Syrian-Israeli Talks, More Iran

Turkey: Direct Israel-Syria Talks Imminent
by Ben-Yechiel

( Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are imminent, according to a Wednesday report in the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat. In the report, Turkish officials announced that the direct talks will follow the upcoming round of indirect talks between the two countries.

Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman, advisors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of launching direct talks with the Syrians. The next round of indirect talks, the fourth, is slated to begin in two weeks' time.

Israeli and Syrian negotiators will decide on a start date for the direct negotiations, as well as the composition of the negotiating teams, in about a week and a half, after Syrian President Bashar Assad returns from a scheduled trip to Paris. Assad will be attending a conference in the French capital, alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Turkish sources were quoted as saying that France also plans to mediate in the talks, primarily with regards to the Shebaa Farms land dispute.

Assad called the political climate in the Middle East Earlier this week "positive," and called on the EU to intensify its involvement in the peace talks with Israel.

"The political climate in Israel is generally positive. We must give the different political processes a new push in order for them to proceed in the right direction," remarked Assad in a Damascus meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, reported Sana, the Syrian government news agency.

Optimism is taking wing in the Middle East: The Israelis and Syrians have been negotiating and Israel and Hamas are two weeks into a cease-fire. But is the Arab-Israeli conflict moving toward a resolution? A closer look at the situation reveals myriad and contradictory interests at work, making it unlikely that there will be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East soon…..

But what is Syria's stake in all this? Why do the Syrians all of a sudden appear flexible and moderate? ……

For all his eagerness to rejoin the international community, however, Mr. Assad will not budge without first trying to extract a few concessions. Principal among these is an assurance that the UN tribunal charged with bringing to justice the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will not implicate the Syrian regime. ……. Assad does not believe he can elicit such a guarantee from the current US administration, and brazenly announced that there will be no Syrian-Israeli agreement in 2008.

Rayyan Al Sawaf is a freelance journalist in Beirut, Lebanon.

[Landis comment: Who would have guessed that Rayyan al-Shawaf was Lebanese?! Contrary to Sawaf's brazen assertion, Syria is not dealing on the Hariri trial. It has never asked for a deal on the Hariri trial nor has it brought it up in negotiations. To do so would indicate Syria's guilt. Syria insists it is innocent. Shawaf is making up his claim that Syria insists on bringing the trial into the negotiations with Israel or intends to do so with a new administration. Assad's supposition that a deal with Israel will not be signed while Bush is president is not proof — nor does it even suggest — that Syria is searching for protection from the trial. US guarantees for both countries will be at the center of negotiations, but they won't be about the Hariri trial. If we take Camp David as a model, both countries will be looking for bucket loads of money and security benefits from the US. That is why the US must be a participant to the negotiations and an eventual deal. Both countries are counting on the US paying a royal ransom to stop Syria's military support for Hizbullah and Hamas. This is not about Hariri.] 

Spy Games in Iran
By: David Ignatius | The Washington Post

The United States appears to be running some limited covert operations across the Iranian border. But according to knowledgeable sources, this effort shares the defect of broader U.S. policy toward Iran — it is tentative and ill-coordinated, and it undermines diplomacy without bringing serious pressure on the regime….

The covert program illustrates the larger dilemma facing the Bush administration and its successor — what to do about an aggressive and increasingly confident Iran? The Iranians make little effort to hide their own covert-action campaigns — including extensive financial and military support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Iranians have used Syria effectively as a platform for these intelligence operations, from political action to paramilitary operations to clandestine terrorism…

Saudi Arabia has taken a tougher stand to oppose what it sees as Iranian meddling in the region. There are reports out of Syria, for example, that the Saudi military attaché in Damascus was expelled a few months ago after the Syrians uncovered what they believed was a plot to pay $50 million in subsidies to members of a prominent Syrian tribe. One source said the money was simply intended to support the kingdom's longtime tribal friends rather than organize political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. But the Saudis have made no secret of their desire for regime change in Syria…"

The Odds are Against an Attack on Iran By: Rami G. Khouri | The Daily Star
I expect the U.S. and Israel to finally accept the reality that a military strike, no matter how punitive, would only temporarily set back Iran's nuclear capability, because the technological knowledge is already in Iran's hands and cannot be destroyed with bombs.

Softer Tone From Iran Has Experts Guessing
By: Helene Cooper | The New York Times
Iranian officials on Tuesday continued their long history of befuddling Western diplomats, as two top officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects of eventually breaching the impasse between the West and Tehran over the country’s nuclear ambitions.

U.S. States Continue to Divest from Businesses Tied to Iran By: Brian Radzinsky | World Politics Review

Eleven U.S. states have adopted legislation to divest public pension funds from companies with financial ties to Iran's petroleum, defense, and nuclear sectors in an attempt to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program and alleged sponsorship of terrorism. Almost 20 more states are considering similar legislation to supplement existing federal and international sanctions.

This is the first time that state investments have been leveraged for nonproliferation goals. During the 1980s, anti-apartheid activists urged state and local authorities and some universities to divest holdings from companies invested in or doing business with South Africa. During the 1990s, humanitarian activists persuaded Massachusetts to divest from companies "doing business with" Myanmar. More recently, almost 30 states passed legislation to divest from companies with investments in or engaged in trade with Sudan. The Iran case is unique, however, because divestment legislation explicitly references Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorists and its uranium enrichment program….. conducted an 18-nation public opinion poll on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict released yesterday. The poll finds that in 14 nations people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey). No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.

Israel Still Paying for its Defeat By: Jeff Jacoby | The Boston Globe
Two years after its war with Hezbollah, Israel is still paying for its defeat.

From Triumph to Torture By: John Pilger | The Guardian
Israel's treatment of an award-winning young Palestinian journalist is part of a terrible pattern.

Comments (200)

Qifa Nabki said:

Joshua said: Contrary to Sawaf’s brazen assertion, Syria is not dealing on the Hariri trial. It has never asked for a deal on the Hariri trial nor has it brought it up in negotiations. To do so would indicate Syria’s guilt.


How do we know what role the Hariri trial will play in the negotiations? As you said, Syria has never asked for a deal because it would indicate Syria’s guilt. So we have no idea what role the Hariri factor will play, just as we have no idea what the Tribunal will produce.

My contention is that Syria does not need to say anything about the trial. If Syria had nothing to do with Hariri’s murder, then there is no reason to ask for a deal because (in an ideal world) the Tribunal will exonerate Syria, or (in a less than ideal world) there will be enough plausible deniability to make a manufactured case look unconvincing. If Syria WAS in fact responsible, then the best possible strategy for Bashar to follow is the one he is following right now, namely, aggressive peace talks.

Bashar is aiming to have all his ducks in a row by the time that Obama or McCain are in office. Faced with the choice of either supporting a fairly advanced peace process that promises to alter – in a positive way – the face of the region, or punishing an autocrat for a heinous crime, which threatens to alter – in a negative way – the face of the region, what do you think the American president would do?

My bet is that they will end up choosing supporting Bashar, the new friend of Israel.

In other words, Bashar doesn’t have to say a thing to get the deal he wants on the Tribunal… in fact, the fewer words, the better.

July 2nd, 2008, 5:13 pm


Shai said:


I completely agree with you, and therefore, there’s a good chance we’ll never know what really took place. Bashar has proven time and again to be a very good tactician, strategist, and survivor. All his current-day critics gave him but a few months back in 2000. And look where he is now.

July 2nd, 2008, 5:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

PS: Josh, I remember you suggesting a few times that the Tribunal is almost certainly dead, because if it had turned up anything damaging, they would have revealed it by now.

I would suggest a different possible reading of the delay. For one thing, let’s not forget that previous international investigations of this nature often took years to bring to trial, given the need to line up funding, marshalling evidence, etc. But, on top of all this, might we not speculate that the Americans may be saving their silver bullet to use when it is most valuable?

Let’s imagine that the International Tribunal has lots of bits and pieces that may seem to point overwhelmingly toward Syrian involvement in the murder. There isn’t a “smoking gun”, so to speak, but there’s enough there to make things uncomfortable for Bashar for a few years, vis-a-vis his relations with the West.

Now, if you were an enterprising Secretary of State, would you reveal this card now? I wouldn’t, simply because it wouldn’t achieve as much political capital, given the latest developments on the horizon (Syria’s peace negotiations). I would hold on to the card, and play it when Syria has something to lose. The U.S. may be thinking that the fate of the tribunal may represent the difference between a successful agreement, and a stillbirth.

July 2nd, 2008, 5:38 pm


Shai said:


Now I disagree with you. If the current US administration had a “silver bullet”, they would have used it already. What good is such a bullet, when it’s in the hands of Barack Obama? If Bush-Cheney-Condi had it, they would have used it in an instant, also to try to salvage anything of their reputation due to their overwhelming failure in the Middle East, and their so-called GWOT. What better way to convince most Americans that “maybe, just maybe they’re right…” by showing regional axis-of-evil leaders to be terrorists themselves?

I don’t think they have anything…

July 2nd, 2008, 5:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“Bashar is aiming to have all his ducks in a row by the time that Obama or McCain are in office. Faced with the choice of either supporting a fairly advanced peace process that promises to alter – in a positive way – the face of the region, or punishing an autocrat for a heinous crime, which threatens to alter – in a negative way – the face of the region, what do you think the American president would do?”

And then the US will be accused of not supporting democracy in the region, and that democracy is just a “ploy” to help Israel no? It is time that US presidents realize that promoting democracy in the region is more important than useless peace agreements with dictators.

July 2nd, 2008, 5:53 pm


Shai said:


I want to see one leader from the Right (Netanyahu, Liebermann, Eitam,…) claim that peace with Egypt and Jordan is “useless” because it was done with dictators, or that is shouldn’t have been made by Israel, and instead we should have waited for democracies in these nations.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:08 pm


ugarit said:

This is off topic but I think it’s important to read:

African Dictatorships and Double-Standards

July 2nd, 2008, 6:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You have a good point, and it’s one I’ve mulled over in the past, but the truth is that Bush-Cheney-Condi have not had a univocal approach to Syria over the past 1.5 years. If they only had regime change on their minds, then they wouldn’t have invited Syria to Annapolis and they wouldn’t have blessed the Doha Agreement.

In other words, what I’m saying is that there may be different expectations prevailing these days. Given the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prices of oil, tensions with Iran, etc. it may simply not be feasible to use a “silver bullet” scenario in the way that Bush/Cheney would have liked back in 2005. The situation on the ground is different. So maybe they figure, let’s use it in a different fashion.

Or maybe they’ve got jacksh*t… 😉

July 2nd, 2008, 6:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

It is time that US presidents realize that promoting democracy in the region is more important than useless peace agreements with dictators.


As you know, I rather agree with this… to a certain extent.

But what do you think the U.S. should do to promote democracy in the region? It’s not exactly straightforward.

America’s most important regional allies are dictators.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:25 pm


Shai said:


Ah, now that’s an excellent question! How does the US promote democracy, without invading a nation, or sticking its nose too far up the nation’s backside, turning one party against another. There are endless ways, and most should certainly not look like “sticks and carrots” but instead “carrots and carrots”. Look what happens when you offer a regime of a starving nation like North Korea assistance – they talk of dismantling their nuclear program!!! Hmmm…. could that possibly be relevant to the Middle East? Nah… there are no starving nations, so there’s little imagination here. Let’s move on…

July 2nd, 2008, 6:33 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The “HOW” question is something that AIG is yet to articulate on these pages. Every time I pose the question I am reminded that he needs data and that he does not know Syrian society as much he needs to to be able to give a step by step road plan of “how” to get to nirvana.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The thing is that the U.S. gives lots of assistance (hundreds of millions of dollars worth, in direct aid or in defense contracts etc.) to many Middle Eastern countries: Egypt, Jordan, KSA, etc. They haven’t shown the slightest inclination to democratize.

So, the “carrots and carrots” approach is not working. Mubarak’s got so many goddamn carrots they’re coming out of his ass. Egypt isn’t any better for it, though.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:40 pm


Shai said:


It’s like attacking Iran. It’s “the thought that counts”, not what actually happens thereafter.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And every time I tell you that it is mainly the Syrians that have to figure this out, you are not willing to accept responsibility for this. Please answer, are you saying that there is no way to bring democracy to Syria?

July 2nd, 2008, 6:49 pm


Shai said:


Carrots don’t have to come free-of-charge. Aid can be provided with specific conditions, much as the EU has done with regards to the Palestinians (especially after realizing just how corrupt Fatah was). Certain institutions have to be formed, encouraging the creation of the building blocks and foundations of democracy. Because Egypt may indeed be a terrible case, doesn’t mean it couldn’t or shouldn’t have been carried out differently. Putting aside the terrible bureaucracy and red-tape, the US probably has a lot to learn from the EU, when it comes to supporting nations in the Middle East.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:50 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The answer to your question is:

Yes there is not. Note your word “bring”. Who will bring it? America “brought” democracy to Iraq. How great has that worked?

The word democracy gets thrown out with great ease.

Here is the way the Oxford English Dictionary defines it:

“Government by the people; that form of government in which sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them. In modern use often more vaguely denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege”.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

And every time I tell you that it is mainly the Syrians that have to figure this out, you are not willing to accept responsibility for this. Please answer, are you saying that there is no way to bring democracy to Syria?

But wait a second AIG, you just said that “It is time that US presidents realize that promoting democracy in the region is more important than useless peace agreements with dictators.”

So then, what is the U.S. role?

July 2nd, 2008, 6:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is true that the US allies are dictators. But why add another one? The US failed dismally with Egypt becuase Egypt knows that the US is afraid to push Mubarak too far. How pathetic is that? The US needs to call the Mubarak bluff. They should tell him that they don’t mind the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egpyt and Egypt MUST let the liberal parties in Egypt breath.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The US role is first and foremost not to give legitimacy to dictators. First do no harm.

July 2nd, 2008, 6:58 pm


EHSANI2 said:

You are dead wrong. The US role is protect the security and economic interests of its citizens. This is what it has done and will continue to do long after you and I are no longer around.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You have a very grim outlook for Syria’s future then.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:03 pm


Shai said:


Not-doing something is a role? That’s a strategy? It’s like the Israeli strategy you’re suggesting, not-to make peace with anyone until democracies are at place. That moves you closer to your goals? And if it doesn’t, shouldn’t you, as a leader of a nation, find something that does?

July 2nd, 2008, 7:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are of course right, I was answering QN about how the US should promote democracy. What is the US role in that.

Where we probably disagree is that about how the US should protect its security and economic interests. Its long term interests lie in a democratic middle east in my opinion.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course not doing something is a role. But in the case of Syria the US is also implementing sanctions.

Shai, if doing something HARMS your cause, then even if there is nothing positive to do, you should do nothing.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:10 pm


Joshua said:

QN, you write:
If Syria WAS in fact responsible, then the best possible strategy for Bashar to follow is the one he is following right now, namely, aggressive peace talks. ….

Bashar doesn’t have to say a thing to get the deal he wants on the Tribunal… in fact, the fewer words, the better.

Dear QN,

I am with you on most of this except there is no indication that Assad’s desire to get back the Golan and negotiate peace with Israel is, in fact, tied to the Hariri trial at all. (This accusation is sometimes made by those who do not want to see peace between Israel and Syria, who are usually Lebanese, Americans, Israelis or Syrian oppositionists.)

The fact is that Assad has been pursuing negotiations and the return of the Golan vigorously since he assumed power in 2000. Israel has usually rebuffed or ignored his advances.

Israel is now taking them more seriously because of its increased anxiety over Hizbullah and Iran. It is not Syria which has changed; rather, it is Israel that has changed its position.

There has been no shift in Syria’s position about talks with Israel since the Hariri assassination.

Your assumption that the US could somehow stifle an international court indictment of Syrian authors of the crime is attractive, but I am not convinced that it could actually work this way. I do not believe that Assad or his advisers believe that American officials could or would impose themselves on the court in such a way, even if America had the authority to suppress the decisions of the court, which I doubt.

My hunch is that Assad has discounted the seriousness of the evidence. But even if he has not, I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that Syrian strategy toward Israel is driven by the Hariri investigation. There is tons of evidence that it is driven by Syria’s belief that the Golan should be returned to Syria and that it is important for the president to pursue that objective.

It is also driven by the belief that many of Syria’s economic and political woes will clear up or be greatly alleviated once Syria is no longer at war with the Jewish State. Syria believes that Israel has great power in Washington and in international circles. This may be a false analysis on Syria’s part, but it drives decision making in Damascus.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:12 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I have a realistic view. Yours is the same optimistic one that preceded the Iraq Nirvana experiment. Those that designed and mixed that don’t-be-so-grim-on-the-future cocktail did not exactly come out smelling too well, did they?

This is serious business. Sitting at your computer and lecturing us on how democracy should/can/must/better be “brought” to our society strikes me as silly, childish and ignorant. At least on the ignorance part, I got you to admit that you don’t know our society well enough. When you ask my opinion and I offer you my answer, then it is not what you want to hear. As we say in Arabic

“Eh-terna Maak”

July 2nd, 2008, 7:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have constantly been saying that Syrians must bring democracy to themselves and that the US and Israel should not do something active but simply not stop the process by giving legitimacy to Asad. I have constantly said that it may take decades for democracy to come Syria and Israel just has to wait patiently.

There is nothing naive about my position.

If most Syrians agree that they cannot ever have democracy in Syria then so be it. To reiterate, it is not Israel’s or the US’s job to bring democracy to them by force.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:20 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Then start your own “Israelcomment” and dedicate it to your passion of pleading with your country not to do business with Syria till it is democratic. Through AIPAC, I am sure that they can also promote your blog to US decision makers to do the same.

In the meantime, we Syrians will see how our democracy evolves. Once it is born, we will back to you.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:27 pm


Shai said:


“Of course not doing something is a role.” What??? Am I missing something?

“… then even if there is nothing positive to do, you should do nothing.” Nothing positive to do? That’s foreign policy? A Syrian leader is almost begging you to make peace over the past 4 years, fully accepting both Arab Summits of Beirut and Riyadh’s 3 yes’s towards Israel, and you’re suggesting Israel has “nothing positive to do?” What planet are you living on? What bible are you following so blindly? And why? How many more opportunities are you willing to miss in your life? And to keep paying the price in the meantime.

How on earth are we STOPPING democracy in Syria, by making peace with it? What does that mean “giving legitimacy” to Assad? He needs our legitimacy? If we make peace with him, the Syrian people will suddenly say “Wallahi, Bashar is legitimate guys, forget, put down the “Freedom Now” posters, pack it up!” And YOU, as an Israeli, are in a position to make that claim? Who the hell are (we) Israelis, to decide for the Syrians when they’re ready for peace, and when they’re not???

July 2nd, 2008, 7:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Thanks for your response.

I am not of the rejectionist school, so I don’t really buy the argument that Bashar is pursuing talks merely to avoid the heat from the trial. In fact, I am so pro-talks that I may occasionally be guilty of reading the events with too optimistic an outlook.

However, in my opinion this does not mean that we should discount the effect of the Tribunal. It may not be driving the negotiations, but from my perspective it certainly seems as though things were put on a fast track between Israel and Syria after 2005.

You say that Bashar has been vigorously pursuing negotiations since 2000 and that Israel has rebuffed his advances. But how vigorous were these pursuits, really? Bashar needed time to consolidate his power base in Syria, deal with any potential security threats, bolster his standing in Lebanon (which may or may not have involved taking out Hariri), before he could credibly present himself as the kind of leader that could pay the price that Israel would demand.

Given the favored strategy of Levantine bargaining that we see on a daily basis in Lebanese politics, and given that Syria excels at this strategy, I’m more inclined to believe that had the Hariri assassination not generated the hoopla that it did with all the subsequent pressure and isolation tactics, we may not have seen such decisive moves by Bashar toward direct peace negotiations. I mean, look at all of Syria’s allies today and tell me who sticks out like a sore thumb? Iran’s president seems to have his secretary remind him once a week to announce that Israel will be wiped off the map. Sayyed Hasan is “proud” that the UK has branded Hizbullah a terrorist organization because Great Britain was one of the original sponsors of the Zionist entity. Meanwhile, Bashar’s Information Ministry can’t send out enough press releases about how “imminent” direct talks with Israel are.

There’s vigorous… and then there’s really vigorous.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:37 pm


Shai said:


Sometimes your words are like poetry… 🙂 I can’t say you’d make a good irrational mullah. That is, unless you’d put your mind to it…

July 2nd, 2008, 7:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Do you not remember what Bashmann wrote? He completely agreed with me that the US and Israel should not give legitimacy to Syria because it will stop democracy in Syria. Do you not understand that if the US stops sanctions and gives money to Syria it will consolidate Asad’s rule?

You are not willing to listen to the Syrian opposition and think that the regime symphatizers posting here are representative.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:51 pm


Nour said:


How were Syrian-“Israeli” negotations put on the fast track after 2005? “Israel” was refusing to negotiate with Syria up until a couple months ago. I personally don’t believe anything is going to come out of these negotiations (call me a pessimist :-)) but I simply do not believe that the Hariri tribunal has anything to do with it.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:54 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Irrational mullahdom is what I aspire to, so I’ll take that as a tentative vote of confidence on your part.

July 2nd, 2008, 7:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The talks began again in earnest, if we are to believe the reports, back in 2006, shortly after the end of the July War.

Yes, I’d say you are a pessimist. 🙂

July 2nd, 2008, 8:01 pm


Shai said:

QN, it’s not tentative, you always have my confidence.


I appreciate Bashmann’s feelings. No doubt he speaks from the heart, and he truly believes in what he says. But we both see that he’s not representative of the majority of Syrians. Of all the Syrians on this site (many of whom are expats), how many have shared his opinion? One or two tops. Most clearly differ with him. All wish for democracy in Syria. But most do not want to see the U.S. or Israel continuing to isolate Syria, as they believe that it is exactly THIS that will consolidate Assad’s rule. Openness to the West, interaction on every level, benefitting diplomatically and economically, are all the reasons that could encourage the current regime to introduce further reform, and to indeed head in the direction of democracy. It is far more complex than you and I can understand. It is not a Japan or Germany, where 99% of the people follow the word of one man (emperor, fuhrer, or democracy-promoting general). We must let the Syrian people, and the Syrian leadership, find their way to democracy. We must NOT isolate them in the process, but rather embrace them, and show the West’s support. Bashar is no Kim Jong-il, a man that has no concept of freedom or democracy. Bashar Assad has lived in a democracy, he is very modern and western-oriented, and he will help his nation move in that direction. Now’s the time to help him, not to shun him.

July 2nd, 2008, 8:08 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure anything will come out of the talks right now, but I remain optimistic. However, talks between Israel and Syria certainly did take place, indirectly via Alon Liel and Ibrahim Soleiman, for nearly 3 years, preceding the war in Lebanon in 2006. In fact, they even had an urgent meeting on the 11th day of the war, at the request of the Syrians, in Switzerland. Alon Liel was told that Syria believes it can help end the crisis (probably by controlling HA), and wanted to immediately, the next day, send its deputy FM to meet Israel’s equivalent in Vienna. Alon Liel rushed back to our FM with the request, and was turned back on the spot. Olmert was at the helm (he actually never knew, during Sharon’s time as PM, that Israel and Syria were talking), and he decided to be Bush’s “puppy”, and not talk with Syria about Lebanon. Another great opportunity missed…

July 2nd, 2008, 8:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This site is not representative of most Syrian’s views. Why do you think it is?

How do we embrace Syria without embracing Asad and keep him in power for decades just like what happened with Mubarak?

July 2nd, 2008, 8:42 pm


Shai said:


So what is this site representative of? Alex, Joshua, Norman, Offended, Enlightened, Zenobia, Wizart, and the rest of the gang, are all sworn Baathists? I kind of doubt that… don’t you?

You embrace Syria by providing every “carrot” possible, placing preconditions that help create building blocks towards reform and democracy. You don’t just award blindly, like the EU did for a while with Fatah. But there are many ways to embrace a nation without seeming to support the ongoing existence of its ruling dictatorship. Israel (and the US) failed miserably in trying to do this with Iran during the Shah’s years. And indeed the US is still failing in Egypt. Perhaps Europe will know how to do it better.

July 2nd, 2008, 8:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Baathists? Maybe not, but certainly not representative of Syrian opinion.

And you didn’t answer the question:
How do we embrace Syria without embracing Asad and keep him in power for decades just like what happened with Mubarak?

July 2nd, 2008, 10:35 pm


ugarit said:

AIG: Israel embraced Jordan, Egypt, Maynamar, previous Apartheid South Afria and many other oppressive nations so your argument of not embracing Assad is a red-herring or you’re simply naive.

July 2nd, 2008, 10:39 pm


Joshua said:


We remember the history of Syria’s efforts to get Israel to the peace table very differently.

Assad began calling for peace with Israel within the first year of coming to power in 2000. He insisted loudly in speeches and interviews with the NY Times and others. Israel was not interested. With 9-11 and the ensuing Bush agenda any interest in peace talks was nil. Bush promised to rearrange the Middle East and wipe away dictatorships, particularly Syria’s, which many believed would be decapitated following success in Iraq.

Syria got into serious trouble with the West after the Lahoud extension in the fall of 2004, which was only compounded by the Hariri assassination in February 2005.

The US and Israel thought they had Asad by the short hairs with resolution 1559, sanctions, and the Hariri investigation. There was absolutely no talk of peace in 2005. Washington believed that it had Assad on the ropes. Israel even began to weigh in during the maximum pressure moment during the fall of 2005, when it warned the US against taking down the Syrian regime. Israel wanted a weakened but not destabilized Syria. It had to throw cold water on Washington, which had revived talk of “constructive chaos,” this time in Syria.

The momentum began to turn following Ghazi Kanaan’s suicide. Bashar consolidated power and purged the old guard. It became clear that there would not be a coup. The Lebanon withdrawal was not going to shake the regime, etc.

Still, Israel was not impressed with Syria, which was viewed as extremely weak and hanging by a thread. US changed tune from regime change to “change of regime behavior.”

Everything changed with the summer 2006 war. Israel tried to destroy Hizbullah through force of arms. It failed.

Assad believed 2006 was his Suez crossing. He calculated that Israel would sue for peace. He resumed his peace offensive with zeal, talking about the regions “fateful moment” and having the choice between war and peace…

Israel was in shock, and the peace camp in Tel Aviv renewed calls for Israel to investigate the seriousness of Syria’s peace offers. Still America resisted such logic. It believed that a beefed up UNIFIL and March 14 on steroids could disarm Hizb. The US and Saudi dumped money into Lebanon with 7 billion of loans and money for the Lebanese Army, which was to be the instrument of Hizbullah’s undoing. Washington marshalled “moderate Arabs” against the Axis of evil assisting Arabs.

It was only a mater of time before the sand would run out on Bush’s Lebanon policy. The Lebanese opposition was able to paralyse the country and government. March 14th’s weakness could not be papered over by the Army’s success against Fatah al-Islam. Hizbullah patiently waited for the Lebanese public to become completely dispirited and fed up with March 14th’s impotence. When the boil had come to a head, it lanced it.

The days before Doha put paid to the lingering American fantasy about disarming Hizb. Rather than moving against Hizbullah, the Lebanese Army actually assisted Hizbullah when the militia swept through West Beirut and pulled the rug out from under March 14.

Israel immediately announced its renewed talks with Syria — talks the logic of which were clear following 2006. Israel could not destroy Hizb by force of arms. The US could not disarm Hizb by beefing up the Lebanese state, only diplomacy remained as an option. Israel will have to give back the Golan to Syria in order to turn the tables on Hizbullah.

The Hariri trial is not driving peace, neither is Syrian weakness. On the contrary, American and Israeli failure is driving peace.

George Bush has screwed up monstrously over the last 6 years. That is what has changed. Hizbullah has more and better arms today than it had 3 years ago. Iran is more powerful and closer to getting nuclear power than it was 5 years ago. Iraq is a greater danger to the US today than it was under Saddam in 2003. Consequently Israel is weaker and Syria is stronger.

What has changed is that today Israel is exploring the need to sacrifice the Golan in order to weaken Hizbullah and Hamas and to move Syria out of Iran’s close orbit.

The Syrian-Israeli peace talks are not about the Hariri investigation. They are about George Bush’s silly arrogance. He has made the Middle East a more dangerous place. His policies have eroded Israel’s military edge and defense strategy.

July 3rd, 2008, 12:09 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Sounds like an op-ed if I ever saw one. 😉

Good comment… but I find it hard to reconcile with your earlier comment that the peace process “is also driven by the belief that many of Syria’s economic and political woes will clear up or be greatly alleviated once Syria is no longer at war with the Jewish State.”

So Syria is both stronger and weaker? Maybe so…

By the way, I don’t think that this contradiction lies within your analysis. I think it lies within reality!

July 3rd, 2008, 12:20 am


norman said:


Great analysis DR Landis , I understand the status of Syria as you see it .

QN ,

Syria is much stronger today that it was in 2005 but would like to be stronger and that will happen with peace and lifting the sanctions , then releasing the ingenuity and the enterprneurship of the Syrian people,
Syria wants to compete with Egypt and KSA for the leadership of the Arab nation to be an example in economic, politecal reform and education reform to the other Arab states so they can join Syria in the United States of Arabia,.

I can dream and hope , Can’t I?.

July 3rd, 2008, 1:26 am


EHSANI2 said:

“The Hariri trial is not driving peace, neither is Syrian weakness. On the contrary, American and Israeli failure is driving peace. George Bush has screwed up monstrously over the last 6 years. That is what has changed.”

Dr. Landis,

May be George Bush planned this all along. May be it was a master of brilliance after all. Invade Iraq, screw it up, strengthen HA and Syria to the point of forcing Israel to make a deal.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:44 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sure it is not Syria’s weakness that is driving peace. Everybody is conveniently forgeting that September attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor which exposed for all to see Syria’s weakness and the fact that Hizballah is not useful to it anymore.

The main interest of Israel is not to disarm Hizballah. It is to deter it, and in retrospect the 2006 war has proven to be successful in that regard. It redefined the costs of a military adventure for Hizballah. Sure, Israel would be happy if Hizballah disarmed, but for Israel that is not worth the Golan.

Add to the abovethe fact that Syria is becoming a net importer of oil the suprise effectiveness of US sanctions in reducing foreign investment in Syria and the surge of inflation in Syria, and any talk of Syria becoming stronger is just that, talk. A country which cannot buy a commercial airplanes and has to ground most of its fleet because of lack of spares is not strong.

As for the so called peace negotiations, they are basically for giving Syria an excuse not to attack Israel when the US and Israel attack Iran. That is the goal of the talks. To those who did not notice, or did not want to notice, the Knesset passed this week with an overwhelming majority the first draft of a law that a referendum is necessarry to return the Golan or an 80 member of Knesset majority (out of 120, i.e. an impossibility) instead of a simple majority. The draft will become law within a few months. Assad knows all this yet continues negotiating. Why? Because Syria is strong. Right.

In the next year the Syrian regime will have to deal with the Hariri tribunal, major nuclear allegations and an attack on Iran. Not to mention the economic situation.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:15 am


why-discuss said:

The peace Syria-Israel will leave Lebanon in the cold.
Lebanon will have to deal alone with Israel on the sensitive issue of the 800,000 palestinians in Lebanon. Lebanon has only one serious card to play: Hezbollah. The neutralization of the Hezbollah’s military power seeked by the 14 Mars guys, if it happens, will make Lebanon without any card to play and will have to accept the palestinians refugees as Lebanese citizens. I doubt France, the money of the Hariri or any other ‘friend’ will be able to force Israel to accept the refugees.
In his last interview, Aoun has reiterated that threat.
It is urgent that Lebanon re-establishes serious links with Syria so Syria’s direct negotiations with Israel allow some provisions for the palestinians in Lebanon. Otherwise the country will get into another worse crisis.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:42 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Don’t worry, unlike the mean Egyptians the Syrians will not make any peace that jeopardizes the rights of the Palestinians or the Lebanese, brotherly love and all that, you know.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:46 am


Enlightened said:

Been away for a little while!


(enlightened scratches his head in bewilderment) and then remembers.

This is the Middle East!

(goes back to scratching his head)

July 3rd, 2008, 5:46 am


Shai said:

Not to worry, Enlightened, peace is nowhere near just yet… (phew). There’s still a long way ahead of us, with more than enough hurdles and spoilers. So relax, have another one on me, and let’s continue to thrive off our daily non-peace.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:33 am


SimoHurtta said:

It is astonishing how stubbornly our democracy parrot – AIG keeps repeating his propaganda. Now he seem to “know” what Syrian’s think and who represents them. (triple laugh mark)

AIG do you seriously “demand” us to believe that your Israel would make at once peace with Syria when it is democratic and give gladly back Golan. Come-on AIG.

Well AIG Lebanon has been a democracy (even not one of the best examples of democracy) relative long, though you have not bothered to make peace with them during those magic 60 years. Why AIG?

July 3rd, 2008, 8:19 am


wizart said:

Peace often lies dorment within our heart and we often need a good head to be able to tap into that inner peace within. Courageous and intelligent leaders help bring peace out and make it happen. The art of war is in the past. The art of peace is in the future.

Art without love is nothing.

Love is an action verb.

To love is to make peace.

We’re free up to the point of choice.

Then the choice controls the chooser.

Choose leaders who know the art of love.

Dump leaders who do nothing but wage war.

Happy 4th of July to a more peaceful world!

July 3rd, 2008, 8:46 am


offended said:

AIG said:
Don’t worry, unlike the mean Egyptians the Syrians will not make any peace that jeopardizes the rights of the Palestinians or the Lebanese, brotherly love and all that, you know.

AIG, if you’ve ever read the bunch of comments I’ve translated for creative Syria you would come with a conclusion that your shot at mockery is exactly what Syrians feel almost collectively.

You believe in collective opinion no?

July 3rd, 2008, 9:14 am


Akbar Palace said:

Why said:

…if it happens, will make Lebanon without any card to play and will have to accept the palestinians refugees as Lebanese citizens…

It’s about time.

July 3rd, 2008, 11:40 am


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh states:

The Syrian-Israeli peace talks are not about the Hariri investigation. They are about George Bush’s silly arrogance. He has made the Middle East a more dangerous place. His policies have eroded Israel’s military edge and defense strategy.

Professor Josh,

This almost isn’t debatable. In Iraq, Saddam and his WMDs are gone. Not one Scud has been fired, no countries have been invaded and the internal killing is actually much LESS than when Saddam was in power. Libya has opened her WMD programs and it has been neutralized. Our beloved Syria is out of Lebanon and democracy in Lebanon is moving forward now that Hezbollah is no longer interested in freeing the Palestinians.

And Iran is getting boxed into a tiny little corner. Hamas is fenced in and busy squandering their people with their advances in model rocketry.

I’d say the Middle East is a LESS dangerous place. And the export of Islamic terrorism around the world is at record LOWS.

I suggest a refresher course on Middle East current events Professor Josh.

Bush was right.

July 3rd, 2008, 11:54 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I, as a Lebanese, would be happy to accept our Palestinian refugees as Lebanese citizens, those of them who want to remain in Lebanon, their home for decades.

I know that Aoun likes to whip up the partisan sentiments of his supporters against the Palestinians. This is the dirtiest politics possible.

It is very interesting (and kind of repulsive) to read the stuff written about the Pals on the Aounist blogs. They have essentially displaced their right-wing bigotry for the Lebanese Shi`a on to the Palestinian Sunnis, who are fair targets.

July 3rd, 2008, 11:55 am


why-discuss said:


After years of treating the Palestinians like sub-humans, after the active palestinian violent interference and trigger of the bloody lebanese civil war, after Nahr El Bared, you are probably the only lebanese who would accept to have 800,000 palestinians participate in the already messy lebanese and religious landscape.
Let the Lebanese start to deal with these refugees with decency and firmness like Syria did.
You are also insulting the Palestinians who want their life and their identity back, but you are certainly rendering a valuable service to Israel whose nightmare is to have to absorb these refugees, you will probably get the Star of David Award for such a brilliant idea and grand gesture of submission.

July 3rd, 2008, 1:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes QN you are a traitor because you suggested something that may help Israel even a little. Shame on you.

Why and his ilk just constantly prove my point that the Arabs are only interested in Palestinians as weapons against Israel and not as human beings. Really, the 750 Palestinians caught on the Iraq-Syria border should proclaim that they want to become suicide bombers and then their problem will be quickly solved. You will see how much support they get.

July 3rd, 2008, 1:55 pm


Alex said:


Those 750 Palestinians on the Iraqi Syrian border are an opportunity for Israel to do something symbolic.

Allow the Palestinian refugees back into their own country … Palestine.

That would be one of those rare moments when Arabs are reminded to respect something in Israel.

Maybe Mr. Olmert can think of that CBM if his peace talks with Syria get more serious… Syrians don’t need CBMs towards Syria specifically.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:18 pm


Nour said:


I agree with you about the Aounists’ position toward the Palestinians, and I also find it very despicable. However, I believe all sides are equally erroneous and self-serving in their thinking. I think some Sunni parties support Palestinian naturalization for sectarian reasons, just as Christian and Shiite parties oppose Palestinian naturalization for sectarian reasons. The bottom line is that they all approach the issue from the wrong perspective. Rather than think of this as a national issue, where me must stand by our people from Palestine and support their cause, we instead view the issue as a means of exploitation to further particular interests.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Israel does not expect Arabs to respect it. How could Arabs do that, since they do not respect themselves enough to grant themsleves basic freedoms? What is the respect of people that are afraid to speak their minds (and as you attest do not read books) worth? Nothing.

I don’t know the exact number but very likely that over 95% of the “Palestinians” stuck on the border were born in Iraq and are Iraqis. That after 60 years Arabs cannot bring themselves to grant citizenship to their “brothers” (many third generation in Iraq) is not my problem. It is the responsibility of the “brothers” to take care of them, not my responsibility especially as they consider themselves my enemies.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And Nour just strengthens my point that most Arabs view the Palestinians as a tool to advance interests and not as human beings.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:44 pm


Alex said:


I did not expect you to take responsibility for those victims of the Iraq war which probably could not have happened and could not have been sustained beyond the 2004 re-election of the same wonderful neocon administration had it not been for your friends … “Israel’s friends” in the United states who promoted ad sustained the war, and protected -to the best of their AIPAC abilities- this failed administration from criticism.

And I do not expect you to try to do anything to fit as a normal member of the Middle East … There is no need to make people in the region like you … you are well fortified inside that wall and it is much more fun to make them fear you than to make them like you.

As Ugarit said yesterday … you are right AIG. I was hallucinating.

July 3rd, 2008, 2:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Since the “normal” member of the middle east is a country ruled by an oppressive dictator or monarch or on the verge of civil war why would any Israeli want to be a “normal” member of the middle east???

When the Arab countries become normal like Israel, I would be very happy to fit in. But I will not hold my breath. Your attitude is proof that it will take decades if at all.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:03 pm


why-discuss said:


Why and his ilk just constantly prove my point that the Arabs are only interested in Palestinians as weapons against Israel and not as human beings

You are not the one to give Arabs a lesson of humanity on how to treat palestinians. The record number of palestinians killed by Isrealis in the lands occupied with tanks and bombs speak for themselves.
YOU created the refugee problem, it is YOUR responsibility and YOURS ONLY to solve it. Don’t try to play with words just to pass on the problem to the arabs!

When the Arab countries become normal like Israel..
Normal! you call a country who ignores international security resolutions since its creation, who oppressed millions of palestinians a NORMAL country! It is high time you consult.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why would I want to give you a lesson? You never learn anyway.
And if you think it is ok to let your Palestinian “brothers” suffer just to show Israel, be my guest. It only proves my point. If it is more important for you to win some imaginary argument about who is responsible instead of helping out your “brothers” in need, there is really not much I can do about it except point out again that you are treating them like objects instead of human beings.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:13 pm


why-discuss said:


Imaginary! are you on anti-depressors?

July 3rd, 2008, 3:19 pm


ugarit said:

I think AIG needs a long term therapist.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:19 pm


Alex said:

Normal like Sweden or Canada, I wish, but Normal like Israel? … no thanks. Syria, with all its faults, is much more human.

As I said … you are happier and more secure being feared and hated by Arabs.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well you epitomize the problem in the middle east, you prefer the system in Syria to the system in Israel. What can I say. We have an unbridgeable chasm between us. Our values are just too different.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:30 pm


Alex said:

That’s right AIG … I value human life in general … Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, Palestinian … and Iraqi

And you value your sense of superiority and your higher GDP

July 3rd, 2008, 3:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Had you taken my advice and had started your own “Israelcomment” to influence your own leaders instead of us here, you may have avoided the follwing:

In a speech just concluded, Olmert announced that “talks with Syria moving to direct talks soon”.

You would have been so much more effective had you preached your don’t-deal-with-dictators-till-they-bring-democracies-to-their-people to your own guys rather than wasting your time here preaching the concept to pessimists like us. None other than your own Prime Minister seems to be ignoring your doctrine.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:36 pm


AIG said:

And that is why he will be voted out of power soon.

Yes, you are such a humanist. You support a terrorist supporting regime.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:38 pm


EHSANI2 said:

All the more reason to start you “Israelcomment”. Bring down Olmert and help elect Netanyahu. May be your AIPAC friends can help push for McCain here and Voila, your dream will come true.

I don’t know what you are waiting for.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:41 pm


wizart said:

Exhibit aims to shatter US stereotypes of Islam
By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Princess Wijdan Al Hashemi and her friend Aliki Moschis-Gauguet noticed that the only depictions they saw of Muslim women showed figures behind veils, oppressed by their cultures.

Moschis-Gauget said, “‘Do you see what’s going on the media?… Muslim women are being portrayed as women living behind long veils,'” said Al Hashemi, founder and director of the Royal Society of Fine Arts of Jordan. “She couldn’t stand the way Muslim and Arab women were being portrayed.”

Al Hashemi and Moschis-Gauguet, president of the Pan-Mediterranean Women Artists Network, turned to the world they knew best to find an answer: the world of art.

To combat what they saw as misperceptions about the Muslim world and Arab nations, the two women teamed up to create a traveling exhibit featuring female artists from Islamic countries. The show “Breaking the Veils: Women Artists From the Islamic World” began its three-year United States tour at the Clinton Presidential Library, where it will be on view through Sept. 14.

The exhibit features works by 52 women from 21 Islamic countries, from Algeria to Yemen. It previously toured 15 European cities and Australia.

Despite the show’s title, not all the artists are Muslim. Al Hashemi said some works are by Buddhists, Christians and Hindus from the Arab world.

“When we say the Islamic world, we mean the cultural world … not the religious world,” Al Hashemi said.

She said she is hopeful the works will eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions many have about Islam and Arab countries. For example, she said, many visitors have been surprised by the works of art that depict humans or animals. Although some Muslims oppose any art that depicts humans, Al Hashemi said such works are common throughout Islamic countries.

“The presentation of human images in Islam is only prohibited in mosques and places of worship to keep the Muslims from going back to worshipping idols,” she said. Al Hashemi calls the opposition to depictions of human figures an “extreme interpretation” to the Quran’s strict opposition to idolatry.

Some of the pieces touch on the political issues facing Islamic countries. A series of paintings by Laila Shawa, a Palestinian artist living in London, touch on the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Shawa’s silkscreen on paper work, “Amended Resolutions 1,” superimposes a United Nations resolution that established a special committee to investigate Israeli practices in occupied territories with the image of rubble, possibly a destroyed home.

A piece by Fahda Bint Saud of Saudi Arabia depicts three women whose faces and entire bodies are concealed by a veil — one covering her eyes, another her ears and the third her mouth.

The exhibit also includes a work by Al Hashemi, who wrote Arabic calligraphy in several colors on layers of handmade paper.

“It says, `He is Love,'” she said as she toured the exhibit before its opening at the Clinton library.

Most of the artists featured won’t be on hand for its U.S. tour. After Little Rock, the art will be displayed at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg beginning in October, said Susan Anderson, executive director of the ArtReach Foundation, which is presenting the paintings during its U.S. tour.

Nawal Abdullah, a painter living in Amman, Jordan, said in a telephone interview that she hoped the exhibition would bridge a gap between the cultures. By showing the art of the Islamic world, she said, the exhibit shows that there are more similarities than differences between the United States and Islamic countries.

“Art for me is my language,” said Nawal Abdullah. “It’s a means for a need to communicate the true feelings. I hope that people will understand me and they will all feel the same language.”

July 3rd, 2008, 3:45 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Normal! you call a country who ignores international security resolutions since its creation, who oppressed millions of palestinians a NORMAL country! It is high time you consult.


Israeli-Arabs prefer living in Israel than Palestine. And orders of magnitude more palestinians and Arabs have perished due to their own government thugs and leaders than Israel could ever hope for.

It is time to reflect on the self-destructive policies of “resistance” and and look at ways for solving the Arab-Israel dispute. Blaming Israel for everything has become a stale excuse. It seems everyone knows this except for those who have graduated from the internet madrassas.

July 3rd, 2008, 3:49 pm


Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You epitomize the problem in the middle east

You support a terrorist supporting regime.

zzzzzzzzzz ….

July 3rd, 2008, 3:59 pm


norman said:

This might happen in the Mideast.

Please Fasten Your Seatbelts
Ghassan Charbel Al-Hayat – 03/07/08//

The world wakes up to stunning news; Israeli planes bombed Iranian nuclear facilities. Tehran cannot swallow such an aggressive blow; it has no other choice but implementing the flood of threats it had been making. Iranian missiles fall on Israel; the Revolutionary Guard declares closing the Strait of Hormuz; Iranian missiles target American military bases in the Gulf region; and Washington makes the decision to resort to force. A multi-party war breaks out.

That will be the day of tough decisions. Lebanese Hezbollah’s leadership cannot just stand and watch; the resistance’s arsenal is Iranian; and the revolution in Tehran has been the sponsor of the party since its birth, supporting and strengthening it all the way. What is the point of surrounding Israel with missiles if these are not used under circumstances such as these? Missiles are launched. International forces in south Lebanon gather and prepare to withdraw. The events have already left Resolution 1701 behind, and Lebanon has slipped into war.

Khalid Meshal and Ramadan Shalah cannot wait to see the outcomes of the war. Iran has been very generous in supporting them. In fact, it was probably the main artery that spared Ismail Haniyya’s republic from full suffocation. If Iran lost, they lose too. The missiles fall on Sderut, and Gaza slips into war.

A western diplomat seeks an immediate appointment and meets the Syrian foreign minister. He delivers a double warning; the first from Israel, and the second from the US. Syrian missiles can inflict heavy losses on Israel, but Syria is not a political organization. It is a state with known addresses, airports, bridges, and headquarters. Syria will face a very tough choice. Iran’s loss at war will be a loss to its allies too. Joining Iran at its war surpasses Syria’s capability.

The Iraqi organizations that grew in Iran’s crib cannot rest under the umbrella of victory. Their ties to Tehran are too deep. The Iraqi street will boil. Most likely, the American military posts will be targeted, probably with a few suicide attacks. The American responses will be excessively harsh and once again, Iraq will drown in a sea of blood, especially if Iranian volunteers crossed the borders to fight the American troops in Saddam Hussein’s land.
Jordan which has grown accustomed to living in the middle of fire will suffer its worst experience this time. The Jordanian street, fond of fires, will be on fire. The youth will be taken by enthusiasm and may even go as far as putting the American embassy on fire. Security forces will block their way and victims may consequently fall. New fears may mix with older fears and coming days will be harsh by all standards. Egypt too is qualified to suffer the difficulties of this crisis. Its economic and political troubles will instigate the street.

Iran is no small or marginal state. It is a major state by regional standards. Its arsenal cannot be understated and a few adventurers hold some of its most sensitive leadership positions. According to experts, the only way to prevent Iran from inflaming different parts of the region is for the American war machine to target it with a few severe blows; attacking hundreds of vital targets with massive fires that far exceed those that had targeted Baghdad with the onset of the American invasion. This means destroying command centers and missile bases and shredding both the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guard.

The Gulf States will not be spared the storm. The war will raise several serious issues that include security, stability, the flow of oil and its crazy prices and the difficulty of compensating the shortage resulting from Iran’s absence.

The war will be a disaster for the region. A ball of fire will have its day in the region as a new wave of terrorism starts in and outside the region. Th outcomes will be catastrophic for Ahmedinejad’s nation, pushing decades backwards. The states of the region will pay a very high price. The global economy will suffer as the earthquake doubles its troubles.

Many are certain that this war will not happen. They say that as its packs to leave, the Bush administration is not capable of launching a third war and convincing the public opinion of its necessity, especially after all the lies it propagated before invading Iraq. They say that the choice of war is too costly for Israel and that the decision to wage this war will be extremely difficult. They point at objection from Russia and China, and hesitation from Europe; but what if Israel truly believed that its existence is threatened, that the months before the American elections constitute the golden opportunity to prevent the birth of the Iranian bomb and to involve the US in a war that the Hebrew State cannot risk waging alone?

The coming few months will be very difficult for the Middle East plane. Clouds, adventurers, fears, arsenals, air bumps, storms and limited visibility. During months like this, passengers are advised to fasten their seatbelts.

©2003 Media Communications Group مجموعة الاتصالات الإعلامية

July 3rd, 2008, 4:10 pm


norman said:

S. army chief: Israeli strike on Iran would destabilize Mideast

By News Agencies

Tags: Iran, Israel, U.S.

An Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a high-risk
move that could destabilize the Middle East, the top U.S. military officer said Wednesday.

At a Defense Department news conference, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to say what Israeli leaders told him during meetings last week about any intentions to strike Iran.

But asked whether he was concerned Israel would strike before the end of the year, he said: “This is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable.”

The U.S. military is severely strained already by wars on two fronts – the nearly seven-year-old campaign in Afghanistan and more than five years in Iraq.

“Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us,” Mullen said.

The Bush administration and other world leaders allege Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons and Iran says its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity.

“I believe they’re still on a path to get nuclear weapons and I think that’s something that needs to be deterred,” Mullen said, adding that it should be done through diplomatic, financial and economic actions by the U.S. and other nations.

But, he added, “I think that just about every move in that part of the world is a high-risk move.”

In a news conference earlier in the day, President George W. Bush also was asked about increasing speculation that Israel will launch a military strike, saying that all options are on the table but that military action would not be his first choice.

“I have made it very clear to all parties that the first option ought to be solve this problem diplomatically,” Bush said. “And the best way to solve it diplomatically is for the United States to work with other nations to send a focused message – and that is, you will be isolated, and you will have economic hardship, if you continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki described media speculation about a possible future military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel as “psychological warfare” and said neither Israel
nor the United States was in a position to launch a war.

Related articles:

State Dept. denies report Israel likely to attack Iran this year

Report: Iran willing to suspend nuclear program for at least six weeks

Israel’s saber-rattling against Iran could backfire

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July 3rd, 2008, 4:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You cannot say: I care about everybody and then treat your brothers like crap. That is just bluster and insincere talk.

The FIRST thing a humaist does is fix his home. When your home is fixed, and Syrians have basic human rights, I will start taking you seriously. Otherwise, why should I trust you? How can you be sincere about your humanism if you do not apply it at home?

You do not think that democracy and human rights are appropriate for Syria in dealing with its citizens. Maybe in 14 years. Fine, I accept that. What I do not accept as true is that you want a solution for the middle east based on humanistic principles. If that were true, you would first and foremost seek a humanistic solution INSIDE Syria with your OWN people. But you aren’t. So your whole humanistic facade is just a sham. Actions speak louder than words.

July 3rd, 2008, 4:52 pm


Shai said:


Indeed action does speak louder than words. Are you a humanist, AIG?

You said: “The FIRST thing a humanist does is fix his home…” Have you fixed your home first? Perhaps the Arab world should also not take Israel seriously, until democracy and human rights are also applied in territories occupied and controlled by Israel?

Every word you said can be applied to Israel, just switch “your” with “my”. You should be more careful giving moral lessons to Syrians, when we as Israelis aren’t exactly prime example for humanists, are we?

July 3rd, 2008, 5:48 pm


Alex said:

The FIRST thing that a humanist does is fix his home?

I have been trying to tell you ever since you blessed us with your democracy-loving presence here at SC that my home is a bit larger than your home.

July 3rd, 2008, 5:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am neither a humanist nor a universalist and I am very wary of people who claim that they are because in the end they are plain liars. I care more about Israel than I care about any other country. I care about the welfare of Israelis more than I care about the welfare of any other people. I care more about my family than I care about other people. This just makes me a normal human being, but thank goodness I am not a humanist or universalist whose whole life is just one big lie.

If your home was the earth, you would be dealing with the Earth’s major problems and not focusing on Syria. Stop lying to yourself. You focus on Syria, because you care more about Syria than you care about Tibet or any other country. That is only natural and I am not faulting you for it. But don’t try selling me the BS that you care equally about the whole world. Your home is Syria and you are not doing much to fix it.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:05 pm


Zenobia said:

Surprise Surprise!!!

What a REFRESHINGLY NEW dialogue going on here! Something we haven’t heard before… and riveting conversation!

Having fun everybody??? Especially the video of the man sleeping. That was the best part.


July 3rd, 2008, 6:18 pm


Karim said:

Nour, you told me about the clean not syrian regime proxy SSNP and i didnt find anything on the web on the names you cited.Is there a web site so i can have an idea about them ?
And are you a lady or a man ?

July 3rd, 2008, 6:19 pm


offended said:

AIG, I think what Ehasni has suggested is a great idea: since Olmert is basically doing a big mistake by entering into negotiation with Syria; why don’t you GO and start up israelcomment to expose him and his catastrophic mistakes?

I promise I’ll be the first one to visit your blog and start bashing everyone into pieces.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:23 pm


Alex said:


If you are bored, I have some serious comedy for you

But you’ll need to be able to read Arabic : )

It is an interview between the editor of Al-Syassa and his idol (his god?) king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia … an interview published here on Abdel Halim Khaddam’s website … “Free Syria”

An interview that has nothing, absolutely nothing, t do with Syria!

Boy, … all the King Abdullah-loving freedom we are missing by not going Khaddam’s way.


You couldn’t have picked a worse example : ) .. I went to Ottawa to hear the Dalai Lama talk… I have three of his books (Audio books) on my iPhone

But of course Syria and Canada are more “home” to me than South Africa… and I admitted before that I care much more about Iraqis than I do about the poor Sudanese who are dying in similarly massive numbers.

I have no doubt that you would automatically consider someone who cares about others to be full of BS … it is too far from your selfish “values”

July 3rd, 2008, 6:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is not the caring about others that is BS, it is claiming to care about everyone in the same way which is BS. At least from that you are retreating. You claiming your home is earth was BS, but I am glad you understand that.

What I am telling you is simple common sense. Humanism starts at home. If you are not for humanism when it applies to Syrians then claiming to be humanistic about the rest of the world is insincere.
You want a humanistic solution to the middle east. Show me you really mean it by implementing a humanistic solution in Syria, your home. Is that too much to ask?

Talk is cheap, it is actions that count and prove sincerity.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are so many pro-Israel blogs already. Why don’t you go there and bash them to pieces? Have fun.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are late by a few decades. Stalinism is out of fashion. Oh, wait a moment, you would be a perfect fit for the Arab world.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You are also insulting the Palestinians who want their life and their identity back…

Whatever, as long as I don’t have to be complicit in the Palestinians’ ongoing collective punishment in Lebanon.

I hate to break it to you, but that is what your position amounts to.


I couldn’t agree more.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:51 pm


offended said:

No AIG, I need to see a forum where YOU expose the faults and flaws of Olmert, in English.

July 3rd, 2008, 6:55 pm


Alex said:

Yes sir .. I will need to “show you” before I can make those crazy claims… until then I am a “retreating” delusional BS’er

To prove my humanism I need to folow your advice … Democracy in Syria NOW!

Funny how the same advice came to us from non other than the editor of Al-Syassa who is equally obsessed with Syria like AIG.

Did anyone notice the questions posed by the editor of Al-Syassa to King Abdullah on Khaddam’s “Free-Syria”?

“your majesty … where do you mange to come up with all that endless wisdom? .. your majesty, how do you explain all the love that people have for you?”

AIG … if you love Israel more than anything else on earth … how come you are on Syria Comment talking about democracy in Syria 5 hours a day .. each day, including Saturdays and Sundays??!

July 3rd, 2008, 6:55 pm


Nour said:


Here’s the official website:

And I’m a male :-).

July 3rd, 2008, 6:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are not delusional, just insincere. You do not need to show me democracy now or human rights in Syria now to prove your humanism, but you need to show me real effort to bring such rights to your fellow Syrians. Meanwhile all I see from you are excuses why these will have to wait 14 years. Is that the way a humanist acts? Of course not.

I am here because it is fun! I love arguing with pompous “humanists” and leftists.

July 3rd, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:


As “An Israeli Businessman” .. you shouldn’t waste practically the whole day, everyday of the year, having fun on Syria comment.

July 3rd, 2008, 7:16 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Perhaps the Arab world should also not take Israel seriously, until democracy and human rights are also applied in territories occupied and controlled by Israel?

Shai –

I see you’ve been duped. Otherwise the Arab world would have taken Israel seriously from its creation in 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967.

July 3rd, 2008, 7:20 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Hopefully, you don’t argue with me based on my “leftist” credentials. It must be therefore be my “humanist” touch. Or wait, it’s gotta be my “pompous” attitude as we must all fit one of the three categories to justify your time here and help make it “fun” for you.

July 3rd, 2008, 7:20 pm


offended said:

AIG, I guess another reason for you being here (and loving it this much) is to answer our enquiries about hoax terror alerts in the Gulf issued by the Brits. Drawing on your former/current experience as a Katsa, that is.

July 3rd, 2008, 7:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The truth is that you are not as fun. I agree with most what you say, and what is the fun in that? And you are not pompous. Try to improve…

July 3rd, 2008, 7:41 pm


offended said:

AIG, here is some ‘fun’ news for you:

When asked to identify the leader they admire most (in an open-ended question), the number one answer overall,
(and especially in predominantly Sunni countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan) was Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader.


July 3rd, 2008, 7:53 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why am I not surprised that most people in the Arab world are not “humanist” but admire terrorists? Why am I not surprised that people like Rafiq Hariri that actually BUILT something are not even considered as heros in the Arab world? Why am I not surprised that Arabs constantly say that the care about the Palestinians but no one is willing to take in the ones stuck on the Iraqi-Syrian border?

I will tell why I am not surprised. Because most bloggers here prefer accusing Israel of crimes instead of cleaning up their own houses. It is so easy to lament the plight of the Palestinians and to ignore the dire need for reform at home.

July 3rd, 2008, 8:01 pm


Mazen said:


I don’t think we should ban AIG. After all, he has kids to feed and it’s a job that he does well. However, I think we can ignore him. Can we please ignore him totally?

I think most of SC readers know him and have read every point he’s ever made a hundred times over.

Show of hands now: Who votes to ignore AIG and not answer his posts?

I, for one.

July 3rd, 2008, 8:10 pm


Naji said:

Summer Events at the London Review Bookshop
Breaking Through: Syrian Writers in Conversation and Performance

Tuesday 8 July at 7.00 pm

Four Syrian poets, Hala Mohammed, Monzer Masri, Rasha Omran and Lukman Derky – who are also a film-maker, a painter, a journalist/scriptwriter and an arts festival director – will be in conversation on writing, publishing and the arts in Syria today – and in performance. The event will include readings of poems newly translated for the latest issue of Banipal, which includes a major feature on contemporary Syrian literature.

In association with Banipal. Banipal subscribers receive a discount on tickets for this event.

I think this is the first time I see SYRIAN writing or art identified as its own genre… and at a “prestigous mainstream” event in London…!! (You even have to pay!!) Cool, huh…?! Amazing, actually…!! Where is our Qunfuz…?!

P.S. I’ve been back in Syria for a couple of days now, but, even as the proud winner of a Mujaddarah SC medal while I was away, I’ve been too intimidated to jump back into the SC forum yet…!! Not only are there a lot of sharp folks around here, but they are also really prodigious producers… I have a loooot of catching up to do…!!

July 3rd, 2008, 8:17 pm


Shai said:


Arguing with “pompous “humanists” and leftists” is FUN for you? Gee, I wonder what your high-school dates thought of you… 😉 (i’m kidding, don’t take it personally)


“Otherwise the Arab world would have taken Israel seriously from its creation in 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967.”

I guess the history books you read didn’t mention the bit about forcing out some 800,000 Palestinians and erasing almost 400 towns and villages… Nah, that shouldn’t have caused the Arab world to take us seriously… it was our democracy and freedom that angered them. Vicious Arabs!

Don’t misunderstand me, or intentionally mislabel me. I’m neither “liberal” nor “great lover” of the Arabs. I refuse, however, to ignore my own criminal behavior. Doing so isn’t a demonstration of weakness, but rather of strength, openness, courage, and hopefully wisdom.

July 3rd, 2008, 8:30 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

AIG said:
As for the so called peace negotiations, they are basically for giving Syria an excuse not to attack Israel when the US and Israel attack Iran.

If Hizbullah retaliates, wouldn’t Israel strike at Syrian positions in return?

July 3rd, 2008, 8:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Probably not if the last war is any indication. It would be hard to justify unless Syria attacked Israel first.

July 3rd, 2008, 8:43 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Lak wayn hal ghaybeh?

Much more impressive than your Mujaddara medal is your status of #3 highest frequency contributor, after AIG and Alex. Walla bravo!


Actually, I think that Mazen brings up a good point. Those who aren’t interested in engaging AIG… don’t engage him.

Those who feel like engaging him, engage him. All this talk of banning is unhealthy. We can’t ban people for repeating the same arguments over and over. Everyone repeats the same arguments. We practically know each other’s arguments so well by now that we could parody each other.

(I was going to produce an example of such a parody, but thought better of it.)

Either he IS an AIPAC operative whose goal is to monopolize discussions on this blog, in which case he is succeeding brilliantly, or he really is an Israeli businessman who is just having fun, in which case it seems that everyone else is secretly also having fun arguing with him.

July 3rd, 2008, 9:14 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Though AIG does not seem to have fun debating me, it seems that fun and affection can run in one direction only.

July 3rd, 2008, 10:10 pm


Naji said:

Yes, I even impressed myself… especially considering that I was only on for about 3 months…!! But I think you should have selected some metric for quality (to recognize some cool contributors not awarded this time), and some other metric for quantity: number of words, for example…!! I remember that, at the time I was having my little fit about our Shaister, I watched him often respond to 3-5 commentators at the same time and with no less than 2000 well-crafted, well-argued words each… and faster than I could read them…!!! The man is truly amazing… And he would do this from about 6:00 am to about 1:00 am non-stop…!! If you have an SC gold medal, it automatically should go to him…!! If he is not one of those professional bloggers, then he should think about becoming one. Also the remarkable transformations he underwent in language, attitude, argument, approach, etc. in such a critically short time (weeks!) is truly phenomenal…!! Proud of him…

I also totally agree with you about AIG… I always felt it was, in the words of our naughty Ms Levantine, just a circle jerk… and so I tried not to interfere…;) I think it was after my first or second engagement with AIG that I decided it would be simply a masturbatory indulgence to continue… and, having enough indulgences on my conscience already at that point, I decided to refrain… and to be diligent about it… and it worked… at least as far as reducing AIG to just a scroll-down nuisance…! Everybody could do the same, if they wished, and AIG would just go away…!! But then who else would fill the pages on slow-news days…?! I think, to most participants around here, fooling around with AIG is just a more sophisticated game of Solitaire when they are bored or have some work they don’t want to do…!? 🙂

July 3rd, 2008, 10:23 pm


Nidal said:

Good point, QN. I agree with you to simply ignore AIG.

July 3rd, 2008, 10:24 pm


why-discuss said:


Whatever, as long as I don’t have to be complicit in the Palestinians’ ongoing collective punishment in Lebanon.

You and your 14 march friends are not only complice but also perpetrators. The pitiful state of the Palestinians in Lebanon has been the same during the glorious years of Hariri and his acolytes and while Solidere was booming, the camps were falling apart and brewed terrorists. It is too easy to put the blame on Aoun who never had the power to do anything about it. It is irresponsible now to say “Let’s keep them in Lebanon” so you can spend summer in Eilat with your Saudi friends.
That is your position, as far as I can tell.

July 3rd, 2008, 10:31 pm


Naji said:

Are you still flagrantly flaunting your M14 Saudi ways…?! 😉

July 3rd, 2008, 10:51 pm


Alex said:

I vote to stop discussing AIG : )

I’m going to dinner.

Naji .. what slow news days??

July 3rd, 2008, 10:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

It is irresponsible now to say “Let’s keep them in Lebanon” so you can spend summer in Eilat with your Saudi friends.


What oh what are you going to do with yourself if there is ever peace? In other words, once everyone around you is a traitor, collaborator, perpetrator, blah blah blah … It will be difficult, I know, I feel for you.

The situation of the Palestinians during the Hariri years remained the same for a variety of factors, all of them sectarian. Do you think the Shi`a and the Christians would have smiled and applauded while Hariri nationalized them? What a laugh! I’m not pinning the whole thing on Aoun. I think Hizbullah and AMAL are plenty to blame… in addition to the other right-wing Christian groups.

My position is this: they should be given the right to choose what they want. How’s that? Is that too “irresponsible”? They should be allowed to choose whether they want to become Lebanese citizens. Those who choose not to should still be given access to all government services.

Now, if they are given this choice and half decide to become Lebanese… that’s 200,000 (i.e. 5% of Lebanon’s population), nearly all Sunnis. Do you think the Shi`a are going to sit on their hands? What if they don’t? What is your position?

July 3rd, 2008, 10:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


LOL… actually, you know ya Alex I think we need to introduce a new category tag for the posts.

In addition to Israel, US, Lebanon, Refugees, Hariri, Foreign Relations, Hizbullah, Announcement, etc.

… we need an “AIG” tag.


July 3rd, 2008, 10:55 pm


offended said:

I understand the fact that you are intellectually sodomized by that Arab masses admire Hassan Nasserallah, and not dictators, like Mubarak, who are supported by your neo-con friends. This is all very well understood. But next time you are about to say that Arabs, all of them, are all about cheap talk think back to this poll and remember that Arabs admire the man who ACTED.


And until then, and unless you show evidence of your criticism of your own government in an English blog, kindly don’t pass your pearls of judgment to Syrian on this board, because you are nothing but a big hypocrite.


July 3rd, 2008, 11:01 pm


Alex said:


We are really stupid … he has been using this blog to place free advertising for his Israeli insurance firm

He really is an Israeli Businessman as he claims!!

: )

July 3rd, 2008, 11:03 pm


SimoHurtta said:

I am here because it is fun! I love arguing with pompous “humanists” and leftists.

Let us try to find a new hobby and source of fun for AIG. By not allowing him to have “fun” with us maybe we might force that astonishing human typewriter to read the first serious book in his life.

Let’s be human not for our own sake (though this democracy rubbish is a little annoying for me after it has been repeated 12003 times), but for AIG’s own sake and future. It is time for AIG to educate himself. He could instead of writing all nights funny comments and sleeping during days (if he is really in Israel), go for example to a Klu Klux clan summer camp to get new fresh ideas and have some target shooting practice. After returning from that refreshing experience AIG could possibly save his business, which must be in ruins after all these months this former military man -AIG- has been teaching democracy for this rather reluctant audience.

Let’s save AIG and ban him.

AIG family in Israel video in YouTube – now we know how AIG looks. 🙂

July 3rd, 2008, 11:14 pm


Naji said:

After SC, I can never see an AIG billboard or magazine ad anywhere(and there is enough of them around Europe!) without getting a little smile on my face and funny thought across my head… So, I guess I should sort of thank our aig…!!? 🙂

July 3rd, 2008, 11:19 pm


Naji said:

That You Tube video was awsome… you’re the best… 😀

July 3rd, 2008, 11:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Really, that is priceless. 🙂

Actually, the company motto fits AIG pretty well, too:

“The Strength to Be There”

July 3rd, 2008, 11:38 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

If you ban AIG, I’m not sure what you would all talk about, though it would certainly lighten my reading load here by quite a bit.

As for Palestinian refugees I think both AIG and his detractors are correct. It seems to me almost everyone has done the Palestinians wrong. To read the cynical banter back and forth here playing the blame game with no one taking any responsibility is quite disheartening, actually, though people QN give me hope for the future of your region.

July 3rd, 2008, 11:52 pm


offended said:

Looking at the video, it looks like lady AIG is so good looking she keeps monsieur AIG hooked to his PC all day long; bashing on SC to vent out his frustration.

Why am I not surprised?

July 4th, 2008, 12:20 am


EHSANI2 said:

I thing AIG is the best. He has been better able to unite us Syrians like no other has done before.

July 4th, 2008, 12:50 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Aoun Snubs Saniora’s Latest Offer of Cabinet Seats

Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun on Thursday reportedly rejected an offer of cabinet seats from Prime Minister-designate Fouad Saniora.

The pro-opposition Al Akhbar daily, which carried the report, said Aoun rejected Saniora’s offer that would have allowed the Free Patriotic Movement leader to make his way to the energy and public works ministries instead of telecommunications…

blah blah blah blah blah…

What a joke, what a farce, what a tragicomedy!

Lebanon is in a strange no-man’s land, a limbo state somewhere between democracy and feudalism.

We have a parliament, a president, more lawyers than you could shake a stick at… but still the country is run by the whims of a few very large egos.

I would hope that rational people — on any side of the political divide — would agree that this cannot be the way to do business.

July 4th, 2008, 1:35 am


why-discuss said:


Do you think the Shi`a are going to sit on their hands? What if they don’t? What is your position?

You should reply to this since you are the one proposing this absurd decision of asking the palestinians where they want to live. If they say they want to go back home (as I expect), do you have another brilliant idea? Or you will leave them for two or 3 more generations the guests of Lebanon?

July 4th, 2008, 1:38 am


Qifa Nabki said:



They are not “guests”! Most of them have been in Lebanon for over 40 years. There are tens of thousands of Palestinian children and grandchildren who were born in Lebanon and have never been to any other country.

The ones who want Lebanese citizenship should be given it. The ones who do not should be given all rights of citizens besides the right to vote.

Do you really think that leaving them in their current miserable status will actually bring about a solution any faster? I still don’t understand what you are proposing.

If the Shi`a (or the Christians or the Druze or whoever) don’t like it, then it is up to them to explain why or to provide an alternate solution.

July 4th, 2008, 1:50 am


ugarit said:

Dear Small Palace:

I regret to inform you that Mr. AIG has been rushed to “The Uber-Democratic Abu-Guantanamo Mental Disorders NeoCon-Clinic” (The Fallujah Branch-Zionist Wing). Don’t worry. He’s quite comfortable where he is.

Under very deep and very democratic hypnosis it was discovered that Mr. AIG has copious amounts of incoherent and odoriferous views about something that he calls A-R-A-B.

It has also come to our attention that you exhibit similar traits and we’re very concerned with your condition. At your earliest convenience, please call +1666ZIONIST to arrange for a date to admit your self to the above mentioned clinic.

Dr. Hamasarafat Assad Nasrallah, PhD: Mental Disorders of Zionists, Exorcism of Zionists

July 4th, 2008, 2:45 am


why-discuss said:


Do you really think that leaving them in their current miserable status will actually bring about a solution any faster? I still don’t understand what you are proposing.

With your creative simplistic logic, Afghan refugees in Iran for more than 40 years or pakistan should be offered to become iranian or pakistani, the Iraqi refugees in Syria should be offered to become Syrians, why not?

What I propose is obvious to the Palestinians and to most sane people: Tough negotiations with Israel for their return to their land and/or for an international cooperation to relocate them with financial incentive and compensation paid by Israel, in countries that will offer to receive them and where they choose to go.
In the meantime they should be granted enough civil rights to live decently under the lebanese state control until a solution is found for them.
What you propose is the concession Israel and the US have been dreaming of. A free gift from QN! This is an insult to the Resistance both palestinian and arab and to the lebanese ( but obviously not to you).
Thank God, no one will even consider your genius solution and the Isrealis will join you dreaming about it..

July 4th, 2008, 3:21 am


Naji said:


That was great… really funny… AIG is finally bringing out the lighter side of the SC contributors…!! I like it… 😀

July 4th, 2008, 10:01 am


SimoHurtta said:

If you ban AIG, I’m not sure what you would all talk about, though it would certainly lighten my reading load here by quite a bit.

Actually the discussion had a much better quality before AIG became hyperactive. JustOneAmerican do you in earnest claim that you did read all those AIG’s comments?

As for Palestinian refugees I think both AIG and his detractors are correct. It seems to me almost everyone has done the Palestinians wrong. To read the cynical banter back and forth here playing the blame game with no one taking any responsibility is quite disheartening, actually, though people QN give me hope for the future of your region.

Naturally the Palestinians on the Iraq border are a political weapon. There are 180 countries (or something like that) in the world who could take these Palestinian refugees. Why is this problem then not solved? Naturally because the world sees that it is Israel’s responsibility as the occupier to take these refugees.

It shows a rather strange moral of the Chosen People to demand Arab countries to take all Palestinian refugees outside Palestine as citizens, using the excuse that those people have lived in the Arab countries so long. Well most Israeli Jew are have lived in other countries longer than they have lived in Israel. Most Israeli Jews have a couple of passports in their back pockets or handbags. Also the often used excuse that Arabs have so much land and Jews so little is rather “funny”. The millions of Russian and Ukrainian Jews had much more non desert land area (and water) in the countries where they came than Arab countries have.

Of course Israel would like that anybody else would take care of the Palestinian refugee problem, especially so that it would not cost Israel a cent. If Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would take the present Palestinians as citizens, it would be rather certain that Israel would kick out the rest of the Palestinians (as so many Israelis openly demand) when the next “opportunity” arrives.

It would be a rather stupid political move for Palestinians now to demand or approve citizenship in other Arab countries. It would take much pressure off from Israel. It seems that only Israelis, pro-Bush Lebanese and Americans are demanding in the name of “human rights” for Palestinians the right to became citizens of other Arab countries. I do not see many Palestinians demanding such development. Why JustOneAmerican?

July 4th, 2008, 10:12 am


Qifa Nabki said:


This is an insult to the Resistance both palestinian and arab and to the lebanese ( but obviously not to you).

Yes yes yes, we have heard all about these “insults” before. God forbid anyone try to treat the refugees like human beings and ease their suffering. It wouldn’t be good for the image of the Resistance!


The reason you don’t “see many Palestinians demanding such development” is because they have no political voice in Lebanon. They are the downtrodden, held in their concrete ghettos to prevent integration in Lebanese society, in the name of “Resistance”. It’s a cynical card played by only the most sectarian.

Where is Arab nationalism when you need it?

July 4th, 2008, 11:30 am


Shai said:


I think there should be a universal law, which is voted on and accepted by nations at the U.N., which states that after x amount of years of residency in any country (7 or 10 years let’s say), a resident has an option of becoming a citizen of that nation. And, that he/she need not relinquish either their actual former citizenship, or their right to one, in becoming a citizen of this nation.

That should not absolve in any way shape or form Israel of its responsibility towards the Palestinian refugees, but at least they will know that they have the rights of citizens, in whatever nation they reside.

July 4th, 2008, 12:32 pm


norman said:

Eventually the Palestinians will stay where they are with compensations and priority for immigration to the US Canada and Australia , In Syria the Palestinians have all the rights that the Syrians have except elections , Lebanon would have been much better and still could be if it gives the Palestinians in Lebanon the all the rights except the politecal rights so nobody could say that they are being used to change the politecal landscape, at anyway Lebanon needs new election law where religion and set aside are not factors .


Most people are happy in the US without being citizen , residency is OK and equal rights under the law.

July 4th, 2008, 1:09 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Norman, I agree. You speak words of wisdom and reality. I will add a critically important condition: the Palestinians, along with “all the rights” will have also all the obligations of respecting and submitting to the laws of the country, give up the arms and military organizations they have in the name of “liberation” and pledge not to engage in subversive actions.

History shows that it is this tendency to disrupt the host countries that has been a factor in how Palestinians were treated. Not an excuse to the host countries, but certainly a responsibility of the Palestinian leaders who generated such actions (rebellion in Jordan in 1970, utter exploitation of Lebanon leading to the civil war).

July 4th, 2008, 2:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with you.

The problem is, it is much easier said than done to grant people all the rights of citizenship minus the right to vote. Will they pay taxes? Serve in the army? Will they have social security, health care, etc?

Also, there is the question of whether or not the right of return is forfeited by relinquishing refugee status. Sure, they may not have citizenship but would they still be refugees if they are allowed to leave the camps as they wish, work anywhere, etc.? If we are going to think about the problem in a strictly legalistic way (as Why-Discuss seems to be proposing) I imagine that Israel would make the argument that they would not be.

So this then prompts the question: what is the difference between citizenship and granting full rights minus the right to participate in elections, if both conditions forfeit the right of return?

July 4th, 2008, 2:56 pm


wizart said:

Patriotic Reflections Wanted

Today America celebrates its birthday.

What does the Fourth of July mean to you? What do you think makes this day special? What are your annual traditions? How do you celebrate? Your thoughts about the meaning of Defending Freedom, etc.

Happy Birthday!

July 4th, 2008, 3:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When it comes to actions, that is when the true humanists stand out. QN is a true and sincere humanist. He truly cares about the Palestinians as people and not as a means to an end. He is for democracy even if it comes at the price of “honor”. Unfortunately, he is a minority on this blog and in the Arab world.

Most Arabs view helping Palestinians as doing Israel a favor instead of doing the right thing for Palestinians. Isn’t it clear from the article above that if you would have asked the Palestinians stuck on the border if they would want to live in Latakkia (or any other normal city) they would say yes?

Is there ONE Arab country where the citizens have organized and demanding the government to take in the Palestinians? No, there is not ONE country where that is happening. But give the Palestinians suicide vests, and everybody would be behind them. What I also find bewildering is that no Palestinian organization in the West have taken on this challenge also.

All the above is none of my business except for one aspect. It only shows how insincere those that suggest the one state solution are. They do not care for the Palestinians but after a one state solution they will make sure the rights of the Jews as a minority will be kept. Sure.

July 4th, 2008, 3:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Let’s go back to the reason we began this discussion.

You stated that Lebanon must “re-establish serious links with Syria so Syria’s direct negotiations with Israel allow some provisions for the palestinians in Lebanon.”

In my opinion, this is a simplistic argument. Lebanon should re-establish links with Syria because it is important that neighboring countries have good relations (especially two neighboring countries that are essentially one people.)

Lebanon will not be “left out in the cold”. Syria cannot make a deal with Israel without Hizbullah. And Hizbullah will not make a deal that does not include a final settlement on the issue of the refugees in Lebanon. The last thing they want is “800,000” (I doubt it is that many) more Sunnis in Lebanon.

So if Hizbullah is the Ace of Spades, and Hamas is the King of Spades, and Iran is the Queen, let’s not forget that there are still other cards that will need to be played to assemble a royal flush.

One of those cards will be the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and one will be the remaining issues (landmine maps, borders, water, etc.)

This is what Hizbullah will insist upon.

And if Bashar can pull it off, Allah ywaf2o.

PS: Shai, I think that the initiative you propose is excellent… but, alas, unlikely.

July 4th, 2008, 3:49 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The reason you don’t “see many Palestinians demanding such development” is because they have no political voice in Lebanon. They are the downtrodden, held in their concrete ghettos to prevent integration in Lebanese society, in the name of “Resistance”. It’s a cynical card played by only the most sectarian.

Where is Arab nationalism when you need it?

Come-on QN they are not so downtrodden. Of course the Palestinians know that they have a legal claim to Palestine so long they are Palestinians and have a strong identity to that home region. If they would not have this lets say strong identity their demands would not be heard. In this fight Palestinians probably value more their own country, than a “new passport”. Also the Arab countries know this fact.

For example would Dalai Lama want his Tibetan refugees to became Indians. I doubt it, because then the propaganda and independence fight would loose much of the momentum.

If we look at the responsibility to solve the refugee problem, then the main responsibility is Israel’s and the secondary responsibility is those powers who helped to create Israel. Why not do for example so that for every Jew who left the European countries and USA, these countries let a Palestinian take his/hers place. 🙂

Of course I would like the refugees all over the world to have almost equal rights than the citizens have. QN have you ever asked Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria and else where what they want.

July 4th, 2008, 4:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I disagree that they’re not so downtrodden.

But I agree with you that they should have (almost?) equal rights. The problem is that once they do have these rights, they will cease to maintain as strong a connection to Palestine. If they are free to live wherever they wish in the country, work wherever they can get a job, and integrate at whatever pace they wish… how long will that so-called “strong identity” persist, especially with the youth who can’t tell the difference between themselves and their Lebanese neighbors.

So my argument is that they should be given the choice.

Israel is responsible to solve it, along with the help of Europe and U.S. But that doesn’t mean that we should exploit the vulnerabilities of the victims in the meantime.

As for whether I have asked any Palestinians what they want, I would love to! I’d love to take a poll. But I’d probably be interrogated for several hours for trying, and then thrown in prison for a few days to teach me a lesson. Would you, Simo, be against such a poll?

July 4th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

More U.S. openness towards Syria on the way, pending tacit agreements with Hizbullah vis-a-vis Israeli border?

Looks like the State Department may finally be in the driver’s seat.

Confusion Over Shebaa: France Rules Out Breakthrough as U.S. Expects Quick Settlement

There has been some confusion over the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms dispute with France ruling out a breakthrough in the conflict while the U.S. expecting a speedy settlement of the issue.
The daily As Safir on Friday quoted French sources as ruling out any “diplomatic” breakthrough in the dispute.

The sources confirmed that no agreement has been reached between the international community, Israel or Syria on a suggestion to place the area under U.N. guardianship.

“This issue is not a priority … and we should not exaggerate the importance of it,” one French source said, adding that a settlement to the Shebaa Farms dispute “is not the key to peace and would not achieve a great breakthrough.”

The source said that if Lebanon and Syria were serious about settling the Farms issue “then all they should do is submit a map to the U.N.” that acknowledges Shebaa is Lebanese.

Meanwhile, the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that Washington hopes for a “speedy settlement” of the issue.

He said Washington will soon issue an official statement outlining its stance on the Shebaa Farms issue.

The official also said Washington was hopeful for a “quick settlement of Shebaa Farms in conformity with U.N. Resolution 1701.”

Al Hayat said the positive mood in Washington prompted swift diplomatic activity, particularly from the State Department to hasten a settlement of the Farms dispute.

It quoted credible sources as saying the U.S. administration was preparing to issue a statement on Shebaa Farms that would reflect Washington’s seriousness and link the issues of demarcation of the border with Israel’s withdrawal from the area.

Al Hayat said Washington sees the demarcation of the border and Syria’s cooperation on Shebaa as “a key condition towards a possible openness to Damascus.”

Among the ideas discussed, according to the sources, were guarantees of an Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba hills in return for Hizbullah refraining form launching cross border attacks.

Washington was aware that at this point Hizbullah’s disarmament was a regional issue which requires a “regional compromise” far beyond the capacities of the Lebanese government, Al Hayat said.

Beirut, 04 Jul 08, 08:13

July 4th, 2008, 5:15 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


Thanks for your response:

It seems that only Israelis, pro-Bush Lebanese and Americans are demanding in the name of “human rights” for Palestinians the right to became citizens of other Arab countries. I do not see many Palestinians demanding such development. Why JustOneAmerican?

I never said that Palestinians should become citizens of the countries in which they reside, but it’s interesting that you would make that assumption. Still, American attitudes toward citizenship are quite different from most – anyone born in America is a citizen. So I think many Americans think it’s strange and even cruel that people who were born, raised and live in a country and whose parents were born, raised and live in that country, and even their grandparents, are treated as less than even second-class citizens and are relegated to living in camps.

Personally, I don’t see this as an either/or choice and I see no reason why refugees, particularly 2nd and 3rd generation, cannot be allowed to live freely and be constructive, if temporary, members of the societies in which they find themselves. They don’t have to be granted citizenship, and the cost on the state in terms of services they use might be met in a number of ways from international support to charitable giving. Regardless, I don’t think the conditions that Palestinians are subjected to in Lebanon and other places are morally defensible in any way regardless of what Israel has done. It also seems pretty stupid as it simply creates conditions that enable groups like Fatah al Islam to form and flourish. If you believe it is justified and that some middle-ground between citizenship and refugee camps is not justified, then I, for one, would like to hear it.

You talk about Israel having the “primary responsibility.” That may be true. But if a battered wife appears on my doorstep I’m not going to make her and three generations of her decedents live in my back yard simply because I don’t hold the primary, or, indeed, any responsibility for her landing on my doorstep in the first place.

July 4th, 2008, 5:46 pm


Shai said:

QN, HP, Norman,

I’m sorry guys, but I disagree with you about one aspect with regards to the Palestinians refugees, should most remain in their host nations. It cannot be that they will have “full rights”, but not citizenship, or the right to vote. No person on the face of this planet should have that right removed. True, there are many people living under “resident” status, in Europe, the U.S, and other places, but normally they do so either for a relatively short period of time (number of years, if it’s legal), or they remain there out of choice (work or study visas, etc.) Neither are the case with the Palestinian refugees. They’re there not out of choice, and they’ve been there between 40-60 years. If some agreement forged between their leadership in Ramallah (or Gaza, or E. Jerusalem) and Israel does not enable them to return, except to the West Bank and/or Gaza, then they may have no choice but to stay where they are. And in such a case, I think they should be granted full citizenship, so that they can become, finally, citizens of at least one nation on earth, with all its responsibilities but also privileges, including voting.

Otherwise, their “special papers” may say “resident” instead of “refugee”, but for all practical purposes, they’ll still be looked upon as non-Lebanese, non-Syrians, etc. Again, I’m not attempting to absolve my nation of its responsibilities towards those same refugees – we will still need to compensate them for everything – but those who will not be returning to Palestine, or Israel, deserve to become citizens nonetheless. They’ve paid their dues all these years, and it’s time they receive full rights. Don’t you agree?

July 4th, 2008, 5:57 pm


norman said:


They should be armed and should not be victims to armed gangs in the country where they live , and with free movement they will not concentrated that they will be targeted ,
I want to add that there should not be religious or ethnic note of anybody in their ID Card , Like the US.


( norman
I agree with you.

((The problem is, it is much easier said than done to grant people all the rights of citizenship minus the right to vote. Will they pay taxes? Serve in the army? Will they have social security, health care, etc?))

Yes they will be able to gain employment and pay taxes , go to the Volunteer army of to army as everybody else if there is a draft ,
They will have social security like the US after 10 years of work and contribution , They will have health care if provided by their employers for others .

(( Also, there is the question of whether or not the right of return is forfeited by relinquishing refugee status. Sure, they may not have citizenship but would they still be refugees if they are allowed to leave the camps as they wish, work anywhere, etc.? If we are going to think about the problem in a strictly legalistic way (as Why-Discuss seems to be proposing) I imagine that Israel would make the argument that they would not be.))

The Jews are claiming the right of return after 2000 years and having good Job and good income will make it easier to claim your land back , people will listen to them more They can use their wealth to advance that , The Jews did not live in refugee camps so they can claim the right of return.

((So this then prompts the question: what is the difference between citizenship and granting full rights minus the right to participate in elections, if both conditions forfeit the right of return))

They do not forfeit the right of return and not having full citizen especially in Lebanon will avoid the claim of changing the formula that the outdated election laws are built on .

Giving opportunities to the Palestinians will enrich the countries that they are in.

This human capital should not be waisted.

July 4th, 2008, 6:03 pm


norman said:


They will become citizens after a full peace agreement of the countries that they are in or they want to immigrate to as long as the countries that they are going to be citizens in are compensated and helped economically and with technology to improve economically and be part of the global economy , a Marshal plan for these countries .

July 4th, 2008, 6:10 pm


Shai said:


Yes, exactly, that’s what I mean. But they should be able to vote, if they become citizens of Lebanon or Syria.

By the way, Happy 4th of July to everyone! Although celebrated in the U.S., it should be a day for all free citizens of the world to celebrate.

July 4th, 2008, 6:16 pm


norman said:


Yes citizens and vote after final settlement .

Yes we are celebrating here in the US

Happy fourth to you too .

So harry up and let us have a deal

July 4th, 2008, 6:26 pm


Shai said:


In’shalla. But I’m not sure what will happen once Olmert is forced out of office. People are forgetting that the investigation against him (6th one now) is very much going on, and rumors have it that the case against him is very strong. If there’s even the slightest indication that an indictment is likely, he’ll have no choice but to step down. This may well happen in the next few months. Plus, the Kadima primaries are set for September in any case, and it is doubtful that he’ll run.

The real question will then be – can another Kadima member take over the party, and continue to lead the government (Livni, Dichter, Mofaz, etc.), or will Barak force new elections by not playing along, and pulling Labor out of the coalition. If the first, then there’s a good chance that the talks will lead to an agreement sometime next year. If the latter, then we’re very likely to see Netanyahu win the next election, and probably suspend talks (certainly with Olmert’s representatives) at least long enough to “learn the topic”. Which basically means long enough for his voters to forget his strong anti-Syria rhetoric leading up to the election.

Netanyahu will then do a complete 180, restart talks with his own people, and eventually reach an agreement. I doubt he’ll let this opportunity, with all the potential it has for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, to slip through his fingers once more. He, unlike his AIG-like supporters, does not require democracy first in Syria… 🙂

July 4th, 2008, 6:52 pm


norman said:


It looks to me that whenever an Israeli leader try to make peace with Israel neighbors an investigation starts and ends with reshuffle of the decks, do yo think that Israel uses it’s democracy to buy time and avoid a long lasting peace?.

July 4th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Shai said:


No, I don’t think so. The investigations against Olmert started long ago, when he was Mayor of Jerusalem, government minister, and member of the Likud party. At that time, Olmert had basically zero influence over the peace process. What you could suspect, perhaps, is that this latest investigation which clearly had a major breakthrough with the Talansky exposure and cooperation, may have been encouraged or even premeditated by Talansky’s close friends… at the Likud party, and its various “representatives”. Viewing Olmert as another ex-Likudnick turned-“liberal” (another was Sharon, lest we forget), quite a few back in the Likud would certainly be happy to see him forced out of office. Who knows, maybe some of them were able to make Talansky come-back-to-life…

You know, our politicians are so power-hungry nowadays, that so many of them, through the entire political spectrum, are corrupt. Long gone are the days when a PM resigns because his wife was found to have a foreign-currency account with $1000 in the U.S., at a time when the law did not permit it… Rabin did the honorable thing, back then in 1977, and resigned. Today, they can steal, cheat, rob, rape, you name it, and still stick around to “lead” our nation. Sad thing is, that most Israelis are just too exhausted to even tackle this issue. We desperately need peace in this region, so that Israel too could begin focusing on internal matters, far more than external ones…

July 4th, 2008, 7:29 pm


norman said:

Thank you.

July 4th, 2008, 7:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Norman & Shai

Model citizens you are 🙂

July 4th, 2008, 8:12 pm


Off The Wall said:


In principle, I agree with you on the universality of “the Right of Citizenship”. But abandoning the right of return on one side will not help. If refugees are to relinquish their R.O.T. by virtue of becoming citizens of whatever nation they are in, Israel must also re-visit the foundation of its immigration laws and accept the country first as home to its current citizens both Jewish and Gentiles. Granted, refugees from other countries, where antisemitism, or for that matter, racism, is rampant and can endanger the lives of these countries’ Jewish citizens is a humanitarian issue that can be handled by non-racist immigration laws including asylum laws.

One of the main psychological issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict has to do with the Right of Return. One must not forget that constant infusion, with automatic citizenship of Jewish immigrants from all over the world is a key source of strength for the settlers movement in Israel. As the state attempts to accommodate them, it is forced to continue the immoral occupation, to hold on to and grab more lands from Palestinians and other Arabs, and to maintain discriminatory policies against its own Arab citizens. With no limits on the Jewish-only immigration, citizens and governments of neighboring countries will always view Israel as a potentially expansionist state, and from past practices, it would be hard to dissuade them from thinking this way. As you see, if the demography is a legitimate concern of Israel’s Jewish citizens, it can also be an important concern of its neighbors, especially as Israel claims the power to disseminate the entire region, and has constantly demonstrated capacity to harm and inflict pain on its neighbors. The fact that there are 150+ million Arabs is of no concern to a farmer is southern Lebanon who can easily lose his farm to future generation of Israeli settlers.

Israel being a parliamentary democracy does not help much. First of all, the US is a democracy, but that has not prevented our governments from launching quite few illegal and immoral wars. Furthermore, any observer of the electoral politics in Israel realizes that right wing parties do have choking hold on government policies. Given that, who is to prevent a right-wing dominated Israeli government from re-occupying the west bank, expanding into southern Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, or even Jordan and the northern parts of the Arab peninsula, would it be the toothless Israeli left?, peace now? or enlightened academics. After all, the central premise of western powers’ middle eastern policies has been the complete elimination of any possible deterrence, and I emphasize, deterrence, to Israel’s power. We all know that the west can, with ease, guarantee the safety of Israel, but they are going for far more, they are ensuring its hegemony and working very hard to eliminate any counterbalancing power with the blessing of pro-likud lobbies in their own countries. It is rather unfortunate that the Israeli left continues to jump on the band wagon of war and hegemony as seen in recent years regarding Iran. This leaves Arab intellectuals and moderates with no true partners, at least at strategic level.

From your posts, you seem to be a reasonable and rational person with genuine interest and longing for peace and justice. With you, i would dare to say that Israel must change more dramatically than its citizens are willing to before a true and long lasting peace can be achieved. We are changing, much more than the anti-Arab propaganda gives us credit for. Are Israelis willing to? I am afraid to say that this does not seem to be the case.

I want to be an optimist, but as some claim that the autocratic nature of Arab regimes eliminate the chance for true peace, i would argue that racism in Israel and the unwillingness of the majority of its citizens to accept the requirements for true peace does the same

July 4th, 2008, 9:51 pm


why-discuss said:


Syria cannot make a deal with Israel without Hizbullah.

In Syria, I know that Palestinians have the obligation to serve in the army: The syrian army for university graduated students and the palestinian army ( yes there is one in Syria) for the others.
It would be interesting to know in details what are the rights of the palestinians in Syria, is anyone knows?

In my opinion, Syria can very well make a deal with Israel for the return of the Golan and the paiement by Israel of compensation to Palestinians in Syria, but it is not sure they will have any clause to deal with the palestinians in Lebanon. Why would Bashar give a gift to Lebanon while the “majority” has been calling for his head in the last 3 years..
Syria does not need to get involved more than that. They may rein the weapons transfer to Hezbollah who would gradually become a political force rather than military. Hezbollah has achieved its primary goal of freeing all lebanese prisonners, including their own fighters. The liberation of Chebaa is being discussed in the UN. As Hezbollah has never committed to fight for the return of the palestinians, this is a lebanese goverment issue.
Even if Hezbollah has fulfilled its commitment with the prisoners exchange, bringing Israel to the negotiating table on the issue of the Palestinians refugees is a much larger task and it is beyond its power. This would call for an active involvement of the international community, as it will require the UN to pressure Israel and seek money and countries for the refugees.
The danger is that when Syria has a deal with Israel and Iran’s nuclear issue is hopefully solved, the international community will loose interest in the palestinians refugees in Lebanon and would concentrate in priority to deal with Gaza and the occupied land.

The chance for starting to solve this issue is NOW. If Lebanon courts Syria before the deal is finalized, Syria may include some kind of clause to open a negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on a peace plan tackling the issue of Lebanon’s refugees.
Otherwise the palestinians in Lebanon will have to wait until peace negotiation is initiated with Lebanon to get some kind of solution.
Here again Syria’s help would be invaluable, but would the lebanese accept to ask Bashar for help?
In any case Palestinians in Lebanon will not be offered citizenship in Lebanon. After the painful experiences of the civil war, Nahr el bared etc..I doubt any Lebanese would be willing to accept that. Unfortunately the palestinians from the refugees camps, after decades of neglect, do not represent an asset to the country economy, religious and social developement.

July 4th, 2008, 10:04 pm


why-discuss said:


You are comparing Lebanon to the US.
Receiving 800,000 uneducated refugees on a population of 4 millions is like having the US accepting around 40 millions refugees. The US has accepted less than 2,000 Iraqis!

July 4th, 2008, 10:20 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You make some good points.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

In my opinion, the Lebanese-Syrian rapprochement is already underway. Hariri will be meeting soon with Nasrallah, and Jumblatt is as meek as a little lamb. There is a reason that these people have been around for a long time… they know how to read the writing on the wall.

July 4th, 2008, 11:21 pm


Off The Wall said:

Could you please ellaborate are you talking about 800,000 “un-educated” Iraqi or Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. If you are talking about Palestinians, I must say that the chauvinist attitude of some lebanese politicians is what maintained them un-educated after nearly 50 years of dispossession. As for Iraqis, i have no information, whatsoever to argue for or against.

July 4th, 2008, 11:35 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


The UN estimates there are a bit over 400k Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon of which about 225k are actually residing in Lebanon or about 10% of the population. Of those, a much smaller number were actually born outside of Lebanon. By contrast the number of foreign born persons in the US has been between 10 and 15 percent every year for more than 100 years. All those “uneducated” refugees are one of the secrets to America’s success. Maybe the Lebanese should give it a try.

And really, if 2nd and 3rd generation Palestinians are still uneducated, you’re just reinforcing my point. I’m simply suggesting that preserving the right of return does not necessitate keeping Palestinians in a perpetual second-class status – in fact one might argue the right of return is more achievable if Palestinians are given the opportunity to lead productive lives, become educated, ect.

July 5th, 2008, 1:08 am


norman said:

Why- Discuss,QN

No matter what Lebanon or any other Arab country did to Syria , You can always count on Syria to look after the Arabs anywhere , I think Syria is looking to broker a deal between Israel on one side and Syria , Lebanon, the Palestinians and Iran on the other side ,all at the same time , That will give Syria it’s legitimate place as the leader and the heart and the brain of the Arab nation.

July 5th, 2008, 1:20 am


why-discuss said:

Just on American

You are right about the ‘uneducation issue’. Don’t misundestand me, I blame vigorously previous Lebanese government short-sight in treating the palestinians like subhumans, denying them the right to work that encouraged many of them to turn to violence and resentments towards their host. The fact today is that most of the Palestinians residing in Lebanon are uneducated and do not have much respect or trust for the Government of Lebanon. Unfortunately because of the attitude of the Palestinians during the destructive Lebanese civil war, the reprehensible reactions of the ones who worked and resided in Kuwait toward Kuwaitis after the invasion by Saddam and their coup attempt in Jordan, all this makes most Arabs fairly suspicious about the motivation and the loyalty of the Palestinians to any other host country.
If one consider giving them citizenship or full lebanese nationality, besides the potential upheaval of the religious balance in Lebanon, no one can deny that there are negative psychological and economical factors that have to be taken into accounts and that could create another layer of internal conflicts in Lebanon..
Syria has had a much more positive attitude toward the palestinians refugee, giving them most rights enjoyed by the Syrians, while keeping them under strict control. I believe, but no one can be sure, the Palestinians in Syria have some respect for the Syrian government. This is why I think that their integration in Syria may be smoother. Yet this is to be seen…
By the way,
“The number of Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon is currently 409,714, or an estimated 10 per cent of the population of Lebanon, a small country which is now quite densely populated.”
According to the UN:
And this does not taken into account the ones who are not registered with UNRWA. Imagine the US having 30 millions uneducated refugees in camps that they are suppose to give citizenship to. US cannot do that for their estimated 8 millions illegal residents, how do you expect Lebanon to deal with that issue?
This issue is extremely important and has been avoided by Israel and the international community, who by the creation of Israel have created the problem. If the Jews were compensated with billions by European countries for their ordeal and were given a land to live in safety, why would the Palestinians settle for less, after having lived not few years like the jews but 60 years without a home.

July 5th, 2008, 2:42 am


norman said:

The new government is today to be announced and Aoun got the deputy prime ministry and four cabinet posts , I think that is a Winn for Aoun.

July 5th, 2008, 3:50 am


SimoHurtta said:

QN Palestinians in Lebanon are not so “downtrodden” that they can’t say their opinion about the citizen issue. I QN doubt that most Lebanese are not willing to take all these Palestinian refugees as fellow citizens if the Palestine problem is not first solved. And that can be solved only if Israel is ready for it.

We must also separate between the issue of the work possibilities etc living conditions of the refugees and the full citizenship. QN Lebanon could have long time ago made the Palestinians’ in Lebanon living and working conditions better and more equal compared to citizens. But it has not done it. Why QN? As a Lebanese you must know the answer.

The Palestinians like exile Tibetans living next door their homeland do not want the citizenship of those countries where they now locate, because it would take away their strongest “political weapon” – clear national identity and justified demands. I can imagine what Israeli politicians would say if Palestinians would get the citizenship. “What are you Lebanese and Syrians speaking about the right of return.” Already they are saying indirectly that using the excuse that most of the refugees have never lived in Palestine. Well knowing the history of Israel the moral of that way of thinking is mildly said “interesting”.

We can also compare the Palestinian refugee situation with the situation of the “Israeli” Syrians living in Golan. They do not want Israeli citizenship even many of them have never lived in Syria (Syria after 1968). Why QN?

By the way, Happy 4th of July to everyone! Although celebrated in the U.S., it should be a day for all free citizens of the world to celebrate.

Even I like Gina Lollobrigida have been born on July the 4th (honestly) I do not agree with you Shai. Why on earth should the world’s free citizens celebrate the US independence day? US was the last western country to have slavery, one of the latest to give women voting rights. It used apartheid until the 60’s. USA has pushed hundreds of millions of the world citizens in to circumstances where they were not free in Latin America, Asia and even in Europe. Not to mention the numerous wars USA has started.

Should Shai the world’s religious extrimists have a party on May 14 / 5th of Iyar?

July 5th, 2008, 4:39 am


wizart said:


For sure America’s still young and has a lot to do to mature. Good old Paris is also still dealing with racial issues although I think your larger point means America could have led the way better.

Related article..

….Since then America has grown up, both culturally and politically, expanding its civil-rights legislation to closer reflect its founding principles of equality, while at the same time shedding some of the cultural conservatism that in the late 1950s led to the prosecution of the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the publication of Ginsberg’s drug- and sex-laden “Howl and Other Poems.” As it’s done so, inevitably the egalitarian appeal of Paris has declined with it. It’s not just the Americans that the French miss, as much for economic as sentimental reasons to be sure, but the idea that France, and Paris in particular, was somehow markedly distinct and different from the United States and the rest of the world. If there’s a nostalgia for the American presence that was once here, it’s a nostalgia directly tied to the idea that Paris was once more open, more politically and culturally liberal and therefore easier to live and create in than most other cities. As Odile pointed out to me, following the birth of the euro and the subsequent rise in the cost of living, “France became more like the others,” the others being the rest of the Western world, and America in particular, where commerce and not culture is the dominant social factor.

A recent walk along Boulevard St. Germain with a French book editor and friend quickly became an exercise in nostalgia as he tried to recall the names of some of the smaller family-owned stores that had dominated the street before the explosion of French and foreign chain stores took over; “None of this was here,” being the phrase he used most often to describe what’s happened since. Perhaps even more emblematic is the decidedly pro-American business model of the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy (aka “Sarko L’Americain” as he’s sometimes mocked in the French media), whose attempts to adjust the retirement age of civil servants and squeeze more efficiency out of the government have been met with massive nationwide strikes that seem aimed more at holding on to the remnants of a vanishing culture than challenging the logic of the policy.

Today it’s impossible for me to imagine the sense of refuge and sanctuary that other Americans once found here. Paris has its own complicated racial issues to settle; as the violent riots in the suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis recently demonstrated, there is little fraternité or égalité when it comes to France’s large and growing African and North African immigrant communities. As a writer of African origin, I’m aware that it’s precisely my American identity that protects me not only from the casual discrimination that other Africans experience here, but from the harassment of the police, who are prone to stopping Paris’s African immigrants, particularly those living in the northern sections of the city. The food market near my former apartment in the 18th arrondissement, which in almost every detail, from the languages spoken to the fabrics of the women’s dresses and the haggling at the vegetable stalls, was a perfect replica of some of the markets I’ve known in Africa, could sometimes feel like a market under siege with a constant and heavily armed large police presence marking the entrance off the Boulevard Barbès. The policeman’s common cry for papiers, papiers — documents proving legal residence — is one that I know I can all but ignore thanks to my American accent first, and my passport second.

James Baldwin noted shortly after he first arrived in France, “I didn’t go to Paris. I left New York.” Inherent in that statement is the idea that it wasn’t the destination but the departure that mattered most. I can’t help but think that to some degree that sentiment still holds true, although for drastically different reasons than before. Paris has lost some of what once made it so special and unique, enough so that it’s hard to imagine another outburst of American cultural creativity taking place in Paris again anytime soon. Why Paris when there’s the rest of the world, much of which is cheaper and more unknown? It’s a question I hear constantly, less so from Americans than Parisians who seem baffled by my decision to be here.

At the same time, perhaps that is the real, private joy and freedom of being in Paris these days — the freedom not from politics or culture, but from an expatriate community in which to define yourself as part of or against. Shortly before I left America for Paris I had spoken with a friend about the possibility of moving to Buenos Aires. “Buenos Aires could become the Paris for our generation,” she noted, and I could see why she said that. I had heard rumors of other people that we knew moving there, or if not there then to other cities around the world that were supposed to be indicative of a certain cultural vibrancy and easy, carefree life.

I can’t say that there’s much of either to be found in Paris these days, which is why I suppose there’s a search for its newest incarnation, whether it’s in Buenos Aires or Berlin or another destination that is supposedly rumored to be the next great spot, the place where we all really should be. The pressure of being fashionable has lifted from the city, and if possible by extension to the writers who live in it, leaving us free to wander and sit in complete anonymity with only our own thoughts for comfort in a way that would have been impossible 20 or 40 years earlier.

Unlike many of the writers and Americans who came here before, my reasons for being here are purely selfish and self-absorbed, with nothing and no one to run from. I used to say that I came to Paris because it was so quiet, in large part because at the time I could hardly speak the language. While today that may no longer be as completely true, the city still strikes me as quiet. There’s no romantic ideal to be lived out here anymore — no cafés, readings or events that can’t be missed. What remain today are largely ghosts that are easy if not even comforting to live amongst. They had their Paris — garrulous and crowded with the politics and culture of America — and now finally, with no one else around, I can have mine.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.”

July 5th, 2008, 8:48 am


kamali said:

i wish and only wish to konw how josh got to know that Hariri T is not on the table in any talks. what is said in the media over the table is never like what is said under the table espcially with a state like syria. just wish to know!!

July 5th, 2008, 9:42 am


Shai said:


I didn’t mean for the world’s free citizens to celebrate AMERICA’s independence day, I meant to celebrate their own freedom in general. It was just the “concept” of the 4th of July. In the U.S., it is viewed as far more than celebrating Independence, but indeed freedom. I agree with you, I find no reason for non-Americans to celebrate any American day, and vice versa.

July 5th, 2008, 10:36 am


Shai said:

Off the Wall,

Thank you for the thoughtful response.

By receiving other citizenships, I actually don’t think the Palestinian refugees should relinquish their R.O.T. I suppose if in the end there will be some sort of agreement regarding compensation options, then certain Palestinians living abroad (perhaps most) will have to choose between the R.O.T. or probably some financial award of some sort. Our Gaza settlers received around $450,000 per family, so something similar might be extremely useful to Palestinians living in nations where the p.c. GNP is 1/15th or 1/20th of that of Israel’s. But this is just an idea – I haven’t really thought about it much, nor do I have the background to really come up with a figure. But in theory, certain families might choose to actually not give up on their R.O.T., yet still become citizens of Lebanon or Syria. They should be able to maintain this right for as long as they wish, just as Jews worldwide have had a R.O.T. to Israel all these years.

In general, I also agree with you that Israel at some point will have to “revisit” its own R.O.T. laws with regards to Jewish-only citizens of other nations. Obviously, this policy has existed (and still is) for the main purpose of building a strong, and more populated, nation. For the sake of comparison, and jumping back to the somewhat irritating discussions about the likelihood of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on Israel one day, there is clearly a huge difference between an Israel with 2 million citizens, or one with 7 million. But, I very much agree that there will have to be an end one day to this automatic-citizenship law, which clearly discriminates against others. If Israel is to be a nation, amongst all others, it must behave as others do. I think when Israelis live in peace with their neighbors for a few decades, they will stop feeling their innate paranoia, and will at last (for the first time in 2 millennia), feel safe at home. Racism and antisemitism will indeed have to be dealt with as a special case, as you mentioned.

I disagree with you about the connection between R.O.T. Jews over the years, the Settlers and the Occupation. The two are not related. Most immigrants were not “sent” to the Palestinian territories, though clearly many Settlers are indeed originally from other nations. Israel is a small nation, true, but there is still plenty of land to settle, which does not necessitate “lebensraum” into the Territories. The main reason Israeli governments over the years (all of them) settled and occupied these territories, has been, as they believed it, in Israel’s best strategic interests. It may be true, however, that many of the religious settlers in the West Bank are immigrants (mostly from the U.S.), and they may tend to be the more extreme ones. I don’t know why, but I find the “Israeli” settlers to be slightly more pragmatic than the religious Americans… But it’s a subjective feeling, nothing empirical. It may or may not be true in general. Plus, I haven’t exactly come into regular contact with Settlers. I’m nowhere near them, and they’re usually nowhere near me…

As for Southern Lebanon, I don’t think the Lebanese should worry about Israeli settlers occupying their land. Although the Israeli army did indeed occupy S. Lebanon for 18 years, not a single Israeli civilian was allowed to “move in”. The real exceptions are Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan. The first was already vacated, and the last two need to be handed back as well. As two Arab summits in Beirut and Riyadh have declared, if this takes place, and hence Israel will have withdrawn to the 1967 borders, and an accepted and just solution is found to Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over, and the “3 Yes’s” will come into being.

I completely understand your frustration with Israel’s democracy, and in this case its historic choke-hold on peace. True, the Right can easily take over and attempt to reoccupy Gaza, or to continue settling the W. Bank and the Golan, etc. But although I do believe that if we now had elections, the Likud will almost undoubtedly return to power, getting back its “fatter” parliamentary dimensions (it now has only 13 seats in Knesset), I don’t believe Netanyahu will allow the extremists run the show. Israelis are getting tired of watching their soldiers die in idiotic and cruel military adventures, or certainly war. So if the Right attempts to move away from peace, I imagine the Arab side (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, even Fatah, Hezbollah, Syria, etc.) will certainly go back to the Intifada-style resistance, and the level of violence will increase ever more. This will again have its effect a few years down the line, and once again the sides will be forced to negotiate an end.

You don’t know how much I agree with you about the foolishness of the ongoing attempts by Israel and the U.S. to offset the balance of power in the region. Both are attempting to force their terms of peace upon their counterparts, and I find that to be an utterly useless exercise, and quite frankly, idiotic. We simply don’t seem to understand that the BEST thing that can happen to us, and the most STABLE peace, will occur only between two powerful sides (even if we have to actually make the other side seem more powerful that it is). If Israel insists that Syria disconnect its alliances with Iran, HA, and Hamas, first Syria will never agree (and hence that will become a peace-stopper), and second, that would weaken Syria’s ability to deliver this peace (and turn it into an Egypt of 1978). It should be in our interests to maintain much of the current balance of power in the region, and to make peace with exactly those rivals who are our bitter enemies at the moment. The more “bitter” the enemy, the “sweeter” the peace. This is my belief.

Lastly, I’m afraid you’re also right about most Israelis not being ready yet for the dramatic changes you talked about. The next steps, therefore, will not yield the much sought-after long lasting peace. Hopefully, they will yield at least “superficial” peace long enough to begin changing Israelis and others around us. The levels of fear, suspicion and distrust prevalent amongst most Israelis towards Arabs are just too great to dissolve quickly. It’ll take quite a few years. But I also believe that people of this region are far more capable than many in the “West” give us credit for, we’re much more capable of adapting to new situations quickly, and we will therefore also be able to change more rapidly. Give us one or two decades of peace and quiet in the region, and suddenly Shai will not be the only Israeli on SC to bring up the idea of a UME (united middle east). Unlike the Europeans and the Americans, who adopt to change quite slowly (they are much more conservative, and less open-minded, I believe), we “Semites” (Arabs and Jews) can create an EC, and EU, and open borders US-style much more quickly. We don’t need to wait 200 years for that to happen. Perhaps we may only need 20. If I’m right, I’ll live to see that day. If not, my children will. I’m certain of it.

As for choosing between being optimistic or pessimistic, in general I suggest adopting the first, as the second renders us essentially useless, doesn’t it? 🙂 In’shalla, enough young men and women in our region will lead us into a better future, for the sake of our children and theirs.

July 5th, 2008, 11:24 am


Qifa Nabki said:


There is a difference between expressing an opinion and calling for citizenship in any kind of organized political fashion. The Palestinians cannot do the latter, and you are right that many of them may not want it anyway. But I insist on the fact that even if they did, there is no viable method of political organization in these camps that does not serve “the regional solution”, which was itself historically dictated by Syria.

A friend of mine (who comments sometimes on SC, actually) worked in the camps in Lebanon, and I asked him once about Palestinian attitudes towards the Lebanese. I assumed there would be a huge degree of resentment and bitterness. My friend – who is European, not Lebanese – shrugged and said, “Actually they’re not all that negative about the Lebanese. It’s the Syrians they can’t stand.” Why? Because it was the Syrian mukhabarat that ran the camps, kept everyone in their place, and were the general power brokers.

QN Lebanon could have long time ago made the Palestinians’ in Lebanon living and working conditions better and more equal compared to citizens. But it has not done it. Why QN? As a Lebanese you must know the answer.

Why? Because there is a lot of animosity towards the Palestinians in Lebanon, mostly among the Christians.

Ultimately my priority is that their conditions are dramatically improved. If granting them citizenship irrevocably alters their refugee status, then a different solution should be worked out.

July 5th, 2008, 12:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Off the Wall,
Let me be to the point and honest with you. Israel is the Jewish state and will remain so for ever. It is the state for the whole Jewish nation, even those Jews that live in other places. The Law of Return granting the immediate right of citizenship for any Jew will never be changed as long as Israel exists. Once you accept this, there is room for peace in the middle east. What Yusuf (aka Shai) is selling you is pure BS.

July 5th, 2008, 12:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Simo’s right… we should all celebrate itsenäisyyspäivä instead: December 6!

Is no one — not a single one of you westernized Syrians out there — going to offer a squeak of a defense of America? 🙂

July 5th, 2008, 12:39 pm


norman said:


Only in the US immigrants become Americans with the same rights and obligations and that is better than the EU ,where minorities are concentrated in areas.

American policies can improve but the American people are of the most decent and generous in the world.

That is what we celebrate in the US .

July 5th, 2008, 1:18 pm


why-discuss said:


The lebanese goverment gave a blind eye for decades to the dramatic economical and security situation of the shia lebanese in the south. A attitude that triggered the emergence of Hezbollah, so imagine how little attention they gave to the palestinians in refugee camps!
Palestinians as well as Shias integration in the lebanese political and religious balance of power represented a real danger, so typical of lebanese mentality, the problem was ignored, hoping it will disappear by magic. Instead, they got the destructive lebanese civil war with active palestinians participation, and the Hezbollah they dont know how to rein.
Would they learn that problems need to be dealt with, and not thrown under the bed to rot?

July 5th, 2008, 1:22 pm


ugarit said:

AIG: If all the Palestinians converted to Judaism will Israel recognize their right of return?

July 5th, 2008, 2:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I think you’re right. So what should the Lebanese do — about the Palestinians, and, about Hizbullah?

Even though I think you would have trouble getting elected in Lebanon by calling the Palestinians and Hizbullah “problems…left under the bed to rot”, I want you to tell me what you would do if you were elected President of the Republic.

Yalla ya fakhamet al-ra2iis, the floor is yours. 😉

July 5th, 2008, 4:13 pm


Akbar Palace said:

AIG: If all the Palestinians converted to Judaism will Israel recognize their right of return?


cc: AIG

To answer your question: Yes, because the Jewish state recognizes Israel as a Jewish homeland.

So this could be an option for those Palestinians who want to return to Israel.,7340,L-3243838,00.html

July 5th, 2008, 4:59 pm


Off The Wall said:

Thank you for the wonderful and excellent response. You have answered every one of my points thoughtfully, and with a great deal of intellectual integrity. I admire that and as a life-long learner, I must say that reading your response. I have learned a couple of things. I stand corrected on few issues and affirmed on few others. Wow, personally, it feels like I am on Charlie Rose or on Bill Moyer, where rational people understand the difference between argument and assertion.

Like you, I happen to believe that a strong, viable, and united middle east is in the strategic interest of all countries in the region including off course Israel. Furthermore, I do agree with you strongly on Israel’s need for peace, for I feel the same need first as a Syrian youth growing in Syria and hoping that one day we will replace the drums of war with songs of prosperity, and later as an American citizen, who sees his adopting country squandering precious lives and resources in countless wars. The notion of United Middle East is not only intriguing, but if realized, it will unleash talents and energy that unfortunately has been wasted over the past 60 years with needless and stupid wars. We both agree that Peace is not cheap, I happen to believe that its first payment is not land, or money. The first true payment for peace is pride. The second payment is suspension of mistrust and fear, and then come land, guarantees and so forth. In my previous post i used the term “One of the main psychological issues”, by that i meant that fears can be the strongest moving force for individuals as well as for societies. On that regard, i do whole heartedly understand the reason for AIG’s comment about Israel being a Jewish state and feel intellectually and emotionally repulsed by any counterargument that denigrates the memory of Holocaust victims. A dear friend and mentor of mine is a holocaust survivor, who wrote a book on his experience as a child in the concentration camp. All he asked me for was empathy, and believe me he got more, and I am the better for that. As i hope that citizens of Israel accept dramatic changes, I do hope that the citizens of neighboring countries make some true efforts in understanding what motivates their neighbors or for that matter cousins.

The middle east including Israel are young societies with the majority of population below 25 and in their formative years. As such the benefits of peace are greater now than ever, but the risks and the cost of failing are also very high. I hope that their leaders will not tie them to the legacies of failures and will be forward looking.

Please correct me if I am wrong, there are those in Israel, and perhaps also in Lebanon who want to be tied to the west, and believe themselves to be part of civilized Europe and not of the un-civilized middle east. Recent history teaches us differently. Take for example Australia, where in recent years, there seems to be an increasing recognition of their Asian connection and understanding that such connection should be strengthened for Australia to recognize its true potential.


I long for the day when Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and all the rest can feel that the entire world is their state.Yet, I am not bothered by the notion of Israel being a Jewish state, nor am i bothered by Lebanon being a state with a Christian character. But my acceptance is limited by being repulsed by racism, chauvinism, theocracy, and so-on. The ignorant religious police in KSA or Iran offend my sensibilities in the same manner settlers with guns intimidating Palestinians do.

July 5th, 2008, 5:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

OTW, very nice comment.

July 5th, 2008, 5:51 pm


ugarit said:

Akbar Palace: Thank you for your response. Can Israel go on a project of mass conversions of Palestinians so we can put this issue of the right of return of Palestinians to bed? I’m being sincere yet naive I know 😉

July 5th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Off The Wall said:


Is no one — not a single one of you westernized Syrians out there — going to offer a squeak of a defense of America? 🙂

Well, let me take the risk

First, as my friends from South and Central America say, let us distinguish between America, and the United States of America. I will speak of the latter for I have been here for nearly 22 years now.

Second, the current state of affairs in the U.S. politics is indefensible.

Now i can start, the 4’th of July is a very strange holiday. To some amongst us it means celebrating the might and superpower status of the US, to others it gets strangely mixed with the Christian Fundamentalist theology, with manifest destiny, and with the illusion of a god given mission. Yet, to many, especially immigrants, it is a celebration of arriving at the metaphorical shores, where we leave tribalism, internal strife, hopelessness, and embark on a journey of hope, belonging, and at the same time maintaining our heritage and connection to what we cherish in the places we left.

For me, if there is one thing to celebrate on the 4’th of July it would be that during my graduate school years, i studied under professors who came from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, many European Countries, China, Japan, Korea, India, and so on. When I started teaching, my students represented similar diversity. I celebrate the fact that I had worked for years with some colleagues without having to, or even wanting to know if they are Jewish, Christians, Muslims, Atheist, or else. I celebrate the fact that I was a leader of a large research team where no two members hailed from the same roots, but where all members did their best, had fun, respected one another and argued with civility and dignity. Needless to say, my experience with the US is skewed by the cosmopolitan character of the US higher education system, (call it the Ivory tower) but I had similar experiences with my neighbors, and i have been living in middle class neighborhoods for years now.

Lastly, i celebrate the chance to indulge in a juicy stake grilled by my expert-griller next door neighbor, smoke a nice, moderately priced cigar, have a double scotch (i do not do well with beer), and talk about trivia such as tiles, best lemon trees, the difference between hummus and baba-ghannouge, grass (the legal one), and you name it. We also argue about whether Obama is a sellout, bitch about traffic tickets and about the little dictators on our home-owners association council. In essence we, same as others do, celebrate living.

July 5th, 2008, 6:28 pm


ugarit said:

Palmyra, Obama and Pascal’s Bet

(For the record, Dr Shaaban does not think a war with Iran was likely.) She didn’t hesitate to answer me by saying she envisaged no change, if a candidate such as Barack Obama settles into the Oval Office next January.

The continuous policy of the United States is to divide and rule, she exclaimed, has been and will be for the foreseeable futuree, to fan schism and internecine bloodletting in the region, to set Arab against Arab, whether it be the communities of Lebanon or the Shia and Sunni in Iraq.

July 5th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for your great response. It is clear that we share a very similar outlook on what should and could be done in our region, and it fills my heart with hope and optimism to hear people like you articulate so well what so many of us often forget, and that is that so much of our conflict is emotional rather than rational. We fear each other, suspect one another, and distrust because all the emotional triggers have been pushed over the years, and we can no longer separate feeling from reason. They are intertwined in a seemingly gordian-knot, and few are capable of looking beyond the past and the present. Stagnation seems to be our innate choice of action (or inaction), simply because to change means having to deal with rationale and emotions that we are unaccustomed to experiencing (trust, respect, empathy, to name just a few).

Yet, as you say, much of our region now consists of young persons, many of whom are already much more “worldly” than we were in our youth. They have satellite tv’s, some have access to the internet, and to them, the world is far greater than it ever was for us. They cannot be “fooled” by past legacies. They cannot grow and develop through such narrow vision. And, therefore, they will soon (next decade or two) demand change. The future, after all, belongs to them more so than to us, and much of what separates us today will become a thing-of-the-past to our children. It is there, in the younger generation, that my hope lies with regards to forgiveness and reconciliation becoming possible. Just as I hope our Arab cousins (as you so nicely called us all) one day are able to understand what lead a few hundred thousand Jews to escape the cruel and murderous Europe in the 1940’s to the only place on earth they felt they could go, I also hope we as Israelis will learn to accept the price hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to pay as a result, and feel their pain as well.

Our two tragedies should not have been related, and neither should have ever occurred. Terrible things happened, and we must put an end to the suffering of any and all in the Middle East. No one should live in fear of Qassam rockets, no one should be imprisoned in his own territory, no one should be ruled by another, and no one should remain a refugee for 60 years. But it will take time, and we must find those few courageous leaders that will be capable of leading our people in the right direction. There are too many out there, and all around us, that are unfortunately better at spoiling our attempts to make peace, than at advancing them. I’m still hopeful, however, and especially when I encounter people like you!

July 5th, 2008, 6:54 pm


Naji said:

Wow… we have an amazing new contibutor in OffTheWall…! That’s the cool thing about SC, and what makes it addictive, …it frequently draws some really remarkable commentators…!! I knew that if I kept silent long enough in response to QN’s provocation, someone would come along and say what I wanted to say, but much better than I could ever have… and nobody could have said it better than OTW…! Thank you OTW…!!

BTW, this also makes it easy to leave SC for a while, comfortable in the thought that anything that needs to be said is getting very well said by somebody or another (whoever happens to be at their most lucid at the time!)…!

July 5th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

BTW, this also makes it easy to leave SC for a while, comfortable in the thought that anything that needs to be said is getting very well said by somebody or another (whoever happens to be at their most lucid at the time!)…!

Naji, what are you talking about?

We’ve been sitting here for months, repeating ad nauseum: “Where is Naji? How could he have left us? When will he come back? *boo hoo*”

AIG, in particular, was deeply saddened by your absence.

Don’t try to get off the hook so easily. 😉

July 5th, 2008, 7:03 pm


Naji said:

… 😀
(Thank god for the modern invention of emoticons… that’s often about the limit of my lucidity these days… and hence, thank god for that other modern invention… Facebook… 🙂 )

July 5th, 2008, 7:14 pm


norman said:


Alex gave you my Email some time ago , I did not hear from you.

July 5th, 2008, 8:24 pm


Off The Wall said:

Dear Shai
Thank you again. I would like to propose your eloquent paragraph stating that

“No one should live in fear of Qassam rockets, no one should be imprisoned in his own territory, no one should be ruled by another, and no one should remain a refugee for 60 years”

as a draft for SC declaration of principles for peace. I loved it and agree with it with no reservation. Additional arguments will then serve to explain the mechanisms of reaching that point.

I found joy and hope reading your comments. I too believe that the next generation will demand change. If we, i mean our generation, do the right thing, we can initiate the transformation of our two interconnected tragedies from sources of conflict into a shared human story of survival, growth, and hope for all. I do not think it is naive to do so, for once the emotional taboos and chains are broken, telling the story of the tragedy becomes therapeutic. Granted we need long therapy, and both of us hope that we have enough time for such therapy.

Thank you very much for the nice comment, 🙂

BTW, Q.N and I do share a lot in common, as we both illustrated during the discussion of Ehsani’s economic forum few weeks back.

We all here on SC owe the dept of gratitude to Josh for initiating this wonderful Bazar of ideas, we also owe gratitude to all moderators.

Is there a place where I can learn how to do emoticons. All i know is this one 🙂

July 5th, 2008, 8:32 pm


Shai said:


That’s the only emoticon one needs to know… 🙂

Thank you for the kind words. I agree with everything you said, we can, and we must influence our fate.

Good Night for now!

July 5th, 2008, 9:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Okay, now that we got the lovey dovey stuff out of the way, let’s deal with the difficult questions:
1) I know you don’t like it, but will you accept as part of a peace deal a Jewish state in the middle east? To most Jews and to me as well, Judaism is both a nation and a religion. I am in fact an atheist Jew. The novelty of Zionism is that it started a process in which Jews self determined themselves as a nation. Do you accept that the Jews are a nation? When Israel was founded, it was founded for all Jews, not only those that lived there at that time. To me and most Israelis the Law of Return is an essential part of who and what we are. That means that any Jew is always welcome to Israel and will receive immediate citizenship. Can you come to live with that?
2) In addition, let me be clear that I do not accept the right of return of even one Palestinian to the 67 borders. They are of course free to return to the Palestinian state once it is formed. A Jewish state, means a state with a Jewish majority. Asking for the right of return for Palestinians means denying the Jewish state and therefore is a none starter.
3) Israelis have proved beyond any doubt that they can live in peace and prosperity with Arabs. It is a fact that the average Arab Israeli (citizens of Israel) is much much better off on average than the average Syrian and certianly has much more rights than the average Syrian. Why do you think the Israeli public’s frame of mind is not suitable for living in peace?
4) You say Arabs are making steps forward more than is visible to the eye. What do you mean? The Arab “thought leaders”, Egypt and Syria have only become less democratic. There is not ONE viable liberal democratic party in those countries.
5) If the UME is the vision, how can that happen when Israel is 6 to 7 times richer than it neigbors and the gap is all the time growing, not because Israelis are any better than their neigbors but because they have a democracy that allows Israel to exploit better its human potential. A union can only be made between countries that are similar in their economies and government systems. So the UME will have to wait until the Arab states become democracies and develop much more. No? And by the way it is not the support of the West that makes Israel strong relative to the Arabs. It is just lack of democracy. The Syrians bought and received billions dollars worth of Soviet weapons but it did them little good. The Egyptians have F-15s and F-16s as well as the Saudis. But that is not enough to be strong.
6) Can Syria become a democracy, and if so what is the process and how long will it take?

July 6th, 2008, 4:12 am


why-discuss said:


What I would do as a president? Tricky question!
For the Palestinians, I would hammer at every occasion possible to the UN and the International community that it is their responsibility to come up with a solution that would not be at the expenses of Lebanon. The international community must live up to their responsibilities in a problem they have created and ignored for 60 years. The Lebanese should repeat this at every international opportunity and ask for a final position about the feasibility of their return. If the international community takes the position that these refugees cannot return to their homes, then it has to offer compensations and a choice for a substitute home country to the Palestinians. It is not because Lebanon accepted these refugees for humanitarian reasons that they are responsible of them, especially that Lebanon is not a signatory to either the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.Legally, the Palestinians in Lebanon are considered foreigners.
Finding a home for the palestinians is an international responsibility, not solely a Lebanese responsibility.
As for Hezbollah, in my opinion, they have achieved their short term goal, liberate the Lebanese prisonners. Their long term goal is highly dependent on the internal developments as well as the peace between Israel and Syria. I believe than once there is a coherent lebanese defense strategy and if Israel makes peace with Syria, their military wing will probably be integrated in a special forces in the Lebanese army. I believe that if the Lebanese governement takes care seriously of looking for a solution to the Palestinians issue and protect the inhabitants of the south, Hezbollah will not find the need to intervene and would turn more into social and political activities. That is my humble opinion.

July 6th, 2008, 4:46 am


ugarit said:


Why doesn’t Israel convert as may Palestinians to judaism as possible and get this right of return issue out of the way. I think that would solve it because all of the sudden these Palestinians will be permitted to return. Why not?

July 6th, 2008, 2:05 pm


Shai said:


I’ve always said that the Palestinians should have “surrendered” in 1967, said “Alright, you win, you defeated us, now this is your land, and we’re your citizens”. And then, after getting our blue identification cards, and the right to vote, Arafat could have been Israel’s Prime Minister already 2 decades ago… 🙂 No need for conversion, just for accepting one’s fate… (i’m joking of course).

July 6th, 2008, 2:55 pm


ugarit said:


There are Rabbis roaming the planet to find “natives” to convert to Judaism while there are Palestinians ripe for the converting, yet I’m not aware of any attempt to converting Palestinians. Why is that? Would it not solve many problems if Israel started the Ministry of Conversions?

July 6th, 2008, 3:04 pm


Shai said:

Ugarit, please don’t give AP or AIG any ideas!!! 😉

Speaking of religion, since Judaism is the first monotheistic religion in the world, I’ve often felt it was really too bad my religion wasn’t about conversion. If it had been, today we could have numbered perhaps a billion people, and not needed a Jewish state. But, I’m an atheist, so a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Shinto, all are the same to me (except one speaks Japanese).

July 6th, 2008, 3:07 pm


ugarit said:


I wish that idea (mass conversions) would hold to get this nightmare over with.

July 6th, 2008, 3:54 pm


Shai said:

Ugarit, have no fear. As long as the AIG’s of the world are around, democracy and freedom are on their way. And then, when you’ve democratically elected Al-Qaida to rule the Middle East, we’ll at last have peace. Or not…

July 6th, 2008, 3:57 pm


Naji said:

Hi Norman,
I am not sure I recieved it… I’ll go back and check my email and get back to you…

July 6th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Off The Wall said:

Your question:
“But will you accept as part of a peace deal a Jewish state in the middle east?”

My Answer:
Wasn’t that clear from my previous statements. Here is my answer, again: As long as the nation state continues to be the norm by which societies organize themselves, yes i do accept Israel as a Jewish state. I accept Lebanon as a state with definite Christian character, KSA as an Islamic state, why should Israel be any different. There are caveats, though, and among these caveats is that Israel can chose to be a state, or a modern state. If the latter is your choice, then any discriminatory practices against non-Jewish citizen including harassment at airports, housing, a language of national discord such as calling your own citizen terrorists merely because they are Arabs, attempts to squeeze them out of their own country, and favoring new immigrants to natives in jobs, education, or municipal funding is outright racism. In my dictionary, you can be a Jewish state if you wish, but you can not be a racist Jewish state. It is here where i draw the line, not because you are Jewish, but because I try to be intellectually honest.

Your question:
Do you accept that the Jews are a nation?

My Answer:
I am a humanist, and i believe we all are a single nation. However, I do recognize that Jewish people have shared heritage, culture, language, fears, hopes, history, and you name it, it is all there. If the Jewish people chose to call these as the foundation for a nation, then who am I to argue against that. After all, such arguments will only provide other definitions of nations as the counter argument, and I find that pointless. It is very much similar to an atheist arguing as to which god is the right god? I dislike the formation of nation states along purely religious and racial lines. but I guess, when Atheist Jews consider themselves part of the Jewish nation, then i must recognize that the ties that bind Jewish people are definitely beyond religion. This is not accepting reality only, but accepting the right of people to decide for themselves.

Your “very smart question”

That means that any Jew is always welcome to Israel and will receive immediate citizenship. Can you come to live with that?

My Answer:
Now we get to the logical trap :), don’t we? If I accept the two above premises, then i will have to accept this one and come to live with that, otherwise I am a hypocrite, not that easy

Thank to SHAI, who took the time to inform me on the lack of strong correlation between settler movements and immigration, i now have a little better understanding of this issue. Please recognize that I use the term settlers only in relation to Israeli citizens who chose to occupy Palestinian lands and properties or infringe on the properties of Israeli Arabs in the form of illegal settlements or through intimidation. The decision on your immigration policy is your own as a nation and a country. Although It has far reaching electoral implications, this would be a matter to solve through your evolution as a nation state. But again the only line I would permit myself to draw, which may infringe on your rights is the issue of discrimination. As long as the influx of new immigrants does not infringe on the rights, including equal opportunity, of other citizens, then do what you want. You see, my beef is never with who you are, it will always be with what you do. We live in an age where bullying the natives is not acceptable or permissible. And some of your citizens do act as thugs, especially when they are in uniform.

Your statement:

In addition, let me be clear that I do not accept the right of return of even one Palestinian to the 67 borders. They are of course free to return to the Palestinian state once it is formed. A Jewish state, means a state with a Jewish majority. Asking for the right of return for Palestinians means denying the Jewish state and therefore is a none starter.

My Response:

Now who is the hypocrite 🙂

This is a matter for you or for your parliament to vote on when the peace agreement is made, and for Palestinian negotiators, their legislative bodies, or through referendum, to decide whether to accept or not. As we say here in the US, Sorry dude this is not mine to decide. My opinion on that matter are irrelevant. The only thing I can say is that I am abhorred by their refugee status, and I want it resolved fairly

Your Statement+Question:

3) Israelis have proved beyond any doubt that they can live in peace and prosperity with Arabs. It is a fact that the average Arab Israeli (citizens of Israel) is much much better off on average than the average Syrian and certianly has much more rights than the average Syrian. Why do you think the Israeli public’s frame of mind is not suitable for living in peace?

My Response:
I know you will dismiss that, but this is only from few recent issues

In summary, a large portion of your citizenry display racist attitude when it comes to Arabs. As a nation, your actions during the shameful occupation speak volumes of the collective racism of Israeli society. Even a winner of Golda Meier prize, is not saved the racism of thugs in uniform Enough said here.

Your Question:
You say Arabs are making steps forward more than is visible to the eye. What do you mean? The Arab “thought leaders”, Egypt and Syria have only become less democratic. There is not ONE viable liberal democratic party in those countries.

My Response:

You continue playing this old song, thanks to Bush and co, no one can put so much stock in democracy any more. Democracy, honorable as it is, is no guarantee against follies. Here in the US, we have the stupidest, most criminal administration, that I would argue did more damage to US interests, economy, and quality of life, than any current Arab autocrat can dream of. It was elected twice. So spare me and others the talk about the virtues of liberal democracy.

In fact, i would even argue that this administration, with the blessing of the UK’s poodle and your own leaders and their representatives here in the US have played a major role over the past 7 years in hindering democratic progress in the ME. No one wants democracy Iraq style.

Arabs are recognizing, albeit gradually the value of human rights, economic progress, freedom of speech. Some are beginning to challenge the status quo through blogs, writing, and or action. Despite of many restrictions, many are forming civil society groups. Lawyers are suing the state in numbers unheard off before. On the negative side, secular Arabs are now squeezed, thanks to you, between the examples provided by the incompetent occupation of iraq and the familiar stability and continuity of autocratic regimes .

I have to go now, after all, i do try to have a life. I will answer the remaining points later

July 6th, 2008, 6:22 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Wow, what a fantastic response. I apologize for my “fellow” countryman’s innate dislike of liberal (or dictator-loving) Israelis such as myself. His notion of the advantages to multiplicity of ideas, is being able to hear himself on 8 different speakers, but not to hear others who disagree with him.

You are wise, and patient, and thoughtful. Yet if you continue to pay such great attention to our invaluable AIG, you too will become more sarcastic and cynical… 🙂 Please be warned… So yes, please do continue with your life, and do not allow SC to distract you beyond 4-5 hours each day… 😉

Thank you for putting this much effort into your responses. For other Israelis that are reading your comments, this is terribly important.

July 6th, 2008, 6:46 pm


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