Assad’s offer to Israel

20077172229250_1assad ""We do not want secret talks. We ask Israel’s leaders to state in a clear and official manner their desire for peace," Assad said in a speech to Parliament.

"There must be guarantees to return the whole land. We cannot enter negotiations without knowing what they’re going to be about. The minimum that is required is a deposit, similar to Rabin’s deposit, or anything in writing," Assad said.

The "Rabin Deposit" refers to a promise made by Itzhak Rabin to former US President Bill Clinton in the 1990s for full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in any final peace agreement with Syria.

When this becomes available, there can be channels with Israel through a third party, he said. After that, there can be "direct, open negotiations in the presence of an honest broker."  Daily Star


It is unlikely that he has the USA in mind as an "honest broker."  The last time Arabs accepted that idea they had Dennis Ross as the "honest broker’s" representative.  Remind me as to what he is doing these days?

It is often the case in the Middle East, and particularly among Arabs, that negotiations are not conducted on the basis that we Westerners find necessary.  We think in terms of a dialectical procees which produces a solution.  The Arabs often think that to be a "sucker’s" game, a form of trickery.  They understand how we do it, but are uneasy with the process.

What they want is to be told, as Assad says, where the negotiation will end.  If that is satisfactory, then they will sit down with the adversary to work out the details in an atmosphere of the cordiality and good manners so natural to them.

Meaning?  If the Israelis and their Bushy masters (role reversal here) were to accept that, I believe that there would be meaningful talks.

It will not happen. pl

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24 Responses to Assad’s offer to Israel

  1. Yohan says:

    Assad’s demands are exactly like Israel’s and America’s demands that Hamas give in to all of Israel’s demands before negotiations can even begin.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are mistaken. At CD2, the US and Israel clearly sought to isolate Arafat and bring him to a conclusion not evident at the beginning. pl

  3. mo says:

    A man offering what he does not want to offer knowing that those he offers it to would prefer what they have to what he is offering.
    The Syrian regime cannot afford peace with Israel. Their whole police state is based on the premise of being “at war”. Any peace would have his people asking why the need for continued autocracy. And while Assad himself may like to lessen governments grip on the reins, those around him, especially those from his fathers day certainly would not.
    For Israel the equation is simple. The Golan provides them with water, much like the Shebaa farms. Give that up for peace with Syria? For what? Syria is no danger militarily, will give Israel nothing economically. It is, now I think about it, a no-brainer.
    In my humble opinion, there can be no peace between Syria and Israel until there is another war (and even then only IF the Syrians were to prove they are able to take the Israelis on) or if the Syrians agree to relenquish control over the water rights on the Golan (which is the more likely scenario if Syria is given the “right” incentives)

  4. zanzibar says:

    I think you are correct. There will be no negotiations with a targeted outcome between Israel & Syria or far that matter between Israel and Lebanon or the Palestinians. I think the Israeli’s believe they have nothing to gain through negotiations but plenty to gain through the continued use of force and usurpation. And, IMO, the Syrians, HA and the Palestinians have very little with which to challenge them.

  5. Yohan says:

    I wasn’t referring to CD2, but rather to the continuing refusal of Israel and America to talk to Hamas until Hamas renounces violence, recognizes Israel, and moves to stop attacks on Israel, basically giving Israel everything it wants before any negotiations can even begin even though Hamas is offering a truce. Hamas points out that Hamas violence(or the threat of violence) is the only bargaining chip Hamas has to compel Israel to make concessions, and thus giving up this chip before negotiations ensures that negotiations will go nowhere, which suits Israel fine.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    What would be your point of view on this if you were not Lebanese? pl

  7. jamzo says:

    dennis ross just happened to be promoting his new book on charlie rose last night and had things to say

  8. Leila says:

    It’s just f***ing depressing is all I have to say.
    I’m going back to reading about peak oil. Just to lighten things up for a bit.

  9. Wendell says:

    Hmmm. I do labor negotiations, and I think you just taught me something.

  10. Montag says:

    I saw a BBC interview with Pres. Assad made after last Summer’s Llama War. He said he was in no hurry to negotiate because he has time on his side. Olmert is too politically weak to conclude any real agreement and Bush is too intransigent. He intimated that he’ll prefer to wait for better negotiating partners. After all, HE’s not going anywhere! I don’t think his regime can afford to accept anything less than status quo ante bellum. They even hanker for a completely new access to the Sea of Galilee, which gives the Israelis hissy fits, you can bet.
    Look what happened in 2000. Barak was unable to to make a deal with Syria, so to salvage something he unilaterally pulled out of Lebanon. It’s almost as if Syria is occupying Israeli territory and Assad is waiting for the Israelis to come crawling back to the negotiating table because he’s in a position to “make them an offer they can’t refuse.”
    Who’s to say he isn’t right? Before WWII the Czechs used to say that their alliances with France to the West and the Soviet Union to the East meant that they were the belt holding the shirt and the pants together. Syria serves the same purpsose between Hizbullah and Iran. Israel will have to neutralize Syria in one way or the other. Perhaps Assad is simply sticking a finger in the air to find out which way the wind from Israel and the U.S. is blowing.

  11. kao_hsien_chih says:

    “Negotiations as a trickery” is not just a part of Arab imagination: it is also something that’s taught in most economics and many political science departments in this country. There is an odd symmetry in this….

  12. confusedponderer says:

    Of course there won’t be talks. Assad is evil, and thus cannot be trusted. If he makes an offer, he is clearly dishonest. And, of course:
    *huff* He must abandon terrorism first! *puff*
    Neo-cons will inevitably see Assad making offers as a sign of his weakness, which means there won’t be talks just because. If he is ‘weak’, then that means in neo-con world that their pressure toward regime change is working.
    I think the hostility in neo-con circles to Assad is not because he is ‘evil’. It is a means to an end.

  13. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1.Per Ross:
    For his current role in diaspora management and planning for world Jewry, as chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Jewish Peoples Planning Institute, see JPPI website at
    IMO, the fascinating documents on the website are well worth reading in extenso and are important and authoritative indicators.
    2. “It will not happen.” Agreed. For one, the American domestic political reality is the pro-Israel Lobby can regularly count on at least 3/4 of the votes in Congress. Pick a “pro-Israel” bill that AIPAC, for example, has pushed during this or the past few Congresses and do the math for the Senate and House votes. For another, Rove is watching Bush’s political “base” that includes some 25-40 million or so Christian Zionist fundamentalists…

  14. Abu Sinan says:

    I dont buy Mo’s conclusion. There are countries all over the Middle East that are as autocratic, if not more, who do not use the Israel/Palestinian issue as a pretext.
    Syria does not need to be “at war” to do things it’s government does. Look at states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan who are just as autocratic, but certainly do not base this upon any sort of war footing with Israel.
    I do agree, however, that there will be no change. Israel has what it wants, it faces no real pressure from the US. Why negotiate when you hold all of the cards?

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ha’artez has a different take:

  16. John Howley says:

    The failure of the Israeli government to cut a deal with Syria tells me that they do not believe their own propaganda about Iran posing an existential threat.

  17. mo says:

    I do not base my point of view on my being Lebanese, although my being Lebanese will of course affect my point of view. I am, as you know, not of the anti-Syrian camp in Lebanon, but I have experienced and seen enough to know what they are capable of and how their political machinations work. Assad knows Israel isn’t going to give up the Golan water as well as anyone.
    I honestly do not believe either side wants peace because neither side has all that much to gain, very much unlike the Israeli- Lebanese situation where a peace would bring benefits to both.
    Abu Sinan,
    Egypt and Jordan are paragons of virtue and freedom compared to Syria. I have never felt the kind of paranoia of the “mukhabarat” (secret police) in those countries they way I do in Syria. I agree they do not need the war footing to be like this; What I am saying is that they have used the war footing as justification for being like this.

  18. David W says:

    Ironically, it appears that the Cheney/Bush administration, while claiming to champion Democracy and Freedom, really aspire to be strongmen a la Assad, Abdullah and Mubarak, while the Republican Party attempts to model itself after the House of Saud.
    Of particular interest is the fact that Bush Jr. has more in common with Bashar Assad and Abdullah II than he does with the leaders of the ‘Free World.’

  19. Matthew says:

    Col: I got the chance to meet Dennis Ross about a year ago. He’s very charming and he take great pride in repeating that the negotiations over the Golan Heights broke down over a “few hundred meters” of land. The culprit: Syria, of course. Needless to say Ross does not inform his audiences that those “few hundred meters” are the ENTIRE boundry of the Sea of Galliee (Lake Tiberias). Pretty big omission. Very telling on his credibility. But he is charming.

  20. Leila A. says:

    Mo – I have yet to visit Syria. But I lived in Egypt in the early 80s and believe me, everybody was concerned about the mukhabarat. I mean, I met the head of one of the mukhabarat ministries (there were two different ones, don’t ask me why) at my then husband’s club. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, blah blah. Yet that same husband, a completely apolitical fashion photographer, had been picked up and roughed up by rather slick intelligence guys the year before – he’d photographed a particularly charming “folkloric” truck that turned out to be full of brand new super secret communications devices. His mother had to spring him from prison with her fancy connections. (the club, you know)
    He told this story while laughing, but he and his friends made it clear that it’s no laughing matter to get arrested, and it happened regularly to people they knew. They were friends with Nawal Al-Saadawi, who suffered in prison. Etc. etc. and that was 1983. I highly doubt it’s different now. I mean look at what they are doing to the Egyptian bloggers.
    Ok so Syria killed all those people in Hama. Maybe they are truly more evil/hardass than Egypt, just going by numbers of dead. BUt can you really say that folks in Egypt are not paranoid about the mukhabarat?
    I dont’ know your circumstances, and I am living in California and not plugged in. I’m sure you know about the scene than I do. But I just had to question this assertion that the mukhabarat are not so bad in Egypt.

  21. Mo says:

    Sorry, I will try to be clearer. The Mukhabarat in Egypt, Jordan, well actually any Arab country are equally adept at arbitrary arrest, torture, etc. I did not mean to say they were any more saintly.
    The point I was simply trying to make was that there is a paranoia about Syria that I simply that do not see in the other countries, a fear that pervades every aspect of peoples lives a fear that they exported with them to Lebanon. There was an old joke about Assad(snr) standing on a road in Damascus and stopping people at random. He would show them a picture of a donkey and ask them to name the animal. The first said a monkey so Assad shot him. Asked why, he replied, becasue he is an idiot. The second said a duck and the same thing happened. The third and the fourth also got it wrong and were also killed. Finally one man looked at him and said, That is a donkey. So Assad shot him. Asked why he had shot the man, even though he got it right, Assad replied, “He knew too much”

  22. Montag says:

    You may be right. About 10 years ago I watched an episode of “Great Railway Journeys.” The traveller in this segment was actor/comedian Alexei Sayle, a Briton of the Jewish religion with a decidedly Leftist bent. He was at the Crusader castle the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria and was interviewing a couple of men from a nearby village who admitted that they’d demolished a wall in the castle for building stones some years before. This was being filmed. However, a few minutes later they decided it would be prudent to “correct the record.” They now said that the wall had FALLEN of its own accord and that they had merely harvested the stones from it. Sayle got a chance to display his working class solidarity by making a big show of pretending to go along with the “correction.” The point is that they didn’t know if they’d done anything wrong or if the authorities would still be interested after such a period of time–but a little healthy paranoia is the price of liberty in Syria, apparently.
    I guess Sayle felt it too. When the train crossed the border from Syria to Jordan he did a dance of celebration at finally being free.
    There’s an old joke about a journalist doing a man-on-the-street interview in a dictatorship and he asks the man what he thinks of the dictator. The man says, “I can’t talk here, come with me.” So there’s this big production of them driving out into the country. Finally, miles away from any people, the man takes the journalist out into an empty field. He looks nervously around and says, “I like him.”

  23. david says:

    Spend time in Egypt or Jordan and you will get a sense of the “paranoia.” I would aver that the Jordanian moukhabarat are the most “ruthless,” (does this mean anything?) simply because they are the most competent. Curiously, in Lebanon, especially the North, I found those most victimized by Syrian agents were often the most sypmathetic to the Syrian presence. Of course, there exists a anti-Syrian political discourse, but outside the village, does this really mean anthing? I think not.

  24. Will says:

    sorry i can’t figure out the original link
    cordesman cuts thru the NeoKon bullcrap about syria
    ” Improving US and Syrian Relations: Some Possible Beginnings,” by Anthony Cordesman
    Monday, July 23rd, 2007
    Anthony Cordesman, Thomas Sanderson, and Jon Alterman of CSIS visited Syria on the 4th of July weekend to meet with the president and foreign minister. I had a nice chat with them at the 4th of July party given by the embassy. This is the report that Cordesman wrote up on his return to Washington.
    Improving US and Syrian Relations: Some Possible Beginnings
    Anthony H. Cordesman
    Washington, DC, July 19, 2007
    Center for Strategic and International Studies
    I recently traveled to Syria with two of my colleagues at CSIS, Jon Alterman and Thomas Sanderson. We did so at the invitation of the Orient Center in Damascus to discuss US and Syrian relations and met with a range of Syrians concerned with the distance and tensions between our countries. We also met with President Asad and the Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.
    As might be expected, we heard a great deal about the Syrian view of US mistakes in the region and in its relations with the Syria. The Syrians heard a great deal about the US view of Syrian mistakes in the region and its relations with the US. There were no breakthroughs, dramatic messages, or promises of sudden success in US and Syrian relations.
    If anything, the Syrian perspective was that the Bush Administration had no serious interest in talking to Syria, and that any progress would have to come after it left office. I will not attempt to speak for my colleagues, but my perspective was that we faced serious problems in our relations over Syria’s polices towards Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Iran.
    At the same time, I was again struck by the fact that Syria remains one of the more secular and modern societies in the Middle East. Its people are often well educated, almost always friendly, and are not anti-American in the broad sense of the term. The people we spoke to showed considerable pragmatism and flexibility in their views, and Syrians are an easy people to talk with. Unlike some of the region’s ideologues, it is possible to have a real dialogue.
    It also struck me that there are many areas where the US and Syria do have common interests and might be able to move forward without some kind of formal improvement in relations It is not necessary to have “breakthroughs” to make progress or to wait on the next Administration. In fact, waiting nearly two years for a new Administration to fully take office is in neither nation’s interest. There is too much instability in the region; there are too many areas where leaving things unintended can only make things worse. ”

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