Hassan Raymond Tahhan | M.D. United States
May 29th, 2008

Re: ‘Syrian Israeli Peace Process

Unlike the peace treaty with Egypt, a state that does not lie in the Levant, or peace with Jordan, an artificial entity that is still shaping its identity between the Levant and the Arabic Peninsula, peace with Syria will present unique challenges and opportunities for Syrians and Israelis alike. I will try to enumerate some of them briefly:

1-Considering peace with Syria would mean that Israel is seriously willing to reach peace with all of the neighboring Arab States. As a corollary, this means that peace with the Palestinians (and the Lebanese) is also part of the agenda, but not necessarily officially. The reason is that Syria cannot be part of a partial solution to the conflict in the Levant. In fact, no matter who the authorities are in Syria, no government will be ever able to reach peace while leaving the Palestinians to their doom or the Lebanese Shebaa-less.

2-Peace in the region would usher a new era of cross-fertilization. The regional states could learn about the benefits of consocionalism from the Lebanese, those of stability from the Syrians, those of sacrifice from the Palestinians, and those of political alternance from Israel. Ultimately, we should look beyond our sects and our religions, our localities and our regions, to become once again the ultimate Levantine cosmopolitan mosaic.

3-When talking about peace, one should always think of peace between the peoples of the Levant, not peace between rulers. To this effect, external influences that seek sectarian warfare, relayed by unscrupulous politicians and media, should be pointed out as such.

4-Absence of war is a key premise. If the Levant and the region surrounding it continue to be top heavy in weapons of mass destruction, tensions will persist for the long term.

5-Beyond peace, the interactions between the people should be facilitated, encouraged, and almost made mandatory. If reaching peace means only absence of war, the people will be hostages of regimes and political systems whose survival is no more necessary. Peace in its all-inclusive broad term means a new era of genuinely tolerant interactions.

There are today some answers about the evolution of the situation in the Levant, made evident by the recent agreement in Doha. The neo-conservative dreams, of a Levant ruled by a bunch of businessmen who hold the reins of most states in the region with their colonialist associates, and of a single mighty army guaranteeing many privileges to the few while guarding the many from gaining any, are over. The influences of the newer developments on a possible peace agreement are many, but a few are worth mentioning:

1-Israel is best served with open-minded negotiations with Syria not involving nefarious outsiders. Turkey is a good intermediary because it has only one goal, should it gain enough prestige if the talks lead to tangible results: membership within the EU.

2-Syria, likewise, does not have to be encumbered with conditions posed by its allies. The fact that the negotiations cannot but lead to a global, just and equitable resolution of the conflict in the Levant (as a whole) must reassure Syria’s allies.
3-For all the states involved into peace negotiations, the ultimate decision should come from the people, so to legitimize a peace agreement. An ambitious percentage to approve such peace agreement is also a must: 60% or even 75%, and a transparent voting process must be in place to this effect. This would only guarantee that peace would be durable.

With this in mind, a successful peace agreement should lead to:

1-Ensuring that all relevant UN resolutions are applied, including the unconditional return of the Golan to Syria. This is a mandatory first step, a statement of good faith.

2-Granting the right to Israelis to move, work, and prosper, within the new Levant. Arab countries should emulate European countries that offer their previous Jewish emigrants to Israel the right to return to their country of origin within the EU.

3-Granting the right to expelled Palestinians to go back to their localities of origin; in exchange, Israel would gain access to sources of water while religious Jews will gain access to places of worship. All states in the region will have to become secular states in order to protect various citizens who have various religious affiliations. The reason why the states must be secular is that the citizen must also be protected from the tyranny of the sects and of the religious zealots. If the juxtaposition of Israel and Palestine becomes difficult, a return to a one-State solution should be considered. Also, in a two-State solution, Palestinians who are currently Israeli citizens must be given the right to stay within Israel, and they must be considered as equal citizens.

4-Ultimately, all states within the Levant will have open borders. This, of course, means that all states have decided to be good neighbors, and that economic relations benefit the many on both sides. This economic ingredient could well be the best guarantor of peace. Other ingredients, cultural or other, can then take their due place.

I base all of the above on the following beliefs:

1-A Jewish presence preoccupied with its intrinsic presence and role in the Levant, rather than abiding by the agenda of colonialists and imperialists, must and should be an integral ingredient of the Levant of tomorrow.

2-Likewise, the presence of Sunni Arabs, Arabic-speaking Shiites, and Eastern-rite Christians will be necessary for a new harmonious Levant.

3-All minorities (sects, but not cults) must and shall be respected.

4-Only secular states can protect equally all the citizens. In addition, a secular state will protect a category of citizens, about 50% of all citizens, neglected in the past: women.

5-As a cosmopolitan patriot, I do love my country of origin, but peace in the Levant transcends narrow-minded nationalism. This does not mean that Syria must compromise while Israel should not, but rather that both should enter, conduct and conclude the negotiations with a very open mind.

It goes without saying that I am an optimist. Unluckily, the recent neo-conservative fad has destabilized the whole region, beyond the Levant. But several recent and upcoming developments have brought an end to this folly. In this context, the whole region is now ripe for peace.

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3 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:

Hassan, you made many good points.

I have a question for you regarding this suggestion:

”3-For all the states involved into peace negotiations, the ultimate decision should come from the people, so to legitimize a peace agreement. An ambitious percentage to approve such peace agreement is also a must: 60% or even 75%, and a transparent voting process must be in place to this effect. This would only guarantee that peace would be durable.”

Israeli Knesset seems to be planning one or more new laws that will make any withdrawal from the Golan contingent on getting the approval of 2/3 Knesset members, and another law that requires a popuar vote … Do you think Syria should also make the agreement conditional on a popular vote in Syria?

Hassan Raymond Tahhan, MD Says:

Yes, the authorities in Syria, no matter who is involved, must submit this to the people by referendum. But I am not an expert on Syrian constitutional law, and I do not know how this could happen. Nonetheless, a transparent process, and the benediction of the Syrian people, are both mandatory.

Alex Says:

Thanks Hassan.

I actually agre with you.

But how do you see the Middle East after

1) Israeli people rejected an agreement between their government and Syria.

2) Syrians reject a peace treaty with Israel that Bashar negotiates.

Will the United States or Europe (or the “moderate Arabs”) then do anything to punish the country that proved to be not exactly peace loving?

We are used to blaming leaders for failures … I wonder what it would be like to blame people.

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