Will Syria Give up the Golan as it Gave up Alexandretta?

In the comment section, one reader asked:

“Would it be conceivable that Syria comes to terms with the Israeli occupation of the Golan as it has come to terms with Turkey’s occupation of Hatay?”

Israel plan does seem to be to wear Syria down on the Golan issue. It may also be America’s default plan, as well. President Bush pursued this policy fairly openly.  Although it was not Bush’s stated goal, his attempt to force Syria to give up support for Hizbullah and Hamas without linking such concessions to the Golan issue was tantamount to asking Syria to accept Israel’s ownership of the Golan. The Obama says he wants to stop Israel’s settlement to pursue internation law, but has been unable or unwilling to articulate the goal, not to mention act on it with conviction.

Daniel Kurtzer, twice ambassador to Israel and close Obama adviser, just visited the University of Oklahoma and gave a series of fine talks. He argued that the two state solution is the only solution for Israel. “There is no plan B,” he said. I asked him whether the status quo was the likely solution on the Golan. Kurtzer did not answer directly – but raised his eyebrows and smiled. This was after he suggested that Israel could wait 4 or 5 years before opening negotiations with Syria in order to take advantage of what he argued was a deteriorating economic and environmental situation in Syria that would weaken its position further. Declining oil and water reserves were drivers of this weakness. His argument was that Syria would be more inclined in several years to climb down from its demand for all the Golan.

The problem with this argument is that as Syria becomes weaker, Israel is also likely to shift its demands and become less willing to make concessions. Israel is not interested in negotiations with Syria today because Syria is too weak. Israel has no compelling incentive to make difficult political concessions on the Golan. In short, I think it is safe to say that the current Western position – perhaps not openly articulated – is to wait Syria out.

Syria has no immediate answer to this Israeli-American strategy. Syria’s attempts to change the military balance of power in its favor have not been successful. Israel and the US have thwarted them, i.e. Israel’s bombing of Syria’s “nuclear” facility, Western pressure on Russia, Iran, and N. Korea not to supplied advanced weapons to Syria while tricking out Israel with its most advanced weapons. One can also point to the West’s policy of maintaining Israel’s crushing military advantage over its Arab adversaries as proof that Western governments favor Israel’s permanent acquisition of occupied lands. Some of these politics are: protection of Israel’s nuclear advantage, proscription of anti-Israeli resistance as terror, support for Israel’s bombing of Lebanon and Gaza as an appropriate response to resistance from Arabs, Israel’s success in getting Egypt and Saudi to turn against Arab resistance, and pressure on Iran to abandon its anti-Israel stand.

The terrible drought now devastating swaths of Syria’s Eastern provinces only underscores Syria’s weakness.

Can president Assad reverse this equation so that Syria will get stronger in comparison to Israel? I will not pretend to know the answer to this question. Syrians are now rejoicing in Turkey’s pro-Arab stand, which they see as an important shift in the regional balance of power in their favor. They also hope that Syria’s  economic liberalization will liberate the capitalistic talents of their people, which have long been bottled up by socialism and bad management. They look to Saudi Arabia’s recent step toward Syria as a sign that Arabians will not completely abandon the notion of pressuring Israel and helping Syria in its struggle with Israel. Syria hopes that as Iraq sorts itself out from the body blows it has suffered it will take a concerted “Arab” stand. The recent contretemps with Iraq over Sunni militants is not auspicious, however. The old competition between Iraq and Syria is not likely to abate simply because the regime has been changed.

I cannot say that I am optimistic about the immediate prospects of the Arabs sorting out their difficulties in time to retrieve the Golan. All the same, the objective of getting back the Golan is much more deeply embedded in Syria’s nationalist psyche than was Alexandretta. Syrians will not easily give it up.  Much can go wrong for Israel in the coming 30 years to reverse the balance of power.

It took Syria 70 years to overcome the loss of the Alexandretta, which was a separate administrative unit under the French Mandate. The Golan has been occupied for only four decades and was an integral part of independent Syria. There are risks to Israel’s strategy of gambling on a future of Syrian weakness. Many things could change the balance of power in the region. Arabs could find unity. The position of the US may decline. China and India may eventually take an interest in mediating Middle East conflict as their dependency on oil and trade with the region grows and as the US monopoly over Middle East security fades. They are both likely to take a less pro-Israel view than the US. As Turkey becomes more democratic it is likely to become more hostile to Israel in response to public antipathy for Israel’s displacement of its Muslim subjects. Europe could take a more pro-Arab view both for economic reasons and if it”s roughly 5% Muslim citizenry were to organize and responded to an organized Arab position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. None of these possibilities seems particularly immanent today, but 30 years is a long time.

[end of Landis analysis]

Realistic Engagement
by Theodore H. Kattouf, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and the United Arab Emirates; president and CEO, AMIDEAST. Interview with Middle East Bulletin.

Syria has shown that it can play an unhelpful role if it wishes, but a more constructive role if it wants. … Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have had to recognize that it’s better to deal with Syria than not, if they want to make at least some progress toward their aims. But the fact remains that everyone needs to be realistic, because the regime still insists on recovering every last inch of Syrian-held territory occupied in the Six-Day War, and it wants a new relationship with the United States whereby it would be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list, and similar such sanctions’ legislation. …

To my mind, the key to a better U.S.-Syrian relationship, is a successful U.S.-brokered Israeli-Syrian negotiation. An Israeli-Syrian peace treaty would by definition require Syria to quit supplying military materiel to Hezbollah and to stop offering succor to Palestinian rejectionist groups. Moreover, a Syria at full peace with Israel would have no rational reason to do so. Then, and only then, could the U.S. remove all sanctions against Syria and encourage others to help develop its economy. …

I suspect that the Syrian-Saudi talks may have encompassed the formation of a new broad-based government in Lebanon. If that comes to pass, the U.S. could endorse what has been done and let it be known that it appreciates the efforts of the Syrians and the Saudis to help the Lebanese move this along.

The words I would advise the administration keep in mind when dealing with Syria are mutual respect, patience and sequencing. The two previous administrations at times erred in giving the Syrian regime too much attention or largely shunning it. I think this administration get’s it and is looking for a middle way. The Syrians don’t give something for nothing. We have to be willing to think a bit outside the box and outside the sanctions regime about how we can reciprocate Syrian gestures in ways that do not violate strictures that Congress has laid down in law. I think there are some things that either will not cost us much or may even be to our benefit. Syria wants to make application to the World Trade Organization, why should we block that? It will take years for Syria to satisfy the organization’s requirements. The administration has allowed Syria access to some spare parts for the Boeing aircraft. Good, who would want to see a civilian aircraft go down and innocent life lost because the United States was not allowing the needed spare parts into the country? The EU has an economic association agreement with Syria. Leaving aside whether or not Syria wants to sign it, at one point the U.S. urged friends within the EU not to go ahead with this agreement. We could now say that we’re fine with it. Syria has taken in well over a million Iraqi refugees. It needs more resources to support them, and we have a moral obligation to help.

There are many intermediate steps that both countries could take toward one another short of us requiring the Syrians to end all relations with Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Syrians expecting the United States to take it off the terrorist list when it has not ended its support for the groups that we consider terrorist.

Ultimately, the United States cannot get what it wants from Syria without persuading the Netanyahu-led government in Israel to engage seriously with Syria in peace negotiations. That doesn’t have to come immediately but if engagement is going to be successful, eventually it has to come.

Solving the Syrian Puzzle
Mohamad Bazzi,, CFR.org:

Syria this year has been in diplomatic high gear, holding more than six high-level meetings with the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and working to mend regional relations as well. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah paid a visit to …

Bashar al-Assad actually has the strength to deliver a peace deal whereas [Palestinian Authority leader] Mahmoud Abbas really can’t deliver a peace deal”…

Assistant Secretary Details Banking Industry’s Key Role in Foreign Policy

by Jason Ditz
October 12, 2009

When covering America’s interventionist foreign policy, certain departments and agencies come up a lot. The Defense Department, certainly. The CIA, usually. The State Department, the NSA, the list goes on. Rarely does the Treasury Department come up, but maybe it should.

Speaking at a conference for the American Bankers Association, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury David S. Cohen went into excruciating detail about his department’s role in ensuring that the American banking industry is on the front lines of fights the world over.

And it really is the world over. From propping up Mexico’s government in what he called “a courageous fight against the drug cartels” to preventing Iran from “developing nuclear weapons,” there appears to be no overseas endeavor in which Secretary Cohen doesn’t envision a massive role for the Treasury Department, and for the ostensibly private organizations that make up the banking industry…..

Opposition Leader Livni calls for renewed efforts for two-state solution

Fatah signs reconciliation plan, placing onus on Hamas October 14, 2009

Ramallah – Ma’an – Fatah signed an Egyptian-backed deal for reconciliation with its archrival, the Hamas movement, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, senior officials said. Jamal Muheisin, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, told Ma’an that they signed the deal because of the movement’s “positive” outlook on the plan. He also said Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad will hand over the signed document Wednesday or Thursday.

a poll found that March 8 politicians are more popular than March 14 members.

Delay in delivery of Herons behind drill crisis, not politics

Turkey agreed four years ago to buy 10 Heron UAVs for over $180 million from Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems, Ltd. Turkey agreed four years ago to buy 10 Heron UAVs for over $180 million from Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems, Ltd. What spurred the cancellation of this week’s NATO air force exercises in Turkey was yet another delay in the delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to Turkey by Israel, and not Turkish opposition to the country due to its devastating offensive into the Gaza Strip, an air forces official told Today’s Zaman.

The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated that Israel has failed yet again to deliver the Israeli-made surveillance drones, known as Herons, to Turkey. “Turkey needs those vehicles in its fight against terror. What led to the recent crisis between Turkey and Israel was the delay in the delivery,” he noted.

Turkish, Syrian ministers establish new chapter of cooperation

Davutoğlu: Common destiny, history and future is slogan of Turkey and Syria

Daniel Levy in TPM

“… Shimon Peres had this to say on the linkage between reaching peace with the Palestinians and addressing the Iran issue:
In my opinion, if we move forwards with peace and make peace with the Palestinians, and if we start negotiations with Syria and Lebanon, we will remove the main pretext for the Iranian madness – against us and against the other residents of this region. (President Peres, October 12th in the Israeli Knesset ).
Now Mr. Peres is in reality not exactly the dove he is portrayed to be (he authorized many of the settlements , he supported Israel’s recent wars with Lebanon and Gaza, and he never really earned his own Nobel peace prize ), but this was nonetheless an interesting acknowledgement of the linkage from Israel’s head of state–and it seems to directly contradict the messaging coming from Israel’s ambassador to Washington D.C., Michael Oren.

Here’s Michael Oren in an interview on October 3rd for Newsweek :

Q: Do you believe that the Arab states would make their support of action against Iran contingent on progress in the peace process?

A: No, there is no linkage whatsoever. The Arab states understand that the peace process is going to take a while, and we don’t have a while with Iran. The peace clock and the Iranian nuclear clock are running at completely different speeds.

Oren was simply, and spiritedly, sticking to a lame PR line that has now been exposed as rubbish by none other than Israels’ own president. … Netanyahu tried a similar trick, arguing that Iran would have to be dealt with first and that the Palestinian issue could be placed on the backburner. But President Obama wasn’t buying any of that, insisting that both issues be addressed in parallel, and much to the chagrin of the Likud hawks, making Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority–something he repeated whenresponding to being awarded the Nobel peace prize last Friday .

The linkage, though aggressively denied by occupation apologists, is all too real (and credit to President Peres for acknowledging that). Here’s how it works.

Iran’s ability to spread influence and use leverage in the region is partly a product of the largesse it spreads around and of the allies it has through denominational allegiance or simple patronage. But crucially, it also depends on the narrative that Iran espouses–and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to that….

Rather, the narrative which allows Iran to speak to the Muslim and notably Sunni street, above the heads of Arab leaders, can be paraphrased as follows:

Only we, Iran, are standing up to the Israelis and the Americans in defense of our downtrodden Palestinian brothers and sisters; you, the Arab leadership who are close to America, host American troops, visit Washington and do Washington’s bidding, and are even openly or sometimes secretly in contact with the Israelis–all these friendships have done nothing to help the Palestinians or address their grievance; our version of resistance is therefore honorable when compared to your shameful collusion.

… Ending the occupation and delivering peace would fundamentally undermine Iran’s narrative and its leverage. Realizing a comprehensive peace can be done as part of a process of U.S. dialogue with Iran in which these issues are also raised, or it can be done in parallel to an engagement with Iran (it should not be done as part of a blunt, unsophisticated frontal assault on Iran, as was tried at Annapolis during the Bush presidency).

However, it appears that the neoconservatives in this country and their Likud friends in Israel, who expend so much time and energy in refuting this linkage, just forgot to cc Israel’s president on the talking points memo.”

(Google translation from Tayyar.org.) Via FLC
Jamil Sayyed declared that French Judge Fabian Bos issued a summon calling for a judicial hearing to the judge Detlev Mehlis as a defendant in the matter of “false witnesses” in the case of the assassination of President Rafik Hariri…

Judge Fabian Bos, the investigating judge in the First Court of Instance in Paris,issued an international judicial summon to listen to Detlev Mehlis as a defendant in a case of using false witnesses, including Mohammed Zuhair al-Siddiq ,Hussam Hussam and others, to lead a libel campaign of fabrications and attacks through the media directed at General Al-Sayyed, even after he left the Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry….and despite his loss of international immunity …”


“Druze leader Walid Jumblat has reportedly said that not a single Lebanese party would be able to thwart the Saudi-Syrian understanding reached over Lebanon.

As Safir daily on Tuesday quoted Jumblat’s visitors as saying that the MP fears the U.S. would sabotage the results of the summit between Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

However, Jumblat, according to his visitors, has said not a single internal Lebanese party could thwart the understanding reached between the two regional powerhouses while at the same time no Lebanese side would be able to reject the summit’s results.

Meanwhile, Damascus visitors quoted a top Syrian official as saying Syria’s doors are open to Jumblat and any Lebanese official who believes in the historic ties between the two countries, Arabism and the choice of resistance…”

Comments (54)

Dick Durata said:

Sure there’s no Plan B. Israel has no plan at all except to keep everything as is, with more settlements, until forced to do otherwise. Otherwise being bombing the shit out of somebody.

October 15th, 2009, 1:06 am


Shamel Azmeh said:

I think the answer to your question is simply no. There is a huge difference between the issue of Golan and the issue of Alexandretta for a number of reasons.

Fist, Alexandretta was given to Turkey in 1939 (i.e. before the independence of Syria). At that time, the whole idea of Syria as a unified political entity was largely alien. For hundreds of years, Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire. Then, it was captured by France which worked to create a number of states within today’s Syria. In addition, the connections between different parts of the country were very limited (with the exception of Aleppo and Damascus maybe). In short, the idea of Syria as one unified country was very new and the issue of territory (and even geography) was largely absent as the scale of the lives of people (business, politics, travel, etc) was largely local. In contrast, Golan was occupied in 1967. At that time, national sentiments were on the rise in Syria and the idea of a Syrian nationality and a Syrian state (as part of the pan-Arabic dream) was gaining currency and the meaning of geographical territory was totally different in this context. In a sense, people were moving from the scale of local to the scale of national. The occupation of Golan in the mindset of Syrians, thus, has a totally different meaning from that of Alexandretta.

Second, there is a huge difference between Turkey and Israel. Although the history between Syria and Turkey is not a rosy one and although many Syrians worry about a Turkish attempt to re-control the region, Syrians still consider Turkey to be a “normal” and integral part of the region. With Israel, it is totally different. Even if at one point the government decides to make peace with Israel, most people will not recognize Israel as a normal neighbour country and this peace will remain a “peace of governments” not a “peace of people”. Thus, it is impossible for any government (and regardless of the economic situation) to even suggest a peace without reclaiming the Golan Heights and this is not going to change.

Finally, the idea that Golan is the only issue that concerns Syria in relation to Israel also fails to capture the historical and geographical context of the Middle East conflict. To Syrians, and I will argue that rightly so, the conflict of the Middle East is one. Without solving the Palestinian issue, any peace with Israel will be a cold government-level peace. For real peace to happen and for Syrians to eventually accept Israel as a normal state in the region, a whole different approach to the Middle East issue is needed. An approach that focus on removing barriers between people and on convincing Israelis to accept to live in a multi-national, multi-religious, secular state.

October 15th, 2009, 4:44 am


Akbar Palace said:

Will Syria Give up the Golan as it Gave up Alexandretta?

I don’t think so. Interest in all things Zionist carries much more importance. Like Jerusalem. It the new modern-day religion.

Or, Syria could negotiate peace with Israel for it, but that would be too painful (to Assad).


October 15th, 2009, 8:07 am


Murhaf Jouejati said:

Will Syria Give up the Golan as it Gave up Alexandretta?

No, for the simple but powerful reason that there are now hundreds of thousands of Golan refugees longing to go back to their homes while most Syrians of the Iskenderun had not left when the latter was annexed to Turkey.

October 15th, 2009, 12:04 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

the answer for Syria giving up the Golan to Israel,would certainly be NEVER.it is based on the Idea that the economy will deteriorate in Syria, but the combination of Economy get worse,and Give up the Golan, will certainly cause revolution in Syria.

October 15th, 2009, 2:27 pm


Alex said:

I would like to add the following to the excellent comments by Murhaf Jouejati and Shamel Azmeh above:

In 2007, at the 40th anniversary of the occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel, I wrote to many Syrian bloggers asking them how they felt about the question of, and the prospects of, regaining the Golan Heights. I specifically asked about the similarity / differences with the case of the largely forgotten Alexandretta.

I realized that Syrians, young and old are still very passionate about retrieving the occupied Golan Heights. Here is what they wrote on that 40th anniversary:


Today there are many Syrian Facebook groups dedicated to the Golan Heights and thousands of young Syrians are members of each of those groups.

After talking to Syrians of various backgrounds, and reading their opinions, I concluded that Syrians consider Alexandretta part of historic (greater) Syria just as much as they consider Lebanon, and southern Turkey parts of Greater Syria. All regions were carved away from Syria by the French before Syria gained its independence.

The French organized a referendum among the people living in Alexandretta in 1938 and a majority supposedly voted to be part of Turkey. In reality, France wanted to bribe Turkey at the time away from joining Hitler’s Germany in WWII. Syria’s Alexandretta was part of the package.


Today Syrians do not have any United Nations resolutions to back their claims for Alexandretta or Lebanon. No country would support Syria’s claims to those regions of former Greater Syria. Unlike the case for the Golan Heights where numerous UN resolutions clearly state that it is Syrian territories. UN resolution 497 in particular states that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”


October 15th, 2009, 3:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Unmotivated Syrians NewZ

Today Syrians do not have any United Nations resolutions to back their claims for Alexandretta or Lebanon.


Yes, but what about Hezbollah? Could Hezbollah and the PKK fire Katyusha into Turkish-occupied Alexandretta? Turkey, I’m sure, would be too afraid of the UN and international community to respond. But, like you said, I just don’t think the Syrians care that much about 5400 square miles of potential beach-front real estate.

I mean a rocky, granite plateau, 3 times smaller than Alexandretta and stolen by the evil Zionists has to be more important to the Syrian people. There’s no question about it.

October 15th, 2009, 4:37 pm


Alex said:


It is not by how attractive a piece of land that Syrians make up their minds on what it theirs. If Syrians wanted to get back all of “Greater Syria”, there will be no Israel and no Jordan and No Lebanon, Turkey will lose its southern part …


Whatever was given to other countries before Syrian independence (including Alexandretta and Lebanon) is history … those parts of Syria were not lost through aggressions.

The Golan, on the other hand, was indeed stolen by the Zionists. Israel’s legendary defense minister Moshe Dayan admitted that Israel wanted more lands and that’s the main reason why it wanted to take the Golan from Syria. THe Golan is part of Syria … your own country, the United States, voted for UN resolution 497 … “Israel’s annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Height is null and void” … Are you against your own country’s stand on the Golan?

October 15th, 2009, 4:51 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Will Syria Give up the Golan as it Gave up Alexandretta?

No and never! Why? The Golan is part of the Syrian national identity as an independent nation-state.

October 15th, 2009, 6:18 pm


SimoHurtta said:

It amusing how this Israeli propaganda pushing now works.

Israeli security sources give information to a Kuwaiti newspaper (al Jarida) that Syria is giving long range missile to Hezbollah. At once after the article is published the story appears in Israeli English press quoting the Kuwaiti newspaper as the source. From there it is spread to the larger distribution.

This Thursday’s story was not the first when this strategy and that newspaper were used. One must wonder how Israeli security services are in so close intimate link with a Kuwaiti newspaper and do not provide such information to Israeli and western newspapers. Maybe because no credible newspaper after the Iraq cons would publish as the first such story without some evidence and so risk their reputation. Quoting a hoax story is safer.

By the way who owns al Jarida?

October 15th, 2009, 7:17 pm


jad said:

Will Syria Give up the Golan (Jolan) as it Gave up Alexandretta?

For me and I may be wrong since I’m no politician nor I want to be one, but from a rational and more scientific point of view, there are three possible answers for the question and inside those three answers there are different elements will play a major role in the final decision

1-System level
2-Government level
3-Public level

For the system level the answer will be MAYBE because it depends on the power game in the region and how strong/weak the system feels comparing to the threat and the pressure put under and it will play accordingly to that pressure and it can come up with any decision for the public to deal with it.

For the government level meaning the Parliament and the Ministries the answer is No OR YES because on this level they are somehow related to the system and they don’t want to look against it yet they still have some level or credibility toward the people who elect them and who will blame them for agreeing with the system regardless of the decision and that decision is also related of how independent the government at the time of the decision making moment will be.

For the public level the answer is as all of the great Syrian guys here said is a straight NO for all the excellent previous analysis that Alex, Murhaf and Shamel wrote.

As Dr. Landis wrote earlier which I think is a very very important and eye opening issue which all three levels should and must concentrate on years to come for a better and stronger position when the negotiation start, is how to extend, preserve and well manage our national resources, products and treasures, our people’s creativity, productivity and freedom and how far we are investing and planning in the future itself and where does Syria sees itself in the coming 50years.
Failing to do so we will be in a much weaker position to even ask for what is ours in the first place, the Jolan.

October 15th, 2009, 7:36 pm


Majhool said:

excellent post.

Waiting for peace has been used by some as an excuse for delaying progress internally.

Your post argue that peace is not at hand something i agree with 1000%

October 15th, 2009, 11:33 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Hytam Maleh was arrested,this is bad news.

October 15th, 2009, 11:43 pm


jad said:

That is a TERRIBLE news.
When are they going to stop with this unproductive, harmful, wrong, disturbing and above all illegal actions against any Syrian who dares to open his mouth?
They must stop and free all the political prisoners, its doing more harm than good to all of us.

October 16th, 2009, 12:04 am


kingcrane jr said:

The answer is NO
By the way, Syria was given a piece of Iraqi territory by the French (Capitaine Pierre-Noire and his troops kept going and going like the Energizer Rabbit up in the Northeast and acquired for the French mandate an area that was in fact British-Iraqi, but later agreed upon as French-Syrian) as compensation for Liwa Eskandarona.

The Liwa (or Sanjaq) was ceded to the Turks in exchange for neutrality in WW 2; the French and the British both exagerated the might of the Turkish Army at that time.

Of course, the French tried to partition the area further, but the people stood in their way. French historians all agree that Syrians were the most rebellious of the colonized people in French occupied lands.

The train of thought of people like Gourod or Georges-Picot (old reactionnary Catholics, potentially Petainists) goes like this:
The Sunni Arabs must be prevented from gaining access to the Mediterranean; hence Hatay, and hence the Territoire des Alaouites, and hence offers to other minorities… Heck they could have tried the Circasians in Quneitra and the few Abkhazians that were sent to Syria by Csarist Russia in exchange for a few Christians who were fed up by Ottoman rule.

At the end, nothing worked; the people united; the French got their asses kicked; the same will happen to other colonizers.

October 16th, 2009, 3:58 am


Alex said:

Kingcrane Jr,

Good to see you here again and I’m glad your wonderful father is doing better now.

Here is the best way to spend 11 minutes of your time. I recommend watching the whole thing, but if you want to know what the American Zionist Christians would like to do to Damascus, watch at 6:00

October 16th, 2009, 4:15 am


why-discuss said:

Tensions Between Turkey And Israel Escalate
“Bad years to come fo Israel and Turkey relationships..”

A non-propagandist and more pragmatic analysis from NPR with interviews of diplomats and university professors


October 16th, 2009, 8:57 am


Akbar Palace said:

Are you against your own country’s stand on the Golan?


No. The US stand on occupied territory is simple: land for peace, and I agree with that formula 100%.

The US (and most other countries) doesn’t expect Israel to return land w/o peace (like Israel did with the Gaza Strip).

October 16th, 2009, 9:14 am


why-discuss said:

Israel blasts Turkey over TV series’ ‘incitement’


Is Turkey starting a media campaign against Israel by putting in images the Goldstone report? Turkey has more credibility and visibility in Europe and the US that Syrian or Hezbollah TV.

Is the shift of Turkey toward Arabs and against the ‘protégé’ of the Western countries a strategic or just a tactical move until Europe stops putting a veto to Turkey joining the EU?

Would Obama put a veto in the Security council to prevent Ehud, Tzipi and company to end up in La Haye and on the blacklist of Interpol as Israel’s UN ambassador seems to be sure of? Would the US use this as a bargaining card to put pressure on Netanyahu to show flexibility in negotiations?

October 16th, 2009, 9:21 am


Ford Prefect said:

I am not sure what unit of measures AP is using for his 100% support for the “land for peace” formula.

While I understand that that all war hawks in Israel and Washington do actually support this formula, they see it, in fact, as “SOME land for ALL peace”.

Even then, the war hawks are not sure how to have peace with an enemy that is still standing and not completely capitulated (it goes against their disfigured lines of thinking).

So, at the end, they are confused – underscored by a strong mathematical ineptness.

October 16th, 2009, 10:20 am


Akbar Palace said:

I am not sure what unit of measures AP is using for his 100% support for the “land for peace” formula.

Ford Prefect,

There is no measure. It is whatever each party deems acceptable.

The problem is, what is acceptable now, was not acceptable in the past and may not be acceptable in the future. As you know, this has been the rule for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

War and the wins and losses associated with war can change the game considerably. It’s all a “crap shoot” between governments.

While I understand that that all war hawks in Israel and Washington do actually support this formula, they see it, in fact, as “SOME land for ALL peace”.

“War Hawks” have made peace before, and they’ve worked rather well. Conversely, those like Neville Chamberlain and Yossi Beilin haven’t had much success. So you can use whatever labels you want, but the fact of the matter is both left-of-center and right-of-center governments in both Israel and the US have yet to sign a successful peace treaty with “terror-supporting”, dictatorial governments and regimes.

I hope this doesn’t come to a surprise to you.

October 16th, 2009, 11:08 am


Off the Wall said:

Will Syria Give up the Golan as it Gave up Alexandretta?

The question itself is flawed as it ignores history as well as current realities. Most of the well informed posts have established the historical differences between the two “provinces” and demonstrated the strong attachment and sense of ownership Syrian hold for the Jolan. However, let me play the devil’s advocate and assume that the question, flawed as it is to be contemplated by rational policy makers even for the a second.

A rational decision maker will first ask, what do I get in return for doing so. A Simple analysis would easily show that she/he will get nothing and I emphasize nothing in return. The two scenarios are completely different. Shamel’s thoughtful post was thorough in describing these differences, which form the basis for expectation of any return for taking one position or another. In the case of Turkey and Syria, With Syria’s acceptance of Turkey’s UN recognized borders (which was the official way Syria relinquished land claim in Alexandretta in a single article of a memorandum of understanding), Syria removed a major block on the way to economic cooperation and possible integration, not to mention political coordination between the two countries who have shared goals. Notwithstanding the political heavy weight of Turkey, the economic benefits of such cooperation by far exceed any benefit Syria would have from similar action with Israel. Seriously, can anyone of us think of anything Israel can offer Syria in exchange for such a huge concession. Trade?, just look at the trade between Israel-Egypt or Israel-Jordan. At its best the Jordan-Israel trade continues to be below the 100M level despite of the efforts of officials in both countries to encourage trade and despite of Jordanian suppression of trade unionist, who conduct campaigns to identify and expose products developed or grown in Jewish settlements in the west bank. Israel’s most competitive industry has been military hardware, which is even competing with European and US hardware in many military shows in Europe. But Syria is unlikely to be able or even inclined to buy Israeli military hardware and as such, what Israel excels at, is of no use to Syria. On the other hand, and despite of the great stress on some Syrian industries (e.g., textiles) due to increased competition from better equipped and better managed Turkish products, in one year after signing trade agreement (2006-2007), trade between Syria and Turkey jumped from 700M to 1.2B. In addition, there is nothing Israel manufactures that can not be obtained from other countries through Turkey or directly through trade agreement with the EU or bilaterally. Tele-communication Technology? Europe has the same if not more superior products that can be purchased at competitive price and even bartered with some Syrian products. Water? Israel is the one who depends on water originating on Syrian and Lebanese lands not the other way around. While on the other hand, the goodwill of Turkey on water issues is essential to Syrian livelihood and survival. Quite front?, the Syria-Israel border has been the quietest, incident free border. Reduction of military expenditure due to peace?, not really, Syrian military per-capita expenditure is already at par with that of countries at peace, and it is not likely to change after peace agreement. Military expenditure has not been a stress on Syria’s budget for more than 10 years now and there is no reason to expect that it will be anytime soon. Tourism?, as long as Israel continues to mistreat Palestinians, expect no warm reception of Israeli tourists in Syria or any other Arab country.

It is Israel who needs Syrian good will. Not the other way around. While currently the Israeli economy reasonably strong and enjoys excellent trade ties with Europe and the US, Israel’s trade deficit with the EU stood at 4.7B Euros in 2007. Israel needs new markets for its well established industries. While on the other hand, in the same year, Syria had 100M Euros trade surplus with the EU. This is despite of the well known lack of strategic vision of many Syrian industrialists, which is beginning to change and will eventually change due to strong and healthy competition as well as due to expected cooperation with Turkish industries.

Lastly, some may argue that Israel can promise a lot of American Tax payers money to Syria if the two sign peace agreement. This is also suspect for in the first place, US tax payers already complain about the similar agreement with Egypt, second, Egypt got the money along with Sinai, and there is no reason for Syria to sell the Jolan for aid money. Basically, even if the Syrian leadership is to take such an opportunistic approach, which they will not, there is no real incentive for Syria in it, and none can be imagined. In fact, Syrian policy in recent years has geared more towards attempting to attract investments, and much less towards building an economic foundation on aid money. Recent improvement in relationship with KSA will easily supplant any pre-conditioned violation of Syrian sovereignty resulting from US aid money to Syria..

In short, Syria had a lot to gain from accepting realities forced on Turkey and Syria by the bygone colonialist powers, but nothing to gain and a lot to lose by accepting Israel’s occupation and aggression in the Jolan. Misguided US and Israeli think tankers can wait as long as they want, Syria will not abandon her rightful claim to the Jolan. Clearly, the question is flawed, and it is based on wishful thinking, no more and no less.

Note: I apologies for the cold hearted analysis, which may run against some sensibilities, but I simply tried to show that under any possible calculations, there is no sense in Syrian capitulation. Syrian external policy has been recognized by friends and foes alike to be smart, patient, and strategic. There is no reason to assume that it will be otherwise.

October 16th, 2009, 11:57 am



When the prime minister of Turkey, Erdogan, stormed out of the economical summit, in response to Israel’s president Peres’s comments, which Erdogan considered unacceptable about the Gazza massacres and Peres’s demeanor as adding insult to injury, Israel should have then realised how upset Turkey and the Turkish people were.
But the problem is that Israel is used to getting away with murder, with US support, and Israel’s ability to manipulate the outcome of any international inquiry, gave it a sense of invinciblity and arrogance, which caused it to brush that incident as irrelevant.
Israel doesn’t have the flexibility to adapt to a changing Turkey, otherwise it would have adapted and reacted diffrently to the Arab offer of land for peace.

October 16th, 2009, 12:02 pm


jad said:

Dearest OTW
Excellent take and comprehensive analyses on almost all related layers of the Syrian Jolan conflict and to the flawed question being asked, however, I have couple issues I think we Syrians jump over when we write with our national passion and love toward Syria.
While I understand, agree and appreciate what you wrote, I think you missed some reality of our unfortunate losing of almost all of our natural resources which make a big portion of our strength and our decisions.
You wrote about water but you didn’t write about our drought and that we are facing a ‘climate immigration’ phenomena that will put more pressure on our development process and will defiantly cripple it if we keep using the same mentality our government use in dealing with anything in the country.
We are loosing our oil faster than predicted which means that we will be dependent on other country’s aid and that will also weaken our position regardless how close our relations to that country are, for me that is also taking away portions from our independent.
Trades need money, the problem is that money is concentrated in handful of many corrupted Syrians that when the real crisis hit they will be the first to leave and put more pressure on the decision and may take it in different direction of what we all want.
I like Turkey today, but at the same time I think we have to be more careful and not to get too comfortable and too excited with this relation so we loose our independent for some fake promises. Let’s face it, turkey is a democratic country today and in the next election a new government will be in place and it might become closer to Israel, the US and EU position and more hostile toward us as it was 10 years ago that is another major obstacle since we will go back to square one.
I’m not trying to be a very pessimistic or extra scientific with the issue but I’m trying to look at the subject from a different angle and more “realistic/futuristic” point of view that doesn’t involve any emotions related to, so I also apologize that I sound too cold or ‘crazy’…(ha)

October 16th, 2009, 1:18 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dearest Jad
Post # 22 was not an attempt to analyze Syria’s strengths or weaknesses in absolute terms. It was merely an attempt to add to the comparative analysis of the two situations given the current realities.

In any case,accepting the reality of the fact that the Euphrates is a transboundary river, with its headwaters controlled largely by Turkey is an important part of any water resources policy Syria may eventually enact. Accepting another reality, which is the fact that Turkey is a stronger country than Syria is ever likely to become is also an important part of pragmatic water policy which dictate that Syria will depend in Turkish goodwill in water issues. The challenge is for Syria to make the maintenance of this goodwill also in the interest of Turkey. This will require much more work than mere signing of agreements between the two countries. It requires a major restructuring of Syrian internal economic and political practices so that ties of the two economies are reciprocal. Syria can argue under international water rights issues, but it is doubtful that it can force turkey’s hand on the issues unless it has a pressure card or genuine mutual interest.

At current, Syria is not self sufficient in terms of its internal water resources, even with the inflow from Turkey, Syria will remain water stressed as shown by the severe decline in our Aquifers. Given that Floods kill people but droughts kill civilizations, we must ask what is to be done. Syria must put all of her efforts to make sure that the current opening between Syria and Turkey is not a happenstance as I mentioned above. It also must work strongly to reduce her vulnerability to droughts. Droughts, both short term and extended, are natural part of the hydrologic cycle. One mechanism to reduce vulnerability is to ensuring alternative sources of income and livelihood, nationally, regionally, and at individual levels, improve water storage capacity, and significantly improve efficiency of every drop of water. Alternative sources of water including desalinization will be strongly tied to a sound, sustainable energy policy. Both are easier said than done.

The most significant part of water policy is the recognition of the limited resources. As such, any sustainable future for Syria must also take into account major restructuring of Syrian agricultural and rural practices. The situation will be more dire under Climate change, and many countries face similar if not worst situation than Syria.

That said, I fully agree with you on the need for political reforms. As I mentioned in an earlier post, in the regional Symphony Orchestra, Syria must exchange the arcane monotonic rababa with a versatile instrument such as Qanoon. Only through democratic reforms, the latent energy of the country can be unleashed.

October 16th, 2009, 2:00 pm


jad said:

You can’t imagine how much I learn from what you write on here, it is an absolute treat just to read your take on many issues especially the water one, Thank you!.
I also agree with you that we have no choice but ‘restructuring of Syrian agricultural and rural practices’, do aggressive ‘water and resources management’ as well as ‘energy reform’ to be ready for a non oil Syria, support and encourage ‘political freedom’, and have a great and stable international relations which by the end will make us stronger and closer to archive our national goal of better future for Syria and definatly get back our own land The Jolan.
Again, Thank you.

P.S. I love your example of replacing Rababa with Quanoun, so true. (with all due respect to Rababa but Quanoun is more complicated and we can play different notes on it)

October 16th, 2009, 2:30 pm


Shai said:


I don’t know what “Land for Peace” you’re referring to, because at least here in Israel, most politicians have adopted the “Peace for Peace” idea Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) came up with. Uzi Arad, Israel’s “National Security Adviser” (multiple quotes and double-quotes needed here), actually went even beyond this, and offered the Syrians JORDANIAN LAND for Peace! His team of “experts” at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center came up with the ingenious idea of offering land around Mafraq in Norther Jordan, perhaps equal in size to the Golan Heights, to the Syrians. Then we’d give the Jordanians some 45 deg.celsius and higher land in the Arava desert, and everyone will be happy. Especially Uzi Arad. The Syrians, from what I heard, politely rejected the idea… Proving yet again they’re not serious about Peace… (or that Arad is a buffoon).

But more importantly, how do you explain this strange global phenomenon, whereby no nation on the face of this green planet recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan? Isn’t that odd, given that, as you say “The US (and most other countries) doesn’t expect Israel to return land (the Golan) w/o peace…”?

If they don’t recognize the Golan as part of Israel, how do they not-expect Israel to return it?

October 16th, 2009, 3:42 pm


trustquest said:

I really appreciate your answer to this question but I will be eager to hear your response to the second part of Mr. Antoun Question on previous string #70:

“ have the people and leadership of Syria come to terms with the Turkey’s occupation of Hatay? I don’t mean politically or strategically but accepting the lose of Hatay as part of historical Syria?
Has realpolitik trumped national aspirations?”

Do you see the leadership in Syria coming out one day in the future and announcing to its people that Syria has accepted the new order of Hatay now part of Turkey and our relationship with Turkey worth more than the land which we considered part of Syria for 70 years. What excuses differently you think they might come up with? And would these excuses be putting the foundation for another exchange?

If silence persist and the Hatay question was kept under the rug by the authority without national reconciliation it could put the foundation for similar behavior in any future government, and this goes in harmony with the authority hegemony and domination, which might change the way we should ask our questions. Considering also the volatile condition of the whole region the matter of keeping any status-quo and control are way more important for authority than winning or moving from stability to conflict.

October 16th, 2009, 8:13 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

مجلس حقوق الإنسان يعتمد تقرير جولدستون
Hopefully this will deter the zionist entity from committing another Holocaust against the palastinians

October 16th, 2009, 9:23 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Here is the best way to spend 11 minutes of your time. I recommend watching the whole thing, but if you want to know what the American Zionist Christians would like to do to Damascus, watch at 6:00


Well, at least this fellow doesn’t blow himself up in crowded markets.


October 16th, 2009, 9:33 pm


norman said:

Syria’s government will not give up the Golan , because they do not want me to join the opposition , that will be a good reason to do so , not the religion of the president .

October 16th, 2009, 10:57 pm



I do have vivid childhood memories of my visits to the Jolan, hunting trips with my father and his hunting buddies, family trips to Al-Hemmeh hot sulfur springs and baths with the smell of sulfur, the view of lake tabaria from the winding road above, the horses that the Sirkassians raised and trained.
In October 1973 I and a lot of my compatriots hoped that we will be able to visit once again, after liberating that Syrian jewel.
Believe me it is worth trying again.

October 16th, 2009, 11:27 pm


Shai said:


I do not know what it is like to lose something, and know that another nation is enjoying it, annexing it, and not ready to give it back. I imagine I would be as determined as you are to see it return. Peacefully, if possible, but also by force.

I think Syria has been attempting to retrieve the Golan in both ways, at the same time. I think it has been almost-successful, a few times in the past two decades. But still the question remains, can Syria do things it hasn’t tried yet?

What do you think of letting Israeli reporters into Syria, to interview people like you or your family, to ask Syria’s leadership to speak directly to the Israeli people, to “prove” to us that you really won’t roll your tanks down the Golan Heights towards Haifa and Tel-Aviv… We’re in an age of spy-satellites, and yet many Israelis still think Syria will do that, if only they have the chance, from the Golan…

What else can be done?

October 17th, 2009, 3:25 am




It is simple. The only reason the Syrian tanks would roll down the Jolan would be to prevent the slaughter of innocent civilians.
When Syrian tanks went into Lebanon in 1976, it was to stop the slaughter of civilians. At that time Lebanese Christian reactionary militias, whom Syria was never fond of (and the feeling is mutual), were overwelmed by a coalition of progressive Lebanese militias and their allies Fateh Palestinian forces, who were natural Syrian allies.
If Israel were to live up to its democratic claims, i.e. protect all its citizens, regardless of their political affiliation, religion, or ethnic origin, then you have my garantee that no Syrian tanks will cross the 1967 border.

October 17th, 2009, 9:08 am


norman said:

I do not think that Syria ever crossed the 1967 border ,
The Israeli public can read Syria comment and get their take on the Syrian people , If we see more people like you here , we may have more faith in your people’s desire for peace.
so far you are a small minority here and in Israel.

October 17th, 2009, 9:17 am


Joshua said:

Antoun asks:

“ have the people and leadership of Syria come to terms with the Turkey’s occupation of Hatay? I don’t mean politically or strategically but accepting the lose of Hatay as part of historical Syria? Has realpolitik trumped national aspirations?”

I do believe the leadership of Syria has accepted the cold reality of the loss of Alexandretta. Turkey is too important to Syria and there was not hope of winning back the region.

As Alex observed, international law does not side with Syria on the land dispute even though the original League of Nations Mandate for Syria stated that the mandated authority, which was France, could not alienate any of the land included in the mandated nation.

International law sides with Syria on the Golan dispute, despite Israel’s annexation of the territory.

Of course, Israel has not been ostracized or punished by the international community for its occupation of Golan, which makes its return less likely. Most Arab countries do refuse to officially recognize Israel and boycott its exports. But major trading partners, such as Europe and the US, offer Israel privileged trading status despite its violations of international law.

It should be added that Syria has not officially stated it recognizes the present Turkishness of the Hatay. Turkey complains about the fact that Syrian authorities continue to publish maps and school textbooks which include the Hatay inside Syria’s national borders. Why does Syria do this? I am perplexed. Obviously the Syrian government finds it difficult to state openly what it has recognized officially to Turkish authorities and acted on in its foreign policy. Because the court system in Syria is not independent, there is no avenue for Turkish authorities to challenge the Syrian government’s refusal to clarify these issues. It is not a big issue for Turkey, because Syria does not challenge Turkey’s ownership of the region and has normalized relations, opened borders, and set up courts to help adjudicate the property disputes that remain unresolved as a result of the tens of thousands of refugees that fled Alaxandretta when it was handed over to the Turks.

October 17th, 2009, 9:36 am


why-discuss said:

Turkey-Israel Row Could Signal Geopolitical Change In Region
By Ron Synovitz, RFE/RL

“….Indeed, after Turkey announced Israel’s exclusion from this week’s NATO exercises, Syria said it would conduct military exercises with Turkey. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem welcomed Turkey’s decision, saying it “reflects the way Turkey regards the Israeli attack in Gaza.”

Israel dismissed the Turkish-Syrian announcement. Israeli cabinet minister Benny Begin says Turkish-Syrian exercises are part of Syria’s desire to create a new bloc of countries in the Middle East that would include Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq.

But Joffe says it is not yet clear whether there has been a complete breakdown of the Turkish-Israeli alliance. “It is perhaps the Gaza incident that has persuaded the Turkish government that it can’t afford to maintain too close a relationship with Israel. And therefore, it is trying to distance itself little by little,” he says.

“Whether that will mean a breach and the complete transformation in relations is not yet clear. But it is quite clear that there is some fundamental change taking place, and I think that mirrors the internal changes in Turkey in terms of the relationship between the government and the army command.”

Joffe says the declining influence of the Turkish military on Ankara’s decisions would be a cause of concern for Israel…..”


October 17th, 2009, 9:49 am


why-discuss said:


For decades, Europe and the USA have shown unconditional support to Israel and allowed all reprehensible and illegal actions by Israel to be hidden by a battery of media messages, using terms like the ‘rigth to defend itself”, “the fight against terrorism” “The fight against anti-semitism” etc…
Israelis are sure of this continuous support. Then why would they bother to be curious of the reality on the ground? Why would they want to see the necessity to repair harm done to palestinians before expecting they will lay down the arms?
A war will change nothing. In the contrary it will create the sense of humiliation, revenge etc..
My view is that no change will happen in the Israeli society until the support ( both financial and political) of the western countries BECOMES conditional. Then Israelis may feel the pinch and after blaming the Moslem lobbies, or the democrats, or their own government, they may start to ask themselves questions and it could be the beginning of a transformation.
We already see signs that are probably puzzling the common Israeli.
Why after decades of ‘unconditional’ friendship, Turkey is showing signs of impatience, and desillusion on Israel policies with Palestinians and Syria? Why was the Goldstone report accepted in the UN?
If the Obama administration does not veto the Goldstone report in the SC, or veto it attached with the conditions that Israel stop settlements and engage in negociations, then we may see a shift in the Israeli public opinion.
In summary, over the years we have observed that the fear of military aggression just makes Israelis more radical and uncompromising. Fear of loosing the support of their financial benefactors and political allies may make more inclined to revisit their positions.

October 17th, 2009, 10:24 am


norman said:


No matter what the Syrian government agreed to with Turkey , The Syrian people still consider that area as part of Syria , force is not not an option with Turkey so the peaceful means are more popular especial that Syria’s priority now is the return of the Golan and a just solution to the Palestinian problem and on these two important goals , Turkey is essential to Syria , opening borders between Syria and Turkey will eventually make personal properties more important than where the border is , with Israel you have to define the border per Syria’s national and international legitimate right then open these borders so the borders will not be important .

October 17th, 2009, 10:26 am


Akbar Palace said:

International law sides with Syria on the Golan dispute, despite Israel’s annexation of the territory.

Professor Josh,

Maybe Syria can get the Jolan back if they just hire a good lawyer the next time they get a seat on the UNSC. Tzipi Livni would be an excellent choice considering her background.

Just a thought.



October 17th, 2009, 11:21 am


why-discuss said:


Can Tzipi Livni still operate when she will be hunted by Interpol?

October 17th, 2009, 12:49 pm


Off the wall said:

Why Discuss
she can use skyp from the jail library in the Hague. I here it is well equipped

October 17th, 2009, 1:52 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Interpol & the Jolan

Can Tzipi Livni still operate when she will be hunted by Interpol?


I didn’t know Interpol was “hunting” Tzipi Livni. I did a search and this was what I found (link below).

Anyway, I’m just offering advice so Syria can get back Jolan ASAP.


October 17th, 2009, 3:54 pm


Shai said:


You may well be right. But as you know I’m neither willing to wait things out, nor to work in-line. I have to press where I can, if it leads to anything I don’t know. I still maintain that Syria can and must try to speak to the Israeli public, which knows very little about her, about the REAL Syria and the REAL Syrian people. It is difficult to make rational decisions when you’re innately paranoid AND ignorant about your enemy.

Besides outside pressure on Israel, and the Israeli public, we must also have Syria speaking to us. Not through the BBC, CNN, and ABC, but directly, through our own TV reporters.

October 17th, 2009, 4:28 pm


Shai said:


I never liked Tzipi Livni much (I’m still teasing Alex about the fact that he did once…) So I wouldn’t give her that much credit – that she would know how to use Skype… 🙂

October 17th, 2009, 4:31 pm


Akbar Palace said:

More Advice from the self-appointed, lone Israeli Leftist

I still maintain that Syria can and must try to speak to the Israeli public, which knows very little about her, about the REAL Syria and the REAL Syrian people.


Do you know more, less or about the same as the ignorant (i.e. “knows very little”) Israeli public about Syria, considering how little freedom Israelis have learning about their neighbor to the North?






October 17th, 2009, 6:11 pm


Shai said:


You enjoy great freedom in the U.S. Freedom which allows you to learn as much as you like, almost, about the Cherokee Indians. But you don’t. You choose not to learn more. And yet American leaders waited 200 years before beginning to apologize to the native-American Indians for years of “ill-conceived policies”. Policies which I’m sure most Americans are well aware of.

Most Israelis, in case you didn’t know, do not hold PhD’s in Middle Eastern Studies. Most Israelis know very little about Syria, because they’ve been taught and told very little. And I’m not talking about geography (not knowing which is farther north, Aleppo or Homs). Most Israelis were never told about the decisions that led the Eshkol government to hold on to the Golan Heights. Most Israelis still think we’re up there because otherwise Syrian tanks will roll down the hills, on their way to Haifa and Tel-Aviv, or Syrian artillery will shell the settlements below, and Israel will remain helpless.

I know you’re one to think highly of us Israelis (and we do appreciate it), and certainly you do take the time to highlight our wisdom (apparently thinking I’m alluding to the opposite). But tell me Akbar, did you have the same compliments to give my people when, say, they elected Rabin? Or Barak? Or Ehud Olmert? 🙂

October 17th, 2009, 6:34 pm


AKbar Palace said:

And yet American leaders waited 200 years before beginning to apologize to the native-American Indians for years of “ill-conceived policies”.


Thanks for side-stepping my question; par for the course.

BTW, since you’re the lone Israeli expert, when will Palestinians, Arabs and Iran apologize for their continued war against Israel?

October 17th, 2009, 6:54 pm


Shai said:


I thought it was a rhetorical question. Of course I know less than the average Israeli about Syria… 🙂

(P.S. Are you really expecting the Palestinians to apologize for their continued war against Israel? I know it’s past 1 am here in Israel, but you are kidding right?)

October 17th, 2009, 7:15 pm


norman said:

Netanyahu: Turkey can’t be an honest broker
Sun, 18 Oct 2009 08:35:20 GMT
Font size :

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared that he does not want Turkey to act as a mediator in future talks with Syria.

Ties between Israel and Turkey began to sour in January when Ankara strongly condemned Israel’s 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip which killed at least 1400 people mostly woman and children.

Relations took another sharp downturn last week when Turkey excluded Israel from a joint air force drill over Gaza incidents.

A UN inquiry, led by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone, detailed what investigators called Israeli actions “amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity,” during Israel’s winter offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The tensions became a major issue during a meeting between Netanyahu and his visiting Spanish counterpart, Jose Luis Zapatero, on Saturday.

Netanyahu said he objects to Turkey resuming its role as mediator since it cannot be an “honest broker” between Israel and Syria, Haaretz reported on Sunday.

This is while the hawkish government of Netanyahu has not held any indirect talks with Syria. During former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert’s tenure, Turkey mediated five rounds of talks between Israeli and Syrian officials.

If Ankara stops its role as a mediator between Israel and the Arabs, Israel will lose a Muslim mediator with friendly ties to key Muslim players.

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October 18th, 2009, 10:48 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai’s Valuable Insight of “Most Israelis”

P.S. Are you really expecting the Palestinians to apologize for their continued war against Israel?


No, nor do I expect the Israelis to apologize for defending themselves against enemies who not only swear to destroy her, but who have terrorized Israel, including killing hundreds of Israelis since the Rabin handshake.

Once again, Shai speaks for all Israelis (a welcomed service to the Syria Comment website):

Most Israelis still think we’re up there because otherwise Syrian tanks will roll down the hills, on their way to Haifa and Tel-Aviv, or Syrian artillery will shell the settlements below, and Israel will remain helpless.

I agree. Unlike you Shai, I think “most Israelis” have first-hand experience to believe just what you described.

Defeat seemed to be imminent for the state of Israel. The Syrians’ Soviet-style massive frontal assault was too much to bear, and the Israeli front lines had already collapsed.


October 18th, 2009, 11:06 am


norman said:

Syria’s Golan Heights: Can International law forestall a Golanian intifada?
Pressure increasing on Syria’s government to retake the Heights by force
Franklin Lamb

October 20, 2009

Qunaitra, Liberated Capital of the Syrian Golan Heights

Nationals from nearly one-third of the 192 member states of the United Nations met in Damascus last week to discuss the Return/Liberation of the Golan Heights. An estimated 5000 researchers, Lawyers, politicians, activists, victims of Israel’s 42 years of occupation, students and members of the public, attended the opening event in Qunaitra, the Golan capital city, which in a frenzy of frustration at being forced to return the city it had occupied since 1967 (Comment: think Gaza 2005), the Israeli ordered bulldozed, shelled, and booby trapped by its retreating forces as Qunaitra was surrendered to Syria.
The Conference heard the likes of former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark argue that the International community and rules of International law could not be clearer in requiring the full return of the 1,860 sq. meters of the Syrian territory, despite Israeli claims over the years of ‘border irregularities’.
As the International Court of Justice declared in the Burkin Faso and Malie cases, two former French colonies, the frontier existing at the moment of independence, which Syria achieved in April 1946, is frozen like a snapshot taken at the exact moment of Independence.

Some attendees at the large Damascus conclave, often huddling on the sidelines, discussed, analyzed and even advocated a Golan Intifada. They argued that the whole international community, except Israel, and the full corpus of international law, supported the immediate and complete return of the Syrian Golan Height’s to the nearly 350,000 displaced Golan inhabitants, being those who make up 90% of the Golan’s pre-1967 population from the 130 villages and 112 agricultural areas Israel destroyed as it occupied the Golan. These delegates explained to observers that Resistance in all its forms may be the most realistic path for the return of the Golan. They point to the success of the Hezbollah led National Lebanese Resistance in regaining most of Lebanon’s Zionist occupied territory.

One Golani who studies in Damascus told this observer, “We don’t expect help from Hezbollah. They have made clear to us they do not “do branches” in other countries despite requests for help around the region, but we have learned much from their experience and we will apply their logic and tactics.”
“Syria is rising” another joined in, “we are strong psychologically, militarily and as a result of more democracy the past several years our people are united and we are motivated to seek the immediate return of our land, whatever it takes.”

They argued that what Hezbollah did in Lebanon, and what Hamas is doing in Gaza, Syrian patriots can do in the Golan. They believe they would be joined by thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese that might well lead to an unprecedented violent eruption of the Middle East.

One Conference student volunteer interpreter from Damascus University wearing a Hijab, quoted Lebanon’s Senior Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who heads social services agencies here in Syria and he does in Lebanon. Ayatollah Fadlallah frequently argues from the grand Mosque in Dahiyeh that all Arab Muslim and non-Muslims must join to fight against Israel, “because when the enemy launched a war against Palestine and the Arab world, including the Golan Heights, it was legal and obligatory to declare war in response to regain stolen land.”

There appears to be building pressure on the Bashar Assad government to act or allow a popular Intifada, despite analysts here arguing that it is unlikely that his government would agree near term. Many here are encouraged by Bishop Desmond Tutu’s fact finding report of September 2008 to the Human Rights Council on the Israeli shelling of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip in 2006, which led to the death of nineteen civilians as well as the growing international reaction to last month’s Goldstone Report on Gaza

International law and the Golan Heights

The law on the subject and the demolition of Israel’s arguments for retaining the Golan could barely be more complete. In addition to many UN resolutions condemning Israel’s Golan takeover as violations of customary international law and Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter which outlaws the acquisition of territory by force and requiring the immediate withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the Golan Heights virtually all legal analysts agree on the imperative of full return.
One of the Israel lobby’s iconic and repeatedly amplified myths has been that Syria indiscriminate rained artillery shells on peaceful Jewish settlements on the plain of Galilee without provocation thus allowing Israeli to invade as part of its right of self-defense.

Among the scores who have exposed this canard are Israeli authors such as Professor Avi Shlaim, in his volume “The Myth of the Golan Heights” in which he writes: “They (the Israelis) began by staking an illegal claim to the sovereignty over the (demilitarized) zone and then proceeded, as opportunity offered, to encroach on all the specific provisions against introducing armed forces and fortification. They repeatedly obstructed the operations of the UN observers (comment: think Lebanon) , on one occasion even threatening to kill them…They expelled, or otherwise forced out, Arab inhabitants and razed their villages to the ground.”

Moreover, Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Minister of Defense at the time, explained to an Israeli journalist in 1976:

“I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there (on the Golan front) started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let’s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: we would send a tractor to plough someplace where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was…” (The Golan: Ending Occupation, Establishing Peace, London, 2007).

Dayan later added, “There was really no pressing reason to go to war with Syria…..the kibbutz residents who pressed the government to take the Golan Heights did it less for security than for the farmland.”
Syrians cite the human rights situation in the Golan as no longer tolerable, as noted in various UN reports as “persistent” and “significant deterioration”. A 2002 UN Special Committee report described the repression of the Syrian inhabitants under Israel occupation as “extensive, affecting, all aspect of life and families, villages and communities”, adding that “there are also widespread economic consequences of the occupation.”

All Syrians interviewed during and following the October 11-12th Conference appear bitter over the separation of families who live on either side of the valley constituting the demarcation line. Syrian students return to their families in the occupied Golan face, several hours of questioning and even the presents they bring are confiscated. Others are held in arbitrary detention for many days, facing torture and humiliation.

A 1998 Human Rights Watch report of the Golan Heights concludes that “Israel seriously misrepresents the degree of its fulfillment of its treaty obligations” under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights it signed in January 1992.

For the international community, including the United Nations and American and European policy makers the coming choice appears to be implement International law or witness another explosion in this volatile region.

Franklin Lamb is Director of the Washington-DC, Beirut Lebanon Sabra-Shatila Foundation and can be reached at fplamb@sabrashatila.org. He wrote this Report for the Daily Star’s Law page.

:: Article nr. 59155 sent on 20-oct-2009 21:17 ECT


October 20th, 2009, 8:15 pm


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