007 and December 2008. He was released from custody on $700,000 bail.

— Eli Ben Haim, 58, principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal. Authorities said he laundered $1.5 million between June 2007 and February 2009. He was released from custody on $1.5 million bail.

— Saul Kassin, 87, chief rabbi of Congregation Shaare Zion in
Brooklyn. Authorities said he laundered more than $200,000 with the government’s cooperating witness between June 2007 and December 2008. Kassin was released from federal custody on $200,000 bail. In 1994, Kassin succeeded his father as chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in the United States.

The Syrian Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Deal are known for
their ability to flourish financially in the secular world, particularly in the garment and electronics industries, while retaining centuries-old religious customs and traditions.

“It’s a community that is committed to its rabbis and their rule,”
said Jonathan Sarna, an American Jewish history professor at Brandeis University.

The Syrian Jewish community is also noted for adherence to the
absolute authority of its religious leaders, and nowhere is this more evident than in a 1935 ban by Syrian rabbis against intermarriage, including people who converted to Judaism and who are openly accepted in most other Jewish communities. The decree is believed responsible for one of the lowest rates of intermarriage of any Jewish community.

The penalty imposed for marrying outside the faith or to a convert
is severe: excommunication. “It really was designed to ensure that blood would be preserved,” Sarna said.

The publicity surrounding Thursday’s arrests was a major blow to the tight-knit community whose leaders have long guarded its reputation and independence with care.

“We would prefer that you not discuss it on the news. It’s not good for anybody — especially us,” said a man outside Brooklyn’s Shaare Zion synagogue, who said he’d been receiving calls about the news all morning.

Sarina Rosse, a Syrian Jew from Brooklyn who has studied and spoken widely on the history of the community, said this inwardness is rooted in the Jewish experience in Syria. “You learn to live under the radar and not draw attention to yourself,” she said. “You get into an argument with a Muslim, it’s Muslim court, Muslim law, they take the word of a Muslim over the word of a Jew. You learn to be apolitical.”

In the early 16th century, Jews expelled from Spain made their way
to Syria, where the Ottomans extended a relative welcome. Another wave of Jews came from Italy and France in the mid-17th century; they had been granted special privileges to trade without paying taxes, said Yaron Ayalon, a doctoral student in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton who will teach at the University of Oklahoma in the fall. Many of the Jews became traders in silks, spices and other luxury goods.

Syrian Jews began emigrating to the U.S. in the early 20th century, but left Syria in droves after pogroms sparked by the 1947 U.N. partition of Palestine.

When they arrived in America, they were considered uneducated and
didn’t speak Yiddish, making for a hostile welcome among the Eastern European Jews already settled in New York, Rosse said. “It was just a very rough start for them,” she said, and that contributed to their effective isolation.

Though Syrian-American Jews eventually assimilated in many ways,
including dress and language, they have retained their traditions,
including naming practices, religious customs and a cuisine that looks and tastes more like the Arabic cuisine of Syria than other regional Jewish foods.

“It’s a community that has been deeply proud of its identity and its success in America, of the fact that it has managed through several generations to maintain some of its distinctiveness, unlike other sub-ethnic Jewish groups,” Sarna said. “No doubt this will lead to some introspection, especially if significant members of the community are taken into custody.”


(Jeff Diamant and Vicki Hyman write for The Newark Star-Ledger.
Carly Rothman and Chris Megerian contributed to this story.)

c. 2009 Religion News Service

July 24th, 2009, 10:54 pm


Alex said:


I assume you are not stuck on the “dictator” and “democracy” words but you want Israel to negotiate with someone who represents the wishes of at least 51% of the Syrian people.

Let me make four points:

1) President Assad is the most popular Arab leader, not only in Syria but in six “moderate Arab” states… a zogby poll showed last month if you remember.

When it comes to Syria’s regional policies, and its position towards Israel, Assad’s popularity is probably even higher (I’m sure he loses points for the excessive corruption in Syria, yet he finished on top in that poll).

If you read independent Arab journalists (not the Egyptian Saudi ones), if you paid attention to the numbers you get in online polls (like te 91% in the Aljazeerah poll believing Abou Mazen conspired with Israel to kill Arafat) you will realize that Syria’s hard line, yet fair, position is as popular as you will get from any Arab leader.

2) Olmert was negotiating with Syria … he wanted (supposedly) to give back the Golan … opinion polls showed that only about 30% of Israeli people supported that .. does this mean Syria should have refused to negotiate with Olmert?

3) Syria signed one agreement with Israel .. the Kissinger negotiated disengagement agreement that ended the 1973 war. Everyone agrees that Syria (led by “dictators”) fully respected that agreement for the past 35 years even though Israel attacked Syria and Israeli planes flew over the Presidential Palace …

4) I lived in Egypt when President Sadat decided to dump the Arabs and to ally himself with the US and Israel. Believe it or not, he manged to sell his people the idea and at that time it was quite a popular move. Even though he was “a dictator”

What made it not poplar later was mostly Israel’s not very peaceful actions after that peace treaty … Hosni Mubarak was not more of “a dictator” than Sadat.

The first thing that Israel did was to annex the Golan in 1981. How was that for a signal that Israel was not interested in peace with the rest of the Arabs but more interested i weakening them?

If Israel intends to use peace with Syria as a tactic to better rule the Palestinians and to weaken the country of Iran … then dictator or not, the treaty will not be popular with the Syrian people. If Israel wants to build on the success of peace with Syria to try to reach other agreements with the Palestinians and others, then the peace treaty with Syria will be popular among the Syrian people .. dictator or not.

Let us keep Thomas Jefferson quotes out of it please. I’m sure I can find you quotes from other respected statesmen and intellectuals that advocate no negotiations with a country like Israel, until Israel stops killing innocent people.

July 24th, 2009, 11:28 pm


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