Should Syria and Israel Start Peace Talks Now?

My latest contribution to the Creative Syria Think Tank is up and running, alongside those of my dear friend, Ibrahim Hamidi, Patrick Seale and Ghayth Armanazi. As usual, people can read and vote on the various contributions.

How should the two countries plan for the talks in order to enhance the chances of success? What other related issues should be dealt with as part of the final solution?

In order to answer this question in a meaningful manner, we should bear in mind that neither Syria nor Israel can actually plan such a major undertaking without first consulting their respective allies and supporters, namely Iran and the United States. Moreover, we should not be oblivious here as the current regional context in which these talks are to be held, namely: the ongoing investigation into the assassination for former Lebanese PM, Rafic al-Hariri, and the current stand-off with Iran regarding its nuclear programs and its regional ambitions.

Looking at the issue of talks from this prism raises several important points: can Syria conclude peace with Israel without the approval of its only remaining regional ally? Can the Assads really turn their back on their Iranian backers, not to mention Hezbollah, Hamas, and other radical groups that stood by them in their time of need?

As a matter of principles the Assads have always been willing to betray their allies and stab them in the backs, the Palestinians and the Lebanese have closet-full of stories in this regard. But then, principles are not really what’s at stake here, this is more about the realities that now exist on the ground, realities that are much different than those that existed back in 1991.

Indeed, in the interim period, especially in the years following the rise of Bashar al-Assad to power in Syria, relations with Iran assumed a different dimension for Syria. The parity between the two regimes gradually dissolved in favor of Iran, until, and in the last year, the entire relation was transformed, if not transmogrified on account of that little voodoo that Bashar & Co. managed to do, into a master-client relationship, along of the lines of the existing relations between Iran and Hezbollah. Worse. While Hezbollah, as a non-state actor, is free to develop its own tactics and plan its own moves, so long as they occur within the strategy set in cooperation with its main backers in Iran, and to a lesser extant, Syria, the Assads, in their newly acquired status as vassals, seem more obliged to pass all major decisions by the Iranians at this stage.

Syria and Iran has signed a mutual defense pact, which both sides seem to take pretty seriously, albeit for different reasons. Moreover, Iran is currently supplying the Syrian Republican Guard with much new and advanced weaponry, especially rockets and missiles. (Iran and, to a lesser extant, North Korea are Syria’s only remaining arms suppliers at this stage. The Russians talk about sending weapons, but so far no action has (has) taken place). As such, major decisions made by the Assads will have a major impact on Iran, more so than Hezbollah’s. Iran may not go to war on the Assads’ behalf, but they will try to support them by supplying them with arms, and motioning their allies in Lebanon and Iraq to bring the situation in their respective countries to a boil when circumstances warrant. The Iranians have also been quite busy since the visit to Syria by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, buying up loyalties in the Syrian army and security apparatuses, by putting various business deals in the way of high-raking generals and their front men, including both Assef Chawkat and Maher al-Assad.

Indeed, the graft and corruption aspect in this entire sordid affair plays a very important role here, which should not be surprising really considering the Assads’ penchant for confusing their private business interests with the national interest. Iran now has major investments in Syria in a variety of sectors, including car-export and manufacturing as well as supplying different types of machinery and supplies to Syria’s rundown factories.

From all the above, it becomes clear that the notion that the Assads can act independently of the Iranians at this stage is nothing less than absurd. There will be hell to pay should they even try. The Iranians can play them against each other, can undermine their hold on power by activating their myriad agents in the country, and they can even create a crisis of legitimacy for them inside the Alawite community. After all, all these Iraqi and Lebanese preachers from Qom who have been busy converting Sunni villages to Twelver Shiism, has also been equally busy communicating with their Alawite counterparts, and many local Alawite shrines have been renovated thanks to donations from Iran, despite the religious differences between the Alawites and the Shia.

The Iranians then, got the Assads by the balls, by the throat and by everything they can lay their hands on, and they have no plans to let go anytime soon, if ever. They simply have too much riding on the Assads and on their potential usability as Iran’s first line of defense to let them stray too far.

(Let’s bear in mind here the fate of the late Lebanese President, Bashir Gemayel, after he signed a peace agreement with Israel contrary to Syria’s wishes. Iran will not let Syria go solo for very much the same reasons. They need Syria to keep on singing their tunes until their own problems with the international community are resolved. Indeed, Hafiz al-Assad’s shoes as a playmaker in regional politics were not filled by his son Bashar, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is the one who holds all the important cards now, and the current confrontational mood we see today in both Syria and Iran is the result of well-orchestrated policy on his part).

Popular perceptions will also play a role here. For having whipped up nationalist fervors to such a high extent in the last few weeks over the developments in Lebanon, the Assads simply cannot afford to turn their backs against their former allies so callously. Indeed, the Syrian public may not care much about the Iranians per se, but it does care about Nasrallah. Of course, the Assads cannot turn their back on one without the other. Betraying Nasrallah after confiscating his victory will be too damaging to the Assads’ internal image, which has, all of the sudden, become somewhat bright due to the Assads’ nationalist stand and their fallback on the rhetoric of national resistance.

The Assads simply do not have the strength and flexibility needed to turn on a dime and reverse all their erstwhile positions and actually get away with it.

Not that they are really inclined to do any of this. For in reality, the Assads realize that Iran is their only backer and they cannot just give up on it. On the contrary, their “faith” in this relationship has emboldened them to take rhetorical stands, not only vis-à-vis the US, France and Israel, but also Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Moreover, the Assads are also too paranoid to take a gamble on the basis of Israeli and US assurances, should they ever materialize that is, and they have plenty of reasons to justify their paranoia. They are already under international isolation and the Americans have been openly talking about regime change in Syria for years now. Since this is, naturally, the product of a Zionist conspiracy for them, they cannot trust Israel as well.

We also need to factor here the reality that the Assads might just be more interested in a return to Lebanon than to the Golan, and they will probably spend more time negotiating on this matter than on anything else. Indeed, the recent defiant and bellicose speech delivered by the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, focused much more on the Lebanese issue than on the Golan. Lebanon is simply much more profitable to the ruling clique than the Golan could ever be.

Bashar waxed even more belligerent and confident in his interview with Dubai TV, in which he criticized the Israelis and the Bush Administration, declared his opposition for deploying peacekeepers and monitors along the Syrian-Lebanese borders, and asserted that popular resistance will be the option should the peace process remain halted, and that the upcoming weeks and months will be decisive in this regard.

For all these considerations, then, the only possible way for talks to take place is through a new regional peace process, one that has to include Iran as well. The region needs to have all of its outstanding problems address and resolved now, a piecemeal approach will not work, because the issues are interlocking and there are simply too many states and parties around that can play the role of spoilers, if they had to.

Yet a Madrid II will not be enough here, for the US will lose all credibility it has left, should it back a purely political process, one that does not take under consideration the need for political reform and openness in the countries involved. What is needed here, then, is a mixture of Madrid I and the Barcelona Process, with monitoring mechanisms and some manner of holding states accountable to their failure in living up to their commitments, especially with regard to internal reforms.

But, unless Israel, the US and the EU are willing to sit down and negotiate directly with Iran as well, then peace in the region has no chance and bilateral talks between Israel and Syria, should they ever take place, will go nowhere. The very notion is indeed ludicrous.

(But just for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that the Assads did indeed decide to take parts in peace talks, the Israelis still need to ask themselves this: with the perception of victory that the Assads have at this stage, with Iran on their side, with the possibility of opening the Golan Front now on the table, and considering the fact that, for the first time since 1967 at least, it is Israel that seems to be testing the waters for launching peace talks, what sort of attitude will the Assads bring with them to the negotiating table? Will they really be in a mood to compromise? Or, will the Israelis be willing to give the bulk of compromises this time around? True, the Syrians and the Iranians will be confident even should wider talks occur, but considering the complexity of the issues that will be involved in that case, initial triumphalism will soon be offset by the need to make some tough compromises).

Other complicating factors in this regard is the fact that the Iranian leadership seems hell-bent on developing its nuclear program regardless of what the international community has to say about that, this may not leave much room for compromise here. Meanwhile, the UN inquiry into the assassination of Rafic al-Hariri, which is quite an independent activity no matter what the conspiratorial minds in our region happen to think, will likely produce results that are too embarrassing for the Assad regime and which the international community cannot ignore, even if it wanted to. The whole affair is simply all too public.

So, taking all the above under consideration, how realistic is the prospect for such a major initiative in the near future?

Well, considering how regional and international actors have spent the last few years making diplomacy irrelevant, through a combination of unilateral actions and preemptive moves, all halfheartedly implemented and callously and poorly managed, the reactivation of the role of diplomacy at this stage seems to require more leadership skills and a much clearer vision than what is currently available in all relevant quarters.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the policymaking circles in the world, enjoy the fruits of your labor for the last few years, and be brave enough to face the consequences of your policies. Indeed, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking that peace is still possible, by some miracle, let’s just prepare for the oncoming war, which we have made all but inevitable. There is nothing worse than being taken by surprise when all hell breaks loose.

26 thoughts on “Should Syria and Israel Start Peace Talks Now?

  1. Mr. Ammar, I appreciate if you can mention your source of information about this Iranian “total control” that happened in the past year as you wrote. If what you are saying is true, it is scary indeed.You live quite far! Is it just info that was conveyed to you by people coming from there? Are any sources from the Alawie sect or close to the regime? You know very well how rumors grow huge in our society, especially at these days of uncertainty.I was in Syria just at the beginning of this year, and did not notice it. But maybe it was just because I was not particularly searching for these signs. I know that the present regime and its head, unlike his father, does not give a damn shoe about the Alawie faith (You probably know the suspicion about Mr. Asef being an Alawie to begin with). But from what I know, Alawie clerks have previously absolutely-refused the rebuilding of some shrines by Iranian money. There was even a big dispute a couple of years ago about allowing Iranian pilgrims to Ali-Zein-El-Abedeen shrine in Hama. How did that change?I am planning on going there at the end of this year, and I will thoroughly check the correctness of all the matters you mentioned. It should not be hard to recognize signs of this influence if it exists, especially if they reached the level you are describing.On a different note, and just working logic without materialistic proofs, I find it really hard to believe that there are “whole villages” leaving their Sunni faith and converting to Shiia as you wrote!! “whole villages”!! Are we a little too paranoid here? I also cannot see how Iranians can control the republican guard by supplying arms to it! Why it would need arm supply in the first place? The republican guard is not there to fight Israel or America, you know better. It is there to “protect the republic” as its name suggests. Protecting it by frightening Syrians who thinks of raising their head above what is allowed. It does not need really additional arms to do that, does it? Do you really think that if a confrontation was to happen with Israel, the regime will push the republican guard to the front? That is absurd!!Even if the regime decided to renovate their rusty tanks just to match the new Mercedes cars they are buying, how could Iranians gain influence in most closed and protected Syrian army units by supplying arms? I can not see that happening unless the whole Alawie clergy, together with every Alawie officer in the army, decided to give up supporting the rule in Syria and convert into Shiia! I have no intention of showing the dirty laundry here, but despite what you hear for media consumption, there is really no lost love nor lost respect between the two sects. Having dirty deals with the top-figures and security apparatuses leaders does not mean they can control them. Every single Sunni big-merchant in Syria and Lebanon had deals like these, Saudis had deals like theses (Do you remember that King Abdullah is Mr. Refaat brother-in-law). But that did not give them the amount of control over this regime as the one you are saying the Iranians have acquired. Anyhow, I will have to go and see with my own eyes.

  2. AmmarYou are right to shine the spotlight on Iran’s expanding power and influence in the region, and seemingly pervasive hold over Syria. Syria can now be described as a client state of Iran’s but the regime still retains a degree of choice as to the depth and breadth of this relationship. It is true that the more intimate this marriage of convenience becomes the harder it is for Syria to extricate herself from the relationship and the less power she can exercise over strategic decisions. If Iranian-made missiles are supplied to Syria so they can be pointed at Israel’s nuclear installations, it would be particularly difficult for Syria to take military action against, or make peace with, Israel without prior consultation and agreement with Iran. Iran needs Syria to pose such a threat to Israel in order to influence US policy towards Iran. But such arguments and idle speculation give both Iran and Syria more weight than they really deserve. Iran’s nuclear installations and Syria’s missile sites can be taken out by combined NATO-Israeli air operations quite quickly. The Americans let the Israelis provoke a Hisbullah missile response in order to test both Iranian missile technology and the latest US arial bombardment technology on difficult terrain. But it is also possible that the Iranians have outwitted the Americans in that they either did not supply Hizbullah or did not let them fire the most advanced and longer-range missiles on Israel, so keeping some of their cards close to their chest.You still seem to be expecting an armed conflist to flare up soon in the region. I do not see what incentives any of the parties have to ignite such a conflict at this time. Equally I do not see Israel being Serious about peace with Syria that would involve handing back the Golan. Israel alreay enjoys peace with Syria and the Golan provides Israel with geographic depth in the case of a gound attack and keeps her tanks within 50 miles of Damascus. The ball is really in the Americans’ court. All Iran can do is stir up trouble in Iraq to buy time. At some point the American’s might decide it is time to put an end to Iranian mischief but both camps appear to be playing it safe for the time being. Just as well, we all need a break.

  3. Very impressive article, Ammar. I of course do not agree with all its content, but overall, it was very useful reading.Philip, the Iranians and the Syrians know the old trick of small wars meant to test their latest war technology. Before the 1973 war, they did not use their SAM 6 missiles for example. they prefered to keep it as a surprise for the real war.But I totally disagree with your assupmtion that missile bases can be easily taken out with a combined NATO-Israeli attack. There are thousands of bases from which Syria can launch missiles for days if not weeks before they can all be taken out.Anyway, it will not get to that. this is all about NOT going to war. No one will risk Syiran chemical weapons on Israeli cities, or Israeli nuclear boms on damascus.

  4. Guys guys?”The Americans let the Israelis provoke a Hisbullah missile response in order to test both Iranian missile technology and the latest US arial bombardment technology on difficult terrain.”Do people here really believe this? Israel provoked the rocket attacks and did so on USA orders? Wow!In terms of negotiations…I think negotiations are critical. One thing nobody brings up that I would like y’all to consider:Syria would want to the Golan, which they lost in wars. What would Syria be offering? And if the answer is “a promise to be nice”…well then so much for negotiations.

  5. I mean I know that Ibrahim Hmeidi is a tool for the regime, but his contribution is incredibly pathetic. Disgusting.

  6. HowieNo, the Israelis do not act on US orders but the interests of the two sometimes coincide as they have on this occasion. The Americans have been able to exploit the conflict to their own advantage as indeed Syria has. Do you really think that either Rumsfeld or Chaney care much for Israeli or Arab lives?

  7. Philip IOn that we are in FULL agreement. History is filled with teenage boys who died fighting for the amibitions of folks that couldn’t give a hoot about their suffering or the suffering of others.In this particular case…I just don’t see huge conspiracies. I think Nasrallah wanted to play hero and he grossly underestimated the response and then he “could not” back down. So ego lead to lots of death and destruction. That is my take.In terms of the subject…peace between israel and Syria would is a very complex issue. An enormous factor is that I any Israeli politician is going to put his neck in a guillatine (sp??) when he tries to sell giving back the Golan. Many Israeli’s are already screaming loudly about giving up Gaza and leaving S. Lebanon…lot’s of “we told you so”?To pull something like that off is going to take a tremendous mind(‘s). Israel is not, by any measure, a political monolith but filled with about as many opinions as there are people, plus folks can vote, there is a free press, scurtiny of the whole world and everybody is going to be screaming like crazy. Any…I am not being a wiseass when I say…”what will Syria offer?” This won’t be a Sinai type thing of “land for promises”…This will have to be much more creative and probably would mean much more compromise. A handshake and a smile won’t carry it.

  8. Indeed, Syrian In the Far East, I have to admit that my recent impressions on growing Iranian contacts within the Alawite community, especially the clergy, despite all the differences in credo between the two faiths, is based on personal contacts with figures inside Syria who are in a position to know a thing or two about this, I have been out for a year now and cannot claim direct knowledge of the matter. Still, I myself have my doubts about this, knowing of the ideological differences between the two faiths. People say that things have changed in the last year and the number of Hussainiyyahs has grown steadily in key cities. Still, it would indeed be interesting to hear what you have to say about this upon your return. As for whole Sunni villages converting, exaggerations notwithstanding (and they are not mine by the way, but they tend to be quite common among religious Sunni circles in Syria). Still, I have observed first hand over the years, prior to my departure, the activities of visiting Shia clerics, especially in the Suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and the growing number of conversions that is associated without. So, the rumors and exaggerations in this regard are based on reality. As for contacts and coordination in the Republican Guard, now here my sources are as credible as can be, and the whole thing here revolves around the economic deals, gifts and straight out bribes that get paid, and not only arms. My point about arms is that Iran is now the sole supplier to the Assads I this regard, they simply cannot turn their back on your sole supplier, unless you can guarantee another. Yes, the Republican Guard is meant to protect the regime against the people and not some hypothetical invasion, as such, helping to arm it is meant to reassure the regime on this score. For, frankly, both regimes, but especially the Assads, are counting on the fact that an actual invasion is out of the question, and that the worst that can happen is aerial attacks. Seeing that such attacks might be sufficient to weaken the Assads’ hold on power enough to create potential challengers, arms supplies to the Guard are meant to reassure the Assads and put them in a position where they can quash any potential rival or any hypothetical popular or semi-popular uprising. Indeed, having dirty deals with regime figures may not suffice to control them, but, when you put all these things together, with the stress on the innate and growing paranoia of the Assads vis-à-vis the Americans, especially the current administration, their international isolation and how they have manage to alienate all their potential supporters in the region, other than the Iranians, and their record of internal squabbles and blundering over the past 6 years, then the picture I have drawn of strong Iranian control over the decision-making process in the country, become too daunting to be dismissed. In the final analysis, we really need to take heed of the fact that the Assads were the ones to leave themselves too little room to maneuver here. Had the Assads not been in charge of the situation in Syria, there would have been enough wiggling room here. The irrational aspect of the equation should never be dismissed when dealing with the Assads. Rational leaders would not have been caught in this untenable situation, growing external pressures notwithstanding. This is what happened when your entire existence becomes based on constantly playing a zero-sum game.

  9. HowieI really don’t think it will be possible to have real peace between Syria and Israel in the foreseable future. By real I mean open borders, trade, sports events, rebuilding of synagogues in Old Damascus or a Syrian art centre in Tel Aviv.The problem is more Syrian than Israeli. Until our nation has dug itself out of the economic, political and cultural hole that it has been burried in for over 40 years, it cannot be a real partner in peace. The most we can hope for is a phased normalisation of relations over a twenty or twenty five year period under a new Syrian regime. In the meantime, the truce holds. I worry more however about the stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians. I think Hanniyeh can do deal but Isreal too needs strong leaders with a vision to make peace with the Palestinians.Although I am digressing, it is better either to allow the Palestinians to build a viable state or no state at all (i.e. full integration into Israel. As the latter is highly unlikely and would in any case be totally unacceptable to this generation of Palestinians, the choice is between a proper state and continued conflict.

  10. Philip II could not agree with you more. It is a relief to hear somebody from “the other side” not making wild accusations about Israeli’s desire to commit genocide against the “Arab nation”. Let’s face it…by far the biggest killer of Moslems has been Moslems.Israel is FAR from perfect. It has its pimps, whores, mafia’s, crooks, liars and just flat miserable human beings. Also…the political ideology runs in every direction. But I know this people pretty well…overall an enormous percentage would love peace with Syria, Lebanon…but the fear and distrust runs so so so deep. Again…it is even in the culture…there was a popular song for example…where the writer sings about a day when we could shop in Damascus (no…and not after we bombed it and took over).Personally, knowning the “Jewish mentality”…the Palestinian thing will not be settled through the tactics Fatah et. al. have used for the past 60-70 years. Terror has increased, which has only increased the anger, distrust and has only supported the “I told you so camp”. In my own family, there are folks who marched for the Peace Now camp who would vote for somebody right of Netanyahu tomorrow…I pray that maybe through folks like some of us here…a little light can be shined.Have you ever watched a dying child? I have…The pain and horror is something you cannot imagine, it has to, God forbide, happen to you. When it happened to me…I swore to God I would try to do what I could to prevent others from experience that…I guess this is a tiny part of my miniscule contribution.I still look forward to the day promised by Isaiah 19:23…I keep telling people to read it…just amazes me and I am not that religiouis of a guy.God bless you Philip I…you have been blessed with a clear mind that you probably worked hard at steering towards honesty and introspection.

  11. Congrats for a well written analysis. At least seven or is it eight of the other readers of Creative Syria seem to agree with me. It looks that the other contributors have been trounced this go around.

  12. Ammar, I do think that your analysis is worth thinking deeply in it. However, I would like to say something from the other side of the equation. I think the people of Syria should refuse to let the current regime to seek or go to peace talk with Israel as long as this drama of international accusation of the president and the main player around him. The involvement in peace talk would jeopardize the national interest of the country. The parties in the government, and the opposition should scream loud about this not advising the regime but demanding not to get involve until the Harriri investigation is completed.

  13. Howie,Your are suggesting that Syria must offer something physical in return of the Golan? I guess you want another Syrian piece of land instead? Does Damascus sounds good? How about some Syrian oil fields? Maybe 10,000 Syrian slaves? No, the Euphrates river? The Syrian Coast sounds better? Syria wants it land; the Golan. Peace is an equation with two sides. The Syrian side has been established, but the Israeli one is not. Just tell me what do you and Israel want? Please, think carefully before making another pathetic statement.

  14. Ammar, excellent analysis and you wrote an amazing article.I hope that your description of the Iranian control is not as real and that we won’t reach the conclusion that you stated.Howie, Israel will benefit a lot from embarking on a global peace with its neighbors or al least the palestinians. Now is the optimal time to do it…We want Peace and not wars.

  15. SamMy my Sam…forget our medication today did we?You can keep the slaves…and the Euphrates..oh and if you are mad about the land…do remember Syrian attacked Israel numerous times and lost it…so yes I do think some concessions are in order…oh…how about your Pacific Coast with the view?But to answer your question;Stop supplying money and weapons and other support to know terrorist organizations.Stop providing haven to known terrorists.Why not stay the hell out of Lebanon and stop stirring of unrest there?There’s a start.Unlike many of your former leaders…Israel never wanted a fight with Syria nor did we ever covert your land…can’t say the same about your past and present governments…

  16. Howie,I am not in any position to defend our corrupt leaders. I am totally aware of their mistakes and misclaculations. I doubt that Israel will give up the Golan if Syria acts “nice”. Do you think that your Israeli government will be able to convince the Isreal populaion, especially settlers and exteremists, that they should give up “their lands and homes” to reward Syria for being a nice peaceful nation. If you beleive so, I am very sorry about you. Syria did attacked Israel and thats right. But Israeli is not the innocnect angle you are dreaming about. Did the Native Americans get any of their land back after they became “nice” to the new commers?You are suggesting the treatment of the symptoms before that of the disease, but I am sure that a treatment of the disease before the symptoms is by far more effecient and effective.

  17. Sam-OK…now we are being calmer and attacking ideas instead of people.Would Israel easily give up the Golan…no..that was what I was trying to say earlier and I think you may have missed that part. It would be an enormously hard sell…especially now. There is an ENORMOUS “I told you so” happening in Israel right now with regards to giving up Gaza and S. Lebanon…espcially with no concessions. It is referred to as “the land for war” agreements.That is precisely why I would suggest that Syria would have to show SOMETHING…not just a promise. Look…I can’t hold Sam or those like you responsible for the “sins of your fathers”. But Sam…for most Israeli’s it is not about honor, or revenge…it is about distrust and fear.Please don’t forget that Israel DID give up Sinai, DID give us Gaza, DID leave Lebanon. Yes…Golan would be a much harder sell…too many people remember the blood and horror and too many people feel betrayed by the huge sacrifice that was Gaza.Personally…I would be enormously hesitant to give up the Golan…not because I covet your land, but that I legitimately fear it becoming a launching pad for yet another attack.Ah…I much prefer talking to you in a reasonable manner.Let’s start with me and you being friends…would be a good example for our leaders 😉

  18. SamOh…and do I think ISrael is a bunch of angels…just look at what I boosted earlier on this very post…here I will save you the trouble…this is part of what I wrote:”Israel is FAR from perfect. It has its pimps, whores, mafia’s, crooks, liars and just flat miserable human beings. Also…the political ideology runs in every direction. But I know this people pretty well…overall an enormous percentage would love peace with Syria, Lebanon…but the fear and distrust runs so so so deep. Again…it is even in the culture…there was a popular song for example…where the writer sings about a day when we could shop in Damascus (no…and not after we bombed it and took over).”

  19. Hoiwe,I would love to see Syria having a peaceful and healthy relationship with Israel. I understand that Syria must stop supporting all anti-Israeli groups and rehtrotic in return of the Golan. I really understand Israeli fears but they should not be used as an excuse. The Syrian government acts stupid sometimes but they are not going to break any peace treatment if the Golan is returned. Why would Syria attack Israel if it has the Golan back? If Israel used the same rationale with Egypt, it would have never had peace with it. Syria of today is no longer interested in initiating a direct war with Israel and I think Israel is the same, but a no-war and no-peace situation is not in favor for both.

  20. Sam…I think you are essentially correct..”who blinks first”…At the risk of sounding overly “poetic”…the Jewish memory is very long…the fear and distrust…that won’t change overnight. Again..for psychological and political reasons…something has to change on the Syrian side or no politician could ever ever sell this to the Israeli public. I am not making that statement out of spite…once again…the view in Israel is “yes..we have peace…cold peace with Egypt…but we got nothing but spit in the face leaving Lebanon and giving up Gaza”. That view is not without merit. Especially with Syria being a dictatorship…even if a huge percentage of the Syrian people wanted to make positive moves…as long as the government wants something else, and has control of secret police and the military…well…you get the problem…but yes…this is not good for MOST of us…a very small minority do benefit.

  21. Howie,I am happy you are a regular here by now.I hope you realize the difference between returning lands in a negotiated way (Sinai, Quneitra of the Golan), and unilateral withdrawal (Gaza, south Lebanon).The differences between the two are1) When you negotiate something that both sides sign on (without being forced to sign, after an invasion let’s say) then you have “an agreement”2) When you have a larger country like Egypt and Syria, versus a weak and divided Lebanon, a totally destroyed Palastenian authority (in Gaza) then don’t expect the non-reliable other side to deliver on the non-agreement that was never signed.conclusion: The agreemetns you signed with Egypt and Syria were not bad. You did not have war on either front, not from the Golan and not from Sinai.Regarding Syria’s support for groups that threaten Israel’s security … return the occupied Syrian lands and see the differnece. You want to act in a barbaric way when you decide to keep “the spoils of war” (as you said few weeks ago) then you get an equally barbaric reaction.Syrians will want you to give the Palestinians back their lands, but if Syria signs a pece treaty with Israel, Syria will respect it. If you settle with the Palestinians, then Syrians will more than respect their treaty with Israel … they will become your best friends.Just imagine if Barak did not decide to try to outsmart Hafez Assad in 1999 and instead if he just signed that treaty .. there would have been no Lebanon war for example.

  22. Ammarji,Very well written post and some great thoughts from philip, howie and others.I am not qualified enough to respond to it but definitly gained some valuable knowledge.Peace should prevails…. and ultimately that day would also come… how soon? my guess is as good as others.-Anish (Love from India)

  23. I am not sure I agree with everything in this post, but it is a well thought-out, cogent argument.

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