Munif Atassi | IT manager United States
May 24th, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's Occupied Golan Heights

Dear Israel,

On May 14, 1948, the last day of the British Mandate of Palestine, the chief secretary of the His Majesty’s British administration, Sir Henry Gurney, called a press conference in his office in Jerusalem. He dazzled reporters with a listing of achievements of His Majesty’s government in Palestine but regretted the “unhappy” circumstances that led to the termination of the mandate. One of the assembled journalists at the time asked: “And to whom do you intend to leave the keys to your office?” “I shall leave them under the mat,” replied Sir Gurney.

And so the tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict began its sad and often tragic history.

As a native Syrian, I am not sure where we went wrong, but it seems like we were never right. Even asking for our legitimate right to live in peace was sometimes too much to ask.

Our politicians and leaders were never held accountable to their ignorance, arrogance, and irrational hostilities. As Arabs, we collectively failed to formulate a policy of peace, progress, and modernity – both internally and externally. Today, the combined Arab nations’ GDP is still less than Spain’s GDP.

On your side, things have not been much better either: it has been almost 60 years since your Independence Day and there has not been a safe moment ever since. Six major wars, countless other smaller ones, invasions, pullouts, arrests, home demolitions, settlements, assassination campaigns, and extreme lethal power seem to have done little to promote Israel as a peaceful neighbor.

But there seems to be hope emerging from younger generations on both sides. There are genuine voices of moderation and reconciliation on both sides. Syria is calling for an unconditional return to the negotiating table while many Israeli leaders are calling for doing whatver it takes to make peace with Syria. War has not worked in the past and it is clear it will never work in the future.

The time for peace is now. It is time for Syria to renounce all hostiles towards Israel and for Israel to return the Golan and earn the peace of its most valuable neighbor.

As Moshe Dayan one said, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”

The key is under the mat.

Munif Atassi

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