Seguy: “It Was Not about Dipping Assad’s Feet into the Water of the Kinneret that Prevented Peace”

The wonderful Didi Remez, writing at his blog “Coteret,” has  translated an interview by Maj. Gen. (res.) Uri Saguy in Maariv about the negotiations he held with the Syrians in 1999 and 2000. Here it is:

Maariv: Gen. Saguy reveals details of Lauder brokered Bibi-Assad negotiations in the ’90s
Didi Remez | April 27, 2010
Netanyahu and Hafez Assad: The agreement that was not reached
Ofer Shelah, Maariv, April 27 2010 [page 8]

The most fascinating interview you did not read appeared this month in Halohem, the newsletter of the IDF disabled veterans organization. Maj. Gen. (res.) Uri Saguy tells in the interview, in rare detail, about the negotiations he held with the Syrians in 1999 and 2000: “A strategic diplomatic failure of the first order,” says Saguy, who was the director of Military Intelligence and head of the negotiating team for the talks with Syria in Ehud Barak’s days as prime minister, referring to the missed opportunity to reach an arrangement with Hafez Assad; such an arrangement could have prevented all the wars in the past decade and fundamentally changed Israel’s situation in the region.

According to Saguy, it was not the question of Syrians dipping their feet in the water of the Kinneret that prevented an arrangement, but rather the weakness of the leaders. After lengthy negotiations throughout the world, the secret part of which included envoys of president Hafez Assad and military officers, and the open part of which was led by foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa, the sides managed to bridge their differences in most of the disputed issues. “I feel uncomfortable about quoting Bashar Assad,” Saguy says, “but he’s right when he says that 80 percent of the problems were resolved.” It is also clear to him that despite the Israeli declarations about “returning to negotiations without preconditions,” any future talks with Syria will have to be renewed from the same point.

Saguy reveals in detail the facts that Israel’s leaders over the past two decades have been trying to distort or conceal: He says explicitly that five prime ministers, from Rabin to Olmert, including Netanyahu, accepted the principle that an agreement would include a full withdrawal from the Golan to the June 4, 1967 borders. Sources close to the talks held at the time corroborate his statements, and add that agreed-upon ways were also found to bridge the disagreement over the question of where the border line passed on June 4, which was demarcated in the past by 41 boundary markers. In stating this, incidentally, Saguy is contradicting Netanyahu’s statements made after he lost the elections in May 1999, according to which his envoy Ron Lauder did not consent to a withdrawal to the June 4 borders. As the person who inherited the negotiations with the Syrians from Netanyahu’s aides, as Ehud Barak’s envoy, Saguy should know.

Saguy goes on to say that solutions were found to most of the questions pertaining to borders, security and water: On the latter matter, it has already been said that the drop of the Kinneret level in recent years has created a completely different situation than the one discussed a decade ago. The line referred to by the Syrians was the water line at the Kinneret’s maximum height—208.9 meters below sea level. The drop in the water level in recent years has shifted the disputed points of the shore hundreds of meters to the west, to a place that everyone agrees is in Israeli territory.

But more than the historical revelation, one sentence that Saguy says in the interview is important. “Israel berates itself after military failures in wars, (but) does not examine itself after strategic diplomatic failures—and in 2000 it was a strategic diplomatic failure of the first order for the State of Israel,” he says—and does not explicitly address Israel’s strategic diplomatic failure of the first order that occurred nine years later, in the talks that Ehud Olmert conducted with Syria through Turkish mediation. In the last conversation, according to informed sources, Bashar Assad asked Olmert concrete questions intended to bolster and restore the 2000 understandings, mainly on border issues. The Israeli prime minister’s response was supposed to confirm that he indeed stood behind his predecessors’ assurances. “Olmert exhausted the foreplay with the Syrians,” an informed source says. But then, the Israeli prime minister cut off the meetings, returned to Israel, and a few days later launched Operation Cast Lead….

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Comments (26)

norman said:


I am a little thick today , so why wasn’t the treaty signed ?.

April 27th, 2010, 3:04 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Exactly, Norman.

And me adding: what were those 20% ( 100% minus 80% gives 20% )

April 27th, 2010, 3:48 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Jewry Lesson #3

jewry wants to keep everthing it has taken. jewry wants to take more.*

*except for the Sinai, Gaza, parts of the Arava and the West Bank.

April 27th, 2010, 6:31 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear Norman,
It’s worth it to say that during the negotiations between Syria and Israel, Syria met every single demand (from security to normalization to commerce, etc.) of the Israelis – not one issue was left hanging. If someone knows of any item that Syria did not provide, please let us know.

What Syria wanted is the full return of the Golan as per the 1967 borders. Israel could not deliver.

What happened at the end was that Ehud Barak got cold feet and there wasn’t enough blankets around to seek warmth.

Simply put, Israel wasn’t ready for peace. Syrians are waiting – sooner or later Israelis will come to their senses and call an illegal occupation just that!

April 27th, 2010, 6:33 pm


Shai said:


Many thanks for posting the Ofer Shelach article in Maariv, translated by Didi Remez. This is an important testament by Uri Saguy (who certainly has far less to lose by telling the truth than, say, Netanyahu), and the fact that it was published by Maariv will, hopefully, sedate the natural anti-Leftists just long enough for most readers to read quietly, and think.

I want to quote something from the article that doesn’t appear here on SC (but does in the rest of the translation by Remez), which I think is very important for us to understand:

“For the past decade, high-ranking IDF officers have been warning that if a clash flares up with Syria, it will cost many fatalities—and then we will return to the very same point, the point that Saguy is officially revealing now that we already reached. But they do not do this publicly, only in closed chambers. And Barak, the man who got cold feet at the moment of truth, he too repeats this mantra, but does nothing to implement it.”

We are continuing to make the same mistakes, to ignore not only the ongoing overtures by the entire Arab world, but indeed our own tendency to get cold-feet moments before reaching an agreement.

Ford Prefect is right. It was Israel (Barak) that got cold feet, and felt he had to first go to elections, before he could deliver the Golan. He was barely in office a single year (!), went to elections, and lost. One of Israel’s greatest strategic failures.

The same was repeated by Olmert. Risking everything achieved with Syria (via Turkey), he quit the talks just as major headway was made, and went on a crazy killing-adventure that of course also killed any chance for an agreement in the near-future.

What is less-known about yet another missed opportunity, is Syria’s offer to help end the Lebanon 2006 war. During the unofficial talks Alon Liel held with Ibrahim Suleiman (Uri Saguy was also present a number of times), on the 11th day of the war, Syria sent a message offering to help bring an end to the escalation of violence, and was ready to meet with an Israeli government official, at a deputy foreign-minister level, in Vienna. Alon Liel rushed back to Jerusalem with this offer, but it was bluntly rejected. In those days, Olmert was still well-under Bush’s Axis-of-Evil spells, and was too weak to even consider Israeli initiatives that differed with the Bush-gang. Another opportunity missed.

Consistency, in this case, is not serving Israel’s best interests. But how long will it take the Israeli public to realize this? As Ofer Shelach notes, what must occur, for Israelis to finally demand an explanation to all these strategic diplomatic failures?

April 27th, 2010, 7:25 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Cold Ful


The Ofer Shelach article in Maariv, translated by Didi Remez did not mention anything about the Syrian part of the equation.

Surprise again, right? I mean, when is any negotiation between Arabs and Israelis EVER the arabs fault?

Anyway, perhaps you or Shelach know what Syria offered Israel for the Golan?

April 27th, 2010, 7:36 pm


Alex said:

More over, The same pattern was repeated a few times … Rabin was killed by Israeli extremists but … Barak got cold feel, Netanyahu preferred to implement his clean break strategy of weakening Syria and then doing a peace-for-peace treaty that allows Israel to keep the Golan Heights .. Olmert the other crook used Gaza to get out of the corner that he was stuck into when negotiations in Turkey were nearing a successful conclusion …

In other words … Israel does not want peace with Syria if that required giving Syria back its Golan Heights. Israel, like any spoiled child, wants its cake and wants to eat it too… peace is great but only when Syria gets tired and stops asking for the Golan (or the full Golan Heights).

It does not matter if there are variations in the STYLE of the different prime ministers. Some of them would sound like they are willing to give most of the Golan, others say they are not willing to give up any part … what is in common is that they all know that Syria will accept nothing less that 100 of its occupied Golan Heights and therefore Israel will not have to sign that treaty as long as Israel does not publicly announce it is willing to give back 100% of the Golan Heights.

And that is where we stand now .. after the most recent bad experience with Israel’s peaceful intentions, Syria decided that there will be no more negotiations until Israel announces it is ready to give up the Golan Heights all the way to the lake.

No tricks and no playing on words.

Israel today is not ready … many realize they must make a decision. And that decision is tilting more towards the war option for now if I have to guess.

April 27th, 2010, 7:42 pm


Ghat Albird said:

This past week President Obama visited Billy Graham at his home in North Carolina.

Last Thursday a taped conversation between Pres. Nixon and Rev. Graham was released by the National Archives Office. On the tape Rev. Billy Graham openly voiced a belief that Jews control the American media, calling it a “stranglehold” during a 1972 conversation with President Richard Nixon.

“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” the nation’s best-known preacher declared as he agreed with a stream of bigoted Nixon comments about Jews and their perceived influence in American life.

“You believe that?” Nixon says after the “stranglehold” comment.

“Yes, sir,” Graham says.

“Oh, boy,” replies Nixon. “So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

“No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,” Graham replies.

An interesting coincidence to say the least.

April 27th, 2010, 7:51 pm


Shai said:


Again you need an English-to-English translation…

What don’t you understand about Uri Saguy’s (not Ofer Shelach’s) use of the phrase “got cold feet”, in reference to 5 different Israeli Prime Ministers? Or in his agreement with Bashar Assad’s statement that “80 percent of the problems were resolved”?

But all credit is due to you, for continuing to push the question “But what will Syria give Israel, in return for the Golan???” It’s of course a legitimate question, and especially so when you’re a settler-supporting, blind pro-Israeli.

But even here, Uri Saguy already answers part of that question, by stating that border, security, and water arrangements have already been agreed upon. Naturally, we can imagine various normalization steps have been discussed. Perhaps the 20% remaining include some tougher issues, like the status of 400,000 Palestinians residing in Syria, or the nature and continuation of Syria’s relationship with some of Israel’s other-rivals.

What Uri Saguy is disclosing, finally and for the first time, is that 5 different Israeli Prime Ministers were ready to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 line and, at the last minute, changed their mind. He unequivocally blames this “consistency” on Israel, not on what Ofer Shelach or Joshua Landis are hiding from us, regarding Syria’s offers in return for the Golan.

April 27th, 2010, 7:58 pm


Shai said:


I wonder what you would say, if the same conversation took place one day in some European nation, about “Muslim control of the media”. My guess is you’d call it Racism.

April 27th, 2010, 8:07 pm


Ghat Albird said:

SHAI said:


I wonder what you would say, if the same conversation took place one day in some European nation, about “Muslim control of the media”. My guess is you’d call it Racism.

Ghat says

I wonder what you would call the following statements made by US Gen. Jones before a conference group last week. My guess is you’d call it Racism.

A member of the Taliban was separated from his fighting party and wandered around for a few days in the desert — lost, out of food, no water. And he looked on the horizon and he saw what looked like a little shack, and he walked towards that shack. And as he got to it, it turned out that it was a shack, a store, a little store owned by a Jewish merchant.

And the Taliban warrior went up to him and said, ‘I need water. Give me some water.’

And the merchant said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t have any water, but would you like to buy a tie. We have a nice sale of ties today’.

Whereupon the Taliban erupted into a stream of language that I can’t repeat, but about Israel, about Jewish people, about the man himself, about his family. ‘I’ve just said I need water. You try to sell me ties. You people don’t get it.’

And passively the merchant stood there until this Taliban was through with his diatribe and said, ‘Well, I’m sorry that I don’t have water for you. And I forgive you for all of the insults that you’ve levied against me, my family, my country. But I will help you out. If you go over that hill and walk about two miles there’s a restaurant there and they have all the water you’ll need.’

The Taliban, instead of saying thanks, still muttering under his breath, disappears over the hill, only to come back about an hour later. And walking up to the merchant, he says, ‘Your brother tells me I need a tie to get in the restaurant.’

April 27th, 2010, 8:54 pm


lally said:

Jones has already apologised for his joke that, no doubt, was told to him by a Jew in the first place.

Why is Jeffrey Feltman trying to exacerbate Lebanese sectarianism and gin up Christian anti-Syrian “humiliation” because General Suleiman was left out of the recent 3-way meeting of principles held in Damascus? Suleiman would open himself to all manner of abuse from the usual suspects including Jeffrey himself, were he to attend.

Lay down your whiteman’s burden already, Jeff old man. It’s time to examine other options as you’ve been pushing failure for more than long enough by this point.

April 28th, 2010, 1:14 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I kind of liked Jones’s joke, Ghat Albird, though would prefer that a Jew told it, and not an obsessed with Jews, redneck, like you.

The moral of this joke, if you analyze it with no humor, is that the Jew actually tried to do something positive, to help the Afghani man, so he will not have to do all this way and back for nothing.

But as usually happens, the intentions of the Jew are being interpreted in a wrong way, and people cannot believe that a Jew can offer them something with good intention. The initial reaction is “the Jew conspires something. Lets not believe a Jew”.
And then they find themselves wasting time, and walking the long way, instead of a shorter way, as a Jew suggested to them.

April 28th, 2010, 1:31 am


Husam said:


I believe there are two parallel scenarios as to why the carrot is pulled from the rabbit’s mouth at the last hour:

1- Israel begins and ends in prophecies of religious interpretations. The extreme brand of messianic Judaism and its fixation on the rebuilding of the 3rd Temple gets it major support from apocalyptic and Evangelical Christians in America. Peace brings Israel closer to the Palestinian issues, right of return, demographics, etc.. all of which jeopordizes biblical end times. To the average reader here on SC, this all sounds like far-fetched, but to the throne-holder$ it is very real.

2- A long term startegy of push-in-pull-out peace initiative is in place to exhaust Arab leader and show the world that Israel continues to want and negotiate for peace. They can’t sit idle and do nothing. The fact is as history shows, real peace is an illusion… only soft peace, as Shai has always mentioned, is the sole option available.

Bottom line: this is all done by design.

April 28th, 2010, 3:08 am


majedkhaldoun said:

It is ironic that Neten will meet Mubarak,before Bashar

April 28th, 2010, 4:49 am


Nafdik said:

The question is what is the motivation for Israel to give back the Golan?

The second question is the calculus of the Syrian regime. Are they sure it is in their interest to make peace? What price are they willing to pay for the Golan? Is returning the Golan going to boost their survival or will complicate things for them?

It seems that all parties for the time being are happy with the status quo.

April 28th, 2010, 4:50 am


Shai said:


For a moment there, your response style reminded me of Akbar…

But I know you’re smart enough to understand the difference between a Muslim or a Christian making a joke about Jews, and a Jew doing the same. Except that in your case (unlike in Jim Jones’s), it wasn’t even a joke.

Please know that there are those in my country, who also bunch-together Muslims, and speak of “Muslim control”, “Islamic threat”, “Jihadists”, and other racial generalizations. They are all, whether they pertain to whites, blacks, Jews, or Muslims, clear elements of Racism.

April 28th, 2010, 8:24 am


Shai said:


I think Jones was trying to deliver the message that Jews like to create situations where in the end, the non-Jew is forced into a “should have listened to the Jew” scenario. That Jews are uber-smart, in a wiseass kind of way, and yet cannot be proven wrong.

While I actually agree with part of this (and I imagine you do as well), for a non-Jew to tell this “joke” is out of place, and could hint at Racism. If a Jew told it, you and I would laugh and quite likely nod our heads.

April 28th, 2010, 8:35 am


Akbar Palace said:

The Wacky World of an Israeli Leftist

Pro-Syria, Israeli Leftist Shai states:

… is high time officials in Washington (and I believe in Jerusalem) understood Syria’s strategic outlook and why it does what it does.

Meanwhile, the usual criticism of Israel:

Stop with the paranoia nonsense. The whole fricken world is telling you you’re wrong, and you still think you’re right.

And now the rest of the news:

After meeting with Ehud Barak, Sec. of Defence Robert Gates stated:

…that the Shiite organization was at a point where it “has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world.”,7340,L-3881800,00.html

That Jews are uber-smart, in a wiseass kind of way, and yet cannot be proven wrong.


If that were true, 78% of Jews wouldn’t have voted for Obama and there wouldn’t be a Meretz, Labor and Kadima party. Naturally, I think the Jewish/”uber-smart” thing is a myth;)

April 28th, 2010, 11:17 am


Shai said:


You’re going to need a heck of a lot more than an Akbar-English translation to explain any part of your last comment.

Btw, for your information, I don’t consider myself an “Israeli Leftist”. I’m more of a Liberal, certainly. The Israeli Left is almost dead. Meretz and Labor put together barely represent 13% of the country. Kadima is certainly not Left. It’s not anything, really.

Strange that you’d call me a Leftist, when in the previous elections, I was giving every reason for voting Netanyahu, instead of Livni…

April 28th, 2010, 2:19 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

thanks for removing my comments.

the actions and language of the jewish state of the jews deserves respect. the actions and language of its citizens, eg, lieberman, barak, netanyahoo, foxman, shumer, pipes, perle, wolfowitz, emmanuel deserve the utmost respect.

always better to call a turd a rose. what is served by being blunt.

April 28th, 2010, 3:26 pm


Ghat Albird said:

SHAI said:


For a moment there, your response style reminded me of Akbar…

Ghat responded.

You must be quite fixated with Akbar. Still I believe you missed my point in that is the racism exhibited by Gen. Jones’s so called joke die hard zionists call “antisemitic” or is it anti Taliban [ in the sense that they are easily manipulated]
or is it against both “God’s chosen people” and the barefooted Taliban.

The petultimate question may be over due. And that is to what extent do the billions of people in Asia/Africa and possibly a few in the Americas and elsewhere attach much credence to the idiom that a specific group of homo sapiens have been picked by God as “his chosen people”, AND THEY WERE NOT?

April 28th, 2010, 3:53 pm


Shai said:


Perhaps I did miss the point. I’m also not very used to conversing with someone in the 3rd person (hence the reminder of Akbar).

I don’t know how relevant the question you asked at the end is nowadays. Certainly it is for many so-called Christian-Zionists. But do most people really think of the Jews as “The Chosen People”? I doubt it. But maybe I’m wrong.

And you’re right, I think that joke was bad for everyone, not just the Jews.

April 28th, 2010, 4:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Peace of the Brave NewZ

More information for those who want to understand “Syria’s strategic outlook outlook and why it does what it does”, the following website may be of interest:

April 28th, 2010, 4:23 pm


Ghat Albird said:

SHAI said:


“do most people really think of the Jews as “The Chosen People”? I doubt it.
But maybe I’m wrong.”

The most important belief SHAI is do the Jews really think they are
NOT “The Chosen People”?. I doubt it. But I am certain I am not the only
to be wrong.

April 28th, 2010, 5:29 pm


norman said:

no American companies , no export from the US,

Buildex Syria expects 10% turnout hike as Syrian properties and construction offer exceptional investment returns
Syria: 7 hours, 8 minutes ago PRESS RELEASE

Investors from the Gulf and beyond are showing greater interest in Syria’s burgeoning real estate sector, which has managed to outpace GDP growth in the country over the past few years. Arab investors operating in Syria affirm that domestic property projects normally generate substantial returns on investment while posing minimal risks. This positive outlook is expected to sustain the local real estate industry’s average annual growth rate of 8.8%.
Article continues below ▼
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During Buildex Syria.Related stories
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Syria’s real estate sector has grown significantly after reforms were implemented less than a decade ago to allow private and foreign industry participation. Many mega-projects are now currently being undertaken under joint ventures among Syrians, other Arabs and foreign investors. Property developments employ around 15% of the national population, and with almost all private banks in the country offering housing loans at longer payment periods, lighter collateral requirements and smaller down payments, the industry is expected to attain higher growth as the recession slowly subsides, leading to an increase in demands for new construction technologies and building material.

The 16th edition of the International Exhibition for Construction of Buildex Syria 2010 that will be held under the patronage of Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Al-Otri from May 12 to 16, 2010 at the Damascus International Fairgrounds in Syria will showcase the latest innovations and products in the building and construction sectors, in addition to local developments aimed at meeting elevated demand for residential and commercial spaces in Syria. The exhibition is held in collaboration with DHL Worldwide Express, Grohe, ISOBIT, Sinjab, and Diab Al Youssef acting as major sponsors. Event organizer Arabian Group for Exhibitions & Conferences has extended the exhibition area of Buildex Syria beyond 150,000 sqm in anticipation of a 10% increase in exhibitors’ turnout over 2009. More than 21% of the Middle Eastern exhibitors at Buildex Syria, excluding Syrian exhibitors, are from the UAE.

“Syria’s relatively young real estate sector remains largely untapped and offers excellent returns on investment, and so investors from areas such as the Gulf and Europe are keen to enter into this expanding market. Moreover, the Syrian Government has pledged to earmark billions of dollars into the development of infrastructure and tourism, which are major property business drivers. There is a substantial imbalance between supply and demand which Buildex Syria aims to help address,” said Alaa Hilal, CEO of Arabian Group.

Over the past three years, most of the real estate investments emerging in Syria have been Arab-Syrian partnerships. The country expects real GDP growth to rise to 3.9% in 2010 and 4.2% in 2011, with over 4% of the annual income to be generated by property-related activities. The Syrian Government plans to establish 20 new industrial cities to encourage and attract foreign investments.

The 2009 edition of Buildex Syria welcomed 225,000 visitors, 26% of whom were from other countries. This year will feature 734 companies from 56 countries representing 2,129 brands covering Building and Construction, Heavy Machinery, HVAC and Water Technology, Stone and Marble, Paints and Insulation, Lighting Systems, and other industries in the construction and development mortgage sectors.

The international lineup of exhibitors includes prominent industry names in the construction sector such as APEX Metal (Turkey); CODE S.A.R.L (Lebanon); MESC Group (Saudi Arabia); Dubai Cable Company (UAE); Modern Chemical Industry company (Egypt); MCI (Egypt); Kripsasis Electronics and Machinery (Greece); ABLOY OY (Finland); Schilliger Holz (Switzerland); Banninger (Germany); EUROCO – SOLAR SA (France); EHWA Diamond (Korea); Chang Chun Lumber Co., Ltd. (Taiwan); and HXF Saw Co., Ltd. (China).
Also consider reading:

April 28th, 2010, 7:29 pm


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