News Round-Up (August 1, 2008)

(Posted by Qifa Nabki)

There are more and more pieces in the mainstream press about the price of peace, particularly on the Syrian side. Parts of two of them are reproduced below, with links to the full text. The al-Ahram column is a good survey of attitudes around the region, and it concludes realistically that "it is unlikely that Syria would sever its ties with either Iran or Hizbullah…" The Jerusalem Post article is another one of these "Syria is going to sell everything including the kitchen sink for peace" stories. One wonders who these newspaper editors are and how they take themselves seriously publishing such "unconfirmed" reports.

Separation anxiety?

Al-Ahram Weekly (31 July – 6 August, 2008) 

Signs point to a reconfiguration of Syria's relation to Iran, though the signals are mixed, writes Bassel Oudat from Damascus

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem, who is now in Iran to attend a Non-Aligned Movement meeting, is said to be also making preparations for a visit by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to Tehran. Analysts will be following closely the visit, looking for any signs of change in Syrian regional policy. Recently, Damascus seems to be doing a lot of things differently: talking to Europe, staying out of Lebanon, talking to the Israelis, and generally stressing the pragmatic aspect of its foreign policy.

When President Al-Assad was in Paris recently, he offered to help resolve inter- Palestinian differences. Then he gave a warm welcome to President Mahmoud Abbas in Damascus a few weeks ago. Damascus is said to be advising Palestinian groups, including Hamas, to cool things down for now.

Damascus distanced itself also from turbulence in Iraq, told its media to stop badmouthing the Saudis, and asked the French president to see if the Americans would co-sponsor their talks with Israel.

All of this is bound to affect Syrian-Iranian relations, as well as the way Tehran is doing business in the region. Without Syria's support, the Iranians will not be able to work hand-in-hand with Hizbullah, and the legitimacy of their involvement in Iraq will be called into question.

Inside and outside the region, there is much speculation that Syria is about to ditch its alliance with Iran. Should this happen, Syria's relations with Hizbullah are bound to change and Lebanon's domestic politics will never be the same again.  [click here for full text]

'Syria willing to cut ties with Iran'

Aug. 1, 2008, Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

A peace agreement with Syria is within reach, according to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's envoys to talks with Syria, who returned from another round of indirect negotiations in Turkey and were quoted in a Maariv report Friday.

According to the report, the sides have already formulated a sketch of a peace deal and have told the Turkish mediators that they are willing to pay the price, which, for the Syrians, would include cutting off Iran.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.

The sketch includes several clauses, the report said. According to the first, general, chapter, the two countries will end the state of war between them, establish a viable peace, including an exchange of ambassadors and the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The second clause of the agreement delineates the terms of normalization between Jerusalem and Damascus.

The third chapter will reportedly deal with security arrangements and will include a full Israeli withdrawal form the plateau and the demilitarization of the area. According to the Maariv report, the chapter will also specify a drastic reduction in the magnitude of Syrian armed forces stationed between the Golan and Damascus as well as the erection of an early warning station manned by international forces on Mount Hermon.

According to the report, there was no way to directly prevent Syria from having ties with Iran. The agreement could, however, forbid Damascus from providing weapons to – or harboring representatives of – nations or organizations that threaten Israel.

The report quoted officials familiar with the negotiations as saying that the Syrians had expressed their awareness of Israel's demand and did not reject it.

The officials also said that talks with Israel had already exacted a price from Syrian President Bashar Assad in terms of his relationship with Teheran.

Also in JPost, Jonathan Spyer argues the opposite case ("We'll take the dowry, you keep the bride"), namely that Bashar al-Asad is merely playing the process.

With all this rapprochement going on, the alliance with Iran seems safe and sound. Muallem was in Teheran this week, and met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. The two reconfirmed what Ahmedinejad called their "regional cooperation," and the Iranian president lauded the foiling of "the Zionist regime" and America's plans in Lebanon and Syria.

Thus, the act of talking in Istanbul seems a worthy investment. But it is the side benefits of the conversation which interests Damascus.

This was perhaps most eloquently summed up yesterday on the Web site of the official Syrian newspaper Tishreen's. While the regional newspaper Sharq al-Awsat
devoted two editorials this week to dissecting the negotiations, on the same day that the talks resumed, Tishreen's homepage failed even to acknowledge that they were taking place. Instead, the lead story on its Web site informed readers that "his excellency President Bashar Assad met with a delegation of American churchmen yesterday. In the meeting, we are told, his excellency stressed the importance of dialogue between nations."

There could be few more eloquent demonstrations of Syrian intentions. When it comes to negotiating with Israel, Assad is keen to take the dowry, while showing little enthusiasm for embracing the bride.

In The Daily Star, a discussion about Hizbullah's likely response to Olmert's resignation, i.e. a claim of victory. Plus, the implications of extending UNSCR 1701.

Syria: trial of Damascus Declaration signatories opens in Damascus

Three journalists – Fayez Sara, Ali Abdallah and Akram Al-Bunni – were among the 12 signatories of the Damascus Declaration whose trial on charges of “publishing false information with the aim of harming the state,” “membership of a secret organisation designed to destabilise the state” and “fuelling ethnic and racial tension” began in Damascus on 30 July. The hearing was open to the public.

All of the defendants pleaded not guilty and insisted that the aim of the Damascus Declaration was to defend Syria.

Sara was arrested on 3 January. Abdallah were Bunni were arrested in December after a meeting of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration on 11 December. A total of 39 signatories were arrested at the meeting but most were later released.

Signed by many government opponents and human rights activists, the Damascus Declaration called for “democratic and radical change” in Syria. Another Syrian writer journalist, Michel Kilo, was arrested on 14 May 2006 for signing the Damascus-Beirut, Beirut-Damascus Declaration. He is now serving a three-year prison sentence.

Syria hosts Iraqi Shiite leader
Published: July 31, 2008
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 31 (UPI)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hosted Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council at a meeting on improving bilateral relations.

Hakim, the Shiite deputy chairman of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, updated the Syrian president on the latest political developments in Iraq, particularly the work toward national reconciliation in the Iraqi government.

For his part, Assad emphasized his support for the maintenance of Iraqi sovereignty, stability and security, the official Syrian Arab News Agency said.

Hakim said in a statement following the meeting that Assad had exemplified a strong political will to boost bilateral relations between the two Arab neighbors.

Assad was also commended by Hakim and his accompanying delegation for his support for displaced Iraqis residing in Syria.

Hakim also took the opportunity to update Assad on the progress of the security arrangement under negotiation between the United States and Iraq.

Under consideration now is "outlining the frame of relations between Iraq and the United States," the deputy chairman said.

Comments (56)

norman said:

Syria is paying more attention to Iraq now , Things will be better there too.

August 1st, 2008, 2:27 pm


Alex said:

The two JP writers made the same two diametrically opposite points that Syria’s other adversaries (i.e. the Saudis) keep making almost every day in their editorials and opinion pieces:

1) Syria will not change a thing, it will benefit from the process, force France, Europe, and the United States to re-establish ties with Damascus, but at the end of the day … Syria will be more interested in not taking the Golan, but in its relations with Iran and Hizbollah.

2) Syria will sign that peace treaty, but it will be forced to abandon all its friends in Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine.

As we can read from the JP article (and many others by Israeli and American journalists and analysts) many read Asharq Alawsat … and they get influenced by its way of portraying Syria.

And when different Israeli journalists get influenced by Saudi propagandists who promote one of the two contradictory stories about Syria’s intentions (cheating the west, or cheating Iran and HA), the Israeli people read what their journalists are writing, and they end up being influenced by the only possible thing in common between all the contradictory Syria predictions in Saudi editorials:

The Syrians smell like crooks.

August 1st, 2008, 3:01 pm


norman said:

You are so right Alex.

August 1st, 2008, 3:24 pm


norman said:

Mofaz says peace push with Syria should go on
By Dan Williams
Friday, August 1, 2008
WASHINGTON: Israel’s peace efforts with Syria should continue, without preconditions, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert steps down, a candidate to succeed him said on Friday.

“My opinion and my goal will be to continue to speak to the Syrians without preconditions,” Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said in a speech. “The way is – peace for peace.”

Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced in May they we holding Turkish-mediated negotiations. But Olmert, dogged by corruption scandals, said earlier this week he would resign after his party picks a new leader in September.

Public statements suggested the sides remain divided on core issues like Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights and Syria’s ties to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

Syria has demanded the return of the Golan Heights before serious talks can take place. Mofaz, a former defence minister, has come out against any plan by Olmert to return the Golan. Olmert says he had made no such undertaking to the Syrians.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has the edge in the ruling Kadima party race to replace Olmert, but Mofaz is her closest rival within the party, and contenders in other parties are vying for the job as well.

Though Mofaz, as chief of Israel’s armed forces, led crackdowns on a Palestinian revolt that erupted in 2000, on Wednesday he cast himself as a potential peacemaker.

“As a father who has three children in the military, I want peace for them,” he said.

“I will do my best to achieve peace with our neighbours … Our first priority should be the Palestinians but there are some problems, some obstacles,” he said, alluding mainly to the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas.

(Editing by Anthony Boadle)

August 1st, 2008, 4:05 pm


Alex said:

Mofaz will need to try harder than his “peace for peace” offer to Syria.

Anyway, I still believe that Israelis want to give Livni a chance, even though Shai disagrees (her lack of experience)

I cant see Mofaz winning. He is too negative and boring. With the relatively relaxed atmosphere in the Middle East these days, Mofaz is out of place… especially if things get better and better. Who knows, maybe there will be something positive out of the September Sarkozy visit to Syria …

August 1st, 2008, 4:23 pm


Shai said:


Allow me to clarify. There is a difference between the Kadima primaries to be held in mid September, and general elections. In the latter, I have no doubt that most Israelis (certainly more than 50%, quite likely more than 60%) will prefer Netanyahu over Livni. One of the reasons will be her inexperience. Others, of course, her party’s platform. In the elections campaigns, Bibi will play on both, and will win on both.

But in the former (Kadima primaries), Tzipi Livni is neither voted on by most Israelis, nor is she up against Bibi. She is still likely to win (she’s currently ahead of Mofaz, by a bit, but he’s catching up). Here, the Kadima voters will not consider her inexperience so much, because Mofaz is very different from her, as Norman’s article above shows. Hopefully, she’ll become the next head of Kadima, and will attempt to form a coalition in order to become the next Israeli PM, without going to elections again.

Shaul Mofaz is, for all practical purposes, talking like Bibi right now. He is sending all the wrong signals with his “peace-for-peace” intentions, and having followed the man since his entry into politics, I’m afraid he will not change his stance anytime soon. My guess is that if he is elected to head Kadima, Syria will immediately stop the talks, demanding “clarifications” regarding his latest comments. As he will not change his views, Syria will carry out a dramatic walk-out, or simply end the talks. Syria will not help Mofaz get elected, and would certainly rather have Bibi as the next PM. I believe Syria understands things like I do, with regards to Bibi’s ability to deliver peace much more easily than anyone on the Left or Center. They will, therefore, “play along” by doing their share of the blame-game, Bibi will reciprocate and in the process get elected, and then, after he’ll take his month or two to “study” things more closely (basically meaning letting his constituents calm down, and begin to forget the anti-Syria pre-election rhetoric), he’ll immediately dispatch his own advisors, and start back from where his predecessors left off. A year later, he’ll be the one shaking Assad’s hand at the White House lawn.

So let’s hope it’s either Livni who should win the Kadima primaries, and perhaps have a chance to reach an agreement before going to general elections, or if Mofaz wins, that we’ll quickly go to elections, and vote Bibi in. How’s that for a “Lefty Liberal”? 😉

August 1st, 2008, 6:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Israel and Hizballah Ready to Rumble?
By Nicholas Blanford | Beirut
Time Magazine
Aug 1, 2008

Ever since they fought to a tie in their 2006 clash in southern Lebanon, Israel and Hizballah have assumed they will tangle again. And the date of their rematch may be drawing closer if some of the rhetoric on both sides is to be believed.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on a trip to the United States this week, has been warning officials that Hizballah’s rocket arsenal has “doubled, if not tripled” since the end of the month-long war in the summer of 2006, during which the militia of the Shi’ite movement fired thousands of rockets into the Jewish State. “Israel considers this to be a real and serious danger,” Barak said.

But Hizballah has complaints of its own, this week accusing Israel of repeatedly violating Lebanese sovereignty on land, sea and particularly in its airspace, which is breached almost daily by Israeli jets and reconnaissance drones.

“The Israeli enemy’s persistence in its violations of Lebanese airspace, territorial waters, and territory, especially during the past few days, is an unacceptable provocative escalation that calls for condemnation and serious action on the part of the concerned Lebanese authorities as well as the UN bodies,” the Islamic Resistance, Hizbullah’s military wing, said this week in its first statement since the 2006 war.

The tenor of Hizballah’s statement has some analysts predicting trouble. “I think they are oiling up their 57mm guns again,” said Timur Goksel, a Beirut-based Middle East security analyst and former senior official with the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon. He was referring to the anti-aircraft cannons used by Hizballah a few years ago to fire shells across the border into Israel in a tit-for-tat response to Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace.

“The Israeli overflights have increased lately and it looks like the Israelis are provoking Hizballah into showing their deployments,” Goksel said.

Following the conclusion of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizballah two weeks ago, the Shi’ite group’s leaders have said they will now concentrate their efforts on other outstanding grievances. Other than the aerial and maritime violations, these include the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms, a remote mountainside running along Lebanon’s southeast border claimed by Lebanon, as well as a continued Israeli troop presence in the northern, Lebanese, half of Ghajar village which straddles the border.

Hizballah maintains that armed resistance is the only effective leverage against Israel, but it has said it is willing to give a chance to diplomatic efforts to resolve the violations of Lebanese sovereignty. Still, analysts warn, the Islamic Resistance statement appears to be aimed at justifying future military action.

“They are allowing diplomacy a chance in order for it to fail,” said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, a Beirut-based specialist on Hizballah. “By filing a quite unprecedented complaint, they are holding the UN and the Lebanese government accountable, which means Hizballah is paving the way for a [military] response.”

Recent press reports in Israel claimed that Hizballah has been deploying radar-guided anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, in preparation to shoot down Israeli jets. Some of these reports asserted that missile batteries have been installed on the summit of Mount Sannine, an 8,700-foot mountain that overlooks Beirut and the Mediterranean to the west, and the Bekaa Valley to the east. When TIME trekked up Sannine’s summit recently, it found nothing but sheets of frost-shattered limestone baking in the sun. The only signs of life were distant flocks of goats, and the occasional lone eagle floating on the thermals high above.

Hizballah possesses a formidable arsenal, including long-range artillery rockets, shore-to-ship cruise missiles and laser-guided anti-tank missiles. But the group has yet to find a means of challenging Israel’s control of Lebanese skies. Hizballah officials acknowledged privately after the 2006 war that they had been disappointed by the performance of their anti-aircraft weaponry, and were looking to rectify the deficiency. Whether they have acquired new anti-aircraft weapons systems remains unknown. But even if they have, Hizballah may not wish to prematurely expose its new capability by shooting down an Israeli jet solely for a propaganda coup.

“They need to keep some surprises left in case of another war,” said Saad-Ghorayeb. “There are other actions they can take.”

Hizballah also has to contend with a challenge from its Western-backed domestic opponents who question the group’s continued bearing of arms. Division over Hizballah’s weapons has deadlocked a ministerial committee charged with formulating a policy platform for the new government of national unity, in which Hizballah and its allies have a veto-wielding one-third share. The fate of Hizballah’s weapons will also top the agenda when Lebanon’s leaders convene shortly to negotiate a national defense strategy. It promises to be a tough debate. Hizballah intends that its right to bear arms will be codified as part of Lebanon’s national defense plan, while its opponents hope to clip the organization’s military wings by giving the state a monopoly of force, and thereby the sole power to decide issues of war and peace.

If Hizballah is thinking of launching missiles at Israeli jets or warships cruising the Lebanese coast, or launching an attack in the Shebaa Farms, it would have to carefully calculate Israel’s expected response. In July 2006, Hizballah’s abduction of two Israeli soldiers triggered a 34-day war which cost over 1,200 Lebanese lives. Although Hizballah fought the Israeli army to a standstill in south Lebanon and claimed a “divine victory”, it appears to be in no hurry to repeat the experience.

“The Resistance’ role is to stand against any Israeli greed and assaults that may take place at any moment,” said Hussein Khalil, senior advisor to Hizballah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday. “We, definitely, are not declaring that a war might take place.” Good news for those Lebanese hoping for a quiet summer for a change.

August 1st, 2008, 6:54 pm


Alex said:

What kind of lefty liberal did they send us ?!


I do understand your position Mr. liberal, but I would like to imagine that if Livni gets to govern for few months and nothing goes wrong, she will have a better chance .. even against Bibi.

It shows you how much I don’t like him : )

She is no dove anyway. But I think she will be reasonable. Besides, if we want Ausamaa to support the peace agreement, only Tzipi can do it.

August 1st, 2008, 6:59 pm


Shai said:


I hate to ruin the peaceful mood… But for purpose of a thinking exercise, would you suggest that another Summer 2006-like confrontation (as bloody as it was) could strengthen, or weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon? I’m talking of course about “The Day After”. Let’s assume an identical scenario (34 days, 1500 dead, etc.), or even worse this time. But HA survives, and hits Israel much worse as well.


I’m afraid Ausamaa likes Livni for the wrong reasons… 🙂 But I do want Ausamaa to support any Israeli PM that talks to Syria.

I’m sorry, I disagree with you about her chances against Bibi. As much as I “love” the guy, and as much as I really have nothing against Livni, she’s absolutely no match for him, nor will she be if nothing dramatic happens in the next few months. Actually, her challenge to form a coalition, should she win the primaries in 6 weeks, is not easy at all. She may in fact turn to Bibi and offer him (and Barak), a wide national-coalition, just in order to become PM. The Likud already said it would refuse (wisely), because it does see itself winning the next elections. In a way, democracy is working quite nicely here, in that the opposition, who shrank to a miniscule size in the previous election, is now bound to get another chance, simply because the current government failed so miserably. To be fair, the Likud should be given the chance. And if it fails, the Left/Center again… and so on and so forth.

Otherwise, it would be just as irrational as, say, another Republican administration elected in Washington (after a miserable 8 years of the current one).

August 1st, 2008, 7:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Some random notes:

The Lebanese ministerial statement has reportedly been finalized and sent to the Cabinet for ratification. It includes a clause about the right of the Lebanese Army, resistance, and people to liberate their occupied territories.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. However, in light of the recent “rumblings” on the border with Israel, one wonders if the ministerial statement — which is tantamount to an extension of Hizbullah’s mandate as the legal representative of Lebanon’s liberation efforts — will serve as a green light or a red light for further hostilities.

In other words, will Hizbullah respond to Israel’s provocations, knowing that it risks dragging the entire country into war? A single incident on the border will lead Israel to immediately demand a renouncement of Hizbullah’s actions by the Lebanese government, which the latter will be powerless to make. This will turn all of Lebanon into a big bull’s eye yet again, and the vicious cycle will continue…

August 1st, 2008, 7:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t know how the Lebanese will react to another conflict. It depends, I believe, on how it comes about, who provokes whom, etc.

I’ve been reading the Aounist blogs quite closely recently, and there’s no doubt that HA’s Christian allies are not up for another big showdown. The whole purpose of Aoun’s Memorandum of Understanding was to move towards some kind of acceptable integration process, not to provide an eternal fig leaf to cover Hizbullah’s arse…nal. ; )

However, if Israel provokes HA first, then the Lebanese will rally to Hizbullah’s cause, especially if there are theatrics involved. For example, if HA shoots down an Israeli jet that is tearing up our airspace, nobody’s going to complain. That will be a big “victory” for the resistance, even if Israel kills a dozen civilians in retaliation. On the other hand, if Israel is provoked by a Hizbullah action (which I don’t think will happen), people may feel differently.

If anything, it will likely be ambiguous. Israel will destroy a Hizbullah weapons convoy or depot, trying to draw the Hizb into a fight. In that case… who knows.

August 1st, 2008, 7:29 pm


Shai said:


I wish I could say that I “smell” a direction this way or the other amongst our leadership, but I don’t. What I’m afraid is going on, is that the IDF is very concerned about another failed confrontation, and is therefore trying to learn as much as possible about HA’s capabilities. It is therefore provoking it by air, sea, and maybe even land, in order to make it “come out”. This is just a subjective feeling, not more than that.

But if HA responds to these incursions, say by randomly lobbying some anti-aircraft fire across our northern border, and our airplanes respond by attacking positions within Lebanon, and it deteriorates into a full-scale confrontation, won’t HA be able to say “Israel started…”? And if so, will the Lebanese support HA, regardless of the cost?

If they will, then perhaps HA will take good advantage of these incursions, and perhaps even be willing to have Lebanon pay a heavy price once more, just to strengthen its own legitimacy even further, and to hit Israel harder once again.

What do you think?

August 1st, 2008, 7:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


In the same way that the IDF does not want a failed confrontation, Hizbullah doesn’t want one either. In fact, it needs to play its cards even more carefully than Israel does: the IDF, at least, will never run the risk of alienating a sizable portion of Israel’s population, whereas Hizbullah did exactly that in 2006. Despite all of the brave faces and tough talk, many Lebanese were deeply disturbed by the consequences of Hizbullah’s bravado, even if they publicly supported the resistance .

So this is why I think Hizbullah will choose its actions very carefully. Remember that there are elections right around the corner. A failed operation that costs innocent lives in Lebanon and deals a blow to Hizbullah’s resistance capabilities will put a dent in their image. A successful operation might boost it further.

So, while I don’t think Hizbullah will carry out any offensive operations, they might well try to shoot down a military jet in Lebanese airspace. If successful, this would play positively in Lebanon.

August 1st, 2008, 7:55 pm


Shai said:

Trying to shoot down a plane is legitimate, and cannot be misinterpreted. I’m worried about those cross-border retaliations (legitimate or not), that could be used by those who have a “score” to settle… The IDF is already taking chances in Lebanon, I just hope Hezbollah won’t.

August 1st, 2008, 8:00 pm


Alex said:

Shai QN,

I think we don’t need to over analyze the transient part of the process. You can’t change things like the theoretical digital step function

we are in still in the transient region … there will be many oscillations .. many peaks and many lows, before we settle around a stable desired new level.

August 1st, 2008, 8:01 pm


Shai said:

As always, Alex makes us remember that life is far more interesting than “war games”. You’re right, as usual… 🙂

August 1st, 2008, 8:04 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I feel better already, thanks.

Although, this is what I think the graph should look like.

August 1st, 2008, 8:07 pm


Off the Wall said:

Hope that whatever algorithm is at work here, it does satisfy stability requirements in terms of not significantly amplifying oscillations. 🙂

Let us hope and work so that it looks like your figures, not like this

Sorry QN, did not mean to depress you after feeling better 🙂

August 1st, 2008, 8:08 pm


Observer said:

Syria will not abandon any of its alliances or the cards it holds because the history of the relations with the West in general and Israel in particular have the following points:
1. No matter what Syria does, there is always a justification in the West to demonize it; so why bother.
2. Promises have repeatedly been unkept from the Sykes Picot agreement to the peace treaties between Jordan and Israel to the invasion of Iraq. Syria was instrumental in helping the US round up some Al Qaeda people in the beginning only to be branded as a junior partner in the axis of evil and have the threat of the international tribunal kept as a sword of Damocles over its head.
3. The alliance with both Iran and HA has proven to be much more solid and enduring from the help in re organizing the armed forces to the development of the missile capability as just two examples of a solid relationship
4. The Saudis are absolutely seething with anger as their entire foreign policy has crumbled. It is clear that Syria will not compromise with the Saudi regime and has decided that a break is better than trying to accomodate a treacherous relationship.
5. By opening to both Turkey and Iran, Syria has established a regional counterweight to the traditional isolation ploys that blow its way every so often. Syria has a supply of grain to last one year for example, and the exploitation of the border area with Turkey as free trade and economic zones are meant to diversify its recources while securing a constant flow of water into the Euphrates.
6. Syria kept its relationship with some elements of the Baath party in Iraq and sheltered some but did expel those that used to be in Syria as untrustworthy. They kept through the tribal relations that span the border region contacts with all the parties in that land. Therefore they are well positioned to establish a working relationship with the powers to be after the withdrawal of US troops from the area and at the expense of the Saudi regime.
7. Peace with Israel for Syria means a return of the Golan without any strings attached and full exploitation of that part of Syria for its water resources and for its rich land in resources as well as in climate. Investment by the GCC countries is what they want not a relationship with Israeli wine makers or French car dealers.

August 1st, 2008, 8:11 pm


Shai said:


“What’s an Al-Gore-ithm? Didn’t he lose already?” Something George W. Bush would say… 🙂


Which of the black lines is the peace process? … and what happens in 2045? (besides my 76th birthday).

August 1st, 2008, 8:12 pm


Alex said:


Any oscillation reduction circuit design (using simple components) can be roughly translated to real-life actions and designs to control those dangerous oscillations that might go out of control.

To start with, think of what can work as a capacitor or a resistance.

Then build the same “circuit”.

Of course one guaranteed result of adding this circuit is a slower change (longer rise time). .. see above (controlled) output compared to the faster (but more unstable) one below

Honestly, the Syrian regime does it all the time (intuitively) … they build oscillation reduction circuits in every time they have to change something.

And that’s often why things take time.

August 1st, 2008, 8:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The black lines surely don’t represent the peace process. They represent the decrease in violence, bigotry, confessionalism, sectarianism, religious extremism, obesity, and megalomania. This is clearly what we’re heading for, no?

In 2045, I will be a svelte 53 years old, perfect age to be appointed Minister of Youth and Sports of Greater Syria (which will include modern day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, and maybe even a few little chunks of Iraq and Turkey, what the hell.) Under my watchful eye, Greater Syria will compete in the 2048 Summer Olympics in the beautiful seaside city of Paris, where, though we may not win many medals, we will surely have the best looking atheletes in town.


August 1st, 2008, 8:32 pm


Off the Wall said:

I did not know you work with ENSEMBLE forecasts. In my field we call this the Spaghetti plot, and it is gaining so much popularity. Also, even though i am the last person you want to talk finance with, STAY AWAY from this portfolio, looks like its value has no chance of going up in any of the forecast traces past 2010 🙂

SHAI, I hope we will celebrate together on that wonderful day in 2045, you name the place.

I like your Al-Gore-ithm 🙂 True the guy is definitely capable of such analysis.

August 1st, 2008, 8:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I have no idea what an ENSEMBLE forecast is. But I do know what Google Images is.


August 1st, 2008, 9:02 pm


Off the Wall said:

I was just kidding with my matlab graph, but I fully agree with and in fact like your analogy.

August 1st, 2008, 9:32 pm


Akbar Palace said:


I see you’re not alone…

August 1st, 2008, 9:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Shucks, you uncovered my identity!


August 1st, 2008, 9:57 pm


ausamaa said:

Alex, Shai

I am not following up internal Israeli politics too closely right now, the situation there is too fluid to make one reach any strong conclusion. But here is my thinking on it:

The reason I believe that Tzipi Livni will come out as the winner internally is the fact that she is confronting two losers: Mofaz and Natenyahoo.

1-There is no way Mofaz -who lost the July 2006 war- can be voted in as a Savior of Israel. He is water under the bridge now. Respectable and straight, maybe, but he -being the military man- is the one who lost the war in reality Olmert. I dont think he will makte it to anywhere..
2- As to Netenyaho, I dont think that he will, in the light of the new realities, re-sell the Israeli public the notion that the only way to win is to get tough with the enemy. The memory of Hizbullah’s rockets falling on Haifa and Khadira and Safad (let alone the Qassams falling on Sedrot) would still be fresh in the memory of the Israeli public. And I do not think that they will truly beleive that Netanyahoo will be able to solve such a problems with his confrontational attitude. Besides, played a strong role in planning the July 2006 war, and that will in a way put him alongside Olmert and Mofaz. And he was behind Clean Break in the end which in effect brought all this mess about in this area. And “if” the current reality -or apparation- of a “peace attitude” continue to prevail in the area, then he will be running against the internal and the external tide.

So, who is left? Barak? forget him also, he appears too unenthusiastic and too aloof to do anything except throwing whatever weight he has left behind the Kadima candidate.

That leaves us with Tzipi Livni. The mysterious, silent iron womam, the ex-Mossad operator who left her old Mossad job for “personal reasons” (and here one should notice that the news reports keep repeating that while she was an active member in the Mossad European cells, but she did not “kill” anyone; kind of keeping her slate a bit clean on that count). And leaving the Mossad for Personal reasons after a relatively short period is something we need to consider seriously in a positive sense in my opinion. She either did not “buy” the mission, or she did not “buy” the bosses. Both reasons sound good enough for me.

And despite her tough stand on certain issues now, I think it is more of a PR act on her part than a true reflection of the person she is. Besides, she looks tough, silent, considerate and “unhappy” with whatever she sees around her. Same as how many Israelies must be feeling. That could be a good sign.

However, the issues in this case are going to define the person, not vise versa. And in my humble estimate, and despite the bloody defeats the Israeli public has suffered during the last few years, I do not feel a strong sense of an urgent need to get a revenge being exhibited by the Israeli public. No one likes defeat of course, but defeat sure does have a sobering effect especially on a pragmatic people. So, (and despite all the negative polls about the Israeli public willingliness to withdraw from the Golan or against the withdrawl from Gaza or a further withdrawls from other places) I believe the Israeli public is cynical enough to have resigned itself to the fact that Old ways are not working anymore. New ways have to found. New alternatives. And I feel a more lenient approach towards peace with their nieghbours would be gaining momentum even if at the subconscious level. A residue of tough talk would still be there, a longing to defeat the enemy would always have its dovish and hawkish supportes, but the hard aggressive core is melting. The Israelies will look around and see that even the mighty US has lost in both Afghanistan and Iraq. They see what they once considered their legendary IDF and IAF stand helpless against the few thousands of Hizbullah fighters. They see their iron fist unable to break up the will of the residents of the Gaza strip. They isten to the mucho talk of certain Israeli experts about the need and the capability of bombing Iran, and they know deep down that Israel is incapable of carrying such a task despite all the bravado talk and the theatrical excercises. They look around and see that their longtime alley, the US, is as inefficient in achieving its own tasks as it is in coming to Israel’s aid in time. On the other hand, many Israelies would be feeling a sense of being abandoned by the US. So, the militancy of the Israeli public is being tamed some how. Victory over the enemy is not as possible, or as inexpensive, as it once was. So, they will may reach the conclusion that Peace may be a better option after all. And in such a situation, the shy mofaz, and the hawkish looking Netanyahoo may not sound as very suitable to be in the driving seat. And that is where Tzipi Livni comes in. A new tough, serious and trustworthy face to deal with a new and an uncertain changing situation.

That is why I think Livni has a chance, and why she is the candidate capable of carrying a move in a different direction. After all she can confront both all her opponants and say: We have tried you all before, and look where that has gotten us.

Again, those are mere general thoughts….looking from the outside right now.

August 1st, 2008, 10:25 pm


Off the Wall said:

I enjoyed your analysis. I agree that the Israeli public is following closely the elections in the US. And the abandonment issue you mentioned means that the higher Obama’s chances of being our next president, the higher Bibi’s chances will be in Israel. This is not because they are a like, but in fact because they are different. Is it possible that the Israeli public will try to “balance” out a “negotiation” minded US president, with a hardliner Israeli Prime Minister, no?

August 2nd, 2008, 12:28 am


Alex said:


Again, I’m glad there is another MATLAB user here : )

We also have Honest Patriot by the way … a very impressive scientist (like you).

Qifa Nabki,

That graph you linked is only reserved to the Lebanon Part. Syria and Israel are less complex : )


I also enjoyed reading your analysis and I agree with you as you can see from my comment above. But I still believe you are allowing your “admiration” of Livni to overestimate her probability of success.

But why not … I think the Israelis can really benefit from being led by an attractive, intelligent woman.

I actually have a hypothesis here that I will not write about until I am more confident it is applicable.

August 2nd, 2008, 3:36 am


norman said:

Livni will be the better PM for Israel , She is pretty and can sell Israel’s view better than anybody else .She might remind them with G M .

August 2nd, 2008, 3:48 am


Alex said:

Holly Cow!!!

Where is Shai?! .. he needs to see this!

Poll: Kadima led by Livni would edge out Likud in elections
By Yossi Verter, Haaretz Correspondent

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would lead Kadima to victory over Likud if elections were held today, according to a special poll conducted by Dialog on Thursday on behalf of Haaretz.

The results of the poll are expected to have a dramatic effect on Livni’s standing inside Kadima and on her race with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz for the party’s leadership.

For all the bitter struggle between Livni and Mofaz, Thursday’s poll, conducted a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he would not seek reelection as Kadima’s leader, shows that the foreign minister is the only politician who currently has enough public support to defeat Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

The poll of 503 Israelis, which has a margin of error of 4.1 percent, showed that in national elections, Kadima headed by Livni would win 26 seats in the Knesset, compared to 25 for Likud under Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has consistently led in the polls for the past two years, but yesterday’s survey seems to indicate that the political arena is changing.

The poll, supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University’s Statistics Department, suggests that the three main political parties – Kadima, Likud and Labor – are nearly tied in the number of seats they will command in parliament after the next election. However, Livni seems to be the only Kadima candidate who could keep the party in the leading role and compete with Likud for votes on the right.

With Mofaz at the head of Kadima, Likud does much better, even though the transportation minister is perceived as a rightist who might even defect to Likud after the elections in exchange for the Defense Ministry.

Mofaz responded for the first time to polls dealing with his and the Kadima party’s chances if national elections are called.

“I would suggest that nobody bases their future on polls, because moods change. I am certain that I will win in the primaries.”

Mofaz said a coalition government is the best option for Israel, saying that if the Likud does not want to join, “there are other parties in the Knesset and I believe that they will join the coalition that I will head.”

Mofaz also called for further peace talks with Syria, saying the talks “should continue, without preconditions,” after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert steps down.

If Livni’s current popularity continues, the impact on the political system may be substantial. For example, Labor will not rush toward national elections as long as polls suggest that it would only win 17 seats in parliament and that its leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, enjoys a mere eight percent support as a candidate for prime minister. Livni, in contrast, receives 22 percent support, and Netanyahu 29 percent.

Another possible impact of this poll is that Barak and Netanyahu may seek to help Mofaz be elected as head of Kadima – a choice that would serve them both well.

August 2nd, 2008, 3:53 am


Joe M. said:

It is very unlikely that Mofaz will win the Kadima primary in September. Mostly because he is one of the most boring men on the planet and i don’t think it is possible for him to win any active campaign. I don’t think Livni is loved by the zionists, but they do recognize that she is rather shrewd. And she can gain sympathy for Israel better (say, by crying at the Davos forum) than Mofaz (who will put any audience to sleep). The only chance Mofaz has to win the primary is that the Sharon/Olmert/Livni strategy of disengagement from the Palestinians has failed totally and he could gain from Israel’s move toward a more hostile attitude toward the Palestinians.

That poll is not relevant, because Netanyahu and Livni are not campaigning against each other yet. If they were, Netanyahu would rip her to shreds. Kadima has been in power for years without a single strategic accomplishment. Netanyahu would simply destroy the party’s credibility and tie her directly to Olmert (who has 5% popularity now). Plus, as much as I hate that bastard, Netanyahu is an excellent speaker and does a good job of defining debates in his terms. So that would even further weaken Livni, who doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong campaigner. So really, that poll is meaningless.

QN and SHAI,
I think it is pretty obvious that Hizbullah is not going to provoke another war anytime soon. They have learned their lessons from the last war. I think they are trying to position themselves in such a way to 1) justify to the new Lebanese government that they have a significant role as defender of Lebanon (also, it’s on the heels of the ministerial statement), 2) it is a pure deterrence aimed at Israel, so they don’t face an attack from out of the blue, 3) because they do feel that they are threatened by Israel (Israel has been increasing its overflights lately) and have justified military goals.

Further, I think that the recent flurry of reports in the zionist press about a possible war with Hizbullah are mainly an attempt to justify the sense Israel has of it’s own “existential threat”. Plus, it relates directly to the situation with Iran (Israel considers Hizbullah a proxy of Iran) and the coming Israeli election.

August 2nd, 2008, 4:39 am


Akbar Palace said:


Matlab, I’m impressed! I just stick with MathCad for my engineering needs. From the graphs you posted, and all this talk of “resistance”, I’m guessing you’re an electrical engineer;)

As far as the polls go Alex, they can change on a dime. It is good Livni is close, but I agree with Shai that she has an uphill battle.

The way I understand the Israeli political process, after Kadima finds a new leader, the Knesset may bring down the government and request new elections. I don’t know how likely that is. The current coalition may continue as it is now. (Shai?)

I don’t think Livni is loved by the zionists…

Joe M.,

I don’t know if Livni “is loved by the zionists”, but right now, she has a comfortable lead over Mofaz. (BTW – I usually call them “Israelis”, but I understand that some people have difficulty with that;)

August 2nd, 2008, 2:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Is everyone on this thing an engineer or a doctor?!

Will the plumbers please say aye?

Thank you.

August 2nd, 2008, 3:34 pm


Zenobia said:

Livni is not that “attractive” and “pretty” but really guys, why is this relevant to her leading Israel?

yes QN, everyone is an engineer or a doctor, at least the Syrians. They only know how to study two things when they leave Syria. YOU are a novelty. Thats why when you told me you were a dairy engineer, I believed you.

August 2nd, 2008, 4:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I still wake up in the middle of the night chuckling at that exchange. My parents would probably prefer it if I were a dairy engineer.


But I agree with you about the Livni love-fest going on around here. Her physical appearance is not relevant and shouldn’t be.

August 2nd, 2008, 4:43 pm


Alex said:


You’re an engineer! … great.

You’ll be really impressed with HP and OTW though … exceptional Ph.D. engineers.

But we are still a minority here. Most are doctors.

Actually some of you are economists. Two are lawyers, and a few are ivy league Ph.D.

And many are MBAs

One at least works for NASA … another at Mayo clinic …

Qifa … maybe you should do another post with histograms showing the distribution of educational background of SC contributors.


I find Livni attractive. It is not really her looks (that would be Ausamma!) … it is her overall style of communicating. I watched her for half an hour on Charlie Rose. She was not friendly to Syria, but I still liked her approach and her ability to take criticism with a smile …

Damn … this reminds me of another attractive woman who ran against a man who was considered arrogant, self centered and obnoxious …. he won

August 2nd, 2008, 5:37 pm


Shai said:

OTW, thank you for the invitation (2045), but I certainly hope we’ll meet long beforehand!


I too enjoyed your analysis very much. I wish most Israelis could think about these important issues as well as you can but, unfortunately, they do not. Which is precisely why, I’m sorry, I must disagree with you about Tzipi Livni. First though, about Mofaz. The Israeli public does view him as a boring ex-head of the army turned politician. And his reputation does remain “clean”. By the way, he is in no way blamed for the failed 2006 war, because he wasn’t really in any meaningful position then. Perhaps you’re thinking of the ex-labor head Amir Peretz, who served as Defense Minister then, and later resigned. Mofaz is still behind Livni in the polls (for the Kadima primaries), but he is apparently catching up. He is far better “on the street”, and has some good American advisors at his disposal. I can’t really tell yet how it’ll turn out, but I’m desperately hoping Livni will defeat him in the primaries. She’ll need to accentuate his mistakes, now that he’s made a few foolish comments (about the inevitability of Israel attacking Iran – that’s what caused the largest rise in oil price in a single day, ever…, the fact that he won’t return the Golan… and is in fact ready to move there personally, and now the “peace-for-peace” intentions vis-a-vis Syria… which are of course an immediate spoiler to the ongoing talks). I’ve called her inexperienced in the past, and now will be her first real challenge – to defeat an experienced warrior, though not that great a politician.

As for Netanyahu, again I’m afraid I disagree with you, at least in how the Israeli public sees him. The problem is, that our public has a very short term memory. You and I know what Netanyahu managed to do in his first term, and how he failed. We both recall that he swore never to shake the hand of “that terrorist” (Arafat), and not only did he kiss the man a few times, he later referred to him as “a friend” (AP-take note). We both know he was anti-return of the Golan also in the mid-90’s, yet sent his best friend in America to personally meet with Hafez Assad, and discuss how far from the shores of Lake Kinneret the border would run. If Hafez had agreed then to 400 meters, as I’ve mentioned before, Alex and I (and you) would have been drinking Ahwe together in Aleppo already a decade ago. And all this right-wing conservative rhetoric will return soon, if/when pre-elections appear. The public will buy it, and here’s why. Your (very in-depth) analysis uses more logic than emotion. But the average Israeli, in my mind, isn’t thinking logically right now. The public here still feel very angry and frustrated. Put aside for a moment our innate tendency to suffer from superiority-complexes (we’re the chosen people, etc.) The mere fact that for over 7 years, now close to 8, Qassam rockets have been landing atop Israeli towns, and nothing could stop it, is causing tremendous frustration, that has not been resolved rationally (i.e. by recognizing, for instance, that this is a consequence of the Occupation, and that it cannot be stopped unless we’re willing to re-conquer the entire Gaza strip once more). So most Israelis feel their government/s haven’t done enough these past 7-8 years to stop the Qassams. And guess who wasn’t the leader all these years? That’s right, Bibi.

Of course the miserable failure of the Lebanon 2006 war/operation is still causing most Israelis anger, and a feeling of the kind of exposure they’re unwilling to bear. More than 1 million Israelis sat in underground shelters during 34 days of nonstop rockets lobbed by a mere few thousand militia, and no 21st century super-tank, or best-equipped F-15i’s, could help them. Again, fingers pointed at everyone, except Bibi or his Likud. And that’s really the bottom line here, I believe. The Likud cannot be blamed (so the public believes) for almost anything that has gone wrong these past 8 years. You’re deducing that the Israeli public have finally figured out (or are even beginning to figure out) why things have happened as they did. But I claim we aren’t. We’re still living purely in the emotional realm, and we seek if not justice, then change. The Likud represents a change. If Bibi is smart, he’ll do nothing more than highlight these failures of Kadima and Labor to bring peace and quiet. He won’t go into “his vision” of a peaceful Middle East. He’ll just show again and again how the Left and Center could NOT deliver, on anything. The majority of our public will buy it, especially coming from the ONLY male politician that “looks” and “feels” and “sounds” like a real PM (he really does), and they’ll elect him by a pretty serious lead.

Despite the poll Alex noted above (which has been taken now, not after Bibi starts bashing Livni for her inexperience, and for her part in Lebanon 2006), Tzipi Livni is just not ready yet for PM. If Bibi screwed up big time with something, new corruption charges, a playmate on the side, god-knows what, maybe. But if his image remains “Hallal” long enough, he’ll still defeat Livni. There is little she can say about the Likud these past 8 years. She can only attempt to sound different from her predecessors. But that would speak to people’s logic, not emotion. And that’s not what they’re in need of right now… as they see it. Look, to be honest with you, if I felt Livni had a better chance to deliver peace over Netanyahu, I’d vote for her in a second. But for me, right now, this is not about ethics, partisanship, or even logic. It’s about who’s more likely to deliver the result that I’m interested in. It seems to me, for quite some time, that unfortunately (in our bizarre Israeli politics way), it is Bibi Netanyahu…

Joe M.,

As I tended to agree with you in the past (at least about some very major issues), here too I think you’re absolutely right. You’re reading the Israeli map correctly.

QN (last but not least),

I do not have a PhD, nor am I an engineer. I’ve got a mere Masters, I studied Mathematics (but also lots of physics) and History, and I’m a businessman. So I guess, in a way, I’m the resident town plumber… 🙂

August 2nd, 2008, 6:48 pm


Shai said:


Sorry, I just noticed now your question regarding the primaries process. By having Kadima choose a new leader in the mid-September primaries, and because Olmert has already promised to resign at that point as Prime Minister, the government would in essence be dissolved (the Knesset doesn’t do it, it happens automatically). But, instead of going to elections, the President (Peres) goes to the person he believes is most likely to be able to form a new government, and gives him/her the chance to do so. This person is almost without a doubt going to be the leader of Kadima, and not for instance Bibi or Barak. This is because Kadima is still the largest party, and Peres cannot ignore that. Again, we’re talking about giving him/her the chance. This “chance” is translated into an actual 90 days, during which time Tzipi Livni (let’s say, and hope) has to try to form a government (coalition, etc.)

If she’s unable to do so, we go to new elections a few months afterwards. This is why you’ve been hearing that although Olmert will resign in about 6 weeks from now, he may still end up being our PM for quite a few more months, perhaps as much as 6-7 months! If Tzipi Livni is, somehow, able to form a coalition government, she will become Israel’s next Prime Minister, and no new elections will take place. If she cannot, then almost without a doubt, Bibi will defeat her, and Barak, and anyone else, in the new elections. Because many know this, they may well help Livni form a government after all. But it won’t be easy for her.

August 2nd, 2008, 7:00 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you – It should neither matter, nor is Tzipi Livni really that attractive… 🙂 ‘Course, she IS better looking than Mofaz (who was born in Iran, by the way).

August 2nd, 2008, 8:47 pm


ausamaa said:


Would you please quit doing that, I anit for Livni because of her superlooks.. You find her attractive and you try to dump it on me, but I find her kind of politically attractive. Maybe I just happen to like hard nosed intelligent women.

Shai, I see your remark about Mofaz, I know of course that he was not running the war because he has resigned in March 2006 from his post as Defence Minister just THREE months before the July war and moved on to his Transportation post! So, being in charge so soo before the war he bears a certain responsibility for the unpreparedness of the Military on the eve of a major confrontation. During the two years he spent as Deffence Minister he was too busy concentrating on crushing the Gaza and the West Bank resistance and that must have contributed to a degree in what followed by negelecting paying enough attention to other issues. So I was actually reffering to him in person. Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz paid for the state of unprepardness Shaul Mofaz handed over to them.

As to Livni and Netanyaho chances I dont Know, on the one hand, the Poll Alex mentioned must have caome as a surprise to many, also on the other hand, I like the remark made by Off The Wall about the balancing act of Obama/Netenyahoo the Israeli public may opt for.

August 2nd, 2008, 9:45 pm


Alex said:

Sorry Ausamaa : )


Fine … Since you are sure, I’ll trust your opinion.

I’ll try to like Netanyahu a bit more.

August 2nd, 2008, 10:21 pm


Off the Wall said:


Maybe I just happen to like hard nosed intelligent women.

Amen to that

August 2nd, 2008, 11:58 pm


norman said:

Thank GOD that she is not running for the presidency of Syria .

August 3rd, 2008, 12:38 am


norman said:


I am sure you are more beautiful than Livni , After all you are an Arab woman. No offence Shai ,

Shai ,

If you agree with me that the Jews are Arab Jews like the Christian Arabs and the Muslim Arabs we can have probably peace very soon as then everybody should consider the Israelis as returning Arab Jews to their homes. as our children some day might want to return to Syria and claim their citizenship.

August 3rd, 2008, 1:06 am


Off the Wall said:

Not to speak on behalf of Shai, but I think Shai has emphasized so many times that us Arabs, and them Jews or actually from Shai’s persective us Jews and them Arabs are basically “us Semites”.

So until Shai wakes up in few more hours, i guess it would be safe to assume that he agrees, for now “provisionally”

August 3rd, 2008, 1:27 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Do you have to speak Arabic to be an Arab?

August 3rd, 2008, 1:33 am


norman said:


The only reason that the Jews do not speak Arabic like the other Semite is because they were pushed out before the year 600 when the last Semitic migration took place with the spreading of Islam , they are to me as Arab as the Aramaic Christians and other Semitic people. and no they do not have to speak Arabic but knowing how much business they can do if they do I expect them to try.

My Children do not Speak Arabic and they are Syrians.

August 3rd, 2008, 3:01 am


Shai said:


I apologize for assuming you may have mistaken the two men. Clearly, you are very knowledgeable about our politicians (I wish Israelis were). And by the way, you’re absolutely right about Mofaz owing a lot of the responsibility for the failure of the army in Lebanon 2006. Not only that, it was during his time as DM that the army was so slack along the Northern fence. Their level of readiness, their response plans, are all under “his belt”. But, as I mentioned, Israelis have a short-term memory. They only remember Peretz and Halutz (imagine – they even forgot who was in charge of the whole damn country at the time – Olmert!) So in our bizarre political reality, Mofaz is considered relatively “clean”. Bibi will even blame Livni for standing by helpless during the war, and doing nothing. She’ll take far greater blame (by all sides) for the war than Mofaz, despite the absurdity.

As for the “balancing act” Obama/Netanyahu, I suppose on the subconscious level there may certainly be something to it. But in the end, most Israelis will vote Netanyahu because they’ll want to see a change in government. The Left and Center had a chance for a long time, failed miserably, and now it’s time for the Opposition. Putting aside your (and my) personal “liking” of Netanyahu, or of the Likud, it does make sense that the Israeli public would be tired of the current Left and Center leadership. And who’s the only one that can’t be blamed much for the past 8 years (at least directly)? Yep…. Bibi.


Please understand that it is not out of “liking” Bibi that I may vote for him. You know my theory… It’s sad, but that’s Israel’s reality. Exactly those who speak against peace and concessions, are the most likely to deliver them. Those who seem genuinely interested in ending the conflict, will most likely watch the “final handshake” as guests of honor, on the sideline…

Norman, OTW,

I’ve had the honor and pleasure to know many Arabs in my relatively short lifetime. Until today, many are still good friends. From the first encounter, probably at age 11 in the U.S., I’ve always recognized that we are far closer to one another than we are to, say, Europeans or Americans. We are indeed all Semitic, and we do indeed seem to come from the same gene pool, and one father Abraham. It’s not a cliche, it’s very real.

I am only sorry that I haven’t learned to read Arabic all these years… for some odd reason I was given the impression early on that French would be crucial for me… (hah) With the exception of surfing certain Canadian websites (and not clicking on the “English” button), French has been slightly less “crucial”, than Arabic… From what I know, many of the roots in the Hebrew language are identical to those in Arabic. Many words are identical!

August 3rd, 2008, 4:13 am


Alex said:

“With the exception of surfing certain Canadian websites (and not clicking on the “English” button), French has been slightly less “crucial”, than Arabic”

: )

August 3rd, 2008, 4:20 am


Shai said:

I knew you’d catch it… But I did click “English” eventually… 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 4:22 am


Alex said:

actually … I was thinking … do you in Israel have the same “problem” we have in Canada? … bilingual sites .. signs .. ads.

August 3rd, 2008, 4:47 am


Off the Wall said:

I regret not learning French. It cost me dearly, but starting this fall, I will be taking classes in the nearby community college

Last night I was flipping channels, and I happened to stop by ISMOV channel, there was a series about two boys at risk who stabbed another, some guy I thought was a police detective. I do not recall the name of the series, but i was able to recognize few words such as “ani”, “nakhnu”, and I bett if I keep watching over time, I would be able to recognize more. Norman is right, the roots are the same, with the key diversion occurring due to the fact that the “7imyar” dialect, (Yemen), became the Classical Arabic through the Quran, from which later the modern Arabic dialects were derived. But in Syria, Aramaic language speakers would probably understand much a significant amount of Hebrew.

My cousin studied Literature, and they were supposed to study two classical languages, so she picked up Aramaic and Hebrew, it seemed that she almost got two for the price of one! smart woman.

I agree with your assessment regarding speaking Arabic.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:06 am


norman said:


During the time of Christ , The dominant language was Aramaic while Hebrew was the language of the Temple , after the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine they elected the Language of the Temple to keep their community together.

August 3rd, 2008, 1:09 pm


Shai said:


Though the official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, there is no law that I’m aware of which requires all signs to be in both languages. Some are only in Hebrew, some in both Hebrew and Arabic, and some in Hebrew and English. Definitely not the situation of Canada, or Belgium. Personally, I’ve always suffered from watching the awful spelling of some words on these signs, in English for instance. Those in charge of the “spelling” have probably never set foot on a plane, nor studied more than 5-6 years of English… One of our highways is called the “Ayalon”. In Hebrew, it is spelled with two yud’s. So in English, they write on road signs “Ayyalon”. They also think tourists will know to look for the train station by its Hebrew name “Harakevet”, so signs along main roads read that, instead of “Train Station”… Quite shameful, but some elderly Polish and Yemeni workers in this state-run “translation department” can’t be fired. They’ll probably be translating our peace agreement. They’ll call it “Piece Aggriment Israel-Siryya”… 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 4:11 pm


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