More on New US Amb., War Bluster, Hariri Court

BACK TO DAMASCUS?
by FREDERICK DEKNATEL in The Nation”
February 5, 2010

Washington has nominated Robert Ford, a career Foreign Service officer, as its ambassador to Syria, a post that has been vacant since the United States withdrew its envoy in 2005 to protest alleged Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Syria denied any involvement.)

Ford, currently deputy ambassador to Iraq, was ambassador to Algeria from 2006 to 2008. He ran a Coalition Provisional Authority office in Najaf in 2003, and from 2004 to 2006 he was a political officer at the US Embassy in Baghdad, where he helped draft Iraq’s new Constitution, establish the transitional government and oversee elections in 2005.

The appointment of a career officer who speaks Arabic represents a shift for Obama, who has often chosen well-heeled friends and contributors for ambassadorial posts. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of November twenty-four nominees were high-profile campaign “bundlers” who corralled more than $10 million for Obama. About half of all ninety-nine nominees either donated to Obama, other Democratic candidates or the Democratic Party.

Sending Ford to Damascus is part of the administration’s effort to back up Obama’s fleeting Cairo oratory. The London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted an unnamed American official saying, “Washington wants to help in launching direct peace negotiations between Syria and Israel in the next few months.” But Joshua Landis, a regional expert who runs the popular Syria Comment blog, is not so sure. “The Syrians I have spoken to are skeptical that [negotiations] can lead to anything but frustration,” he said. “Netanyahu is not giving any ground to the Palestinians and there’s no reason to expect him to give ground to the Syrians.”

Reopening the ambassador’s residence is a step, not a solution. After all, last year Obama renewed harsh economic sanctions on Syria that were imposed by George W. Bush. And Syria holds the dubious distinction of being Washington’s oldest designated state sponsor of terrorism–since 1979.

Washington has called on Israel and Syria to curb recent tensions that might make it more difficult to resume stalled peace negotiations, the London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday.

State Department sources told the Arabic-language daily that the U.S. was determined to see Israel re-enter the peace process, both on the Palestinian and Syrian track.

The sources said that the new U.S. envoy to Syria was dealing with a number of issues challenging the resumption of talks, and that Washington was making efforts to see the obstacles overcome.
Advertisement
A top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel wants to start talks that would culminate with a permanent peace agreement with Syria, but would continue to react against any threats to its safety.

Nir Hefetz, head of the National Information Directorate in the prime minister’s bureau, said after a meeting with Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that the two wished to emphasize their commitment to peace with Israel’s neighbor to the north.

FM on Syria feud: Grave issues in Mideast require a response
By Haaretz

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday defended his controversial comments warning Syria not to attack Israel, saying that grave issues in the Middle East cannot go without response. Lieberman on Thursday said “Assad should know that if he attacks, he will not only lose the war. Neither he nor his family will remain in power.” His remarks came after Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos that Israel was pushing the Middle East toward a new war.

Lieberman’s comments drew harsh criticism on Thursday from a range of Knesset members, some of whom urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rein him in or dismiss him. However, the Foreign Minister dismissed the criticism on Friday, saying, “I don’t work for the media or for public opinion.”

“My response, which I made in order to clarify that the situation [with Syria] is unbearable, was immediately met with a hysterical reaction in Israel of ‘how dare we anger the nobleman,'” Lieberman said on Friday in an interview with Channel 2 news. He went on to say that he finds it unfortunate the Israeli left has adopted this reactionary habit and added, “I think that in the Middle East, we cannot let grave things go without a response.”

Lieberman also denied that behind-the-scenes meetings have been taking place between Israeli and Syrian officials.

Walid Jumblatt vows solidarity with Syria in the face of what he calls ‘a frenzied Israeli attitude.’

“Amid the Israeli madness and radical threats, I tell the Syrian people and leadership that we are with you above all else,” he said in a statement issued by the PSP and quoted by pan-Arab A-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, the Lebanese portal Naharnet reported on Friday.

He said, “We took our decision a long time ago on who is the enemy and who is the friend … Syria is our strategic depth.”

China throws kink into U.S.-led push for sanctions on Iran
(By Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post)

China on Thursday threw a roadblock in the path of a U.S.-led push for sanctions against Iran, saying that it is important to continue negotiations as long as Iran appears willing to consider a deal to give up some of its enriched uranium.

“To talk about sanctions at the moment will complicate the situation and might stand in the way of finding a diplomatic solution,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at a conference in Paris.

After months of spurning the proposed deal, which would provide Iran with fuel for a medical reactor, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed a suddenly renewed interest in it this week just as France, a strong advocate of sanctions, assumed the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council. French Prime Minister François Fillon said Wednesday that he would ask the United Nations to adopt a resolution imposing “strong sanctions” against Iran because of its nuclear program.

Lebanese fear stall in tribunal on Hariri slaying
By BASSEM MROUE
The Associated Press
Saturday, February 6,

The head of the international tribunal on the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister sought to reassure Lebanese this week that the investigation is on track, but there are growing concerns here that work is languishing in the case…..

Comments (62)


norman said:

From Gaza to Lebanon: Beware of the Coming War Ramzy Baroud

3 February 2010 The Israeli military may be much less effective in winning wars than it was in the past, thanks to the stiffness of Arab resistance. But its military strategists are as shrewd and unpredictable as ever. The recent rhetoric that has escalated from Israel suggests that a future war in Lebanon will most likely target Syria as well.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Israel actually intends to target either of these countries in the near future, it is certainly the type or language that often precedes Israeli military manoeuvres. Deciphering the available clues regarding the nature of Israel’s immediate military objectives is not always easy, but it is possible. One indicator that could serve as a foundation for any serious prediction of Israel’s actions is Israel’s historical tendency to seek a perpetual state of war. Peace, real peace, has never been a long-term policy. “Unlike many others, I consider that peace is not a goal in itself but only a means to guarantee our existence,” claimed Yossi Peled, a former army general and current Cabinet Minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

Israeli official policy — military or otherwise — is governed by the same Zionist diktats that long preceded the establishment of the state of Israel. If anything has changed since early Zionists outlined their vision, it was the interpretation of those directives. The substance has remained intact. For example, Zionist visionary, Vladimir Jabotinsky stated in 1923 that Zionist “colonisation can…continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population — an iron wall which the native population cannot break through.” He was not then referring to an actual wall. While his vision took on various manifestations throughout the years, in 2002 it was translated into a real wall aimed at prejudicing any just solution with the Palestinians. Now, most unfortunately, Egypt has also started building its own steel wall along its border with the war-devastated Gaza Strip.

One thing we all know by now is that Israel is a highly militarised country. Its definition of ‘existence’ can only be ensured by its uncontested military dominance at all fronts, thus the devastating link between Palestine and Lebanon. This link makes any analysis of Israel’s military intents in Gaza, that excludes Lebanon — and in fact, Syria — seriously lacking. Consider, for example, the unprecedented Israeli crackdown on the Second Palestinian Uprising which started in September 2000. How is that linked to Lebanon? Israel had been freshly defeated by the Lebanese resistance, led by Hezbollah, and was forced to end its occupation of Lebanon in May 2000. Israel wanted to send an unmistakable message to Palestinians that this defeat was in fact not a defeat at all, and that any attempt at duplicating the Lebanese resistance model in Palestine would be ruthlessly suppressed. Israel’s exaggeration in the use of its highly sophisticated military to stifle a largely popular revolution was extremely costly to Palestinians in terms of human toll.

Israel’s 34-day war on Lebanon in July 2006 was an Israeli attempt at destroying Arab resistance, and restoring its metaphorical iron wall. It backfired, resulting in a real Israeli defeat. Israel, then, did what it does best. It used its superior air force, destroyed much of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The resistance, with humble means, killed more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers during combat. Not only had Hezbollah penetrated the Israeli iron wall, it also filled it with holes. It challenged, like never before, the Israeli army’s notion of invincibility and illusion of security. Something went horribly wrong in Lebanon. Since then, the Israeli army, intelligence, propagandists and politicians have been in constant preparation for another showdown. But before such pending battle, the nation needed to renew its faith in its army and government intelligence; thus the war in Gaza late Dec. 2008.

As appalling as it was for Israeli families to gather en masse near the Israeli Gaza border, and watch giddily as Gaza and Gazans were blown to smithereens, the act was most rational. The victims of the war may have been Palestinians in Gaza, but the target audience was Israelis. The brutal and largely one-sided war united Israelis, including their self-proclaimed leftist parties in one rare moment of solidarity.

Of course, Israel’s military strategists knew well that their war crimes in Gaza were a clumsy attempt at regaining national confidence. The tightly lipped politicians and army generals wanted to give the impression that all was working according to plan. But the total media blackout, and the orchestrated footage of Israeli soldiers flashing military signs and waving flags on their way back to Israel were clear indications of an attempt to improve a problematic image.

Thus Yossi Peled’s calculated comments on January 23: “In my estimation, understanding and knowledge it is almost clear to me that it is a matter of time before there is a military clash in the north.” Further, he claimed that “We are heading toward a new confrontation, but I don’t know when it will happen, just as we did not know when the second Lebanon war would erupt.” Peled is of course right. There will be a new confrontation. New strategies will be employed. Israel will raise the stakes, and will try to draw Syria in, and push for a regional war. A Lebanon that defines itself based on the terms of resistance is utterly unacceptable from the Israeli viewpoint. That said, Peled might be creating a measured distraction from efforts aimed at igniting yet another war — against the besieged resistance in Gaza, or something entirely different. (Hamas’ recent announcement that its senior military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed late January in Dubai at the hands of Israeli intelligence is also an indication of the involved efforts of Israel that goes much further than specific boundaries.)

Will it be Gaza or Lebanon first? Israel is sending mixed messages, and deliberately so. Hamas, Hezbollah and their supporters understand well the Israeli tactic and must be preparing for the various possibilities. They know Israel cannot live without its iron walls, and are determined to prevent any more from being built at their expense.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a distinguished Arab American journalist and author. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story, (Pluto Press, London)

——————————————————————————–

February 7th, 2010, 3:05 am

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I think that Lieberman’s comments were misunderstood.

What he meant to say is that if Syria commits war crimes (“..moving the
war into your cities”), then this Syrian Junta will not “just”
lose power, but will also lose the wholeness of their personal necks.
Just like the Iraqi Junta’s necks of Saddam and of Chemical Ali.
.

February 7th, 2010, 7:42 am

 

Shai said:

“The recent rhetoric that has escalated from Israel suggests that a future war in Lebanon will most likely target Syria as well.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Israel actually intends to target either of these countries in the near future, it is certainly the type or language that often precedes Israeli military manoeuvres.”

Some people are experts at saying a lot, and yet saying nothing. What is Ramzy Baroud trying to say? That Israel’s existence depends on war? If true, then the same could be said about a few other countries in our region, who still conduct themselves under “emergency law”, despite not fighting a major war in over 36 years.

I’m not proud of the way Israel fights its “wars-of-choice” (as Begin coined them), in fact, I’m ashamed of it. But to suggest that Israel invents wars is, in my opinion, somewhat disrespectful of the author’s audience. In 2006, if three Israeli soldiers hadn’t been kidnapped, only a true Oracle could claim Israel would have found “another reason” to go to war. In 2008, if Hamas hadn’t fired thousands of rockets into Israel over a 7 year period, only the same Oracle could claim we’d find the excuse to go in.

Let no one, not Ramzy nor anyone else, fool us. We don’t need to “start” wars. We have been fighting a war ever since 1947. Sometimes it’s with tanks and infantry, air force and artillery. Other times it’s behind the scenes. But it’s ongoing, it’s bloody, and it seems endless.

The minute we succumb to the belief that any side is inherently interested in war, that its very-existence depends on war, is the moment we must give up, and fight to destroy the other side completely. It is precisely what extremists in my country are saying about Hamas, and Hezbollah, and Iran, and even Syria.

I’m not ready to conclude this about any side. No one is interested in war, only tiny, fanatic groups of individuals who care not for their own people, or for others. I haven’t met yet a single nation or major organization/political party in our region that fits that.

February 7th, 2010, 7:57 am

 

Yossi said:

Shai,

There is no need to over-generalize. Some wars were “accidental” and could have been averted, and some were planned well ahead of time and were waiting for an appropriate pretext to launch. The 1982 Lebanon war was planned well ahead of time and the assassination attempt of Amb. Argov was the pretext to launch it. 2006 was not planned and that’s why the army was caught unprepared and was shamed. 2008 was prepared ahead of time, including the initial attack on the police cadets. A pretext was easy to create by cornering Hamas in the cease-fire renewal negotiations and by killing their men next to the border on November 4th.

I agree with Joshua’s analysis that nobody really wants war at this point, and this is all jockeying for what is likely a destined-to-fail negotiations (but still cross my fingers for success!).

One thing that happened again in this chain of events is that Bibi once again proved that he is the left-most marker and most responsible member of his own government. His only true allies in his pro-diplomacy policy are ministers Meridor and Eitan. Barak’s alliance is with the army and they have a different agenda—e.g., they gravitate towards periodic conflagrations. Can Bibi lead from this position? Very slim chance.

February 7th, 2010, 8:45 am

 

Shai said:

Yossi,

I don’t know what “accidental” means, but given that we are in a state of war ever since 1947 means that, by definition, all sides are constantly readying themselves for confrontation. It should come as no surprise that the Army has endless “scenarios” and ways of attacking this target or another. This is the nature of war, or of almost-war. That Israel has operational scenarios for attacking Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, or the little green Martians, does not mean they plan to attack, to start a war, or to perpetuate a state of war.

I imagine Syria also has a few “plans of war”, and know already in advance which Israeli towns and targets they’ll hit if/when there’s war. That doesn’t mean they plan to attack Israel.

February 7th, 2010, 9:10 am

 

Shai said:

Yossi,

Whether Netanyahu does indeed plan to “lead” sometime in the next 4 years is still an unknown. But if he is, then you’re right, it is going to be a difficult challenge. Personally, I think he could use outside help, either from Washington, or from Damascus, or from both. Though I very much respect Meridor, he’s too shy and too cautious to risk his political neck at this point.

Syria must realize that there’s no better PM in the near or distant future, that has a chance to deliver the Golan, than Netanyahu. President Assad should call Bibi’s bluff. He should invite him to a face-to-face meeting somewhere, and ask him to prove his intentions. The two leaders must attempt to form a basis of trust, as Olmert and Assad were close to achieving.

In the meantime, the two are standing their ground, risking nothing, except for the future. If I was Assad, I’d invite Netanyahu to Damascus tomorrow morning! Someone has to break the circle-of-pride…

February 7th, 2010, 12:58 pm

 

offended said:

Dear Shai and Yossi,

I hope you could bear with me while I put my controversial views forward.

First of all, I’d like to disagree with both of you: for war to materialize– if I may borrow an expression from gastronomy– you’ve got to have the right components:

1- I do not think it’s hard for any Israeli government to sell war to its public, I take Gaza as an example; it was completely an unnecessary war. Could have been avoided if Israel really wanted to.

2- When there is a continuing state of oppression, occupation, uncertainty about the fate of refugees, complete irrelevance of UN resolutions as far as the occupier or justice are concerned, Israel do not even need to initiate war, Israel in this case is an instigator by the virtue of it being obtrusive to justice.

3- What does Israel stand losing through wars? Compared with the massive losses on the Arab side, Israel had mostly had neat transactions (if I may think of wars as abstractly, for the sake of argument). Israel was never morally disgraced for its wars. Not even in the case of Gaza. Not even the Goldstone report was acknowledged or acted upon. Most of the time Israel would win the empathy of the western world (or the US at least), and the bleeding heart sympathy of most media outlets (again, at least in the US). In fact, the Goldstone report itself stated that one of the reasons there is no peace in the Middle East is because war crimes are committed against civilians with impunity.

4- I’m also sorry to say that I don’t see the war trumpeting chorus on the Israeli side as a small minority; the Likud party charter doesn’t even acknowledge a Palestinian state anywhere west of the Jordan river, that is not even counting the other religious parties positioned more to the right. When a state doesn’t own up to its international obligations and exploits every hurdle in the book to undermine the future Palestinian state, I don’t see how that could be construed as an earnest effort to avoid war and achieve peace. Talking about peace and wanting peace is really hollow when you do not acknowledge the grievances of your adversaries. If I may come up with a harsh example: even the mob leaders yearn for peace and do not like infighting– as long as they can carry out protection rackets and money laundering.

5- If we are to construct a time-line of hostilities between Arabs and Israel, I’m sure we’ll come up with the conclusion that Arabs were, more than 90% of the time, reacting. As I said in the previous thread, Arabs aren’t inherently violent. And nor are Israelis, of course. But Zionism, in theory and in practice, is a very dangerous and provocative thing to have in the Middle East. I accept the Jewish community currently living in Palestine as a de facto population, nothing can be done about the past. But I refuse to accept Zionism as an ideology that could coexist peacefully in the middle east.

As long as Zionism is around, there will be no peace.

February 7th, 2010, 1:41 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Hunger, sadness and despair in Gaza. They all look so emaciated and starved, because of the heavy hunger.
.

February 7th, 2010, 2:18 pm

 

Averroes said:

OFFENDED,

Well said. Israel maintains an extremely unjust stand on a number of issues. As long as the Arabs surrender, give up their rights, and swallow insult and humiliation day in and day out, Israel is happy with that “peace”. The moment you start resisting the huge injustice, then you’re a “threat” that must be dealt with.

Israel needs war to sustain the incredibly (and increasingly) unjust position it’s been enjoying for the last 60 years. Nothing but the threat and the use of overwhelming military power can convince people to stand down and temporarily give up their rights. That’s how Israel “needs” war. And as resistance movements gain more relative strength, Israel responds with more of the same: more brutality, more butchery, more cruelty, more wars and threats of wars.

That position is not sustainable, Shai and Yossi. It is not sustainable and your people had better wake up from living the dream. Arabs are not going to forget and they’re not going to forgive if it takes not 60, but 100 or 200 years.

Your utter dependence on Arabs being subjugated under rulers like those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt is a very very bad bet.

Only a just settlement will bring peace. Only a One State solution will bring true peace, where Arab and Jew can live together as equals in a secular state for all its citizens, with the refugees Right of Return. Nothing less will bring true peace. Nothing!

Unfortunately, you people have painted yourselves into a corner, and I would be (happily) surprised if you were able to get out of through dialog and reason alone.

Meanwhile, Israel will continue to violently (through wars) pursue the dream of Arab mass surrender, labeled as “Peace”. Surrender the Right of Return, surrender Al-Quds, surrender the Right of Return, surrender the right to resist occupation, and we can all have “peace”.

February 7th, 2010, 3:41 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Offended,

Allow me to respond to each point:

1) Of course war could be avoided. But you can’t claim Hamas had nothing to do with the army’s response. That it responded as it did, is horrific. There is something called proportionality. Or, at least, there should be.

2) I agree with you. But there’s a reason the rest of the world didn’t condemn Israel in those early moments, just as it didn’t in Lebanon 2006. The world still hasn’t accepted rockets showering a civilian population as a legitimate means of fighting Occupation.

3) I disagree – Israel has much more to lose in wars than do the Arabs. The Arab nations know that they cannot be defeated, that they’ve outlasted thousands of years of foreign occupiers, empires, mandates, and are still here. Israel, and Israelis, do not yet feel this. With each rocket that lands inside Israel, our citizens’ confidence is further eroded. Plus, quantitatively-speaking, the Arabs are at a 50 or 60-to-1 advantage versus Israel. If in each war we “win” by a factor of 10-to-1 (classical wars, not military operations), we’ll still lose in proportion.

4) I again humbly disagree – One can want peace, and yet not acknowledge the grievances of the other. I believe at least 50% of all Likudnicks prefer Peace over War. I agree that you can’t claim to DO peace, by not doing the latter.

5) I agree, partly. Zionism has changed. The original Zionism was not intended to come at the expense of another people. No original founder of Zionism dreamt (or spoke) of what was to later occur in the Palestinian Naqba. I agree that Zionism must change.

February 7th, 2010, 6:08 pm

 

norman said:

Shai said ,
((( ) I again humbly disagree – One can want peace, and yet not acknowledge the grievances of the other. I believe at least 50% of all Likudnicks prefer Peace over War. I agree that you can’t claim to DO peace, by not doing the latter ))),

The peace you are talking about is what your FM said , Syria to forget the Golan and the rest of your people want the Arabs to forget the Palestinians and all their rights , it is Surrender what your people want and call peace , something you would not accept if you were and Arab or a Palestinian ,

you know that many people in the Arab side wants peace with Israel where the Jews will return to the places they come from and the palestinians return to Palestine , they are amazed why Israel does not want their vision of peace , peace has to be just and something you would accept if you are in the other side ,

February 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

No Israeli would accept this equal right-of-return you’re suggesting. To you, this sounds like the most fair solution. But to Israelis, who already see themselves as sovereign citizens of a state, the idea that they’ll vacate this land and return to their mother-lands is preposterous. I hope, in my fantasy UME, that this could happen out of choice, not by force. If an Israeli whose family came from Iraq wanted to move back to Baghdad, he/she could.

I agree with you, that the definition of Peace many Israelis are adopting, is in essence the capitulation of the Arabs, Palestinians, and others. Most Israelis don’t understand that this is what they’re asking for. They don’t see it that way. They see it as “The Arabs only have to accept us here”, and there’ll be peace. They don’t truly understand the grievances of the Arabs. And you’re right, there will be no Peace, until we do.

What I’m suggesting is that Israelis can genuinely want Peace (recall 70% supported a return of the Golan not that long ago, in Rabin’s days), and yet not fully understand what we have caused the Palestinian people all these years.

I fully disagree with you about most Israelis thinking like Lieberman. Most Israelis understand that a Palestine must be created, and that Syria will not make peace with Israel without the Golan. What we need to do, is to shift over those 40% to understand that time isn’t on our side, that Peace is a strategic decision that should be made as quickly as possible.

Lieberman is a corrupt thug. His loud bark is evidence of what he is, a small dog. If he was representative of Israel, we would already be at war. He is the best FM the Palestinian people could have hoped for. And Syria, to be honest.

February 7th, 2010, 7:15 pm

 

Shai said:

Averroes,

Then how do you explain Camp David, or Oslo, or Shepherdstown? How do you explain Rabin’s deposit?

I agree with you that Palestinian resistance helps the Settlers. And that Syrian resistance (via HA, Hamas, or Iran) helps those Israelis that preach of panic, distrust, and hatred. In that sense, some Israelis “benefit” from perpetuating resistance against Israel.

But I disagree with you, if you are insinuating that Israel needs war or confrontation to exist. And it is important to separate and make this distinction. Most Israelis are not Settlers. Most do not live on the Golan, in the West Bank, or in Gaza. Most do not believe the Palestinian Territories are Israeli territories. If they did, they would have annexed them decades ago. Most Israelis voted for Sharon, Olmert, and even Livni (who couldn’t form a government), based precisely on the concept of withdrawing from the Palestinian Territories and enabling the creation of a Palestinian State. Clearly, most Israelis saw this necessary act as prerequisite to Peace.

You cannot ignore those things that caused more Israelis to vote for Likud and Israel Beitenu than before. Don’t forget, Likud received barely 12 seats in the previous elections. That says a lot about what Israelis thought of Likud. But following Sharon’s disappearance, Olmert’s poor record, and inability to stop Hamas and HA rockets, the masses turned to the Right. (And still, 28 seats went to Kadima, who was for a Palestinian State, and 27 to Likud).

You may well be right, that “true peace” will only occur once there is a one-state solution. Personally, I’ll settle for “less-than-true-peace” right now, with a two-state solution, and an agreed upon withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Contrary to what the U.S. thought, I believe it has to start between Syria and Israel.

February 7th, 2010, 7:55 pm

 

almasri said:

As an Egyptian I do not believe that Israel has any room to be in the Arab homeland. The mere existence of such a midget state is an affront to common sense and humanity. The Arabs must unite and begin a serious effort to eradicate this cancer from the area no matter the cost.
I would be the happiest person on earth to see the so-called ambassador of this midget state out of our beloved Cairo, thus keeping our dear Egyptian soil clean of desecration.

February 7th, 2010, 8:26 pm

 

norman said:

12. Shai said:

Norman,

No Israeli would accept this equal right-of-return you’re suggesting. To you, this sounds like the most fair solution. But to Israelis, who already see themselves as sovereign citizens of a state, the idea that they’ll vacate this land and return to their mother-lands is preposterous. I hope, in my fantasy UME, that this could happen out of choice, not by force. If an Israeli whose family came from Iraq wanted to move back to Baghdad, he/she could

Shai,

Your reaction is exactly what i expected and that solution is as preosterous as the solution that your people want , syria should accepty peace without the Golan , the palestinians should go away and live in other arab states , they have all that land , why are they trying to share in Palestine , I do not expect the Israeli to accept what i wrote eventhough many extreemist think of it as just and i want not to expect Syria and the Palestinians to accept a solution that is not dependent on international law , no matter how long that will take ,

February 7th, 2010, 9:48 pm

 

norman said:

12. Shai said:

Norman,

No Israeli would accept this equal right-of-return you’re suggesting. To you, this sounds like the most fair solution. But to Israelis, who already see themselves as sovereign citizens of a state, the idea that they’ll vacate this land and return to their mother-lands is preposterous. I hope, in my fantasy UME, that this could happen out of choice, not by force. If an Israeli whose family came from Iraq wanted to move back to Baghdad, he/she could

Shai,

Your reaction is exactly what i expected and that solution is as preposterous as the solution that your people want , syria should accept peace without the Golan , the palestinians should go away and live in other arab states , they have all that land , why are they trying to share in Palestine , I do not expect the Israeli to accept what i wrote even though many extremist think of it as just and i want not to expect Syria and the Palestinians to accept a solution that is not dependent on international law , no matter how long that will take ,

February 7th, 2010, 9:55 pm

 

Akabar Palace said:

As an Egyptian I do not believe that Israel has any room to be in the Arab homeland. The mere existence of such a midget state is an affront to common sense and humanity. The Arabs must unite and begin a serious effort to eradicate this cancer from the area no matter the cost.
I would be the happiest person on earth to see the so-called ambassador of this midget state out of our beloved Cairo, thus keeping our dear Egyptian soil clean of desecration.

Al Masri,

Your Egyptian soil can’t even feed its own people. I suggest you focus less on our successful “midget state” and concentrate more on your broken mess of a country.

February 7th, 2010, 10:06 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

I don’t quite follow you. You said: “… the solution that your people want, syria should accept peace without the Golan, the palestinians should go away and live in other arab states.”

Do you think most Israelis say this? Then how to do you explain 70% for return of the Golan in Rabin’s days? Or majority voting Sharon, Olmert, and Livni, to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza?

I think you’re confusing Lieberman for most Israelis.

February 7th, 2010, 10:08 pm

 

norman said:

My freind Shai,

Aren’t MOST ISRAELI NOW AGAINST THE RETURN OF THE Golan , NOW NOT 15 YEARS AGO , Rabin time , you know that your leaders do not recognize what Rabin promised , you can see how President Assad misses Rabin ,

I once asked about you vision for the Mideast settlement , i never got an answer , It looks to me that you and all of you are interested with a process that will last another 20 years without real peace ,

I am still waiting for your vision and i will tell you mine and will see if a solution can be found ,think of a solution that if you were a Palestinian would accept .

February 7th, 2010, 10:36 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

U.S. official: Arming of Hezbollah could spark Israel-Syria war

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1143146.html

February 7th, 2010, 10:48 pm

 

Averroes said:

Shai,

Camp David et al can be easily explained: Arab leaders surrendered to Israel. In the case of Sadat, he took Egypt out of the equation and as Haikal puts it “withdrew from history”. King Hussein had his back to the wall after making the wrong choice during the Kuwait war, and Arafat gave it a try only to be assassinated by Sharon a few years later.

None of those brought you true peace. Egypt can turn any day, and Egypt, when rid of the regime that is holding it back, will be more than able to feed itself and prosper. Go to any of those Arab nations and ask the average person, and you’ll know the answer.

You are living an illusion if you think that Arabs will forget and go away, but illusions are sometimes difficult to let go of. It is preposterous to think that Palestinians living in Peru, the US, or Lebanon will forget Palestine, even after 10 generations. It is preposterous to think that Arabs will forget and forgive the pain and humiliation delivered upon them by Israel.

If we don’t recognize that half measures will not last and will not bring peace, we will just leave a legacy of war for our children and grandchildren.

One state for all its citizens, Jew and Arab. One secular, democratic state where everyone can live and prosper, one state that can then truly have the best of both cultures and that all of the Middle East can be proud of and can look up to. One state, than accepts returning Palestinians as well as immigrating Jews. The land can take it if we put our minds to it.

But, alas, I don’t see it happening. Instead, the Israeli public is shifting ever to the right and extreme right, killing brave leaders like Rabin (killed by an Israeli who many Israelis consider a hero), and with official calls now to throw out the 1948 Arabs as well, building a ghetto of a state with your own hands, rejecting “the others” for a “Pure Jewish State Forever”.

Would you prefer have a fake peace now just to be able to spend the rest of your life in relative safety, even if it means that you’re putting your children or grandchildren at grave danger?

You know that time is not on your side, Shai, and you should know that no matter how beaten down the Arabs may be right now, that they have what it takes to rise up again.

Only a One State solution would work.

February 8th, 2010, 1:28 am

 

Shami said:

Averroes tell us what are these strategical objectives of asad family and The inner circle Around and what are their achievements on the Syrian ground ?And why do you forget the attempts of the Iranian regime that tried to promote rafidism and the culture of slandering Sahaba ,mohamad wives , salahudin ayyubi muawiya in the desolated parts of Syria in raqqa and around under the protection of the mukhabarat ? What such actions would provoke among the Syrian population in THE future when this Era Will end ,how would be considered THE asad Era when THE people Will be free of Fear ?

February 8th, 2010, 5:19 am

 

Shai said:

Dear Norman,

It’s very difficult for me to respond to a statement like “… you and all of you are interested with a process that will last another 20 years without real peace.” It reminds me of something we say in Israel – “Go prove your sister’s not a whore”. There’s no way to disprove it, once someone accused you of it, is there?

You’re giving Israelis too much “credit”. I think you’re too easily generalizing about us, taking most of us for the extremist leaders we occasionally elect. You listen to the loudest voices out of Israel (Lieberman, Ayalon), and despite the fact that they received barely 10% of the votes, you think they speak on behalf of all of us.

You also, in my mind, wrong conclude that if Israel keeps saying “Let’s Talk”, but doesn’t get anywhere in nearly 20 years (since Madrid), that, therefore, all we’re interested in, is the process itself, not Peace.

For the same reason that you yourself recognize that today there are 70% of Israelis against return of the Golan, and yet barely 15 years ago 70% were for it, you must accept that things in Israel are far more complex than just “you and al of you…”

Many of my liberal friends switched from the Left to Kadima. They haven’t become less-liberal, less willing to give back land, less ready for peace (not a process). So why did they switch? Because they saw the Left fail again and again. They saw Barak (last representative of “The Left”) barely last one year in power, and yet build settlements more than any other PM. They saw a renewed Intifada, during the reign of the Left. So they figured, we must look for a new alternative, a new way. Sharon represented that way. He spoke of ending the Rule over another people. Of enabling the Palestinians to create their own State. Of withdrawing from the Territories. But he spoke with “power”. He was someone few in Israel could label “a traitor”. And he started doing exactly what he preached. He would have continued, I’m quite certain of it, because he was ready to confront radical Israelis head-on. And, at the time, Likud barely had 12 seats, out of 120. Most of his party ran Leftwards!

I thought I responded to your question about a Plan many times, but maybe I didn’t. Look, you already know my plan. I think Israel must begin the return to the 1967 lines by first giving back the Golan, making peace with Syria, and asking Syria to help broker peace between Israel, Hamas, and Fatah. Once Israel and the Palestinians (all the Palestinians, not just WB ones) negotiate a final peace treaty, Israel withdraws from the WB, and completes its withdrawal to the 1967 borders. It fully recognizes the Palestinians’ right to statehood, it delivers the land on which that state can be created, and it abides by international law in returning land that isn’t ours. The Occupation ends, all the various “charters” are changed, and a new era can begin in the Middle East. True Peace occurs a few generations later, when our children or theirs see us interacting through peaceful means, rather than war.

My vision of a UME occurs 50 years later, when our grandchildren realize that the Middle East can be served so much better by open borders, freedom to work and live anywhere, and de facto a one-state solution to all.

How to make that happen, there are many ways. But the basic elements are those, I am quite sure of it.

February 8th, 2010, 5:37 am

 

Yossi said:

Norman,

What Shai has outlined is not dissimilar to what Olmert was working on before he ran out of time or got cold feet. This is basically the deal that may very well be implementable in the Israeli public, with support all the way from part of the Likud (Bibi, Meridor, Eitan) and leftward. Are you buying?

Are you asking for more detail in particular areas?

February 8th, 2010, 6:10 am

 

Shai said:

Averroes,

I’m not quite sure if when you use the term “you”, you’re talking to me (Shai), to most Israelis, or to some of those Israelis you think are leading us.

I think you’re grasping on to bits of facts that are not representative of most of Israel. You mentioned “… and with official calls now to throw out the 1948 Arabs as well.” I don’t know where you got that, but I haven’t heard current or previous governments utter those words. That there are a few extremists in our parliament, I know. Also in Arab parliaments you’ll find Al-Masri types, who speak of me as a “cancerous component”. But they’re not the majority, not in the Arab states, nor in mine.

You said that Egypt didn’t bring Israel true peace, and I agree. I think most Israelis don’t understand why because, as I explained earlier, most Israelis haven’t put themselves in the Palestinian (or Arab) shoes. We’re still looking at the reality of the Middle East only through our own prism, our own reality if you will, and not through those we oppress and whose freedom we withhold.

But you can’t just relate to Egypt by presenting the Israeli side, you should also look at the Egyptian side. Was Sadat betraying his people by getting back their land peacefully? What exactly did he give up? War? He gave Egypt every last inch of the Sinai, without shedding further Egyptian blood. That’s called betrayal? Yes, both he and King Hussein “gave up” continuing to fight for the Palestinians. But they only gave up the violent resistance. They didn’t have to give up the non-violent one. Has Egypt continued the non-violent resistance? I’m not sure. Has Jordan? The same. Do you think Syria will continue armed resistance against Israel, on behalf of the Palestinians, also after Israel returns the Golan? Of course not.

If Israel did not want Peace with the Arabs, it wouldn’t have returned the Sinai (under a Likud-government, I’ll remind you), it wouldn’t have made peace with Jordan, it wouldn’t have gone to Oslo, it wouldn’t have give the Palestinians control of major cities and towns, it wouldn’t have withdrawn from Lebanon, nor from Gaza, nor would it have voted Sharon, Olmert, and Livni (all ex-Likud, remember), specifically to withdraw from the West Bank and give the Palestinians back their land. You can’t just point to rhetoric from some fanatic politician like Lieberman, and suggest all of Israel is him. Or because Netanyahu is talking about “Talking without preconditions”, that he’s not ready to give back land, or that Israel isn’t serious about Peace.

You and I know that True Peace can’t happen until the Palestinians finally achieve their freedom. But to get there, Israel must first return to the 1967 borders. Do you not want that to happen? Will you only accept a one-state solution? What if first there must be a two-state one? Where Palestinians from Peru can return, but not to Jaffa or Haifa, only to Ramallah and Jenin. Will you not accept that? They accept it, why don’t you?

I don’t think the Arabs, or any other people, will “forget” their history, their misery, humiliation, subjugation and suffocation. This is part of who they are, and who they’ll be. This trauma will undoubtedly affect also future generations, for better and for worse. We too are affected by our past. But I don’t think people make decisions based on whether they think their rival will “remember” what they do today. Israel has to give back land, not because the Arabs will never forget it was once theirs, but because it isn’t ours, period. Even if there wasn’t a single living soul in the West Bank, but it once belonged to Jordan (let’s say), I would say we must give it back.

A one-state solution is, by the way, what is already happening de facto. But by agreement, I doubt it is feasible in the foreseeable future. No Israeli is ready to (willingly) see a majority non-Jewish rule in Israel, yet.

February 8th, 2010, 6:20 am

 

Yossi said:

“Zionism” is just a scarecrow word that people love to use, abuse and be afraid of. How about we stop using the word Zionism and start talking about what we really want and ready to do. For all intent and purposes Zionism today just means Israeli Nationalism. The core question is this: is it possible to have a non-predominantly-Arab country in the Middle East? The Palestinian refugees question in this context is just a smoke screen as it could be solved in many other ways which are considered just according to international standards while still allowing an Israeli country on part of the land into which refugees will not return. To caricature, is it possible to have an Israeli country on 10% of Palestine? If the principled answer is “yes” then what is considered terminally ill in Zionism is actually just nationalistic excesses which will be remedied with the healing powers of calm and peace if only we can reach “cold peace” first, ultimately resulting in Shai’s UME. If the answer is “no” then the problem is with the Arabs not willing to allow territorial self-determination for monitories in their midst and it will be settled by force over the next few generations.

February 8th, 2010, 6:36 am

 

jad said:

Hi Yossi,
you wrote:
[“Zionism” is just a scarecrow word that people love to use, abuse and be afraid of.]

For me personally ‘Zionism’ still has the same negative perception as ‘Nazi’ is to you. This poli-religious movement built its existence over the misery and blood of too many people that even if it is true that it is different today as you portray it, it’s already a burned and painful ‘brand’ to accept, and I’m keeping my Anti-Zionism flag up.

Why don’t you change this terrible brand and bring us ‘the Levanties’ a new one that we didn’t suffer from for many long years already, on top of that you need to prove to us that this new brand is a peaceful national oriented one and it won’t grow on any new victims, only then I’m ready to accept whatever ‘brand’ you come with and willing as human being to support you, otherwise trying to sell me this bad brand called ‘Zionism’ as a new one wont convince me for even a teeny tiny bit.

For your second part of the comment about having a country for minorities, my personal answer would be ‘yes’ I wouldn’t mind that but only if you keep your country area size the same and not double it every couple years by wars and occupations, does your government accept that? If it does, then I don’t think there is any reason for your government to delay any peace treaty with any of its neighbours but apparently your government doesn’t think this way and this why we are hearing WAR WAR WAR and ‘nevermore’ from it.
Peace, is two way road and we both have to meet in the middle, but the picture I’m seeing right now is that we are the one offering our hands for peace to your government while you are pointing all your guns in our face.

On somehow related subject and more toward your’s and Shai’s blog; Arabs appreciate words and Jews like to debate, why don’t you start a cultural-artistic dialogue between the two by presenting some Literature/Poems/Art to tell us your people story and we in return will answer every piece you show with an Arabic poem, art or an essay written by our famous minds, just to make us understand and feel each other fears and pains, as long as your people doesn’t feel our people’s pain and we don’t understand your people’s fear, nothing real will ever happen, so ART in all its form is the only language we both understand best at the moment so let us use it for the ‘one region one future’ you and Shai are calling for.

February 8th, 2010, 9:45 am

 

offended said:

Dear Shai,

I would just like to respond to few points:

1- What ultimately made the Gaza war what it is, is the Israeli response. If Israel had retaliated in proportion, we’d not have had war. Maybe they’d been a cease-fire or intermittent, sporadic bursts of violence over the past year. But nothing else.

2- I would have agreed with you if the international community has been consuming itself with enforcing UN resolutions in between wars. But that wasn’t happening. And the justification that rockets were being hurled at civilians couldn’t be applied to all situations; what about Lebanon 2006? Why were the targets civilians and military alike?

3- I do not belittle the Israeli losses. Every single human life is significant. But in the grand scheme of things, Arabs were served most of the damages. And this could interpret the stance of an individual like AIG when he says things like ‘I’ll take my chances’, ’Arabs have been talking for 60 years’ ..etc… You and I both know that Israel feels invincible. And to sustain that sense of invincibility, it must eliminate all perceived threats in the bud. Just note a headline like the one Akbar posted, Syria’s purported arming of Hezbollah could spark a war. What kind of logic is that? As for the question of populations, I assure you, not all 300 million Arabs are on the front line. Gulf countries are out for reasons you’re probably aware of (heck, Israel even blesses armament in the Gulf). Our brothers in North Africa, (some of whom had told me Israel is lucky that *they* weren’t on the front line… maybe pure posturing, but I was assured by a third party that may be true), are far away logistically. And they do not host large populations of Palestinian refugees, so they are slightly less concerned than others. What it really boils down to are the ‘collar states’ (or the ring states), as we call them: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

February 8th, 2010, 11:41 am

 

offended said:

Dear Shai,

I would just like to respond to few points:

1- What ultimately made the Gaza war what it is, is the Israeli response. If Israel had retaliated in proportion, we’d not have had war. Maybe they’d been a cease-fire or intermittent, sporadic bursts of violence over the past year. But nothing else.

2- I would have agreed with you if the international community has been consuming itself with enforcing UN resolutions in between wars. But that wasn’t happening. And the justification that rockets were being hurled at civilians couldn’t be applied to all situations; what about Lebanon 2006? Why were the targets civilians and military alike?

3- I do not belittle the Israeli losses. Every single human life is significant. But in the grand scheme of things, Arabs were served most of the damages. And this could interpret the stance of an individual like AIG when he says things like ‘I’ll take my chances’, ’Arabs have been talking for 60 years’ ..etc… You and I both know that Israel feels invincible. And to sustain that sense of invincibility, it must eliminate all perceived threats in the bud. Just note a headline like the one Akbar posted, Syria’s purported arming of Hezbollah could spark a war. What kind of logic is that? As for the question of populations, I assure you, not all 300 million Arabs are on the front line. Gulf countries are out for reasons you’re probably aware of (heck, Israel even blesses armament in the Gulf). Our brothers in North Africa, (some of whom had told me Israel is lucky that *they* weren’t on the front line… maybe pure posturing, but I was assured by a third party that may be true), are far away logistically. And they do not host large populations of Palestinian refugees, so they are slightly less concerned than others. What it really boils down to are the ‘collar states’ (or the ring states) as we call them: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

February 8th, 2010, 11:44 am

 

Shai said:

Offended,

You know I agree with you about Israeli response, and the hugely disproportionate and, quite frankly, criminal way in which it often reacts to armed resistance. International law enables you to kill someone that comes to kill you, but it doesn’t let you kill another 500 of those around him.

I’ve been trying, through a number of opportunities, to explain Israel’s military doctrine, the aspects that relate to the concept of “victory”. One of our founding fathers, David Ben-Gurion, who essentially formed the doctrine, recognized right from the beginning that Israel cannot “win” any war in the classical sense of the word. Despite the feelings of most Arabs, Israel cannot truly expand into enemy territory. If we could, we wouldn’t have stopped 100 kilometers away from Cairo, or on the outskirts of Damascus, or in the “Security Zone” in Southern Lebanon. We would have kept going, reached the capitals, occupied them and beyond, and conquered in the real sense of the word. But we couldn’t, and we can’t. Even if we had the military might to defeat the rulers and their armies, we don’t have the quantitative advantage or the requirements to occupy large areas around us.

Recognizing our innate quantitative disadvantage, Ben-Gurion established two key principles that to this day hold true in the way Israel sees and treats the Arab-Israeli conflict: One, that we must develop qualitative advantages to counter the quantitative ones of our rivals. Two, that in each “round” (war, limited conflict, whatever), we must inflict such a horrific blow upon our rival that he will consider carefully before repeating it again. Hence the disproportionate response, always.

What this last principle doesn’t treat, is its inhumane and criminal aspects. It assumes, that if Israel is deemed the victim, then the world will accept whatever response Israel chooses. It also assumes that whatever action we take, will be considered “responsive”. If we look merely at the opening moments of Lebanon 2006, and Gaza 2008/9, we see that our assumption is correct. The world accepted Israel’s action in both cases, until it became clear what actual toll is being exacted upon the civilian populations. And even then, pressure was very slow to come.

I don’t know what I would do, if I were a Gazan right now. I think, like our own Ehud Barak himself stated, I would join an armed resistance group, and go fight for my independence. But maybe I would form a non-violent resistance group. Maybe I would search for our “Gandhi”. We discussed these things before a lot, also with Alex. I don’t want to get into it now. But clearly, the Palestinians and the form of armed resistance they’ve chosen, are not “selling well” amongst world nations. Israeli action in Lebanon and Gaza is seen less as terror, than Qassam rockets that land 99.9% of the time in empty fields. You may like this or not, but it does seem to be fact. I think that the Arab PR machine has been, to a large extent, sabotaged by those $10 rockets, and by charters that still call for the destruction of Israel.

I don’t know what the Palestinians could do differently, that wouldn’t be deemed by them as total capitulation. I wish more people in Israel understood this point.

February 8th, 2010, 12:14 pm

 

offended said:

Dear Yossi,

I consider all exclusive ideologies to be dangerous. I’m not merely obsessed with using the term for the sake of its bad connotations.

I’ve even entertained doubts about Arab nationalism. And read on some of the crazy literature that compared it to fascism….. While all nationalist ideologies have a built-in, troubled relationship with all minorities/communities that do not identify with the said national identity, Zionism is by far the most extreme of those cases.

To be an Arab, the Ba’th party charter says, you just need to speak Arabic and identify as an Arab. That’s it. There are no religious or ethnic pre-requisites needed. And in practice, no one is running around investigating people and questioning their identity. The concept of Zionist or Jewish identity, on the other hand, is very curious and very different. A debate in the UK recently was revealing: a religious Jewish school was screening children for parentage to verify their Jewishness. I do not recall hearing such a strict admission policies anywhere. Even in Wahhabi schools; “you’re a Muslim? Come on in now, no problem, we’ll indoctrinate you inside.”

My other major problem with Zionism is the method it resorted to in order to achieve statehood. ‘Ethnic cleaning’, the elephant in the room that no one is willing to address. The plans have been pre-meditated to make Israel a Jewish majority state after the partition; otherwise, what exactly is Zionist statehood without Jewish majority (perversely, the same logic of Mike Huckabee)? The looming state of apartheid that Ehud Barrak was talking about last week isn’t a new concern. Ben Gurion wrote about it in his diaries.

And as someone who is looking at the history in retrospect, the most puzzling to me is that all of this would happen under the gaze of the international community that, at the time, was just recuperating from WWII. The international declaration of human rights was being announced. New revisions were introduced to the Geneva Convention to criminalize the mistreatment of civilians in case of war. The United Nations was being formed. And yet, Arabs ethnically cleansed? No problem.

As for your question about a hypothetical state on 10% of Palestine/Israel. I have absolutely no problem with that, as long as it is based on rightful ownership and no one is being expelled or his/her land being taken…

February 8th, 2010, 12:25 pm

 

Averroes said:

Shami,

Every post you write stinks of sectarian hate, man. Please change those shades you’re wearing on your eyes because sectarian violence is the absolute worst thing that can happen to Syria.

I do not embrace the Shiite ideology or theology, but I don’t think that suppressing it by force will work either. You cannot stop ideology by force.

The Sahaba, Aicha, and even Ali and Hussein are not gods. They were human beings that had their limitations are were prone to human error. Every single one of them. We should learn to accept criticism of them and their actions, and we should be prepared that some people may not have the respect for them that we do. As per an outstanding Egyptian scholar (Dr. Saleem Al-Awwa), the bad habit of slandering the Sahaba is disappearing, even in Iran. I hope he’s right because criticism is different than slandering. I am for open criticism, but I think that blind slandering provokes instinctive responses that we could do without.

As for strategy, Syria is on the right track, I think. The country is opening up and is getting built by its sons and daughters. It is feeding its people by its own effort, giving them medical care and education, while not giving up on its obligation in the Arab Israeli conflict. That’s what I mean by strategy, in very short words. On a tactical scale, yes there are many issues that require huge improvements, I’m not going to dispute that.

February 8th, 2010, 12:40 pm

 

Nicolas92200 said:

Shai, Yossi, Offended, Jad et al,

Thank you so much for this enriching debate, it’s real refreshin to read this and there is more to cover…I wish I had the thoughts and time to join in, but alas…please don’t stop

While, I’m not sure what I can add to this rich exchange ongoing, I have a little suggestion to you and Dr. Landis too. Why not continue and expand on this debate further and then collate all this into a little print book and put it up for sale in Isreal and Syria (if you can get the greenlight), it would help show both sides the type of civilized exchanges we as two peoples can have and how there is a portion (large one) who are not bloodsucking vampires and portray how the “average intellectual” among the people thinks and what their concerns are. A little book like that would certainly help with the process Shai was advoacting (and I for one certainly support) about getting the people on the other side to know about the others (and make some money in the process – sorry chaps, this is the banker inside me speaking).

Josh, over to you mate!

February 8th, 2010, 12:55 pm

 

Averroes said:

Shai,

Tsebi Livni has said that when the Palestinian State is realized, that Israeli Arabs should go and join their brethren in it. I heard it in a video clip but I can’t find it right now.

Like I explained, Israel wants a surrender, and it was exactly what it got from Sadat and King Hussein. Camp David is severely biased for Israel and against Egypt’s sovereignty, and I’m not going to get into the details of that now.

My argument is simple: Israel inflicted a continuing injustice on Palestinians and many Arabs. In order to sustain that position, it needs Arabs to surrender many things. When Arabs don’t surrender, it needs war to sustain the advantage. If we surrender, then yes, of course it would prefer that.

We did not warp history in our schools, it was your (not Shai’s, but Israel’s) institutions that have delivered generations of young Israelis that are (and I’m beginning to believe it) totally oblivious to what they’ve done to others. Totally oblivious to the suffering and misery they’re brought upon the Palestinians. It’s unbelievable, but it’s apparently true. We’ve been screaming for 60 years but your people (your general public that you always speak of) refuse to hear. So please don’t ask me to put up with something that I can only label as ignorance by choice.

Yafa, Asqalaan, Haifa, Umm elFahem, are also Arab cities, and refugees that were terrorized out of them at gun point have the Right of Return to them whether you accept that or not. This “I’m holier than Thou” attitude will not give Israel Peace. You can’t allow South Asian Jews to “return” to Israel, and deny Palestinians the same right. You can’t do that and expect us to accept that, Shai.

And you also seem to be talking of a position that no Israeli official is ready to make: the withdrawal to the 1967 line is now not on the table at all, according to successions of Israeli leaders. Who should we believe? Name one Israeli official that states clearly that Israel has to withdraw to the 1967 line in the West Bank and the Golan.

Maybe we should work to make the idea of a One State acceptable to Israelis, but it is very clear that you (Shai and the Israeli people) are not going to take that step.

So the saga continues.

February 8th, 2010, 1:07 pm

 

offended said:

Shai,

I’m always impressed by your honesty. Wish there were more people like you. Thanks.

February 8th, 2010, 1:42 pm

 

offended said:

Shai,

I think there are quite a few Palestinians who could easily pull the Gandhi stunt. Ali Abunimah is my favorite. Mustapha Al Barguthi is a great guy as well. Both took up non-violent struggle. But who’s listening?

I’m always impressed by your honesty. Thanks!

February 8th, 2010, 1:45 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

International law enables you to kill someone that comes to kill you, but it doesn’t let you kill another 500 of those around him.

Shai,

As far as I know, there is no “international law” that set limits on the killing of innocent civilians/non-combatants.

Also, International law can forbid the killing of 1 civilian or “excuse” the killing of thousands of civilians depending on the circumstances of the conflict. The Lebanese and Gaza wars did not solely inflict loses on unarmed civilians.

Also, there are wars are going on as we speak where many more civilians have been killed by allied combatants, and no international law has been broken or international tribunal been conducted to my knowledge.

If any party needs to be concerned with international law and war crimes, it would be the Hamas government.

Averoes states:

We’ve been screaming for 60 years but your people (your general public that you always speak of) refuse to hear.

You forgot to add “the entire civilized world”, not just “your people”.

Israel is a recognized country in the UN and everywhere around the world. It is just a matter of determining where the border will be in the Old City of Jerusalem and along the West Bank. It is NOT a question of Israel’s legitimacy.

So, I guess, you can scream all you want.

February 8th, 2010, 1:52 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

“The Death of Israel”….Peace

an interesting commentary from haaretz.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1147257.html

February 8th, 2010, 1:59 pm

 

offended said:

Shai,

There are quite a few Palestinians who can pull the Gandhi stunt. Ali Abunimah is one of them. Mustapha Al Barguthi, also. They both adopted a non-violent form of struggle. But the real question is: who’s listening to them?

Even at the Jon Stewart show, who had never had a heckler btw, someone present in the crowd called Mustapha a liar.

Who’s really listening?

Btw, I always admire your honesty. Cheers!

February 8th, 2010, 2:03 pm

 

offended said:

Nicolas,

A book? OK, I want my ten bercent of za brojected sales ubfront.

I don’t come cheab, you see… You see?

Obviously kidding, thanks for the compliments, cheers!

February 8th, 2010, 2:06 pm

 

nafdik said:

I think the whole discussion of war and peace is being obscured by the moralistic tone of both parties.

Here are the facts:

– Morality and justice have 0 relevance in matters of peace and war. Both parties can justify any behavior to themselves.

– The only remotely moral player in the game is international public opinion as they have no skin in the game.

– If we are to reach peace we have to look at this as a power struggle.

The current situation:

– Israel benefits from lack of peach as it is by far militarily superior and dominates US public opinion

– Palestinians have 0 military power and dominate Muslim public opinion worldwide

– Arabs have 0 military power and no desire to do any sacrifice for the Palestinian ’cause’

The danger to Israel:

– Geopolitical changes that reduce the power of the US and the new powers (probably China) wants to appeal to Muslims by putting down Israel

– Rapid spread of technology and economic progress equalize 1st world countries (Israel, US) with 3rd world (Arab world)

– Demographic changes inside and outside Israel, with the known impact on Israel as a democracy

The question the Israelis have to ask themselves is whether to strike a deal now while they are in a position of power or gamble by waiting.

Except for religious freaks who think they are executing the will of God by keeping every inch of land in Israel, I think the prudent choice to cash in and make a deal as soon as possible with the whole Palestinian/Arab/Muslim world.

As for the Arabs, if they care about the lives of the Palestinians more than their hatred of the Jews, they should provide a framework through which Israel can benefit and feel secure and advantaged by making a deal. This include real opening of markets as well as a true education program that will make Israel an accepted part of the Middle East.

February 8th, 2010, 2:37 pm

 

Shai said:

Nafdik,

I fully agree with you. Btw, can you imagine what would happen if the Palestinians declaratively “gave up” on a state of their own? If Abu Mazen went on TV this evening, and announced his people were no longer interested in a Palestine, and were now demanding equal rights as… citizens of Israel! My guess, hordes of Israeli politicians lining up to beg the Palestinians for a two-state solution.

Averroes,

Sorry my friend, I don’t see how Egypt or Jordan surrendered. Israel gave back every last inch of territory it held. If anybody “surrendered” something, it’s Israel.

Nicolas, Offended,

Can you imagine the list of authors? 🙂

February 8th, 2010, 3:04 pm

 

Joshua said:

Nicolas92200 Why not take up this worth project and get that book out? Great idea. 🙂 Best, Joshua

February 8th, 2010, 4:06 pm

 

Shai said:

A sane voice from the Likud party (MK Michael Eitan): http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1148264.html

February 8th, 2010, 4:18 pm

 

norman said:

this is for you , shai,

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1148283.html

peace on all fronts , that is the only way

February 8th, 2010, 5:52 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

I’m not against peace in parallel. I just don’t see who Israel can talk to. Abbas is our puppet, and Hamas won’t talk to us. So who exactly represents the Palestinians’ best interests, and who can actually deliver? Our President, Shimon Peres, thinks that a Palestinian state can be borne in the West Bank first. Do you believe this is possible? I don’t.

So until there’s one address again (from my point of view, it can be Hamas, not Fatah), Israel must advance on other fronts, such as Syria and Lebanon.

February 8th, 2010, 6:26 pm

 

norman said:

Peace with Syria as vital as stopping Iran’s bomb

By Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Israel news, Israel Iran

Ehud Barak said what he had to say, Bashar Assad did not understand or maybe he did, Avigdor Lieberman uttered his usual concoction, Benjamin Netanyahu explained that “we want peace,” and life is good. Everything is all right. This week’s ruckus is over. All that remains is the media circus. Because war, we should recall, is not something Israel does in winter.

The chatter, on the other hand, works all year round and Lieberman is its strategic asset. Lieberman can babble on about the collapse of the Assad family’s rule, swear at Hosni Mubarak and ridicule Jordan. His importance at the Foreign Ministry compares only to that of the Strategic Affairs Ministry under Moshe Ya’alon or the Regional Development Ministry under Silvan Shalom. These three frustrated ministries fall under the category “we want peace” and have transformed chatter into policy.

But Lieberman is not really the problem. The root of evil is the hoax of “we want peace,” because Israel is not really interested in peace with Syria – not at the cost of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. Israel’s working assumption is that there is no rush for negotiations with Syria; our northern neighbor does not constitute a military threat and its regional position does not allow it to rally the support of other Arab countries to carry out a full-blown war. Syria can be threatened without risking damage.
Advertisement

Syria itself “contributed” to this Israeli approach by keeping the border calm for decades, and there is no way to convince Israelis, who understand only Katyushas and Qassam rockets, that Syria is a threat for which a single bed-and-breakfast needs to be removed from the Golan. The Syrian promise for the “fruits of peace” is also shoddy. Compared to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, Syria is not offering any real economic incentives to make peace.

But Syria holds an asset that Israel does not recognize. Peace at this time means the possibility that Israel’s strategic position in the Middle East and the world will change. Syria is a key country along a new axis being formed in the Middle East, which includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The backbone of this axis is economic, security and diplomatic cooperation that would replace the old axis of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Iran’s burgeoning political influence in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, the huge amounts of oil still available in Iraq, Turkey’s influence on Central Asia and its control over a gas pipeline to stretch from Iran to Europe, as well as the new link between Saudi Arabia and Syria and Syria’s great influence on Palestinian politics and Lebanon’s Hezbollah – all these may make this axis much more wealthy and influential in the next decade. So a very important arena of interests is forming, not only for Israel.

The United States of Barack Obama has already realized that Syria, with or without peace with Israel, is a country Washington needs to preserve its position in the region and beyond. A U.S. ambassador is expected to be sent to Damascus in the near future, and Europe is negotiating with Syria, not only on economics, but also on an entry point to the entire Middle East. Our friend Silvio Berlusconi should be asked about his view on Syria when his country’s trade with Damascus stands at about $2 billion, some 20 percent of overall trade between Syria and Europe.

Israel, which is used to examining the region through a lens that counts Hezbollah’s missiles and Hamas’ explosive barrels sent to sea, and which considers the prisoner numbers in the Gilad Shalit deal the crux of the security threat, is blind to the region’s strategic developments. The expression “we want peace,” which is void of substance, cannot even begin to express the folly and shortsightedness of Israel, which is shrugging its shoulders at a chance to reach peace with Syria, if for no other reason than to prevent a damaging blow from this new axis.

To this end, we need a statesman, not a comedian. The leader who can make Israelis understand that peace with Syria does not mean eating humus in Damascus but is an existential interest, no less important than blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But this is the kind of statesman we’re lacking. For the time being we have to make do with a thug who cries out – “hold me back!”

February 8th, 2010, 6:36 pm

 

norman said:

Shai
If you think that Natyahou can deliver from the Israeli side then Hamas is the one to talk to on the Palestinian side , for the same reason , If Hams agrees then Abbas has no choice , he has no choice now ,please do not have more excuses

February 8th, 2010, 6:42 pm

 

offended said:

Nafdik,

I’m impressed at the speed at which you can contradict yourself: first you say morality and justice have no relevance to the conflict, and in the very next line you suggest that the ‘moral player’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean) here is the international public opinion. So which is which: morality and justice — two entirely different things, mind you — are they or are they not relevant?

Also, international public opinion isn’t a monolith: it’s actually quite refreshing that the Palestinian cause enjoys more support amongst leftist political movements and figures across the globe, and the opposite in most cases is true.

Justice is certainly at the heart of the Palestinian question: you are not going to have peace while millions of people feel disenfranchised and robbed off their rights. Yes, what I desire as an individual may not be what my adversary is in the mood to give up, and here what distinguishes ‘Interests’ from ‘Rights’, legal-wise. And, if I may get philosophical a little further, we can also draw comparison with a court system, that issues a verdict but fails to enforce it, the verdict here (UN resolutions) being the moral and just component, and the inability of the court to enforce them is the main reason for ensuing violence: (when the plaintiff takes justice into his own hands.).

I agree with you that Israel is the most beneficiary of the no-peace, no-war situation: I believe I said that in an earlier comment. But I also do not get your second contradictory statement: when you say Arabs have 0 military (and no desire) to threaten Israel with, and then you go on to say that technological progress in the region is bridging the gap with the west and constituting a danger to Israel: how is that possible when Arabs have 0 desire for confrontation?

February 8th, 2010, 7:06 pm

 

norman said:

Israeli case for war with Syria – and Lebanon
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – The Middle East seemed to snowball into crisis last week, as war threats were fired back and forth between Syria and Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman triggered the conflict on Thursday by saying that if war were to break out, the Syrians would lose, prompting Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem to respond that Israeli cities would not be spared by Syria.

He described the Israelis as “thugs” and said that a new regional war would kill whatever chances there were of returning to the peace process. Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari made similar statements, saying that Israel would live to regret a war with Syria, while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his

troops to prepare for war with Damascus should peace efforts fail.

Trying to defuse the crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that war was not imminent. Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel desired peace “with all its neighbors”, adding, “We did it with Egypt and Jordan, and we want to achieve similar agreements with the Palestinians and the Syrians. I hope that we are on the brink of renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, and we are open to renewing the process with the Syrians as well.”

A quick read through Middle East history proves that when such talk flows back and forth through the mass media, the chances of a real war are actually very low. Countries in a permanent state of war do not inform one another before attacking, preferring to surprise their enemy during combat, rather than give them an early warning, as was the case during the October war of 1973.

If a Syrian-Israeli war is on nobody’s agenda, why have war drums been beating for the past week?

One reason is that hardliners in the Netanyahu cabinet like Lieberman, who have no faith in the peace process, would like to see Israel go to war with a traditional enemy such as Syria. They blame Syria for many of Israel’s misfortunes and its losses both in the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2008-2009.

Lieberman, who has little say in matters of both peace and war, feels increasingly sidelined by Netanyahu and Barak, the two men who effectively handle Israel’s foreign relations, although Lieberman remains officially foreign minister. All the same, Lieberman’s hardline policies place Israel on a dangerous collision course with the entire Arab neighborhood. Wiser and more experienced Israeli statesmen, like President Shimon Peres and the prime minister, certainly do not want war with Syria, knowing how painful it would be to have Syrian missiles landing on Israeli cities.

They realize that such a war would enrage regional heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, isolating Israel in the international community. The Israeli state has still not recovered from the very bad publicity it got from the United Nations-mandated Goldstone Report, which accused the Israel Defense Forces – along with Hamas – of war crimes in Gaza in 2008. It is one thing to justify a war against non-state players like Hezbollah and Hamas, peddling an argument that can easily sell with the Israeli public, but completely different to do so with a powerful regional heavyweight like Syria.

Another reason the war rhetoric surfaced links directly to Lebanon. For months, the world has watched threats go back and forth between Israel and Hezbollah. Many believed that the war of 2006 was not over, given that none of Israel’s declared objectives had been achieved. Israel promised to liberate two soldiers captured by Hezbollah and then exterminate the Lebanese group, which has been a thorn in Israel’s side since 1982.

Not only did Israel fail in all of the above, but far from being weakened, Hezbollah emerged from 2006 stronger than before, both in terms of popularity on the Arab and Muslim street, and in terms of military might. It won all of its contested seats in the 2009 parliamentary elections and got all that it wanted in the cabinet of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, forming a strong representation with its ally, the Free Patriotic Movement of General Michel Aoun.

Netanyahu, who is a strong advocate of war with Iran, cannot tolerate the existence of Hezbollah. Such a powerful player in the Middle East, so independent from US control and so dangerous to the state of Israel, is a nightmare for the Israeli public. By not winning in 2006, many Israelis believe that Israel lost the war with Hezbollah.

In 1973, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was forced to resign, not for losing a war against Syria and Egypt, but simply for not winning. The same applied to ex-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, who failed to win the war either in Lebanon in 2006 or in Gaza in 2008. Netanyahu needs another round with Lebanon to right the wrongs done to the military under his predecessor. Not only would that empower him domestically and in the international community, it would also make him stronger in any peace talks forced on him by the United States.

Top officials in Israel have therefore been itching for a new war with Lebanon. They let off a trial balloon to see how Hezbollah would react to threats and received a very aggressive response from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who in thundering back-to-back speeches repeated earlier threats that he was willing to strike at “Haifa and beyond Haifa”, referring to the northern Israeli port city.

Within Israel itself there is a widespread belief that there should be another war with Hezbollah soon. There are fears, however, that the time is not ripe, not knowing how Iran would react if such a conflict erupted, realizing as well that the US is not too enthusiastic about such an adventure, with its troops still grounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, to divert attention from the potentially explosive situation on the borders with Lebanon, top Israeli officials decided to fire empty threats at the Syrians – never really convinced, however, that they wanted or were capable of a new war with Damascus.

Having that said, nobody can rule out the possibility of another war with Lebanon, which many analysts are predicting might happen this summer. War with Syria, however, would be too dangerous for Israel and too costly for the entire Middle East.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

February 8th, 2010, 8:10 pm

 

Shai said:

A few factual errors in Sami Moubayed’s article:

1) The verbal conflict was triggered not by Lieberman, but by Barak.

2) Barak did not tell his officers to ready for war but, rather, that Israel should seek Peace because all-out war is still an option, and if it occurs, we (Israel) will be back negotiating the same peace afterwards. His message was misinterpreted by Damascus, and Lieberman took full advantage of Mouallem’s response to Barak.

3) Ehud Barak had nothing to do with the Lebanon 2006 war. He didn’t “fail to win it”, because he was a businessman at the time. He returned to politics only the following year.

4) There is no “widespread belief within Israel that there should be another war with Hezbollah soon…” The closest anyone came to predicting such a thing, that I’ve seen, was ex-armored general, now Likud MK Yossi Peled, who in his typical “Oracle-of-the-Week” fashion, stated recently that “based on my experience, and everything I know, I would say something is happening in the North…” (paraphrased). No Israeli that I know is particularly interested in another round with Hezbollah. Not anytime soon, at least.

On a side note, I think Moubayed is reading Israel’s political map incorrectly. The most dangerous leaders have always been from the Left (and, recently, from the Center), not from the Right. Netanyahu is far less likely to order another Lebanon 2006, or even Gaza 2008/9, than any of his predecessors, including Barak, Sharon, or Olmert. The Left talks peace but makes war (and continues the Occupation), while the Right talks war, and keeps things quiet.

This isn’t some “universal truth” (Begin did order the invasion of Lebanon, for instance), but it is generally true. The Left has been far more destabilizing, than the Right.

As a little “proof” of the above said, on a visit to the Golan some months back, Yossi and I asked a few Golan settlers whether they were happier now, that Netanyahu is in power. The response we got surprised us – they said the opposite – that they felt safest under Barak (and Olmert), and that now, with Netanyahu, they’re most worried. They know, that he can give back the Golan, far more easily than any other leader.

February 8th, 2010, 9:27 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai is mostly right. I think some of you are generalizing sometimes. Israelis do not all daydream about their next war every day. We need to always keep in mind that all populations have variances in their opinions and values and beliefs ….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_distribution

But I want to mention that the reason they are somewhat alarmed in Syria has nothing to do with Mr. Barak’s statement but with their perception that Israel is trying to get Hezbollah or Hamas to retaliate or to take action in a way that allows Israel to launch on offensive against one of them. assassinating a top Hamas leader in Dubai is not that different from what Israel did in the past to get on the nerves of Arab resistance groups in order to get them to make mistakes.

More importantly … no one can deny that there is nowhere to go … Syria and turkey are not going to accept playing along with time delaying tactics from Israel anymore. And Mr. Netanyahu’s government does not seem ready to go for something serious.

Again, similar situations in the past led to escalations and military action from Israel.

February 8th, 2010, 10:13 pm

 

nafdik said:

Offended,

Regarding your first point what I am saying is that we can turn blue in the face telling each other that Israel is a racist state or that the Palestinians are all terrorists. These statements will not change the behavior of anybody and are counter-productive.

Both Israelis and Palestinians are in what they consider an existential struggle and their only criteria for action is their own benefit.

What we need to think is how can I force or entice the other party to change its behavior.

As for the second point, it is clear that Arab armies do not have the technology or organizational skills to confront any 1st world army. This is the situation now.

I do not see technological progress bridging any gaps today, on the contrary the gap is wider than anytime in the history of the conflict.

What I am saying is that it is feasible that the Arab world will bridge the gap due to technology and information progress (that have not reached us yet).

FEASIBLE but not evident yet.

February 8th, 2010, 11:59 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

A few factual errors from Shai:

The verbal conflict was triggered not by Lieberman, but by Barak.

The “verbal conflict” was started by Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem.

Mr. Lieberman was responding to strident comments from Syria on Wednesday. Mr. Assad told the visiting Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, that Israel was “not serious about achieving peace” and that the facts indicated that “Israel is pushing the region toward war, not peace,” according to the Syrian news agency SANA.

Furthermore, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said Wednesday that “Israel should not test Syria’s determination,” adding, “Israel knows that war will move to the Israeli cities.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/world/middleeast/05mideast.html

February 9th, 2010, 12:55 am

 

offended said:

Nafdik,

I guess people were all blue in the face and tight in the bowels about Apartheid south africa, too. Should they not have been?

February 9th, 2010, 5:28 am

 

LeoLeoni said:

Akbar, this verbal spat didn’t just start with Muallem, don’t try to make it sound so. It’s clearly obvious that it started with Barrak, and that Muallem’s reply was a standard reply, that no country’s cities can expect peace when it attacks another.

Even Haaretz considers what Barrack said as “sharp and strident”.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1146731.html

As for the Guardian, it considers it a provocation:
“That statement was apparently provoked by Ehud Barak, the Labour party leader and defence minister, who told senior army officers this week that in the absence of a peace settlement with Syria a full-scale war could break out.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/04/netanyahu-lieberman-syria-israel

Anyways, this spat is over, and it’s my last comment to discuss such useless incitement from the Israeli side.

February 9th, 2010, 8:31 am

 

Yossi said:

Jadman my friend,

What you hate about the word “Zionism” is not what Israelis love about it, and vice versa. You don’t need to tell Israelis “this is what Zionism did” but you need to tell them “this is how I feel what you did, so please change your ways in such and such manners”.

Let me give you an analogy, when people say that Islam is responsible for 9/11, then there begins a similar debate, what is “true Islam”? Does it call for terrorism? etc. It’s not that these questions don’t have academic value, it’s just that it’s the wrong type of conversation to have between Muslims and the West. If you want to get to the bottom of frustrations and change behavior, you just do that, without talking about grand theories.

Maybe the Israelis will one day drop this brand name that you so dislike, but I wouldn’t place my hopes on that. I’m not saying you should like this brand name, just realize that this is what it is: a brand name. The brand name cannot create new victims, only people can. And if they do, then hold them accountable.

Look, do you think that we are thrilled about the concept of “jihad”? We know it’s a concept that can be taken in various directions and we just have to live with it. Can we ask Muslims to drop the “jihad” brand name before we make peace with them? Of course not. The trick is to make people trust each other *despite* all the stupid stuff they were taught all their lives. I’m sure Norman can find a nice analogy from the field of oncology, something like living with a brain tumor by making sure it doesn’t expand, knowing you can’t really get it out completely out of your head ever.

About my second argument, the nation state, you are correct, it is an academic exercise at this point because my country still hasn’t demonstrated that it is capable of curbing its expansionist trends, with known excuses.

Interesting idea about literature and art. I like it! But translating poems from Hebrew is tough for a computer engineer. Perhaps I can write a computer program to do that 🙂

Dear offended,

Well… the thing is… people want to be PC so they blame on Zionism some things that are actually rotten in Judaism. But you can’t say Judaism is an exclusive ideology, so you put this on Zionism. Judaism is on a pedestal, because of the Holocaust.

But again my point is not that you should accept Zionism or Judaism or whatever “ism” but just see whether you can come arrive at a solution that provides dignity and a modicum of justice to all. Because, in my assessment, you will not be able to make Israelis denounce the term “Zionism”. So you can either give them a chance to behave while holding on to their “ism” or you can make the “ism” as issue in and of itself.

Jewish majority was articulated as official Zionism goal only in 1941, before that, it was highly controversial, and some people left the Zionist movement when this stance was adopted. Like all “ism”s, Zionism is a function of time and circumstance and it will become less hostile and exclusive when the Jews will finally start loosening up a bit.

The acceptance of the cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 was not at all surprising. First, they were “brown people”. Second, that was the price that ensured the Europeans that they got rid of the Jews for good. Third, it was a time of a lot of other populations’ forced transfer.

Hi Nicolas,

Why write a book when we can pose for a naked Levantine men calendar for 2011?

Dear Averroes,

Livni said that the Israeli Palestinians will be able to fulfill their “national aspirations” in Palestine, not that they would have to leave Israel. I’m not sure what she meant exactly, probably that they will not get further autonomy, recognition of their narrative, etc. within Israel. It was bad enough, but she didn’t say they would have to go, or lose their citizenship.

February 9th, 2010, 9:46 am

 

Shai said:

Yossi,

“Well… the thing is… people want to be PC…”

I beg to disagree. I believe you meant to say “… people want to be APPLE…”

Averroes,

Yossi is correct, Livni never said the Arab-Israelis would have to leave Israel (or that they should). She did however say something quite foolish, which is that “When the Palestinian State will be born, the Naqba must be removed from your (Palestinian) Lexicon.”

It is foolish both because she doesn’t understand that the Naqba isn’t a mood, or something changeable, and that it isn’t something that can be forgotten or removed.

Incidentally, as a response to Livni’s “Naqba-declaration”, a psychologist friend of mine wrote a piece in one of the leading papers, suggesting that “When the Naqba will become part of our (Israeli) Lexicon, the State of Israel will finally be created.” I thought that was very powerful. And true.

February 9th, 2010, 10:26 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

LeoLeoni said:

Akbar, this verbal spat didn’t just start with Muallem, don’t try to make it sound so. It’s clearly obvious that it started with Barrak, and that Muallem’s reply was a standard reply, that no country’s cities can expect peace when it attacks another.

LeoLeoni,

I read the comments by Barak. I agree with Shai that Barak’s statement were misinterpreted. Again, per the NYT:

Mr. Moallem made his comments in response to a strong statement made by Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, to senior Israeli Army officers on Monday, warning that “in the absence of an arrangement with Syria, we are liable to enter a belligerent clash with it that could reach the point of an all-out, regional war.”

IOW, Barack is saying what all the other ME leaders are saying: without a peace agreement a regional war could ensue.

Barak did not threaten anyone, and if anything, made the case for reaching a peace deal.

I find it interesting, that when Arab leaders threaten Israel, no one here on Syria Comment seems to take notice. It is only when Israeli leaders do it.

February 9th, 2010, 1:26 pm

 

idaf said:

Shai said:

“Incidentally, as a response to Livni’s “Naqba-declaration”, a psychologist friend of mine wrote a piece in one of the leading papers, suggesting that “When the Naqba will become part of our (Israeli) Lexicon, the State of Israel will finally be created.” I thought that was very powerful. And true.”

Shai, one can’t but strongly agree with this. The US example is a very relevant one. Less than a century ago, “white” Americans in the US were the equivalent of Israeli Jews in Palestine today. They enslaved the natives and the “others” (native Americans and Africans). Today, that slavery era in the USA is part of the US lexicon and a majority of the US “whites” just elected a president of African descent. The US came very close to becoming a “full state”. It still needs to recognize its original Nakba of ethnically cleansing the native Americans and maybe elect a native American president, but it is a major step so far.

Similarly, when Israelis add the Nakba to their lexicon and elect a Palestinian/Arab as a PM, then that will be the real creation of the state. I fully agree with Averroes that a one state solution is the only sustainable solution, regardless of how unrealistic it seems today.

Yossi,
Good luck in reforming your “ism”. It took a while for our “isms” to reform (Arabism, Turkism, etc.) That can only be done from the inside. Or maybe given the entangled US public sphere with the Israeli one, the likes of J-Street, Walt and Mearsheimer can help from the outside too.

P.S. if I were you I’d instantly drop the idea naked Levantine men calendar. This will definitely cause more wars. On the other hand, a naked Levantine women calendar is a much peaceful endeavor. Here’s something to learn from the Ukraine: Ukraine women strip off at polls to make political point
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/europe/features/article_1531611.php/Ukraine-women-strip-off-at-polls-to-make-political-point

I’m sure Alex would gladly volunteer to lead this project online 🙂

February 9th, 2010, 5:14 pm

 

offended said:

Bummer. I click at Idaf’s link to see a guy in a miner’s outfit, covered with soot, voting at a ballot.

I thought I’d see photos of….. well, never mind.

February 9th, 2010, 5:34 pm

 

Shai said:

IDAF,

Very interesting comparison, and one we should indeed refer to in internal discourse in Israel. It could be greatly beneficial, because it offers hope. It allows one to feel comfortable enough to be compared to the “bad guys”, because he sees how in the end, if he takes the right steps, he could be viewed as a “good guy”. I will use this from now on.

February 9th, 2010, 8:40 pm