Abufares | Architect Tartous, Syria
May 29th, 2008

Re: ‘Syrian Israeli Peace Process

Like all other matters in life, I take these peace negotiations as they come. At my age, and as related to the Arab-Israeli conflict my position is plainly understandable. I can’t build my future on false hopes nor can I dwell in the abyss of despair.
I have lived through 2 wars which were partially responsible for the development of my character. I have vague memories of the 6 days it took the Israelis to debase us in 1967 but it is a personal milestone nevertheless. My national identity was forged with pain and injustice. The ensuing bitterness toughened my temperament and shaped my attitude toward reality. I have learned a valuable lesson early on in life: “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”.

Despite of what Israel, its allies and a substantial number of Syrians have publicized after the October 1973 war, we came out as real winners. Israel was no longer a boogeyman and it will forever fail to impress me with its alleged invincibility. Had it not been for the contemptible meddling (a sort of cheating) in the flow of events by the US we would have beaten them fair and square. The consequent pride was the fire which kindled an unconquerable Syrian spirit. As a result, I respect all but fear no one.

My first concern is the consequences of a Syrian Israeli peace treaty on the Palestinians. They must not pay for our peace in any shape or form. Then I certainly would not accept a humiliating peace, not for myself nor for my enemy. “Give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar!” The Golan Heights must be returned to Syria. The right to peacefully live in their birthplace for the new generations of Israelis must be insured. Syria, Israel and Palestine are home to Jews, Christians and Muslims. These monotheists along with atheists and pantheists must be insured freedom of movement as they so choose. Syria and Palestine must never be allowed to become religious states. Israel must seize to exist as one.

If the politicians on either side are only after an Egyptian or a Jordanian sort of peace deal then we might as well do without. Despite the perpetually nebulous state of “neither war nor peace” we have in Syria we’re much better off than both of these 2 Arab countries.

I have no worry whatsoever about Syria’s allies (what allies?) Once a just and comprehensive peace is achieved their raison d’être is no more. As for regional and international powers, they must never be allowed to be a part of the equation in the first place. Israel has hanging issues to resolve with the Syrians and Palestinians. Once our scores are fairly settled any inconvenienced side becomes our joint enemy, including Iran and the US.
A peace which is not built on mutual and self respect is only transitory. Are they wise enough to heed my advice? Only time would tell.


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25 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:

Very true Abufares.

I’m sure Rime will approve : )

Naim Nazha MD Says:

Well said ,We have the same experience , I was 12 in 1967 and started following the news since .

offended Says:

Great article Abu Fares, may God bless you and bless Tartous!

Shai Says:


Fantastic summary. Plain, simple, clear, with the appropriate warning yet room for hope. I do hope our leaders heed your advice. Indeed we cannot afford to have another Egypt or Jordan-style “peace”, as it will come at the expense of the Palestinians. A peace agreement with Syria must have a comprehensive character, and address the hardest issues directly.

I want to ask your thoughts on something that is occupying my mind for quite some time. I claim, unlike others perhaps, that from the Israeli side, the main obstacles are emotional, not rational ones. To win over public opinion (which we will have to do), we must convince them not that Syria will disassociate itself from Iran/HA/Hamas, but that Syria is a nation just like ours. That Syrians are people with aspirations just like us. That we must make peace, not because it’s “strategically wise”, but because it’s the right thing to do. But in order to start doing that, changing public opinion, I believe we need more interpersonal interaction. We need to show Israelis to Syrians, and vice-versa. Given all the idiotic restrictions (on both sides), can you think of ways we can achieve this? Of course what you and I are doing now is helping, and we in Israel will try to capitalize on that as much as we can. But how else can we bring our people (not our leaders) closer to one another, at least close enough to start reversing the dehumanization that has taken place over so many decades? What do you think? What is possible?

ayman hakki Says:

Though your words are wise they’re filled with melancholy
& Syria’ll be better off in peace, because of guys like you.
Palestine, we are always told, is for Palestinians to argue.

(My uncle Munah El Solh disagrees with me, and he is wiser)
but in today’s world we can compete and beat Israel without
wars and bloodshed, we’re all smarter than George Bush, so
we should act like it, and make peace very soon. Syria is so
full of potential, but it has never been given an opportunity.

With peace comes an opportunity we shouldn’t sqwander.
And, in peace is the answer to our question, what next?
I’m a nationalist, and pro Palestinian, but enough is enough.

Rime Allaf Says:

I happen to agree with almost everything Abufares writes, here and elsewhere, as Alex predicted. I would need to add a few points to the excellent list of requisites for a real regional peace, amongst which the right of return and the right of compensation (not mutually exclusive of course) for Palestinians.

Agreeing with the vision of Abufares does not make me optimistic that any of his points will be heeded; on the contrary, I see only tactical negotiating and a focus on how to best extend benefits for the negotiators, rather than the intended people. It is not much different from the gerrymandering and squabbling in which Lebanese politicians and warlords have been engaging, and which is a battle for immediate power grab, rather than for the good of the nation.

My opinion on the Peace Park Plan, already published last year, has only gotten worse since more details were divulged: I did not approve of it, and I will not approve of it. The increasing list of concessions demanded from one side reveal a less than honorable attitude from the other; likewise, the increasing propensity of the weaker side to not only accept, but to even volunteer further concessions speaks volumes about long-term goals.

Besides, when one of the “reasons” for returning the Golan (as if justifications were needed) is the isolation of Hamas, one of the major representatives of Palestinians whether we like it or not, then it is clear that Palestinians are already being cast aside. If peace with Syria is conditional on dropping even the measly vocal support Gaza has been getting, I will never agree to it – a moot declaration, of course, since these peace talks have nothing to do with the aspirations of people anywhere.

Shai Says:


I completely agree with you. Israeli leaders are not only fooling us, the Israeli people, but worse, they’re fooling themselves. The Peace Park, by the way, was a Syrian initiative, not an Israeli one.

Alex Says:


Rime was blaming politicians from both countries, not only Israel’s.

As for the Peace Park, I think if it was “a Syrian Initiative” then the Syrian person who came up wit that initiative probably did not succeed in convincing many other Syrians of its legitimacy.

abufares Says:

Thank you for your comments

I hate that my response is almost as long as my original article but it’s indeed very complicated to explain a simple matter.

Even rational obstacles become emotional after years of distress. On the sentient level, peace is the ultimate goal and the only possible long term equilibrium.
Despite the well established American Israeli partnership and the unlimited support by the Americans, the Israelis are not blind. After all, the Americans were indeed just born yesterday. If Israel is serious about the current peace negotiations, it’s my personal opinion that it has come to realize that their long term welfare and prosperity lie in their immediate neighborhood. Syria is a natural and strategic neighbor geographically, economically and YES historically.
Syria too could benefit tremendously from peace. “We had enough”, a word you are more likely to hear on the street today than ever before. But is that by itself really enough?
I see no point if the Palestinian issue is not fully resolved. Rime stepped in at the right moment. I can only echo her words. An uncomfortable peace is too fragile to last. And, no one could get cozy and relaxed when his next door neighbor is suffering. Palestine is not only for the Palestinians to argue. I would have lived my entire life in vein if I come to accept that now. I have never provided them with more than moral support but I can’t stop. I won’t stop now or in my remaining years.
Israel at the moment has the upper hand but nothing lasts forever and they know it. A fundamental decision is going to be taken within years, a couple of decades at the most. Israel cannot continue to exist as a purely Jewish state. It’s just not possible demographically or politically. Despite of its military might and its superior PR to stubbornly ignore this fact is self destructive.
As a person, I would be delighted to wake up one day and not feel that I have an enemy breathing down my neck. However, I wouldn’t go out of my way to appease the other side. What I have to offer, what I can accept is a just and comprehensive peace. This is a major concession by the way, agreeing once and for all that Israel is the neighbor next door. Neighbors as such have rights and obligations toward each other. These social niceties could be summed up in two words only: respect and esteem. What I expect of Israel to offer, to accept is that the Palestinians of the past, present and future are to co-exist with them. The Golan Heights returned to Syria in exchange of Syria’s admittance that Israel has the right to be are two simple objectives to negotiate and fulfill. Israelis who insist that this is indeed their promised land cannot ignore history. This same land has always been the only home for the Palestinians as well.

Shai Says:


I do agree with you. But how can we achieve this just peace, if Israelis aren’t ready for it now? What if the most we can achieve (us Israelis) is a change in public opinion, in support of a return of the Golan, and some of the crucial issues regarding the Palestinians, but not yet peace with Palestine? What if Syria and Israel are ready to sign a peace agreement well before Hamas and Fatah work out their differences? What should Israel do? Wait? Not sign such a “superficial” yet very real agreement? My problem here is the length of time, and the sequence of events, that make up this route to your (and my) desired peace. If it cannot happen the way we want it to, can we compromise on anything (the route, for instance), and if so, on what?

Rime Allaf Says:

I must also apologize for the length of my reply, not having been able to stop myself from covering the following points.

Shai, Alex is right: I am blaming both Israel and Syria for this peace park plan, knowing full well that the process was initiated from Damascus. Clearly, by bending over backward for several years to indicate its willingness, or rather its eagerness, to talk peace again, the Syrian regime has steadily dropped one card after another, giving concessions away at the drop of a hat and allowing Israel to demand more every time. No wonder we are at the stage now where “land for peace” (the ultimate misleading equation) is not even considered a worthy enough goal for Israel, which devotes each passing day to impose more ludicrous demands and more proof that it does not plan to follow a good neighbor policy, especially on specific neighbors.

The condition that Syria break its ties with groups like Hamas means that Israel has absolutely no intention on solving the Palestinian “problem” or on easing Palestinian suffering, even if in the long run Israel is painting itself into a corner and has done everything in its power to demolish the concept of a two-state solution, leaving us with no other alternative than a one state solution.

In fact, the only two-state solution we are left to hope for is the one between Syria and Lebanon, but I digress as usual.

Abufares has yet again stated what most of us (called hardliners, which is fine by me) really believe about the issue of peace with Israel: the acceptance of Israel in itself within its June 4 1967 “border” is the mother of all concessions. This is not difficult to understand, assuming one has not been educated by revisionist historians. The acceptance of UNSC Resolution 242 settles that.

Which brings me to another point made by Shai in the last comment: why on earth should it be relevant if Israelis are ready now for a just peace? Who gave Israelis the right to be selective about which rights are sacred (apparently theirs) and which aren’t (everyone else’s)? Who died and made Israel king of the world, decreeing that international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights only apply if they are in the right mood? What gives Israel the right to debate reasons for complying with the wish of the “international community” on a selective basis? How does the notion that Hamas and Fatah need to work out their differences (perhaps they won’t, and perhaps they will end up rotating in power, like most democracies comprising a majority and an opposition) have any bearing whatsoever on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land?

Israel maintains the position that it needs to be convinced, encouraged or pre-rewarded, and insists that its potential peace co-signatories need to first pass a performance appraisal to be worthy of regaining their rightful due. Other countries in flagrant violation of international law would have been forced to comply under the weight of sanctions, isolation and/or invasion. And we should still worry about Golan cowboys and “sceptical” Israelis (aka ski and wine lovers) while we offer everything for very little?

Finally, Alex, it really matters little whether or not Syrians are convinced by this initiative: they are not being asked for their opinion on how many concessions can be given, just as nobody asked them when Alexandretta was declared Turkish for the time being, or, as various Syrian ministers pathetically tried to explain, “an issue for future generations.” It’s quite sad: Israelis are being given the right to opine on what international law forces them to do anyway, while Syrians are prevented from saying “stop” when the regime goes too far needlessly.

Consequently, the above opinion is merely an opinion which has no effect on the decision makers in Damascus, who seem to have no objection to reassuring all those who would listen that the best deal in the region is yet to come for Israel.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

It seems that Rime is using the “Saudi Gambit”. She is portraying the regime as too soft with Israel. Good luck with that. Anything to help reform in Syria.

Rime asks “why on earth should it be relevant if Israelis are ready now for a just peace”? This questions shows a limited understanding of democracy. If the Israelis do not approve a peace plan for any reason they will vote against it and that is why it is relevant to ask if Israelis support a peace plan. All of the other questions in the same paragraph are philosophical and of no practical use because nobody is going to force Israelis to accept a plan they don’t like just as nobody can force change in Syria against the Syrian will.

As Shai likes to say, you make peace with the enemies you have, you cannot wish they were different enemies.

Rime Allaf Says:

The only limited understanding I see here is the one you have of international law, AIG. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term and its derivatives. Look it up.

You’re wasting your time with me, I’m not falling into your little “democracy” and “reform” game. Non sequitur.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

I understand what international law is, just as I understand what Sharia law is and what are Ottoman laws and British laws.

But it seems you think that by advocating international law you are putting forward some argument. Well you are not. If Arabs would have believed in International law they would have accepted the partition of Palestine and by now there would be democracies in all Arab countries (remeber the Declaration of Human Rights)?

Adopting international law as an argument when you fail on the battlefield is disingenious. Adopting parts of international law that are only convenient for you is disingenious.

So since from the start Arabs have refused international law as the arbitrator of the conflict, why has it now become your best friend?

Alex Says:


Let me see … So you are saying because the Palestinians in 1948 did not display the minimal expected degree of sportsmanship by welcoming the "international" decision to take part of their Palestine and give it to the Jews, then Israel is allowed to continue to NOT respect international law forever and ever? … like stealing Syria’s Golan Heights by force in 1967 and annexing it in 1981?

This reminds me to quote again Mr. Dayan:

<blockquote>The Syrians were not threatening us at the time.’ The attack proceeded not because Israel was threatened but because of pressure from land-hungry farmers and army commanders in northern Israel. ‘Of course [war with Syria] was not necessary. About those shellings: Syria shelled and otherwise emanated cold hostility. But, Dayan told his interviewer, ‘at least 80 percent’ of two decades of border clashes were initiated by Israel.</blockquote>

Why stop there? … because the Arabs did not immediately smile and accept with delight giving away half of Palestine in 1948, then Israel can tomorrow invade Syria and take it! … that would be perfectly justified using your logic! … especially that Syria does not respect "human rights" (like Israel does) … and "human rights" are part of the "declaration of human rights" and therefore Syria is in serious violation of international law and therefore Israel can take Syria!

Shai Says:


Though not always easy to read Rime’s words, I do learn a lot from them. And what I find in her words most promising (about the future of this region) is that she is essentially voicing her extreme disappointment in exactly what you’re always pointing out – Syria’s (and the Arab world’s) lack of democratic freedoms. She claims, and I believe she is right, that by not enabling Syrians to voice their true opinion, the Syrian regime is enabling Israel to run the show as it sees fit. You should certainly agree with her and, therefore, agree that if and whatever agreement is reached between our two nations, it would not be the peace sought after by Syrians or Israelis.


How do we move forward then? Is it even possible? Are you essentially saying that AIG is right, that only when Syria has a democracy can the preconditions for peace (on Syria’s part) be met? I very much agree with you about Israel’s endless hypocritical games in regards to international law. I’m farthest from proud of that. You’re right. In fact, we should withdraw from Palestinian lands even without peace (and in theory, same for the Golan). But, how do we do that practically? I don’t mean to put the responsibility for occupation on the Fatah/Hamas rift – it is not theirs, it is ours. But how do we practically “give back” the West Bank, for instance? Should we just withdraw our military, and pull out our settlers? What will ensue in this territory? Who will control it? Who will govern it? Is it possible to do?

ayman hakki Says:

To derstand us Syrians one must understand Brand Syria. Brand Syria calls for the rejection of Israeli inspired US world hegemony.

It’s a futile idea, yet-as Brands tend to be-it’s a symbolic and global trend. From Venezuela to Uzbekistan many are fed up with this bellicose US administration’s injudicious show of force. None however are as effected as are the Arabs, more so, none carry the Arab rejection Brand as blatantly as us Syrians. Syria’s right wingers and Syria’s leftists, Syria’s religious and Syria’s atheists, all Syrians seem to agree on nothing else. Syrians have often been accused of being hypocritical, money-loving, exploitative of Palestinians, oppressive of Lebanese, dismissive of Jordanians, etc, etc, and it may be true. Yet we are in one camp on this issue. That’s why Syria the Brand is under such attack by the global enemies of that ideology.

Syria’s regime could do everything asked of it and the powers that be won’t be pleased, because the real target of thier attack is not the Syrian regime, it is Syria’s no-compromise Brand. Look at Rima and Abu Fares’ writing and you will see my point

Arabs (and Palestinian Arabs to be exact) often rightfully decry our appropriation of their struggle, but if you held a referendum today (in any Arab country including Palestine) whether to negotiate with Israel or continue to struggle, I’d bet you that only Syrians -who are after all less under the gun- would vote to struggle on indefinitely. Some, like my uncle Munah el Solh, say that Arabism-unlike any other Nationalism-is defined by one question; how do you feel about Israel and Palestine? If that’s true then Syria may be the last bastion of Arabism, a nationalism whose time may have come and gone.

Syria’s Brand-not its regime-will define its course, a course of conflict with America and Israel. Calling for regime reform changes nothing.

Alex Says:


I was reading Syria Comment and found one of your recent comments, replying to SimoHurrta:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


“…Trying to take historical examples and pin them on modern day Israelis is just another manifestation of your anti-semitism.”

How far is one allowed to go back to make his point based on historical examples? .. is it ok to use what happened in 1948 (Arab countries not immediately accepting ONE UN resolution) to give Israel TODAY the right to continue rejecting tens of UN resolutions?

offended Says:

This is absolutely laughable. And rather intellectually deranged, if I may add.

Let me backtrack on your argument a little bit; let’s assume that Syria, starting tomorrow, has become a wonderful democracy, and it adopted the best human practices in the world in which she trumps Israel and the United States together: will the Israeli public opinion miraculously become interested in peace with Syria then?

Or on the other hand: suppose Syria has becomes militarily superior to Israel tomorrow, will the public opinion toward peace change, or would it not? 😉

You see, you are right in suggesting that the battlefield has its magical effect on public opinion. But we as intellectuals (unless you claim to be something else) we are supposed to look at things from a broader perspective. Try to put aside all the thoughts of war: the stringers, the tomcats, the phantoms, the laser-guided missiles, and basically all your superior weaponry, just put them aside for a second and think: what could be the reference of a just peace between Arabs and Israelis in which no side feels fleeced or palmed-off?

I can think of nothing better than the International Law. You’ve got anything else in mind, just pointed it out.

Indeed, the internal discourse in Israel is none of my business. But I’d expect intelligent people to be working toward convincing their countrymen to accept peace with Syria ASAP. (I believe my friend Shai, God bless him, is already working on that)

The way I see things for this negotiation to proceed is this: we (Israel and Syria) shall do the due diligence in reaching the agreement that satisfies international law, provide a reasonable dignity for the Palestinians and ensure security to Israel. When the push comes to shove, it should be easy to work out the details. I don’t think it’s that hard.

And then, once everyone is happy with the agreement they’ve got, you can then put it on to your countrymen: if they agree, well and good. If they don’t: thank you very much, see you tomorrow.

abufares Says:

Israel and Syria might sign a peace treaty and ignore or marginalize the Palestinian issue. This would be what I described as a Jordanian or Egyptian type of peace.
-Does the majority of Israelis like or even feel neutral about the Egyptians and Jordanians as people??? NO
-Reverse the question??? HELL NO.
Peace with hate and distrust! What’s the point?
Israel only bought more time by signing unilateral peace treaties with individual Arab countries. If the majority of Israelis refuse to return the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria then perhaps they are not ready for this commitment.
The concept of accepting and embracing the other could not be coercive. We have a saying in Syria that is almost impossible to translate” Allo 7ebni wa khod ja7esh… Allo al ma7abbeh ma betsir da7esh”.
As long as Israelis feel superior they cannot commit themselves to peace. As long as Syrians (the people) do not feel in any way inferior they are not in a hurry to sign such a peace deal. Reaching a peace agreement with Arab governments and ignoring the people has, as I’ve indicated earlier, been tried and tested. It’s simply meaningless.
With that attitude toward the problem, we’re all in for a long wait even if a peace treaty is signed tomorrow.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

You ask say:
“Let me backtrack on your argument a little bit; let’s assume that Syria, starting tomorrow, has become a wonderful democracy, and it adopted the best human practices in the world in which she trumps Israel and the United States together: will the Israeli public opinion miraculously become interested in peace with Syria then? ”


(I hope you got my point…)

If Syria became Switzerland, Israel would sign a peace agreement with it and give it the Golan in 1 minute.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Answering all regarding international law.

Was international law accepted as a basis for the solution in 48? In 67 did Nasser say “Let’s sit down and discuss all issues based on international law” or did he say “let’s throw the Jews in the sea” and then kicked out the UN out of Sinai (according to international law?) and then started the war by closing the straits of Tiran.

After the six day war, did the Arabs say “ok, let’s negotiate a peace based on international law” or did they go to Khartoum and return with the famous three NOs? In 1973 did the Arabs attack Israel according to international law?

It took till 1991 and the Madrid conference for the Arabs to begin thinking that perhaps that only way to deal with Israel is through international law. But of course it never stopped them from supporting terrorism against Israel (according to international law?)

To me and most Israelis, this sudden awakening to International law is nothing but a ploy. You want us to believe that you suddenly changed your skins and even though all Arab regimes are oppressive and backwards, regarding international law, they are the most enlightened in the world? Then for 5 years let’s see Arab states live by the letter of international law, starting with the Declaration of Human rights and by stating for example that all solutions will not be based on violence.

The Syrian press and regime constantly advocate resistance and war against Israel. The culture minister and many others believe that Israel will disappear in 10 years. With all this rhetoric you want us to believe that all this international law nonsense is sincere? It is just a ploy. A game the Arabs are playing because they are weak and cannot use the military option. It is not a principled position.

Sorry, Asad missed his opportunity in 78. Since then Israel has grown much stronger and Syria much weaker. The agreement between Syria and Israel will reflect the current strengths of the two countries. If you don’t like it, I highly recommend making Syria stronger through economic and democratic reforms. In fact, I have been recommending this since I started posting on this blog.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Just another test for how sincere the Syrians are about international law. Let’s suppose that the UN convenes and decides that 10% of the Golan should stay in Israeli hands and that the international court upholds an appeal against Syria. Will Syria still agree that international law will be the basis for the peace? I don’t know, what do you think?

Alex Says:

AIG said:

“In 1973 did the Arabs attack Israel according to international law?”

You know … in 1973 both Egypt and Syria were very clear … they were after recovering (all, or even part of in the case of Sadat) of the territories that Israel illegally continued to occupy years after UN resolution 242 asked Israel to return the occupied territories.

So, yes absolutely they did not do anything wrong.

Sadat even cheated Assad by telling him that he is fighting to get the Sinai back whereas in reality (and we know this for a fact) he only wanted to score a quick victory by simply crossing the Suez canal to the other side of Sinai (his occupied territories) .. he wanted to use that victory to talk peace with Israel.

Assad wanted to fight until the Golan is recovered in full.

No one wanted to throw the Jews in the sea.

And in 1967 … do you want to read Dayan’ s quote again?

So … how far back do you want to go to continue claiming that Israel TODAY is allowed to invade and occupy whatever makes some Israelis happy.

For your information, when I was discussing the case of Syrian lands that were given to Turkey in 1939 by France … The Eskendurun, one of the main reasons Syria did not fight for them was that there is no UN resolution to Support Syria’s claim to that territory.

Amjad Says:

As a Syrian I am tired of the following comments from my fellow Syrians:
1- Israel and Isralies are evil and they should be defeated
2- Anyone who brings up the Palestenian issue as a condition for peace between Syria and Israel

We as a nation should make peace with our neighbors including Israel, the world is moving forward embracing education, technology and free trades, promoting peace, friendship and open borders. We must demand peace with Israel NOW, we can’t afford raising another generation of Syrians embrasing hate and resentment.


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