Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Syria

Landis and Abbas Go Head to Head

Given the enormous potential of Syria’s peace negotiations with Israel to transform the strategic balance of the region, it is a bit odd that the discussion of this issue has been largely absent in Lebanese media and political circles. The talks are hardly ever mentioned by opposition figures, and the majority only ever seems to bring them up in order to score points against Hizbullah.

Why have no Lebanese civil society organizations rallied around these talks, hailing them as productive and beneficial, and solidly in the interests of Lebanon and regional stability? Are pro-March 14 groups so jaded about Syria that they would not deign to welcome a development such as this, which would bring much-needed stability to the country? Are pro-March 8 groups so worried about what a Syria-Israel deal will spell for the future of the Lebanese resistance? Even if this is the case, one would imagine that non-aligned groups would seek to champion this cause, but then again perhaps there is no such thing anymore as a non-aligned group in Lebanon.

Joshua Landis over at Syria Comment has an excellent position paper entitled “Syria-Israel Peace: The Impact on Non-State Militias“. In it, he argues:

“Syria has suffered enough in wars against Israel. The government is prepared to exploit this sentiment. It is fully aware of its own weaknesses – both military and economic. In short, Syria wants a deal…”

Furthermore, Landis suggests that Hizbullah would not sacrifice its valuable relations with Syria over peace with Israel. Provided that Washington engages Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah all at once, a deal can be reached that “stands a much greater chance of successfully reducing terrorism in the region than if it attempts to “flip” one in order to destroy the others or to divide and conquer.”

After reading this analysis, I ran it by my pro-Hizbullah friend, Abbas. He sat quietly for a moment, then asked:

“Does Syria have any interest in peace with Israel?”

“Why wouldn’t it?”

“Tell me what interests it has.”

“Economic, security, strategic interests… It would open up to the West, have sanctions dropped, tourism would increase.”

“The Syrian regime has no interest in peace. They are a minority ruling over a majority. They derive all their legitimacy from fighting Israel. Once the fight is over, the legitimacy is gone.”

“What about getting back the Golan? Surely that would accord them a great deal of legitimacy.”

“What does the Golan really mean to the average Syrian? It’s a matter of some national pride, but is he going to possess anything in the Golan? No. The regime will own it.”

“But look at the Jordanians. They made peace and didn’t lose legitimacy.”

“They are not a minority ruling over a majority.”

“But Abbas, Bashar is very popular, even among Sunnis in Syria.”

“How do you know? Do they issue accurate approval ratings in a dictatorship?”

“Umm, no, but there was an American poll taken recently that showed that Bashar was the second most popular leader in the Middle East after Nasrallah.”

“Ahhhh, you see? Bashar derives his legitimacy from the Resistance. He is popular for the same reason that Sayyed Hasan is popular: because they are fighting against the Zionists. The second he stops fighting, he will be just like Mubarak and what’s-his-name-in-Jordan. But he will be worse off, because he’s not a Sunni.”

“Abbas, I have it on very good insider information that these talks are serious.” [Ok, Syria Comment is not exactly “insider information” but it’s as good as it gets when it comes to Syria, right?]

“Really?”

“Yes. The Syrians are serious.”

“No they’re not.”

“They are.”

“They’re not.”

“They are!”

“They couldn’t be. They are playing a game, stalling for time.”

“Ok, let’s just say that they are serious.”

“But they’re not.”

“Just humor me!”

“Why? What’s the point?”

“Just for argument’s sake.”

“Fine.”

“Just for argument’s sake, let’s say the Syrians are serious about these talks. Let’s say that they have done their homework and they now recognize that this is the policy that makes the most sense, in the long run.”

At this point Abbas just started laughing and shaking his head. It was clear that he found my hypothetical scenario so outlandish that it couldn’t be taken seriously.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re going to tell me that an Alawite dictator is going to put his eggs in a Zionist basket and abandon the most popular political movement in the Arab world? For what? “Peace?” He won’t last a year.”

We left it at that.

(Joshua, the floor is yours.)

Discussion

33 thoughts on “Landis and Abbas Go Head to Head

  1. My dear QN,

    Nice Abbas commentary. But here is back at you:

    Hafiz al-Assad entered Lebanon to save the collective ass of the Christian community from being overrun by the Muslim-Sunni forces of the “resistance.” This was terribly unpopular among the Sunni majority of Syrians. It provided much rhetorical justification for the Muslim Brothers to go onto the war path.

    Look what happened to the MB. They didn’t overthrow Hafiz. Hafiz crushed them.
    Syrian Sunnis eventually accepted this as best for the country and renounced the radical MB for resorting to violence and trying to destabilize Syria.

    The moral of this story. Alawite presidents of Syria do not have to cower to opinion polls and can do what is best for Syria.
    Bashar can make peace with Israel just as his father wanted to.

    Sure, it will make some diehard Sunnis dislike Bashar, but they probably already dislike him. Yes, he will lose some popularity in the region but it will be good for Syria.

    Syria needs a change. Bashar knows it. He is moving along that road.

    Bashar may not be the second most popular Arab leader after Nasrallah in the Middle East if he makes peace with Israel, but I bet he can stay in power. I also bet Syrians, if not Arabs, will like him for it.

    What is more, most of the Christian leaders of Lebanon would support peace with Israel. Why are they different from Bashar? Are they not trying to make themselves appealing to their people? Is it because the majority of Lebanese are not Sunnis?
    In short, being an Alawite is a liability in the popularity game. I do not deny that, but I do not believe it is as insurmountable a liability as your nice Shiite driver suggests.

    Of course, he has a point, there will be sacrifices for both Nasrallah and Bashar if they make peace with Israel and give up resistance. They will have to change things. It will be hard all around.

    Posted by Joshua Landis | October 14, 2008, 11:22 am
  2. I love you conversations with Abbas!

    And I see he is slowly becoming your sidekick on the Qifa Nabki talk Show 🙂

    I agree with Joshua that Bashar can survive the popular resistance to a separate peace deal. But …

    Posted by Alex | October 14, 2008, 11:45 am
  3. Joshua

    I’ll take your response to him (in the guise of a friendly rejoinder) and we’ll see what he says. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 14, 2008, 11:58 am
  4. Abbas makes a lot of sense. There is nothing with his logic that I do not disagree with.

    There is an inherent contradiction in the Landis analysis. Bashar according to Landis wants change in Syria in order to advance it econonomically. However, if Syria pursues peace with Israel, the Syrian regime will need to be even more oppressive in order to make up for lost legitimacy. This will stop any economic progress realized through the peace with Israel.

    The real question is how aligned are the regime’s interests are with the interests of average Syrians. The answer in my opinion is very little. The regime will do WHATEVER it takes to stay in power and therefore it is very unlikely that it wants peace with Israel.

    Posted by AIG | October 14, 2008, 12:07 pm
  5. Well .. there is one easy way to find out … start those negotiations.

    As soon as Obama assigns his Mideast representative.

    Posted by Alex | October 14, 2008, 12:16 pm
  6. AIG

    Interesting that you agree with Abbas (I anticipated that you would). Actually, while we were discussing the electoral law today, he suggested that the Lebanese study Israel in this regard and model it on your system.

    Maybe you two would get along.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 14, 2008, 12:18 pm
  7. AIG said: “There is an inherent contradiction in the Landis analysis. Bashar according to Landis wants change in Syria in order to advance it econonomically. However, if Syria pursues peace with Israel, the Syrian regime will need to be even more oppressive in order to make up for lost legitimacy.”

    AIG, didn’t you argue in the past that we (Israel) should not make peace with Syria under Bashar as that would further legitimize his regime? But now you claim after peace, his regime will lose legitimacy?

    There is no contradiction in Joshua’s analysis, because the retrieval of the Golan by non-violent means (i.e. without war) will further legitimize Bashar, not the opposite. His ability to push for reform after a peace agreement is achieved should be enhanced, not reduced. What he’ll actually do I don’t know (and neither do you), but I’d be very surprised if he chose to “be even more oppressive”, as you claim.

    Posted by Shai | October 14, 2008, 5:59 pm
  8. Shai,

    You are confusing between legitimacy for the regime inside Syria and outside Syria.

    By signing a peace deal with Israel Asad will legitimize his regime outside Syria, especially with the US and Europe, but delegitimze it inside Syria.

    Therefore, Asad is trying to negotiate and buy international legitimacy without paying the “peace” with Israel price that will destabilize his regime. That is why no concessions on sanctions will be made to Syria until a peace deal is signed.

    Asad thinks he can stop sanctions against him without peace just by negotiating. He is sorely mistaken. In fact, Asad could stop all sanctions against him by not supporting terror. Why does he continue to do it anyway? Because he is afraid to destabilize his regime, not because of the Golan.

    The Golan is just an excuse for Asad just like Sheba is an excuse for Hizballah. Is there a better way to get the Golan then to follow Sadat? All Asad has to do is renounce terrorism, become a US ally (flip)sign a peace agreement with Israel and in the bargain get aid from the US. This deal is always on the table for him. Yet, he never will take it because it will mean the end of his regime.

    Posted by AIG | October 14, 2008, 8:17 pm
  9. QN!

    I have busted you!

    I know Abbas’s identity, it is Karfan’s buddy!

    Deny it go on I dare you!

    Posted by Enlightened | October 14, 2008, 9:23 pm
  10. AIG,

    I very much disagree with your assumption that making peace with Israel will delegitimize Assad’s regime anywhere, inside or outside. You are assuming the average Syrian wants Hezbollah and Iranian weapons in his life more than to see the Golan back in Syrian hands. That simply makes no sense. You’re also assuming the average Syrian is not interested in peace, and prefers a constant state of war with Israel. That also doesn’t make sense.

    If anything, the argument for negotiating-without-intent can better be used against our own Israel. The Arabs can claim, with some understanding, that it is Israel that is showing up in talks, for almost twenty years now, pretending it wants peace, while in reality never intending to give back territory. “State-supported terrorism”, they can claim, is one of endless excuses Israel will make up along the way, in order not to return land to its rightful owners. When the court of public opinion mattes more than ever before, and when the international community is watching Israel carefully since the first Intifada, it certainly seems logical that Israel would exert more effort “pretending” than Syria. After all, why should we ever want to give back the Golan, or the West Bank?

    I think those of us who say “All Asad has to do is renounce terrorism, become a US ally (flip)…” have an oversimplified and one-sided view of the conflict. It’s like saying “All Israel has to do is renounce its Apartheid, give back the Golan, the West Bank, enable Right of Return, and treat its own Arab citizens equally…” Our continued choking of Gaza, our targeted assassinations in the region, and our endless “negotiations” with the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Americans, the Egyptians, you name it, aren’t exactly signs of sincere readiness to pay the price for peace, are they?

    You see AIG, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t accuse Syria of insincerity (and in the process forming some strange regime delegitimizing theory to support it), and claim to be ready ourselves. If anything, it is Israel that benefits more from “pretending” than Syria, according to your own view of the conflict.

    Posted by Shai | October 15, 2008, 1:11 am
  11. Enlightened,

    No, it’s not Karfan. 🙂

    Abbas is not nearly as disgusted and pessimistic!

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 15, 2008, 4:07 am
  12. Shai,
    Well, you don’t have to agree with me. Listen to what Arabs are saying and they are saying that peace with Israel will delegitimize the Syrian regime in the Arab world and especially in Syria.

    The average Syrian wants to live like a Syrian immigrant lives in Canada or the US. Asad is not going to give him that. The Golan is not going to make a difference in this.

    As for Syria being a state supporting terrorism, it is not only Israel that says this, it is the US and Europe also. Some things are just facts. The best way for Syria to get the Golan back and improve the lot of its citizens is to renounce terrorism. It is quite simple. Unfortunately, this is not good for the regime and will not happen.

    For you and Landis, everything is relative and terrorism to gain back land is justified or you can understand it when employed by Syria (I don’t see the difference between justification and understanding, you are basically saying they are doing something right). To me and many others it is not. We just have a different value system. I will never intentionally kill an innocent person to achieve my goals. You understand a regime that does. I don’t think we have much common ground.

    Posted by AIG | October 15, 2008, 11:42 am
  13. QN,

    I’m going to try to be more careful on your blog, and not hijack it like on SC with endless arguments with AIG. Please let me know when I’m getting near that border…

    AIG,

    Principles could be a good thing, if and when they are universally recognized. Israel gains nothing by calling Syria a state-supporter of terrorism. Even Europe and the U.S. have finally realized the mistake of isolating Syria. See Rice’s recent comments to Mualem, not to mention France’s new “love affair” with Syria. Labeling a party “terrorist” doesn’t always pay off. In this case, it hasn’t.

    I completely disagree with you (and with most conservatives) when you believe that “understanding” necessarily means justifying or condoning. One can understand his enemy, yet fight him to the bitter end. While I believe I understand Syria’s motivation behind their support of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran, I still fight anyone that brings pain and suffering upon my nation and its citizens. It is precisely those who cannot understand their enemy, who have little chance of ever ending their conflict with him.

    After all, without empathizing with, or understanding Syrians and the Palestinians (for instance), the only way to explain any resistance against Israel is to suggest our enemies are evil creatures, full of innate hatred for Jews, intent on nothing but our full and complete destruction. Nothing could be more extreme. But fortunately, life tends to be less extreme than that, more complex, and more changeable. So are the players in the conflict. The longer our understanding of this is delayed, the longer our common suffering will last.

    This is what happened in Vietnam. I’ve heard that John McCain himself, after being released from Vietcong prison, still believed America should remain to “win the war”. Ask Robert McNamara, who probably understands the conflict just a “tiny bit” better than most people, including the then-POW McCain, whether America understood its enemy. His latest documentary Fog of War tells a lot about his lessons from one’s inability to understand, even empathize, with his enemy.

    Posted by Shai | October 15, 2008, 1:26 pm
  14. Shai,

    By all means, hijack this blog! Ahlan wa sahlan…

    I’m enjoying myself. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 15, 2008, 3:43 pm
  15. Shai,
    I perfectly understand the Syrians wanting the Golan back and waging the 73 war to do so. You “understand” (really justify) Syria funding Hamas to kill civillians. I would respect Syria if it fought Israel outright by building a strong society and fielding a strong army. But when it chooses to target civillians, then it is a terrorist country because it is led by a terrorist regime. And saying that it has no other choice is not an excuse any moral person would accept.
    Some things in life are quite simple. Killing Israeli soldiers is ok in order to get the Golan back. Targeting Israeli civillians is terrorism. Life is very complex, but this point isn’t. I hope you “understand”.

    Syrians are not evil and resistance is not always evil. The Syrian regime is evil. It is a corrupt regime that thinks nothing of killing people to further its aims. If it wants to resist in a non-evil manner it should build a cohesive and technologically advanced society and field a strong army and beat Israel on the battlefield. Either that, or negotiate even if it leads to no results. But terrorism is never the right moral choice. Never.

    And by the way, the Viet Cong fought American soldiers. They never blew up restaurants in New York or targeted American civillians. By all means, let Syria fight like the Viet Cong, not like the terrorist state that it is.

    Posted by AIG | October 15, 2008, 7:58 pm
  16. AIG,

    I still resent your suggestion that by understanding why my enemy is acting a certain way, I’m justifying his action. I would never imagine suggesting that you, AIG, are justifying the killing of innocent civilians. Why would you, like so many other angry and helpless conservatives, suggest we (liberals) care more about our enemy than about our own? Because your interpretation leads you to that belief? So change your interpretation – it’s wrong by all accounts.

    Continuing to hold on to that “you’re either with us or against us” philosophy leads to very dangerous places. When Yigal Amir heard people like you suggest that Rabin was “justifying” the killing of innocent civilians by talking to a murderous terrorist, and giving in, he had an interesting way of handling it. After all, those who justify killing their own civilians are, by most definitions, traitors. Aren’t they, AIG?

    As for Syria wanting to “resist in a non-evil manner”, I don’t recall the last time enemies asked one another to fight according to particular rules, and not according to others. If you knew you had no chance on a particular battlefield, would you not try another? When was the last war that didn’t target innocent civilians? Ah, Vietnam? You’re right, the Viet Cong didn’t target American civilians. But America certainly targeted N. Vietnamese civilians, didn’t they? You really shouldn’t be so naive, AIG. Rather than wait to “build a cohesive and technologically advanced society and field a strong army…”, our forefathers decided to target innocent and non-innocent British civilians a little more than 60 years ago.

    And then, once we did achieve a so-called cohesive society, and strong army, we took them both, and use them to target about 3 million innocent civilians, and a few thousand non-innocent ones. What do you think the Occupation is? What would the average Palestinian prefer, a few “classical” wars with the Jews, that last a week or two each and then end, or 40 years of occupation, subjugation, and suffocation? Funny, I don’t recall the Geneva Convention ever mentioning Occupation of your enemy for 40 years is allowed, have you?

    Posted by Shai | October 16, 2008, 1:15 am
  17. Shai,
    Yasser Arafat denounced terrorism to begin the Oslo process which I intially supported. When Israelis realized he was lying, all the support for Oslo disappeared. That is what Asad should do, renounce terrorism.

    In the end the difference between us is quite simple. For you the end justifies the means, for me it doesn’t. You say:
    “As for Syria wanting to “resist in a non-evil manner”, I don’t recall the last time enemies asked one another to fight according to particular rules, and not according to others. If you knew you had no chance on a particular battlefield, would you not try another?”

    NO, and NO again. If fighting the British army (not civillians) in Palestine would not have worked for our forefathers I would not have been for starting a terror campaign in London and blowing up restaurants and children in discos there. You apparently would have considered this favorably. You call having moral guidelines being naive. I call not having any being evil.

    You can resent as much as you want my stating that you justify terror, but this is exactly what you are doing. In essence you are saying that you justify the Syrians because in their position you would do the same. That is EXACTLY what your quote implies above. My interpretation is based on what you are saying and nothing else.

    Posted by AIG | October 16, 2008, 7:37 am
  18. AIG,

    Funny you should say blowing up things in London. It’s been said that our very own Geula Cohen was set to fly to London to do just that during her time in the Lehi. By the way, if you were a Jew in pre-1948 Israel, would you have supported the Lehi? You see, I can understand the Lehi, yet not condone its activities in harming innocent civilians. I’m not sure you would have made that distinction, just as Yitzhak Shamir didn’t.

    You still haven’t answered two of my questions:

    1. Are people who, by your interpretation, justify killing their own innocent civilians traitors? If not, why not? To me, they certainly sound like traitors. And if so, what would you have done with these traitors?

    2. If we follow the same moral “rules” that prohibit use of terrorism as a legitimate means of fighting, how do you justify the ongoing, 40 year-long occupation, subjugation, and suffocation of some 3 million innocent civilians? Which is worse would you say, supporting organizations that target and kill between a few tens and a few hundred innocent civilians each year, or controlling the lives and freedom of millions of people, day after day, year after year, for 40 years (plus the occasional “collateral damage” of innocent civilians that die in some “more moral” war)?

    Posted by Shai | October 16, 2008, 10:29 am
  19. Shai,
    You are really making things more complicated than needed. I don’t understand your first question. Give a concrete example.

    1) I would have done my best to stop the Lehi attacking any civillians. Would you have also?

    2) Military rule is not terrorism. How did you get that idea? In fact until the first intifada the Palestinians under Israeli military rule were more prosperous by far than their Arab neiggbors. Your example is just not relevant.

    Let me ask you and try give a reply to the point: If you were in the position of the Syrians, would you support attacking civillians? It is a simple yes/no question but please answer as you wish.

    Posted by AIG | October 16, 2008, 2:02 pm
  20. AIG,

    Your way of looking at life is yes-no, black-white, us-them. That’s why when someone like me completely disagrees with you, you stick me with “them”. You rationalize it with obscure one-way explanations such as “understanding=justifying”, and you cannot fathom more than one possibility, such as the ones I’ve mentioned before. I’ll try to answer your questions:

    1. I would probably not have “done my best” to stop the Lehi from attacking innocent civilians, because at the time, I would have viewed those same civilians as my enemy. I would have in essence, therefore, turned a blind eye to terrorism. Most Jews did not witness such acts firsthand, but rather only heard about them. It’s easier to do nothing then.

    2. I never accepted that argument you use (that the Palestinians, or even the Israeli Arabs, were or are more prosperous than elsewhere in the Arab world). It’s as if a British person had asked an American from the South in the mid-1900’s why do blacks still suffer racism in America, and the guy from Alabama would answer “But blacks here earn 10 times as much as in any African nation…” One cannot possibly rectify the other. Palestinian standard of living (which today is horrific) cannot excuse our Apartheid-like rule over their territory and people over the past 40 years. To the Palestinians, this rule is far worse than some state-sponsored terrorism you keep pointing at.

    3. I assume when you ask if I was “in the position of the Syrians” you mean if I was in the Syrian regime, because quite clearly most Syrian citizens are against harming innocent citizens, wherever they may be. If I was Bashar Assad, would I support Hezbollah (knowing that they, at times, also target innocent civilians)? Yes. Would I build a huge chemical or biological arsenal, whose entire purpose is deterrence as possible use against civilians? Yes. Would I seek nuclear capabilities, with similar deterrence goals? Absolutely. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – according to foreign sources, Israel has done all three.

    It has sponsored groups, organizations, or even regimes, that target innocent civilians (see endless cases in Africa and Latin America), and it has developed tactical and strategic capabilities that are meant to deter, but by clearly targeting civilian populations. In fact, it is very hard to convince anyone outside of Israel that using a million cluster bombs was only targeting HA militants. Or that dropping a bomb that weighs a ton atop a building housing a Hamas leader was supposed to spare the other 30 innocent civilians.

    You see AIG, you can look yourself in the mirror and find morality at its purest form all you want, but from your enemy’s point of view, and especially from your enemy’s innocent civilian population’s, you and I look just as much a terrorist as Ezzedeen Al-Qassam does. Now you can ignore that, and claim exclusivity on “moral resistance” and “military rule” and “cohesive society” that builds a strong army to fight “classic”-style wars. But you’ll be turning a deaf ear precisely to the voices and opinions you need to listen to. For this conflict to ever end, BOTH sides will have to change their views, and will have to understand one another. That also means you, AIG. That is, unless you want to leave that job for others to do.

    To leave you with what clearly seems to be a contradiction-in-terms for you, I’ll state the following: “I will fight every last Hezbollah fighter that tries to hurt my people. But I understand why Bashar Assad is allowing the same fighter to receive Iranian weapons.” Now, am I justifying killing innocent Israelis? You say clearly YES. So now I ask again – are people like me, therefore, traitors? And if so, what would you do with people like me?

    Posted by Shai | October 16, 2008, 3:18 pm
  21. Shai,

    What you say makes no sense whatsoever, but you are free to keep saying it and you are not a traitor.

    Since in Bashar’s place you would act like he does today, there is nothing much to discuss. To me you are a depraved individual. It is like saying about a murderer that you would do the same in his place. Your argument is: Jones stole Smith’s car so I understand why Smith killed Jones. You understand this and would do the same in Smith’s shoes. I really do not know where we can go from here.

    You want to argue that I and most other Israelis are also morally depraved because Israel has not been able to find a solution for the Palestinian problem, be my guest. Lets see how far this sorry argument will get you.

    Posted by AIG | October 16, 2008, 4:03 pm
  22. AIG,

    I’m morally depraved? You gotta be kidding. I condemn killing innocent civilians, am willing to fight to protect my country, but unlike you, I also want to make peace with my enemy.

    You, on the other hand, think the issue is about Israel finding a solution to the Palestinian problem, and not what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, while “seeking a solution” to the Palestinian problem. The morally depraved are exactly those who don’t see what they are doing to the Palestinian people. I have yet to hear a single word from you condemning Israel (and our society) for doing what we’ve done to some 3 million innocent civilians for 40 years. What’s the matter, your moral-engine goes into “Neutral” when you reach this junction? You’re able to blame an Israeli for understanding Assad (note “understanding” not “justifying”), but you can’t criticize yourself and most other Israelis for continuing to subjugate and suffocate another people?

    Where is YOUR moral courage AIG?

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2008, 2:16 am
  23. AIG, Shai:

    Barak says that Israel is considering the Saudi peace initiative again. What do you think?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 19, 2008, 1:57 pm
  24. QN,

    Alon Liel made a comment a few days ago, about Bush’s sudden “secret offer” to Assad. He said: “Why are all these leaders waking up so late?” And I think this may have a lot to do with Barak’s recent statement as well, but with a slight twist. I happened to listen to the radio this morning, just as Barak was being interviewed about his apparent turnaround in his relationship with Tzipi Livni (you’ll recall they had a few “moments” earlier on, and Barak condescendingly referred to her as “Tzipora”, etc.) Barak said that he recognized that at this point in time, he simply does not have the backing required to serve as Israel’s PM (gee, really?) but that he still believes he can serve the country by holding other major positions within the leadership (such as Defense Minister).

    I think his latest statement comes at a time when he believes, probably correctly, that he has nothing to lose, and only to gain. That is, if he had a chance at PM, such a statement could cost him the election. He could be deemed too-dovish at a time when he should be trying to reach out to the hawks. But as a DM, his role is determined by only one person – Tzipi Livni. Clearly, the two had talked about this, and they probably agree. If this is true, then it is excellent news. In fact, it is quite possible that Barak has come to the conclusion that each individual track is too difficult to traverse on its own. Certainly the Palestinian track is impossible at the moment, and even the Syrian one would require a simple majority in a national referendum, or 2/3 majority in Knesset (and this is only over the Golan).

    So perhaps he, Livni, and from what I hear also Peres, are hoping to carry out a “Shock and Awe” style operation towards peace, by bringing to their people an offer so grand (The Saudi Plan), that few will dare reject it. Rejection will not mean mistrusting Assad, or refusing to withdraw from the West Bank, but rather a total rejection of peace with the entire Arab world. The stakes will be so high and will force most Israelis to think much more carefully about it, than had they simply had to vote on the return of the Golan. But let’s try to be cautiously optimistic, because our leaderships have had at least three different opportunities since 2002 to present Israelis the various initiatives agreed upon by the entire Arab League, and haven’t done so. Bush’s lack of influence nowadays may also be a factor here. If Obama wins, let’s hope the two “Baracks” will find a common language, and will help take us out of our miserable past and onto a brighter future.

    Posted by Shai | October 19, 2008, 2:43 pm
  25. QN,

    The Saudis are selling something they don’t have. The don’t have control over Arab public opinion, they have no control over Hizballah, they have no control over Hamas, the have no control over the Palestinian diaspora, they have no control over Syria, they have no control of Iran. What exactly are they trading? They can bring nothing to the table.

    By all means, let Livni talk to the Arab League about the Saudi plan. It will only divide the Arabs more and weaken them. And when Livni shows the international community that the Saudis cannot deliver anything, Israel will be in a much better position.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2008, 5:17 pm
  26. Shai,

    I’m always cautiously optimistic, so I’ll remain so. 🙂

    AIG,

    I swear that you and Abbas would see eye to eye on almost everything.

    I will pretend that your last opinion is my own, and bring up the topic of the Saudi proposal in my next conversation with him. I am confident that he will agree wholeheartedly.

    The conclusion he will come to, however, is of course that the only alternative to Arab defeat and humiliation at the hands of Israel is organized, disciplined, and patient resistance.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 20, 2008, 12:21 am
  27. QN,

    Seeing how both side of the extreme agree (AIG and Abbas), and are jointly interested in weakening and punishing the other, I think it would be best to let them run the “peace process” (or perhaps they would call it the “piece process”) on their own. Both agree that the other can’t be trusted. They seem to have much more in common with each other, than with me… 🙂

    Posted by Shai | October 20, 2008, 8:22 am
  28. QN,
    What does “organized, disciplined, and patient resistance” mean?
    If it means building a cohesive, technologically advanced society based on democratic norms than I am initially apprehensive, but then I am not because such a societies are not likely to go to stupid wars and it will take generations for the Arabs to build such societies.

    If it means more Islamism, more terrorism, less progress of democracy in Arab countries, more spending on weapons and rockets, then I am quite happy. That will only make the Arabs weaker.

    So please ask Abbas to spell out the plan of resistance against Israel. Beyond slogans, what does it entail?

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2008, 2:29 pm
  29. AIG

    I will ask Abbas this question.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 20, 2008, 4:57 pm
  30. QN,
    While you are at it, could you also ask Abbas if he thinks the lowering of oil prices will have any effect on Hizballah and Iran?

    Posted by AIG | October 24, 2008, 11:58 am
  31. AIG,

    I asked Abbas what “resistance” means, and he gave a rather modest answer.

    He said: “It means that Israel cannot punch us in the face without expecting at least a slap in return. It means they will think twice. For years and years Israel had its way with us, invasion after invasion, war after war. Now we can at least defend ourselves.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 24, 2008, 12:45 pm
  32. QN,
    Since Israelis have no interest whatsoever in attacking Lebanon unless harassed, this is a status quo I would be happy to live with. It looks like we have reached a happy modus vivendi with Hizballah and therefore Syria.

    Posted by AIG | October 24, 2008, 1:03 pm

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