Netanyahu goes for Palestinian over Syrian Track; Lebanon Elections

Israel’s effort to switch the discussion to Iran is likely to be met in Washington and in European capitals with the assertion that it is precisely because of the need to build an alliance to confront Iran that Israel must move ahead vigorously with the Palestinians as well as with the Syrians.

Israel’s effort to switch the discussion to Iran is likely to be met in Washington and in European capitals with the assertion that it is precisely because of the need to build an alliance to confront Iran that Israel must move ahead vigorously with the Palestinians as well as with the Syrians.

[Landis Comment] The Netanyahu government has rejected peace talks with Syria in favor of those with Palestinians. Why has Netanyahu decided to put the Palestinian track before the Syrian track? Many analysts were predicting that he would turn to Syria first. Martin Indik argued that Netanyahu would sacrifice the Golan in order to keep the West Bank. He also argued that the Golan is comparatively simple to solve.

According to Oxford Analytica, Netanyahu is mischievous. He can more easily sabotage the Palestinian negotiations once he has begun them than talks with Syria. The Palestinians are easy to manipulate and problem is complex. The Golan issue is simple and most problems have already been worked out. Oxford Analytica’s analysts argue:

Netanyahu is unlikely to reject US regional policy outright, or say ‘no’ to the president. Instead, he is more likely to emphasise caveats, confronting the Obama administration with a frustrating set of obstructions, delays and diversions.

In short, Netanyahu will accept process and no peace. The Palestinian track has already proven to deliver lengthy process and little peace.

Aluf Benn , writing in Haaretz, argues that Netanyahu is not primarily Machiavellian, but genuinely fears a holocaust carried out by Iran. Thus, he will cede no land to Iran’s leading Arab ally, Syria. Benn writes:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions are shaped by a profound conviction that Israel will be in danger of extermination if Iran has nuclear weapons at its disposal. [This is why] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it her business to explain to him that the Arab countries will not stand with Israel against Iran if Israel does not advance the peace process with the Palestinians.

Lebanon: The US seems to be reconciling itself to the notion that it can live with a win by March 8 so long as Hizbullah remains largely invisible and Hariri’s people are given a veto in the cabinet. One surmises this because so many Israeli analysts are becoming apoplectic about Obama’s refusal to take more active measures to kill Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, or provide more covert aid to anti-Syria forces in Lebanon.

Israel’s former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz “confirmed that Israel had attempted to kill Hizbullah chief” Hassan Nasrallah.

We tried to get to him, but couldn’t find him. I personally cannot accept that he is still free to shuttle between his bunker and his tunnels.

Obama seems to be preparing to return an ambassador to Syria. Feltman and Shapiro are due in Damascus this week for a second time. The Syrians are also asking for sanctions to be lifted or, at the very least, eased.

If Netanyahu continues to refuse to negotiate with Syria, there is no reason that Washington should hold off making concessions to Damascus based purely on US interests. So long as Israel is unwilling to pay to play, Washington should feel no obligation to shut down the gaming table.

News Summary follows:

al-Khaleej: “US’s Ambassador return to Damascus Imminent” Thanks FLC

“…According to Syrian sources, the U.S. will return its ambassador to Damascus before the end of May, and this will be resolved during the visit to Syria by Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman and U.S. National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro. Also to be discussed during the visit are the developments in Iraq and Lebanon, the Middle East peace process, and U.S.-Syria relations. The sources added that Syria expects the U.S. to refrain from renewing the sanctions on Syria, or at least to reduce them..”

Israel Will Accept Palestinian State, Rejects Syria Peace Talks
By Gwen Ackerman and Jonathan Ferziger

May 4 (Bloomberg) — The new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu gave the strongest signal yet that it would accept a Palestinian state, while rejecting peace negotiations with Syria.

“We do want to see peace and do understand that long-term peace and stability will entail a two-state solution,” Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said in an interview.

Israel will honor the previous government’s commitments and accept the internationally backed 2002 peace plan, or road map, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, Ayalon said, in the most explicit acceptance of Palestinian statehood since Netanyahu formed a government in March.

In an interview yesterday in his Jerusalem office, Ayalon, 53, said Iran is “vulnerable” and called for stronger sanctions against the country to halt its nuclear program. Iran’s links to Syria are “very, very worrisome,” he said.

Mark Lynch, “Imad Moustapha’s view on the future of relations with the US,” Mark Lynch for Foreign Policy

…. Like every other Arab official I’ve seen in the last few months, Moustapha praised Obama’s public commitment to working for a two-state solution and the appointment of George Mitchell….That sounds great, but…. at the same time, Moustapha continued to fall back on the old style in his own responses to questions and challenges — exactly the litany of complaints about Israel …. His low point came in his response to a Syrian man who asked him to speak about human rights abuses and repression inside of Syria. His response, equating the Syrian questioner with the Israelis and WINEP and then going on about Israeli war crimes, drew audible grumbling from the audience. If the Obama administration has indeed adopted such a fresh new style with Syria, it does not yet seem to be reciprocated in Syrian public diplomacy….

STUMBLING BLOCS by Elias Muhanna in The National

The formerly pseudonymous author of the excellent Lebanese politics blog Qifa Nabki — looks toward next month’s elections in Lebanon and concludes that the country’s era of high-stakes, zero-sum politics is over…..

….Power-sharing will help insulate Lebanon from civil unrest (if March 14 wins) or from a disruption in economic ties with the West (if March 8 wins), but it seems likely to provide yet another pretence for both coalitions to obstruct or avoid any far-reaching reform efforts. The systemic problems that cripple Lebanese politics – sectarianism, widespread corruption, massive public debt – are unlikely to be addressed without a strong executive mandate. The weakening of coalition ties may augur the end of an era defined by the rivalry between March 14 and March 8 – but merely reshuffling the existing sectarian alliances will do little more than prolong Lebanon’s paralysis.

Report From Damascus (May 3, 2009)
by Thomas Strouse, Georgetown graduate student in Damascus

Two critical elections will take place in early June that could potentially shape the direction that the Middle East region moves in the near future. Parliamentary elections will be held in Lebanon on June 7 and a presidential election will be held in Iran on June 12…..

Hizballah Victory?
The upcoming elections will also be Hizballah’s first major test of public support following its conflict with Israel in the summer of 2006. Any win by the current opposition will be portrayed in the West as a victory for Hizballah and its Iranian and Syrian supporters. Without getting too far into the complexities of Lebanese politics, it is not this simple.

Despite Hizballah getting tagged as the leader of the March 8 alliance, the party itself only won 14 seats in 2005. Hizballah’s two major allies in the broader alliance, the Amal Movement (Shi’a) and the Free Patriotic Movement (Christian), also each won 14 seats. Saad Hariri’s Future Movement won 36 seats. The second largest faction in the March 14 alliance along with Hariri’s Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party led by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, won 16 seats. Other minor parties filled in the rest of the allotted seats.

In the upcoming election, Hizballah has decided to only run 11 candidates, three less than the number of seats that it holds in the current parliament. These candidates are likely to easily win their respective races, given the movement’s overwhelming support in these particular Shi’a districts. However, this demonstrates that much of Hizballah’s success depends on the success or failure of the other parties in its alliance. Specifically, Hizballah is relying on the success of its Christian allies in Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which finds itself in some highly competitive races.

Hizballah … still has much ground to make up against the March 14 alliance…..

Jerusalem Post: One civilization clashing, 2009-05-01

On June 7 Hizbullah will likely take over Lebanon and formally bring the oldest Arab democracy into the Iranian axis. Iran’s stalking horse will not become the ruler of the largely pro-Western, non-Shi’ite majority country through a violent…

Elie Elhadj, 5/1/2009

For Israel and the United States to deny responsibility for having helped create the environment that allowed jihadism to grow in the Arab street is as deluded and dangerous to all concerned as the Al-Saud rejection of a connection between the Wahhabi way of life and the murderers of September 11.

Syria’s Assad urges US to talk to Hamas, Hezbollah, Sun May 3

PARIS (AFP) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged the United States on Sunday to reach out to militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah as part of the search for Middle East peace, in an interview with French television.

Speaking to France 3, Assad welcomed what he said was a new willingness in Washington to listen to Syria’s views since President Barack Obama took office, and said Damascus was ready to help broker contacts with the groups.

The United States regards both Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas as terrorist movements, and does not recognise them, a stance which Assad said was counterproductive if Washington wanted to seek regional peace….

“I think if you want to solve the problem you can’t go about saying: ‘This is good and this is bad, this is evil and this is democratic, this is human rights and this is not politics’,” he said.

“Politics is when you deal with reality. When you deal with influential parties to influence the position in a positive or a negative way,” he said, calling on the United States to talk to both Iran and the militant groups.

“Hamas has influence and you can not ignore them. You can’t achieve peace while Hamas is outside this peace or against the peace,” he said, adding that the same was true of Hezbollah.


May 1, 2009 – Prof. Barry Rubin (GLORIA) – Suddenly, the United States has awoken to the fact that in one month Lebanon is likely to be taken over by a radical government and hijacked into the Iran-Syria alliance. Unfortunately, this apparently doesn’t mean it—or European states—are going to do anything about it.

In early June, the odds are—though one can still hope otherwise—that the parliamentary majority will be held by a coalition backed by Tehran and Damascus. Hizballah is not going to “take over” the country politically and that is a point no doubt which will be used by governments and media to prove that there’s no problem.

Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, not generally identified as an alarmist and activist, has just started sounding the alarm, “The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese state cannot be overstated,” he said.

The new government is likely to consist of traditional Syrian-backed politicians, the Christian forces of Michel Aoun, Hizballah, and Amal, along with various independent figures. It will take power thanks to the money and guns paid for by Iran and smuggled in by Syria. It will be anti-American and anti-Western, though it won’t go out of the way to advertise that fact in English. And, most important of all, it will be a new base for the spread of Iranian influence as well as a signal as to who’s winning in the Middle East.

President Michel Sulayman who was, people seem to forget, the Syrian candidate for that post, will go along with this new situation, though in Western eyes he will still appear to be moderate. The Lebanese army is not a reliable guard against it, though it is likely to continue receiving Western military aid.

The Obama Administration’s words may be formally proper but what was and is needed is a massive effort by the United States in coordination with Europe and moderate Arab states, including covert assistance to the Lebanese independence forces, the May 14 coalition. That group is, of course, daily accused of receiving such help by Hizballah and company— Sometimes with the help of the New York Times—but has received little help.

Time: Clinton’s Beirut Blitz, by Andrew Butters, 2009-05-09

This U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s lighting trip to Beirut was straight from the standard American playbook….

Feds toss out charges against pro-Israel lobbyists
2009-05-09, MSNBC:

Federal prosecutors moved Friday to dismiss espionage-related charges against two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused of disclosing classified defense information, ending a tortuous inside-the-Beltway legal battle rife with..

Is this the Palestinians’ Last Chance?, by Patrick Seale

Will the Palestinians seize the slim chance of statehood offered by President Barack Obama’s pledge to work for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or will they throw it away because of unresolved inter-Palestinian conflicts? These unspoken questions lay behind the talks which Fatah and Hamas held in Cairo this week, in a last ditch attempt at reconciliation…..

…The Palestinians are not alone in missing an opportunity. The ongoing ‘Cold War’ between regional states – and particularly the clash between Iran, Syria and Qatar, on the one hand, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, on the other, means that the chance to make their collective voice heard in Washington is being lost.

Egypt, in particular, finds itself trapped in contradictions. It wishes to assert its leading role in the region against new challengers such as Iran and Qatar, while at the same time pursuing an ‘Egypt First’ policy. It is fearful that Hamas might radicalise Sinai’s Bedouin population and encourage the Muslim Brotherhood to rise against the regime. It accuses Hizballah of mounting terrorist operations within Egypt on Iran’s behalf. Above all, it dreads the thought that Israel might seek to dump Gaza and its problems in Egypt’s lap.

While the Arab states are crippled by their disputes, the Europeans are little better. Divisions remain inside the European Union over the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly over how to deal with Hamas. The EU may applaud Obama’s engagement in the Middle East, but it remains reluctant to play an independent role. It therefore condemns itself to insignificance.

As for the Palestinians, not for the first time in their history they remain fatally absorbed in their quarrels, as if unaware that their national cause is in acute danger of extinction.

Israel picks historian Michael Oren as ambassador to U.S.


Nadim Shehadi, a fellow at London’s Chatham House, linked faith in the tribunal with faith in the outside world’s ability to protect Lebanon, which he said had been badly dented by the failure to halt Israel’s 2006 war on Hezbollah guerrillas…”

BMW sales soar to 116% in Syria, 2009-05-02

Syria’s exclusive BMW distributor, Bahi Motors has reported a 116% growth in BMW sales for Q1 2009, compared to its performance in 2008 during the same period. BMW 7 Series is the top selling model achieving 423% increase in sales, followed by the BMW 3 Series with a 127% sales increase.

Nasrallah: Israel assassinated Hariri, 2009-05-02

Hizbullah Chief Hassan Nasrallah charged over the weekend that Israel could have assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a claim which an Israeli government spokesman dismissed Saturday as ‘complete rubbish.’

Syria tightens control on media, Internet
Khaled Yacoub Oweis, May 03, 2009

DAMASCUS, May 3 (Reuters) – Syrian authorities have tightened their “mighty grip” on the media and Internet since ties improved with the West last year, the author of a new report on censorship in the Arab country said on Sunday.

“With Syria breaking free from its isolation, the need is greater than ever to ease the mighty censorship and grip over the media, which have only contributed to spreading ignorance and corruption,” Mazen Darwich, head of the Syrian Media Centre, told Reuters.

“Last year, however, was worse than the previous one. Internal and external conditions combined to make it easier to violate individual rights, which reflected on freedom of press and expression,” he added.

Western nations have intensified contacts with Damascus, after several years of strained ties, and backed efforts to reach a peace deal between Syria and Israel.

The United States and most European countries have also toned down their criticism of Syria’s human rights record and curbs on freedom of expression, which the government says are necessary considering a technical state of war with Israel.


The report, entitled “Syrian pens fall silent”, said 225 Internet sites were blocked last year, up from 159 in 2007. The sites include several Arab newspapers and portals, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube.

Twenty one percent of the sites banned were Kurdish — Syria has around one million Kurds, including tens of thousands without citizenship — and 15 percent are run by Syrian opposition groups.

Bans on a few sites, such as the Arabic language Wikipedia, were lifted, but the Internet remains under the monitoring of the security apparatus, Darwich said.

“We are a long way away from a free cyberspace, but at least supervision should be in the hands of the government, not security, and subject to a law,” he said.

The authorities also shut down eight publications last year and licensing remains difficult, the report said. A state agency holds a monopoly on advertising.

“We have seen some improvements on the margins, such as the possibility of lifting travel bans on some journalists, but there is no structural change,” said Darwich, whose centre is one of a few private organisations dealing with human rights allowed to operate in Syria….

The Artist In Syria, by Etel Adnan.

I just read Miriam Cooke’s “Dissident Syria” and feel that this work has to be brought to the attention of specialists of Arab and Middle Eastern studies, students of literature and the general public. We all have known for about 40 years that the Syrian regime is an authoritarian one, to say the least, and that in addition to the armed opponents that would be prosecuted in any country, Syria systematically tortures and imprisons intellectuals for long periods of time for no other reason than their having criticized the regime. Arab intellectuals in general, as well as those from the other countries of the world, pay little attention to the plight of Syrian intellectuals either out of fear, discouragement or indifference.  More…

Comments (31)

Shai said:


I believe Oxford’s Analytica analysts have come to a conclusion without sufficiently explaining its rationale. I have yet to hear a good argument for WHY Netanyahu would choose process over peace, especially since we’ve already seen how the same author of “How The West Can Win” (against Terrorism and Terror-supporting regimes…) has already engaged both Arafat (“Father-of-all-terrorists”) and Hafez Assad (“Terrorism-supporter”). Bibi has already proven those analysts wrong. Last time around, he didn’t choose The Process, he went out and pulled troops out of major towns and cities in the West Bank. He specifically sent Lauder to Hafez to offer the Golan (quietly, not “process-like”). So I humbly disagree with Analytica’s analysis. Bibi wants to leave a mark on Israel’s History, and not one of “More of the Same”. He’s no Shamir or Golda. He’s made up of Begin-like material, I believe.

Aluf Benn is correct about Bibi’s 2nd-Holocaust paranoia, but he’s wrong about the consequence (not wishing to risk making the Golan accessible to the Iranians). Bibi knows fully well that no Iranian troops, or even Syrian ones, will be able to reside on the Golan. That will part of the agreement. We have satellites that can see the date on the oil-can that a mechanic is using on a tank in the Syrian desert somewhere, so we won’t be able to see Iranian troops “headed our way”? And if it’s Iranian missiles Bibi fears, they’re already there, just beyond the Golan, in Syria and in Lebanon. The extra couple miles won’t give them greater access to Israel. They can already hit every point, from thousands of kilometers away.

For Aluf Benn to depict Bibi as some paranoid leader is doing the people of Israel great injustice. Because every single Israeli (yours included probably) suffers from some level of paranoia over the notion of a 2nd-Holocaust. That Bibi and others in the leadership (from Left to Right) are capitalizing on that fear, there’s no doubt. But to suggest Bibi’s some special case, is a gross exaggeration. If anything, I’d credit him with masterful 2nd-Holocaust manipulation abilities. That, he does better than most.

As my previous comment today suggested, I’m still quite optimistic, though more cautiously so… 🙂

May 4th, 2009, 5:16 am


Frank al Irlandi said:


I wonder if I could ask you to provide a warning before linking to pieces by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post.

While the questionable sanity of the position she expounds does serve to highlight the weakness of the underlying political position derived from the fallacious notion of a clash of civilisations, her views are bad for my blood pressure.

This time around she continues her dire warnings against Turkey as an Islamist state, which is a direct descendant of her piece proposing that Turkey be thrown out of NATO after the election of the AKP that provoked derision from Helena Cobban.

She does show her lack of understanding of the larger geopolitical picture of the place of Turkey in assuring Europe’s Energy Security. This does seem to support the Mearsheimer and Walt position that Israel’s interest and that of the US (and Europe) diverge.

What is rather shocking and an indication of what might happen next is that 279 people gave her piece a four and a half star rating.

A health warning next time please.

May 4th, 2009, 7:36 am


Akbar Palace said:

Bibi has already proven those analysts wrong.


Why don’t your challenge the “Good Professor” aka the Co-Director of Peace Studies, and ask him what the “Good President” is willing to provide Israel in terms of “peace”.

I never got that memo.

May 4th, 2009, 12:17 pm


Shai said:


First, I didn’t get a chance to thank you previously. You know what I’m talking about.

Second, I’m not here looking for Balance. In fact, in Life itself I don’t look for balance. Do I need to know, here on SC, every last detail of what Syria is offering Israel. We know some things already. We know Syria came up with the idea of the Peace Park on 1/3 of the area. We know Syria offered a 15-year withdrawal period. I believe in the rounds with Barak, they accepted a 4-to-1 in Israel’s favor disengagement of troops. Checking stations, water discussions, etc. Do you think Assad should say any of these things out loud? Did Olmert, or Bibi? What’s important is that Syria has been, for the past 5-6 years, nearly “begging” Israel to talk peace. Why? Are they, too, interested merely in a “process”? (Like some are now claiming about Bibi).

I don’t believe it, and I’m ready to call anyone’s “bluff” – be it Syria’s, Israel’s, America’s, or Micronesia’s. Because the alternative, not making peace, is always far worse. Today the region is FAR less stable than ever before. That’s enough of a testament to the need for peace, and urgently.

May 4th, 2009, 1:47 pm


Shai said:

Regarding the poll showing 66% of Israelis approving an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations, I’m not sure this is something we should be proud of (as Israelis). There’s something a bit “war-monger-like” about rallying up a nation to either preempt, or outright declare war on another. What would we say if 66% of Russians approved an attack upon the United States, should the Obama administration refuse to remove its missiles from E. Europe?

Plus, is this how we decide if it is time for war or not? Based on the emotions of the majority? So what do we need leaders for? Let’s elect Followers, not Leaders.

May 4th, 2009, 2:57 pm


Observer said:

There will be no peace and the Palestinian state will never see the day. If I were an Israeli I would not trust those mumbling fools in the PA, Jordan, or Egypt except in one respect: how to remain in power and how to pass power to one’s offspring.

I just retruned from a trip to Europe and the ME. Here are my notes:
1. Europe has found istelf in a conundrum with the overtures of Obama. They are now exposed in the six party talks with Iran as being just the fig leaf in this effort.
2. Europeans have the conviction now that the policies of the Israeli hard liners is the great threat to peace in the ME. They are actually arguing now that it is imperative to save Israel from itself and therefore bring about some major change to the actual policies towards the Palestinians.
3. The Leaders of Europe continue to talk the old colonial tune of refusing to even consider any changes that could possibly be made to the sanctity of Israel and its policies and its current make up. They are wringing their hands to try to temper Avigdor into more acceptable pronoucements.
4. The economic hardships of Europeans are less visible due to the safety net they provide; the problem however is in the bankrupcy of the Eastern European countries.
5. In Syria it is two steps forward and one step back. The bureaucracy is a marriage of Kafka and Corleone: create Kafkaeske conditions to continue to fleece and extort the population a la Corleone. Now that all of what Lebanon used to offer has been allowed in Syria ( no longer through contraband methods ) and in the hands of the few in privilige, immobilism has returned full force. No major changes will be made. The new malls and new restaurants and new night clubs with Russian exotic dancers and car outlets allow for all amenities to be available so why change now. The only problem is that you have to be really wealthy. I saw a lot of child labor in the streets and a lot of begging, something I had not seen in my last visits.
On the foreign policy side, Syria is doing superbly, it has established itself as an important regional player and has cooperated with all the actors that are filling the void left by Egypt and KSA. They are getting superb help from their allies and have now a medium term political agenda.
They will be back into Lebanese politics in force but with superb behind the scenes and subtle presence.

6. My understanding is that the judge of the Hariri tribunal presented his resignation when he was told that he had to postpone the liberation of the four until after the elections and they head of the investigation and the US relented and allowed the court to essentially liberate the four.

7. There is going to be a five day rehearsal of a scenario of massive missile attack on Israel that will be conducted in June. It will cover the entire country and recently the IAF conducting training missions to Gibraltar with refueling. The attack in Sudan seems to have been a rehearsal.

8. Peres is running around th world rallying the Jewish communities after the Gaza debacle. He is also preparing for an anti Iran offensive and preparation for justification of any possible attack. My take is that Israel will tell the Obama administration that if an attack is launced the US will be off the hook and will not know of the event until it has already happened. I doubt that this is possible; but the reading of the Israeli media is now to prepare for a showdown. I am told that up to 12000 missiles will hit Israel in the first five minutes after an attack on Iran. So that explains the the five day nation wide rehearsal.

May 4th, 2009, 6:48 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Shai, I should have added a third part in my Netanyahu analysis to include your thesis, which you have advanced since well before the elections, which is that Bibi will be a Begin. He will settle Israel\’s outstanding issues with Syria in order to end conflict with Israel\’s neighbors.

You could well be right. I hope you are. You are not alone in your assessment of Netanyahu as the ultimate pragmatist.

Best, J

May 4th, 2009, 7:57 pm


Alex said:

I will agree with my friend Shai that Netanyahu might not be as hawkish as he seems to be today … except that I believe the Netanyahu will eventually offer a maximum of maybe 80 to 90% of what Syria wants … which is not good enough because we know that Syria will not accept that offer.

So it will be only process, without peace … and Israel will claim that Syria’s intransigence wasted an excellent opportunity for peace. Same claim against Arafat in Camp David.

We have been there before … Israel is still not ready for peace. The latest poll shows over confidence with 66% of the population willing to go to war against Iran … if they don’t fear Iran, why should they fear Syria .. and if they don’t fear Syria, why should they give up the Golan Heights?

May 4th, 2009, 9:32 pm


Alex said:

This is very interesting. Khaled Mashaal is accepting a Palestinian State within the 67 borders, and he is declaring the Hamas charter old and insignificant

May 5, 2009
Leader Says Hamas Will be ‘Part of the Solution’

DAMASCUS, Syria — The leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas said on Monday that its fighters would stop firing rockets at Israel for now and reached out in a limited way to the Obama administration and others in the West, saying the movement was seeking a state only in the areas Israel won in 1967.

“I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period,”

the leader, Khaled Meshal, said in the course of a five hour interview with The New York Times spread over two days in his home office here in the Syrian capital.Speaking in Arabic in a house heavily guarded by Syrian and Palestinian security agents, Mr. Meshal, 53, gave off an air of serene self-confidence, having been reelected a fourth time to four-year term as the head of the Hamas political bureau, the top slot in the movement. His conciliation went only so far, however. He repeated that he would not recognize Israel, saying to fellow Arab leaders, “There is only one enemy in the region and that is Israel.”

But he urged outsiders to ignore the Hamas charter, which calls for the obliteration of Israel through jihad and cites as fact the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Mr. Meshal did not offer to revoke the charter but said it was 20 years old, adding “We are shaped by our experiences.”

He explained why he was giving the interview, his first to an American news organization in a year, by saying, “To understand Hamas is to listen to its vision directly. Hamas is delighted when people want to hear from its leaders directly, not about the movement through others.”

That also seemed aimed at the Obama administration, which has decided to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria but not with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli accords.

Regarding President Obama, Mr. Meshal said “his language is different and positive,” but he expressed unhappiness about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying hers “is a language that reflects the old administration policies.”

On the two-state solution sought by the Americans, he said, “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” Asked what “long-term” meant, he said 10 years.

Apart from the time restriction and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace initiative and what the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas says it is seeking. Israel rejects a full return to the 1967 borders as well as a Palestinian right of return to Israel itself.

Regarding recognition of Israel, Mr. Meshal said that the former Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and Mr. Abbas had granted such recognition but to no avail. “Did that recognition lead to an end of the occupation? It’s just a pretext by the United States and Israel to escape dealing with the real issue and to throw the ball into the Arab and Palestinian court.”

In April, only six rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, which is run by Hamas, a marked change from the previous three months when dozens were shot, according to the Israeli military. In late December, Israel launched a three-week invasion of Gaza, saying that it sought to stop the rockets, which land on its southern communities. Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the invasion.

Mr. Meshal made an effort to show that Hamas is in control of its militants as well as those of other groups, saying, “Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians interest. After all, the firing is a method not a goal. Resistance is a legitimate right but practicing such a right comes under an evaluation by the movement’s leaders.”

He said his group was eager for a ceasefire with Israel and for a deal that would return an Israeli soldier it is holding captive, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in exchange for many Palestinian prisoners.

Iran is a major sponsor of Hamas and both Israel and the United States worry that Gaza has become an Iranian outpost. But Mr. Meshal said, “Iran’s support to us is not conditioned. No one controls or affects our policies.”

Asked whether his movement, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist in outlook, wanted to bring strict Muslim law to Gaza and the West Bank, he said no: “The priority is ending the occupation and achieving the national project. As for the nature of the state, it’s to be determined by the people. It will never be imposed upon them.”

Mr. Meshal, one of the founders of Hamas, barely escaped assassination at the hands of Israeli agents in 1997 in Jordan. He was injected with a poison but the agents were caught and Israel was obliged by King Hussein, furious that this was taking place in his territory, to send an antidote. He ultimately went to Damascus, the base for Hamas apart from its leaders inside Gaza.

The prime minister of Israel during that assassination attempt was Benjamin Netanyahu, who has just been reelected to the post and who has said that Hamas is a tool of Iran and that Iran is the biggest danger to world peace and must be stopped.

Mr. Meshal was born in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 1956, the son of a religious leader who was also a farmer, and moved with his family to Kuwait in 1967 when he was 11. He studied physics in college and taught it at school for six years. He is married with seven children, aged 13 to 27.

Asked if he feared assassination, Mr. Meshal said no, he would view it as martyrdom. Moreover, he said, since the first attempt, “Death has become like drinking water.”

Reporting contributed by Taghreed El-Khodary in Damascus and Ethan Bronner in Jerusalem.

May 4th, 2009, 9:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Second, I’m not here looking for Balance.


You’re welcome.

Before I even look for balance, I need to find sanity.

It’s a precondition.

This is very interesting.


IMHO, this article is about as “interesting” as reading a cereal box.

May 4th, 2009, 10:53 pm


Shai said:


You may be right. But what’s the point of becoming PM again, if all you’re going to do is partake in some “process”? I agree with you that Israel doesn’t seem ready for peace (in fact, it seems LESS ready for peace, than it has EVER been in our 61-year history). But that doesn’t mean her leader Bibi isn’t ready (in his mind) for peace. Menachem Begin came to power in 1977, after sitting in the Opposition his entire life. He barely waited a nanosecond before he sent Dayan to Morocco to talk our greatest enemy at the time, Egypt. And Begin, Bibi’s Spiritual Leader and de-facto Mentor from childhood, gave up on far greater territory than the Golan Heights.

Ofer Shleach, of Ma’ariv, wrote an interesting article a week or two ago, suggesting that Israel and Israelis are experiencing the same kind of intoxication-with-power, overconfidence, belittlement of our rivals’ capabilities, and dismissal of peaceful overtures and initiatives, as we have between the period of 1967-1973. In the eyes of many, those were “The Great Years” in Israel’s history. In the eyes of others, “The Worst Years”. He may be right. And unless someone or something wakes us from this Dream, there’s probably only one forced outcome – war. The 1973 Yom Kipur war did not happen because Egypt and Syria wanted to eliminate the State of Israel (as most people still like to believe), but rather because it was time to shake Israel’s overconfidence. Fortunately, it worked. But at what terrible cost, to everyone.

Don’t you sometimes feel we’re letting leaders with emotional maturity and foresight of kindergarten children determine our fate?

May 5th, 2009, 5:23 am


Shai said:


Most Israelis are not aware of the fact that Mashaal, for at least 5-6 months now, has publicly accepted the 1967 borders. We remain focused on the “He must accept The Jewish State” issue. As if any political leader in this world must pass some Israeli-formed “Acceptance Test”, proving to us Israelis that he/she accepts us. Anwar Sadat once called for our destruction. And then, one day, he stopped doing so. Did he “accept” The Jewish State beforehand? Why are we making an idiotic demand of Mashaal, or anyone else, which seems more there to obstruct progress, than to support it?

If we even consider the “Worst Case” scenario, whereby Mashaal still dreams (and will always dream) of Israel’s destruction. Of waking up one fine morning, and finding that all Jews had evaporated from this region. Much as many a Jews in Israel dream, about the Arabs. So what do I prefer – such a Mashaal, sitting in Damascus, while his people have no nation or rights, and are living under Israeli Occupation? Or the same aging Mashaal, sitting in his home in Jenin, or Nablus, or Gaza, while his people are sending their national ambassadors to every world capital? From a purely Israeli point-of-view, which has better chances for security for Israelis? I fail to understand why most Israelis don’t see the obvious answer. We have this emotional shield, that blocks us from seeing the obvious.

Gerry Adams was also on someone’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorist” once. He also called for violence against a Western, democratic nation. He also supported “terrorism”, for most of his adult life. And then, one day, it ended. Not with his capitulation, not with his arrest, but with a handshake.

May 5th, 2009, 5:37 am


Akbar Palace said:


Thanks for the english translation in your Post 13 above.

I read the NY Times article/”puff piece” (the NY Times is slowly going bankrupt for obvious reasons), and because it was in english, I could hardly make “heads or tails” out of it.

Speaking in Arabic in a house heavily guarded by Syrian and Palestinian security agents, Mr. Meshal, 53, gave off an air of serene self-confidence, having been re-elected a fourth time to a four-year term [after breaking the bones of any opposition] as the leader of the Hamas political bureau, the top position in the movement. His conciliation went only so far, however. He repeated that he would not recognize Israel, saying to fellow Arab leaders, “There is only one enemy in the region, and that is Israel.”

But he urged outsiders to ignore the Hamas charter, which calls for the obliteration of Israel through jihad and cites as fact the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Mr. Meshal did not offer to revoke the charter, but said it was 20 years old, adding, “We are shaped by our experiences.” [gee, what could he be referring to?]

That also seemed aimed at the Obama administration, which has decided to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria, but not with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli accords [that Obama must be a “neocon”].

On the two-state solution sought by the Americans, he said: “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” Asked what “long-term” meant, he said 10 years [and naturally, Shai is elated]

May 5th, 2009, 11:53 am


Ghat Albird said:

Observer begins his review of his/her recent trip to Europe and the Middle East with the observation that “there will be no Palestenian State.

And ends his review with the premonition that “within the first five minutes (of an Israeli attack on Iran?) some 12000 missiles will hit Israel”.

Given this scenario and regardless of the timing of events what does he/she foresee as the changes that would be “in situ” as a consequence of their happening?

All in all Observer’s observations and comments merit further discussions.

May 5th, 2009, 12:45 pm


Observer said:

Immobility is the order of the day. All the players are essentially asking for time out. Bibi will beat around the bush, Obama will give token support for the two state solution, Syria will keep things stable for now, Jordan will continue to take orders from Tel Aviv, the big question is what is left for the KSA and Egypt to do. Egypt is so marginal now that it is picking up a fight with HA, let alone Qatar. KSA has no coherent strategy except to re introduce the dead Arab initiative. They are not showing any willingness to have an alternative and Bibi will call their bluff. Peres is dispatched to silence dissent and to rally support. Even today addressing AIPAC he did not mention a Palestinian state. For the PA to have to recognise the Jewish character of Israel is a green light for ethnic cleansing, with the blessing of Abbas. Not even Abbas can agree to this mascarade.

I think that we are entering a new era in which the predominance of the National Security Debate over the bankrupt policies of the US, Israel, and Europeans is coming to an end. The process of always invoking National Security for solutions to problems created by foolish policies is now over. THere is significant constraints on the use of military force, economic, demographic, and political these days.

More than ever, NATO is now becoming a police structure with the main problem that no one wants to carry the burden of policing, be it the soldiers, the economies, or the public.

The big unknown is the Israeli plan for Iranian Nuclear program.

On a different note, the rumors have it that
1. Iran has a second hidden site that has never been seen by the IAEA

2. Bandar attempted a coup in KSA and is either in custody or in flight.

Did anyone hear of any such rumors?

May 5th, 2009, 5:55 pm


Shai said:


Khaled Mashaal’s statements regarding the 1967 borders do not “elate” me. They do, however, give clear indication that the man is pragmatic enough to understand that he can’t continue to sit on the sideline. And he is choosing not to do so, and instead to be “part of the solution.” Hamas did not say this in the past. Like it or not, it is certainly a positive move in the right direction. Saying “10 year truce” is quite silly, because he knows Israel will not remove a single settlement from the West Bank until a Peace Agreement is reached with the Palestinian people. In that agreement, no such “truce” will be included.

May 5th, 2009, 6:44 pm


Shai said:


I don’t think we need “rumors” regarding Iran’s nuclear program to make a few safe assumptions:

a. Iran has learned every lesson possible from the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osirak reactor in Iraq.

b. Iran is likely exercising deception in its nuclear program, if it hopes to maintain sufficient capabilities also following a massive attack upon its installations.

c. Iran is likely hiding material and production facilities in locations unknown and unseen (probably well underground, inside mountains, etc.)

Having said that, if Israel does attack Iran, I’m sure the assumptions would not entail “full destruction” of its capabilities, but rather “most” of it. In the equation between the benefit gained, and the expected losses (not only immediate, also long-term and worldwide), I hope Israeli decision-makers find the balance not favoring our side. I don’t know about 12,000 missiles, but I do know we’ll be ushering in a brand new era of violence in our region. Maybe some people can’t wait for that to happen…

May 5th, 2009, 6:54 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Just FYI, The GOI had talks with Hamas before.

There is nothing “earth-shattering” about Jews and muslims talking per se.

Meanwhile, I recall many of the participants “accusing” the GOI of “creating” Hamas; a way-out exaggeration added to the overflowing bag of accusations and greivances against the evil “Zionist Entity”.

So what happened?

As you recall, the GOI (like the US and the Taliban and Saddam Hussein [notice the pattern?]) tried to seek a partnership with these governments and political entities, only to have the rug pulled-out from under them.

As AIG always stresses (and I concur), trying to make peace with a fanatical, undemocratic government is a waste of time and counter-productive.

Let the PA make peace with Hamas first, then let’s see what the GOI can do. If the PA can’t make peace with Hamas, then there is absolutely no reason to believe the Jews can.

May 5th, 2009, 8:12 pm


Ghat Albird said:


Appreciate your concluding thoughts. Which, if I may, can only be interpreted as the French are wont of stating, ” plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

A retired career foreign officer with many years in the ME forecasts that israel will be “nibbled away within the next two decades” regardless of whether it decides to attack Iran or not.

Bandar probably spent too many years watching the Dallas Cowboys as well as college football where every fan fantasizes about their team being #1.

May 5th, 2009, 9:27 pm


Alex said:


10 years after a comprehensive peace agreement where Israel agrees to withdraw to the 67 borders, there will be no Hamas … or at least there will be no Hamas that can win 50% of the votes.

So all we need are those 10years anyway .. and most likely Mashaal will make it 20 or 25 years …

So don’t worry about Hamas in 2034


I guess you picked the right analogy … the same 1967 to 1973 levels of over confidence exist today in Israel.

Of course now there is no more Egypt and therefore there will be no 1973 attack on Israel.

But Iran is Egypt’s replacement … not militarily but as a perceived threat .. most Israelis see Iran as a possible future military threat.

The question is: assuming Iran never attacks Israel (it probably won’t) … What will make the Israeli people feel more vulnerable one day in the future?

May 5th, 2009, 9:34 pm


Off the Wall said:

Probably Identity
Likely, their own shadows for their leaders will make sure that a threat remains up in the air,
definitely, Palestinian mothers,

May 5th, 2009, 10:17 pm


majid said:

You are not quite right. These are actually not just rumors. Iran has tens of such secret sites that are buried deep in ground that were not shown to the IAEA and this is known for over three years. No body knows how advanced Iran’s nuclear program is. If Pakistan has the bomb(s) most likely Iran already has it. In addition, Iran has the capability to detect any aircraft the moment it takes off from airfields in occupied Palestine. So Iranian missiles will start raining on settlers heads while the Zionist airplanes are still on their way. Iran is also well equipped with latest anti aircraft missile batteries which will shoot down all the invading planes before they reach Iranian airspace. On the other hand, Zionist planners assume Hezb may be satisfied with just firing few thousand missiles into Zionist cities or settlements. Hezb will do that of course and it will also send its ground troops to settlements to clear settlers out of their holes. This Netanyahu thinks he has the means. He has nothing. The Zionist entity will suffer its first major decisive defeat at his hands which will lead to the dismantlement of the Zionist project once and for all. If America tries to save it, American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq will simply have to start digging their graves. I doubt however, that a bankrupt America will dare to do anything to save this cancerous anomaly. An oil boycott will bring America down to its knees in these economic circumstances.

May 5th, 2009, 10:29 pm


norman said:

I see no chance of peace ,without war that Israel should lose.

U.S. demands Israel negotiate with Syria
May 5, 10:45 AM
Add a CommentShareThisFeed
The U.S. had urged Israel and Syria to resolve their differences. Israel replied that it could not sit down with a regime that supports Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas.

The State Dept. retorted that Israel and Syria need peace, so they must talk.

After that, Foreign Min. Lieberman said he would be willing to negotiate, but without a precondition or ultimatum from Syria that first Israel should agree to cede the Golan Heights to it, and without much hope of resolving anything ( — Arutz-7, 4/26).

Israel wants peace. Syria does not; it wants conquest. Its old doctrine calls for incorporating Lebanon, Israel, the Territories, and Jordan. Its new doctrine allies itself to Iran’s attempt to foist Radical Islam on the whole Mideast and beyond. Such a doctrine does not permit diplomatic resolution, just conquest or defeat. The issue between Syria and Israel is the existence of independent Jewish sovereignty, not possession of the Golan. Syria made two wars on Israel before Israel acquired the Golan to stop invasion from Syria. Ceding the Golan back to Syria would encourage Syria to invade again, since invasion is much easier from the Golan mountaintops. The territorial concession would confirm that the Arabs have nothing in the long run to lose from their aggression.

One Israel were to negotiate with Syria, then the State Dept. would demand that Israel make concessions that jeopardize its national security. At least, that’s what usually happens.

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May 5th, 2009, 11:23 pm


Shai said:


No point continuing to call the power-intoxicated a “drunk”. You are of course correct, but let’s hope you’re wrong that this “drunk” needs a violent sobering. Give it some more time – if Bibi’s up to something behind the scenes, it’ll be a while before we hear about it. In the meantime, the same campaign of overconfidence will continue, with the likes of Lieberman continuing to spew arrogance and hatred.

May 6th, 2009, 3:45 am


Shai said:


I’m no lover of Hamas. But I do believe Alex understands them better than you or I do. You’re (justifiably) concerned about the Hamas charter. So am I. But the same PA (Fatah) you’re now so willing to talk to, also had a charter once that called for the destruction of Israel. We talked to the PLO for years, before anything was changed. I don’t know if Hamas will change its charter (I imagine it will one day), but it certainly doesn’t seem to me like some Taliban-like group.

To remind ourselves, the same Hamas participated in the ONLY democratic, truly-free elections to ever take place in the Arab world, just a few years ago. It is us, Israel, the U.S., and a few other supporters (who’ve since changed their minds), that rejected the democratic results of the Palestinian elections. We didn’t “accept” and “recognize” the will of the Palestinian people, no less than Hamas doesn’t “accept” us. We didn’t “call” for the annihilation of Hamas and its supporters – we sent planes and tanks and artillery to do so, killing and injuring hundreds and thousands of non-soldiers, innocent men, women and children whose sole “crime” was having been born in the wrong place and the wrong time.

If you are truly able to look at yourself through THEIR eyes (not your own), and see something that is no less threatening and evil than what you see when you look at them (Hamas), then you must reach the conclusion that only peace can end this vicious cycle of hatred and bloodshed. That only by throwing away mutual preconceptions and demonizations will we have a chance at bringing our children into a safer future. Ronald Reagan once called the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire”. Bush once called Syria a member of “The Axis of Evil”. And Arafat was once branded “Father-of-all-Terrorists”. And look how things have changed since. Obama can pick up a phone and speak with Medvedev day or night. America’s representatives are knocking at Syria’s doorstep every other day. And your very own Bibi not only shook Arafat’s hand, he even kissed the man on the cheek, more than once…

We have to look and move beyond the words of the past and the present. “10 Years of Truce” said today is better than “10 years of War” said and carried out yesterday. And tomorrow’s “10 Years of Peace” will be better than what we have today. There is no alternative. You cannot kill everything. It’s a fantasy to believe you can.

May 6th, 2009, 4:26 am


Shai said:


There was something you said yesterday, which still stuck in my head. It was the use of the word “sanity”, which you claimed you were looking for (here on SC, or elsewhere), before looking for balance. And of course I don’t think anyone would disagree with you, that the ideas we bring up should first be “sane”.

But I do believe that many on “your side” (let’s assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that there are two sides here, even though clearly there are more), are either incapable, or simply unwilling, to consider that their own definitions of what is “insane” could be very different, and even justifiably so, from someone else’s angle. It’s as if there is one “universal truth” about definitions, about meanings, and about good-vs-evil.

Take, for instance, suicide bombings. Would anyone in his right mind justify such a thing? Of course not. Killing innocent people is wrong, no matter what their religion, color, or nationality. Can we understand why someone would blow himself up to kill others? I think at times we can, and more often than not, we should. If we reject the process of understanding why, we are doomed to perpetuate its origins and its consequences. We can hate it all we want, label it “evil”, its senders “terrorists”, its supporters “islamofascists”. But we are still not helping solve the problem.

It is far easier to call “insane” a young man sent by Hamas or Jihad to blow himself up in a bus in Jerusalem. We can almost envision the process, the recruitment, the brainwashing and indoctrination of hatred, the promises of a heaven afterwards, the planning and execution. It is all calculated, all cut-and-dry. It can almost be quantified. And hence, it is easy to target, easy to dismiss, and easy NOT to understand.

But what of the 29 year-old female lawyer from Jenin, who blew herself and 21 other innocent Jew and Arab Israelis up one bright morning 6 years ago? She did not go through the “Hamas-process”. She was not recruited. She was not a “combatant” in some army of soon-to-be-martyrs. But she did grow up under the Occupation. She did live through humiliation day and night, for her entire 29 years of life. And she had had enough. She knew her act would not destroy Israel. But she was hoping it would at least injure Israel’s own preconceptions of itself. And, for a while, she succeeded. Aside the “insaneness” of her act, there is a plethora of terrible-logic as well. And if we refuse to understand it, to listen to it, and to let it help us better understand OURSELVES, through this desperate girl’s act, we are sinning not only towards ourselves today, but indeed towards our children tomorrow.

It is no feat of strength or wisdom, to develop an expertise at labeling, at the cost of understanding.

May 6th, 2009, 6:20 am


AKbar Palace said:

But I do believe Alex understands them better than you or I do.


What’s there NOT to understand Shai?

Good luck with your peace talks with Hamas Shai. Perhaps you can Twitter us on the progress of these talks from Gaza City.

May 6th, 2009, 11:35 am


Akbar Palace said:

Little Mahmood visits his ideologic ally in Damascus…

Professor Josh, we’re you invited to the ceremony?

May 6th, 2009, 11:50 am


Shai said:


I’d be the first to visit Gaza as peace-negotiator/supporter, rather than conqueror. I’ve done the latter (as have so many of our soldiers), and it was horrific. You can’t understand it until you’ve done it.

But I liked your high-tech approach (Twitter us…) 🙂

Believe me, we should all be Twittering each other, rather than wasting precious moments in our lives “explaining” the rationale of non-peace. If there is one wish I have for my children, it is that they will not have to wear the uniform I and so many others have had to wear. Let them grow up as normal children, and let Arab children finally have that right as well.

May 6th, 2009, 1:17 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I’d be the first to visit Gaza as peace-negotiator/supporter…


Go for it. We shouldn’t leave any stone unturned. Do you have Adam Shapiro’s phone number?

This may help…

Anyway, if something unexpectedly goes awry,

just remember to dial 1207 if you can get to a phone.


Akbar Palace

May 6th, 2009, 3:54 pm


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