Netanyahu Agrees to Give Syria Talk, but Not Golan

The new Oxford Analystica analyst is very good. The last three reports on Syria have been excellent and correspond to what I know.

SYRIA/ISRAEL: Peace talks depend on US involvement
Oxford Analytica

EVENT: Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday told a gathering of 26 EU ambassadors that
he supported talks with Syria, but that the Golan Heights should remain Israeli territory.

SIGNIFICANCE: The incoming Obama administration, in concert with European allies, is likely to work to stabilise the Levant in order to contain the instability threatened by troop withdrawals from Iraq and confrontation over the Iranian nuclear programme. Israeli-Syrian talks will probably be at the forefront of such efforts.

ANALYSIS: Since the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, Israel-Syria relations have fluctuated between concern over the outbreak of a confrontation and hope for peace between the two countries.

Tension and relief. After the war, which Damascus saw as a Hizbollah victory, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad felt confident enough to threaten Israel that he would consider military action or Hizbollah-style resistance to regain the Golan Heights. The atmosphere was worsened by increased troop deployments and exercises on both sides of the border. In the midst of these tensions, Israeli jets attacked northern Syria on September 6, 2007. Israeli and US sources claimed that the strike targeted a Syrian nuclear facility built with the aid of North Korea; Syria denied the allegations. Significantly, Syria did not respond to the attack. Nor did it respond when Hizbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in a Damascus car bomb on February 12. In addition to restoring some measure of Israel’s tarnished image of strength, the operations clarified that Assad had no interest in violent confrontation with Israel and demonstrated his ability to control both his military-security establishment and his angry public.

Tentative steps. In late April, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a message to Assad via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he said he was ready to committ himself to the “deposit” made by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in August 1993. This was a reference to a note to the Clinton administration expressing Israel’s willingness, albeit conditional, to carry out a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. In May 2008, the Israeli and Syrian governments confirmed the resumption of peace talks between the two countries through Turkish mediation — an unwelcome surprise for the Bush administration, which maintained its hard line towards Syria. The talks were immediately sidelined by an investigation by the Israeli police into corruption allegations against Olmert. What quickly became known as the Talansky affair snowballed to the point of ending Olmert’s political career. Nonetheless, Olmert has exploited his remaining time in office to pursue both the Syrian negotiations and other dovish initiatives. The fact that Olmert is the least popular prime minister in Israeli history has helped him promote far-reaching political moves. Feeling unconstrained by public opinion surveys and acting with a grander sense of his own historical importance, he has broken taboos in acknowledging discrimination against Israeli Arabs, in mooting far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians, and in publicly acknowledging that the price of peace with Syria is the full return of the Golan Heights. Olmert’s initiatives found support in Israel’s intelligence and security community, which saw the benefits of drawing Syria away from its Iranian alliance, blocking Iran’s influence and containing Hizbollah.

New administration. In January 2009, the new US administration will start its term in office, auguring a subtle shift in Middle East policy .While sharing the Bush administration’s determination to contain Iran, the Obama team is much more sensitive to the negative consequences for regional stability that a confrontation would entail. In order to strengthen its hand against Iran, the new administration is likely to reduce and reorient its deployment in Iraq .It will also work to shore up the stability of the Levant. The Israel-Syria negotiations are the low-hanging fruit in such a project. While Israel-Palestinian negotiations are hamstrung by the complexity of the dispute, the fragmentation of the Palestinian side and the political difficulty of withdrawals in Israeli domestic politics, the Israel-Syria talks involve comparatively much simpler conflict. The Golan Heights is home to roughly 20,000 settlers, as compared to roughly 300,000 in the West Bank.
Tactical success.

Syria is the immediate winner from the renewed talks with Israel :

  • Assad reinforced his international legitimacy, freeing himself from the isolation of recent years.
    Syria seems to have extracted from Olmert a commitment to a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967; this commitment will shape any future talks.
  • Syria has as yet sacrificed nothing; ties with Iran and Hizbollah remain strong.

Outlook. The Syria-Israel talks will be shaped by a number of conclusions the Israeli establishment has reached regarding Syria:

  1. Genuine motives. It is now clear to Israel that Syria has a genuine interest in advancing the political process with Israel. This interest is based on a recognition not only among the Syrian leadership, but also in Syrian public opinion, that a peace agreement with Israel is likely to serve Syrian interests.
  2. Uncompromising conditions. Syrian terms for achieving a peace agreement remain stiff and uncompromising. Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights in its entirety, including the Sea of Galilee shoreline. Exaggerated assessments in Israel regarding Syria’s possible flexibility on this issue have been repeatedly shown to have no basis in reality.
  3. No radical shift. Syria has not shown willingness to clearly and unambiguously distance itself from Iran and Hizbollah. Syria benefits from the strategic space created by the polarisation of the region between Iran and its opponents. At most Damascus has hinted that it would cool those ties, which one might assume would occur in any event once Syria signed a peace treaty with Israel.
  4. No goodwill gestures. Syria continues to avoid confidence-building steps. The picture of Assad turning his back on Olmert in Paris in July 2008 dramatically illustrated this policy. This seriously complicates the prospects for Israeli leaders being able to sell an agreement with Syria to the domestic audience.

The Syrian position being relatively clear, the outcome of the talks will depend more on two other variables:

  1. Israeli politics. Current polls in Israel suggest that the next government will be considerably to the right of the present government. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is best placed to become prime minister. Even though he has shown himself to be a pragmatic rather than doctrinaire hawk, the bulk of his party is firmly hard-line, comprising those members of the Likud who rejected former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s policy of withdrawal from Gaza. A Netanyahu government would furthermore likely depend on support from other right-wing parties that would oppose an agreement. Even should the Kadima leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, form the next government, her coalition would likely depend on support from parties opposed to withdrawal from the Golan Heights. However, Israeli politics can be volatile, and much could change between now and the Feburary 10 elections.
  2. US involvement. The extent to which the new administration is willing to spend political capital on Israel-Syria talks will be decisive as to the outcome. Without active US sponsorship it will be difficult for the talks to progress. The United States is expected not only to cover the costs of peace, including compensation for Israeli settlers, (see below) additional defence aid to Israel, and an economic aid package for Syria, but to exert pressure on the sides to soften their positions. Only overwhelming US pressure might override the imperatives of Israeli domestic politics. The pressing issues of the global economy, the challenges of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, together with more mundane matters, could distract the new president from the relentless focus required to achieve an Israel-Syria peace treaty. The new administration may well be content with a tactical stabilisation of the Levant without investing the time and money required to achieve a lasting strategic breakthrough.

CONCLUSION: The road towards an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement remains long and difficult; a breakthrough will depend on the willingness and ability of the new US administration to spend its political capital on the talks.

Qurei: Israel wants to retain 6.8 percent of West Bank – Jerusalem Post. Top Palestinian negotiator reveals details of negotiations, says Israel never gave its position on the future of Jerusalem…..

Comments (23)

Ghat Albird said:

Bebe, as I understand he prefers to be called, seems to be still committed to a Bernard Lewis’ article written in a 1992 for the US Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, titled, “Rethinking the Middle East.”

In this article, Lewis raised the prospect of another policy towards the Middle East in the wake of the end of the Cold War and beginnings of the New World Order, “which could even be precipitated by fundamentalism, is what has of late become fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization.’

Bernard Lewis according to Wikipedia was born to Jewish parents in England and was a former British intelligence officer and historian who is infamous for explaining Arab discontent towards the West as not being rooted in a reaction toward imperialism, but rather that it is rooted in Islam; in that Islam is incompatible with the West, and that they are destined to clash, using the term, “Clash of Civilizations.”

Most of the states of the Middle East according to Dr. Lewis,- Egypt is an obvious exception – are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. Ergo the proposal made by Senator Biden to split Iraq up into 3 states.

If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation-state. The state then disintegrates – as happened in Lebanon – into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties.

His proposal in general was to redraw the map of what he termed the “arc of Crisis” and extend it from the Mediterranean Sea to the India Ocean along the following foundations.

1) Create a Greater Israel by including Lebanon, the present state of Israel, parts of Jordan and the entire Negev Desert.

2) Carve the present state of Turkey into 2.

3) Subdivide present day Iraq into 3 separate units.

4) Do likewise with Iran and eventually split Pakistan inot separate states.

While Prime Minister Bebe engaged the Americans[?] Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and others to develop a plan to be implemented by the US and titled “A Clear Break – A New Strategy for Securing the Realm [meaning Israel] by invading Irak, then Syria and Iran as the means to ascertain the security/expansion of Israel (wikipedia website)

The most that can be said for “Bebe” is that he is consistent and that the infamous French saying said in english is still valid, “the more it changes the more it stays the same.”

December 13th, 2008, 1:18 am


norman said:

The only way for Syria to get the Golan is to show Israel that she is willing to fight for it , Israel will not return the Golan without war , as long as Israel is not paying anything for keeping the Golan they will stay there and wait until more Israli are born there and the facts on the ground change.

December 13th, 2008, 1:21 am


jo6pac said:

I’m confused, why should they get to keep any land except the orginal piece and even then shouldn’t they have paid for it in something other than some one else blood. They took something out of the US play book as we moved across the West. Sad.

December 13th, 2008, 1:38 am


Seeking the Truth said:

I just want to say hello from Damascus, where I’m using a computer inside the internet cafe in the post office at the ascending street to Al-Hijaz train station. I’ve not been asked to show an ID, whereas this has not been the case at two other private cafes.

December 13th, 2008, 8:27 am


norman said:


Carter predicts improved U.S.-Syrian relations

2008-12-13 18:24:01 –

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter predicted Saturday an improvement in U.S.-Syrian relations under President-elect Barack Obama and expressed hope that full diplomatic relations would be restored.
Carter spoke to reporters in Damascus following a meeting he held with President Bashar Assad. He said they had also discussed the reopening of an American school and a U.S. cultural center in Damascus shut down by Syrian authorities following a deadly U.S. raid in October on a village in northern Syria near the Iraqi border.
U.S. officials said the raid targeted a militant leader. Damascus says eight civilians died.
Carter said he had «full confidence» that Obama will carry out the promises he made during his campaign. «I don’t have any doubt that the situation will improve between the United States and Syria after we have a new president,» he said.
The former U.S. president said he hoped a new U.S. ambassador would be sent to Damascus soon.
«It’s my hope that we can also see full diplomatic relations and friendship restored between Damascus and Washington at an early day in the new year.
Washington had pulled out its ambassador from Syria following the 2005 assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for which Damascus was widely blamed. Syria strongly denies the accusations.
Carter arrived in Syria from neighboring Lebanon where he spent five days talking to political leaders and offered that his Atlanta-based Carter Center monitor parliament elections there next year.
In his meeting with Assad, Carter discussed prospects for peace in the Middle East.
He said Israel is sincere in wanting peace with Syria but stressed that no «genuine peace» could be achieved unless Israel withdrew from Arab territories it occupies in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
«You can’t expect genuine peace between Israel and any of its neighbors until it has peace with all of its neighbors,» he said.
Syria and Israel this year held four rounds of indirect talks mediated by Turkey, but the talks made no significant headway and it is not clear when the talks would resume.
Carter is expected to meet in Damascus Sunday with the exiled leadership of the Palestinian Hamas militant group. His first meeting with Khaled Mashaal in April drew sharp criticism from the Bush administration which labels Hamas as a terrorist group.
However Carter said he intends to continue meeting with Hamas leaders «because the Carter Center is deeply interested in seeing peace come to this region, which needs dialogue with all the parties.
Carter, who served as U.S. president from 1977-1981, brokered the 1978 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his conflict mediation while in office and afterward.
In a lecture he gave Friday in Beirut, Carter said Iran and Syria _ both supporters of the Hezbollah and militant Palestinian factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad _ could have a major role in Mideast peacemaking efforts.
Carter also urged President-elect Barack Obama to take a «leadership role» in the peacemaking process and said the U.S. should get involved in the Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel.

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December 13th, 2008, 5:56 pm


Nour Merza said:

Very interesting post. Thanks for letting us know about this in such detail!

December 13th, 2008, 7:05 pm


offended said:

Norman, Carter is 80 years old. What he meant to say is that he won’t live enough to allow anybody the chance to blame him for his poor predictions. : )

December 13th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Shai said:


Carter was born in 1924, so he’s 84 now! He was 53 when Sadat came to Jerusalem, and 55 when he held Begin and Sadat’s hands at the White House lawn, in the famous signing ceremony in 1979.

I know of another young leader, who may get to do similar things for our region… he’s one Barack Hussein Obama!

December 13th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Observer said:

Long live Netenyahu and Barak and Sharon and Lieberman. They will certainly break apart the entire ME into small statelets and create ongoing strife and mayhem. This will allow the fundamentalist forces to thrive and will make the current jihadists look like boy scouts.
Tongue in cheek

December 13th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Shai said:

To anyone still judging Netanyahu by his words, not his actions, I offer a quick reminder of August 1998. It was then that Bibi sent Lauder, head of Jewish Federations in the U.S. (and a close friend) to speak directly to Hafez Assad, and to offer a withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for peace. Apparently, Bibi did not offer at this initial meeting to have the border reach Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), and that is the main reason Assad rejected the offer. Some say his response was along the lines of “I don’t want to see a single Israeli on the Golan within 6 months, and I want to ‘wash my feet’ in the Lake…”

When the meeting (and the offer) leaked out, Netanyahu of course denied it. It was only in 2004, some 6 years later, that Lauder himself acknowledged that some draft agreement was presented to the Syrian President, but that Bibi had no knowledge of its exact details, that he never offered a return to the June 4, 1967 lines, and that he gave no formal approval of the offer. This begs the question, therefore, why did Lauder present an agreement, if Bibi hadn’t approved in advance certain items? If Bibi hadn’t, in fact, made it very clear to Hafez Assad that he was ready to withdraw from the Golan? Perhaps Lauder’s was a fact-finding-mission, a sort of “polite gesture” towards Assad, with nothing substantive behind it. But, perhaps more likely, Bibi knew perfectly well what Lauder was about to present Syria, had approved it, and was hoping Assad would accept.

That Netanyahu denied any of this should come as no surprise to anyone. Many leaders who send emissaries on such secretive missions do not plan to expose them to the media, or to their people, if no dramatic and positive consequences occur. But, thankfully, we do have a number of high-ranking officials, that worked under Bibi at the time, who confirmed both the meeting, as well as the offer. Yitzhak Mordechai (Ret. Gen) served as Bibi’s Defense Minister, and challenged Bibi publicly about this issue (Bibi said nothing). Uri Sagi (Ret. Gen) served at the time as Head of Aman (Military Intelligence) and National Intelligence Estimator for the State of Israel. He too confirmed the offer, and even suggested Bibi had agreed to the June 4th, 1967 lines.

So why are we possibly “moved” by such declarations as Bibi makes nowadays, especially during a tough campaign, as he tries to re-establish his own party (after dropping to a mere 12 seats out of 120 in the previous election)? His team is indeed quite hawkish, perhaps more so than before. But in order to offer Israelis another agenda, other than the failed Labor-Kadima one, Bibi must seem hawkish. Many in Israel buy the Shaul Mofaz “peace-for-peace” formula, not spending much thought about how such a thing would be seen by the other side, in fact, the side that needs to accept it. So Bibi is taking advantage of this, and lets out a so-called “peaceful” intention, of wishing to talk to Syria, but certainly not about the Golan. This will win him another 10, perhaps 15 seats, his party will likely win the next election, and he’ll become Prime Minister of Israel for the second time.

But what he’ll do after achieving power, is up for speculation. Knowing Bibi is far smarter than many in his team (including Bugi Ya’alon the previous COGS, Benny Begin, and other newly acquired “stars”), I would suggest he is not going to miss out on another historic opportunity to make peace with the Arab world. He knows that, and as soon as he’s convinced that Syria is serious about peace, he’ll take her up on it, faster than he did with Hafez Assad. In Israel, Bibi was viewed as a great failure for the better part of the past decade, since his loss to Ehud Barak. He was seen as someone who missed an opportunity with Syria, also with the Palestinians, and who basically ruined the Likud, causing their historic downslide in the previous two elections. But since then, over the past 3 years, Bibi sat quietly in the Opposition. He didn’t do much, except for rebuild and ready his party for the takeover. And, in that, he succeeded quiet well, at least according the polls taken over the past year.

If he wins come February 10th, he will not wish to again destroy his reputation. He will, like his spiritual father Menachem Begin did, find the way to make peace with the Arab world. And it will not entail merely “peace-for-peace”.

December 14th, 2008, 6:05 am


Shai said:

Norman, Observer, others…

Here’s what Daniel Pipes wrote about Bibi’s “Road to Damascus”, back in 1999. It’s important to recall this, as most in Israel (and perhaps here on SC) have long since forgotten those days:

Bibi is still Bibi.

December 14th, 2008, 6:33 am


Alex said:

From Haaretz:

Carter said that while Obama had picked Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Rahm Emmanuel as White House chief of staff, there was hope in his choice of retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security advisor.

“As far as Rahm Emmanuel is concerned, yes, he is closely affiliated with Israel… But I think that another hopeful sign is that General Jim Jones will be his national security advisor,” Carter said.

Clinton had “been quite close to AIPAC’s position in the past,” Carter added, in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group.

“But I think that Jim Jones is thoroughly familiar with the situation in Palestine,” Carter said. Diplomats say Jones was critical of Israel in a confidential report this year on how Israelis and Palestinians had met security commitments.

December 14th, 2008, 7:04 am


AIG said:

As usual Shai employs wishful thinking. Look carefully at the Likud list. If Bibi shows any willingness to return the Golan, the Likud would split, just like it split over the withdrawal from Gaza (into Kadima and the Likud). Netanyahu did not rebuild the Likud just to have it torn apart again. He has Begin’s son in 5th place on the list. If Bibi reneggs on his promises on the Golan, Benny Begin will lead a revolt that Bibi can ill afford if he wants the Likud to remain intact. This is clear to any novice about Israeli politics.

In the extremely unlikely case that Bibi goes forward and as a consequence the Likud splits (which is a certainty given the hawkish list), Bibi will lose any political credibiliy as prime minister because he would not be the leader of the largest political party anymore. So in any case, he cannot push an agenda that gives Syria the Golan.

Only a Sadat like gesture, of coming to Jerusalem to speak to the Knesset directly, will perhaps enable Asad to get the Golan. Barring that, do not expect any real movement on Israel-Syria peace.

December 14th, 2008, 7:08 am


Alex said:


True, everything is possible with politicians.

President Carter is telling his Arab hosts in Beirut and Damascus not to worry if Obama picked AIPCA’s best friends Hillary and Rahm, and you are telling us on SC not to worry if the Israeli people gave Labor 5 seats and Likud 35

We have no where to go … we will hope for the best and there is a reasonably realistic chance we might get it.

And if we get the worst instead, then Syria (luckily) did not listen to anyone who said “drop Hamas and HA and Iran to show us your seriousness about peace”

Had Assad listened to that advice, Netanyahu would surely have not even considered for one minute the option of returning the Golan to a card-less Syria.

December 14th, 2008, 7:13 am


Alex said:

وبالمناسبة اظن ان وسائل اعلام المملكة العربية الديمقراطية السعودية العنصرية العظمى ستتولى اعتبارا من اليوم – ربما بدأت من قبل – تسخيف كارتر ورميه بصفات الخرف فيما تتولى وسائل الاعلام اللبنانية المستأجرة من قبل المملكة العربية الديمقراطية السعودية النفطية الغازية العنصرية العظمى تركيب فبركات عن الاستقبال السوري المفرط وعن الرغبة السورية بالحوار مع امريكا بأي ثمن .. وبأن كارتر خارج العصر وبأن الرجل منبوذ وبأن ..وبأن ..وبأن …على قاعدة اكمل الفراغات التالية بالشتائم المناسبة ..لهؤلاء لن نقول شيئا لأن الكلام معهم فقد معانيه ولكن للرئيس جيمي كارتر نقول : اهلا بك يافخامة الرئيس في دمشق حيث الرجال الذين يقدرون الرجال وحيث عشاق الحق والتاريخ واصحاب الضمير هنا لا يضلون الطريق

شام برس

December 14th, 2008, 7:40 am


Shai said:


“Benny Begin will lead a revolt that Bibi can ill afford if he wants the Likud to remain intact. This is clear to any novice about Israeli politics.”

Was it that “clear to any novice” when Benny Begin’s father did the same? Did Likud split up back then? You’re not gambling well AIG – You’re closing all your options in advance. Livni said something “neat” this week (though I still don’t think she can be our next PM) – she said: “I can’t believe Israelis are going to vote for a party whose Agenda starts with the word “No” (won’t). So now you’ve bolstered your Democracy-First argument with Likud’s hawkish team. We’ll see… 🙂

In the meantime, you may wish to reconsider your two main claims, which it seems not a SINGLE political leader in Israel is supporting (I challenged you to produce one, and have yet to see it):

1) No peace before the Arab nations around us become Democracies.

2) No peace with the Palestinians before Arab-Israelis voluntarily give up their Israeli citizenships.

December 14th, 2008, 1:50 pm


norman said:

Shai, Alex,

The only way for Syria to get the Golan is to fight for it , Israel never gave anything without war or pressure.

December 14th, 2008, 3:13 pm


Shai said:


I hope you’re wrong. Haven’t we fought enough? I know for some, especially ones living in the U.S., it may be easier to contemplate a continuation of war, resistance, terrorism, fanaticism, etc., than to consider giving back the Golan. But to those of us here, in Israel, who will suffer the consequences of another regional war, it’s a little tougher to say.

December 14th, 2008, 3:23 pm


norman said:


I hope that I am wrong too but i doubt it , Syria kept the Golan calm for years only to find Israeli like your freind who was born on the Golan to dismiss it’s return out right.

Israeli needs to br forced , economicly or militarly.

December 14th, 2008, 5:34 pm


AIG said:

My two claims are just pre-requisites for peace. Sure, you can have 10 Oslo more like processes, but they will not lead to peace.

The following requirements are ESSENTIAL for a true peace that will hold:
1) Arab nations become Democracies.
2) The Arab-Israelis voluntarily give up their Israeli citizenships.

It can be the case that Israeli politicians will not insist on 1 or 2. But it will just cost Israel and the Arabs dearly and will lead to even more bloodshed and instability, just like Oslo.

As for the analogy between Benny Begin and his father, you got it wrong. The analogy is between Bibi and Menachem Begin. Bibi does not have the stature and the command of Menachem Begin. Benny Begin is the staunchest of the staunch idealists. He will not accept a Bibi U-turn and will lead a revolt that will split the Likud. Therefore, you are just pursuing wishful thinking.

If you feel as you do, you should send your children to the Syrian army. By the way I tend to agree with you, but from the opposite side. Syria will not give up its demands for the Golan unless it will be forced to do so economically and militarily. And that is the strategy Israel should pursue until Syria is a democracy. So I suggest you try your strategy and I will try mine. That is only fair. Time will tell who is more successful. May the better country win.

December 14th, 2008, 7:47 pm


norman said:


The only reason Israel still exist is because Arab leaders so far failed to recognise how vulnerable Israel is in a long war , they just have to stop seeking peace imposed by Israel and force Israel for a long term war , like years , I doubt any Israeli will stay in Israel , they will be all in the US and the EU.

December 15th, 2008, 1:29 am


Shai said:


“Israeli politicians”, as you called them, already accepted peace with Arab nations without BOTH 1 & 2, in the cases with Egypt and Jordan. And, lo and behold, we haven’t had “more bloodshed and instability, just like Oslo.”

I can never understand your rationale when it comes to making peace with a nation like Syria. We did it with two Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, and although we certainly can’t call that relationship “real peace”, we certainly CAN say they’re better than the alternative, war. Have you forgotten the 5 wars we fought with Egypt? Should we have waited for your Democracy-First precondition before signing a peace agreement with Egypt? Because this is what you’re suggesting we do with Syria. Must Syria become a formidable enemy, as strong as Egypt was in 1973, before we make peace with her? Haven’t we understood that Syria IS strong, through her alliances with Hezbollah, Hamas, and of course Iran. Syria has been sending us the two messages over the past 5 years, and they are loud and clear (to me at least): Make peace with us now, or, face continued resistance and growing instability in the region.

But what do you say, no. Not until Syria becomes a Democracy.

Btw, it was Bibi that accepted Benny Begin back, not the other way around. If Bibi holds peace talks with Syria, Begin will have a lot less power to split the party in two than you think. He might quit, but he won’t bring down the party. As for his father, Menachem Begin, I don’t know if you know this about the Likud, but in every single meeting they hold, there’s a huge picture of Begin in the background. He is their hero. And, I do hope you recall that he was the one that relinquished the entire Sinai to un-democratic Egypt in return for peace. No one in the Likud thinks Begin is a traitor (anymore), and no one will think Bibi is (will be). Remember, everyone in Israel already knows Bibi offered the Syrians a withdrawal from the Golan. No one honestly thinks he can’t possibly do it again (except for you).

December 15th, 2008, 4:58 am


AIG said:


Very soon you will see that your wishful thinking about Bibi is just that, wishful thinking. How more clearly can Bibi state he will not give the Golan? How much more hawkish do you need the Likud party list be before you realize that you are dreaming? I hope you still plan voting for him. But if you don’t, it will just show you yourself do not believe what you are saying.

I guess the main difference between us is that you think Syria is strong and I think it is very weak and getting weaker because it refuses to reform. You are the kind of Israeli Norman likes, those that can easily be threatened. My answer to the Syrians is simple, if you continue destabilizing the region and support “resistance” you will pay the price. Unlike you, I do not find the idea of being held hostage by oppressive regimes and dictators attractive. The Syrian regime should be dealt with in the language it understands, the language it uses to deal with its own people.

Asad has very few cards to play if at all. Hizballah is out of the equation following the Lebanon war and the new rules of the game. Hizballah cannot afford another confrontation with Israel because it will be the end of Lebanon. The northern border of Israel has never been more quiet. Syria did nothing after we bombed its nuclear reactor. As for Gaza, it is clear that as much as Syria want Hamas to fight, Hamas wants the cease fire to continue and you are hearing different voices coming from Damascus and Gaza. When Fatah becomes a little stronger, Israel will topple the Hamas government in Gaza and let Fatah take over. As for Iran, Syria has zero influence over it and in any case you believe that Syria will never “flip”. So what cards does Asad have, except a backward economy that is not growing fast enough to support the growing Syrian population? Let’s see Syria and Iran get by with low oil prices and let’s see the outcome of the nuclear and Hariri investigations. Then let’s reevaluate the situation and see if you are right or I am right. And no, we are not risking a war, because again, the Syrians cannot afford to fight us because they are so fragile economically. Asad is not stupid. Unlike Norman, he knows what the consequences of a war will be. It will lead to civil war in Syria.

December 15th, 2008, 6:25 am


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