Offended | Architect U.A.E.
May 29th, 2008

Re: ‘Syrian Israeli Peace Process

My modest contribution to the new subject of contention on Creative Syria will take a different form than that of the analytical and the scholarly.\n\nSyriacomment forum has imparted its Syrian readers with the chance to converse with few of their Israelis counterparts. Everyday there are interesting discussions taking place. The dominating subject? You guessed that right: it’s the prospect of peace between Syria and Israel. The means to get this peace-making process started again. The means to get rid of the obstacles by learning from past experiences. The possible means of establishing trust and building confidence between Syria and Israel, people and governments; a term was skillfully concocted for this purpose: CBM (Confidence Building Measures.)\n\nIf I am to conjure up a physical metaphor to the conflict between Syria and Israel; I can only think of it as a devastating oil spill that is spread miles and miles across an exquisite seaside. It’s disastrous by all means. But while the proprietor of the oil carrier and the GreenPeace activists are stomping the snots out of each other, the spill grows bigger and bigger. And this is indeed what we’ve got in our hands at the moment: a terrible mess that requires nothing less than the efforts of all those involved to contain it. It’s important to remember that, like with oil spills, conflicts usually get worse by time, and their ramifications get harder and harder to grasp. Just note that few years ago the strength of Hezbollah and the Iranian nuclear program were not that serious, indeed there were there; but they were not as crucial factors to the equation as they are now.\n\nThe work ahead is quite arduous and demanding. Syria’s rightfully prescribed principle for achieving peace has always been the same: “Lands for Peace”. But lying under this robust headline is the most complex plethora of issues that if remain unresolved; there couldn’t be peace. Those subjects are so complicated in nature that they can surely guarantee Gary Kasparov (the world renowned chess player) a good deal of headache. It’s enough to observe the bunch of question marks this resumption of negotiation has spurred on the pages of Syrian websites: What will become of the Palestinians? Can we ever trust the Israelis? Will the Americans sponsor these talks fairly? Aren’t we doing Olmert a favor by talking to him while he’s under grueling corruption charges? Isn’t peace a wonderful thing to have? Why is it perceived with such skepticism? Why do war drums have always had fair share of fanatics while peace, with all its positive impact, doesn’t appeal to many?\n \nOne invariable impression I’ve come across while reading the hundreds of comments on the pages of Syria News. It’s that Syrian people are putting Justice and Dignity for themselves and the Palestinians before peace. Peace is a natural outcome of the application of justice.\n\nOut of those contentious comments, I’ve chosen some to present as a fair sample of the discussions that are taking place amongst Syrians. One thing that must be made clear though; this couldn’t be dealt with as a basis for statistical conclusions. There are lots of spontaneous comments that are very supportive of the peace process (e.g. some has saluted turkey for its efforts) but because of repetitive nature and the simple form they are expressed in, I couldn’t translate them all.\n\nComments made by Syrian readers following the news of resumption of peace talks between Syria and Israel: (Source; Syria News website)\n\n• 60 % of Israelis refuse to give back the whole Golan in return for genuine peace with Syria (according to opinion polls). I implore you (Syria news) or any other credible media establishment to conduct the following poll in Syria: in case of failure of peace talks with Israel, do you agree with using military power to recover Golan?…. I am sure the Israeli public opinion will change after learning the result of such poll.\n\n• Please humor my naive mind for a moment: we as expatriates feel that the timing of such talks is quite unfortunate, it has only been announced after Omert has become at the verge of total collapse. Which leads you to think that he isn\’t serious about the Syrian peace track, he just wants to calm down the criticism for his corruption charges. However, I really wish that things are serious this time and that we can conclude the Golan matter once and for all.\n\n• Inshallah peace will take place as soon as possible! Because there will be clear positive impact on our people. We trust you Mr. President. No for war… Yes for peace..\n\n• We\’ve suffered a lot because of all the wars we\’ve been through. I wish peace would take place so that we concentrate on developing our country and catching up with what we\’ve missed so far.\n\n• “If they are inclined toward peace, then you should also be inclined toward peace ” (Qura\’nic verse). Prophet Mohamed did make a peace pact with Jews. There was business going on between him and Jews. And when he died (peace be upon him) his shield was pawned to a Jew. Conclusion: it’s better for Syria\’s future is to have peace with Israel now.\n\n• It’s unbelievable. Every other state enjoys a good deal of peace, and therefore we are ourselves entitled for such peace and to get our rights back. I wish these talks success.\n\n• It\’s high time there is peace in place. Enough is enough! Everyday another problem pops out here and there. However, I think the United States will not agree to our terms. We hope for the best and inshallah there will be peace so that our economy gets better. What is the reason behind inflation? it\’s of course because of the pressures that come along with all the wars in our vicinity. I think when there is peace; all these problems will come to an end.\n\n• It\’s only normal that we shall get our rights back. And we are seeking nothing but our rights. I think we should achieve peace with Israel. Of course, it should only happen after we get Golan.\n\n• Basically, two thirds of the Zionists do not wish to withdraw from Golan. And I think those corruption charges against Olmert are nothing but warnings to him not to ‘forfeit’ the occupied lands. If he\’s to do that, he\’ll either end up like Rabin (killed) or will get convicted with those charges. It\’s only a time-gaining technique.\n\n• From the bottom of our hearts we say Yes to peace. We\’ve lived and we\’re still living on the hope of visiting the Holy Lands. So let there be peace and enough is enough. We hope for just and comprehensive peace.\n\n• Israel doesn\’t want peace for this region, because it contradicts its interests. Every time there are peace talks, Israel will create troubles somewhere. So you be careful what you are doing this time. They are very deceitful.\n\n• The American president is about to leave the white house, so even if we reached a peace deal, will the upcoming governments in Tel Aviv and Washington recognize it? our experience with them says no, they will not. Like what happened for Rabin’s deposit which has been denied. It\’s good to negotiate with a weak counterpart. But this one seems to be much weaker than needed.\n\n• These negotiations can\’t succeed for a simple reason: Olmert is much weaker than to be able to convince Israelis that peace for them is viable. He\’s facing a probe and might fall in any minute. American foreign policy in the region is at its all time low: they couldn\’t even get the Saudis to increase oil productions, and the Lebanese have reached an agreement against the Americans’ will, even Olmert is negotiating with Syria against their will.\n\n• The American administration — which has been looking at things from a narrow perspective and without long-term strategies–, finds itself at a complete opposite course with peace process; the peace process that once was part of their strategy in the region. But their nervous handling of the hot issues in the region makes them look like they are quite irate and spiteful toward this new opening in peace talks, and that is because they are losing the cards with which they used to play/control the game. They\’ve decided to isolate themselves in the region the moment they decided to isolate Syria.\n\n• The fact that the opinion polls are showing that majority of Israelis are against withdrawal from Golan is irrelevant. This is a Syrian territory and we\’ve got used to this kind of cheap extortion aimed at ensuring a negotiation head start for the Israelis. This is not going to work with Syria. No compromise with Syrian rights. NEVER. This is the only essence of negotiation that could lead to a just and comprehensive peace.\n\n• I really hope that Israel will be true to its word this time so that peace could prevail and our country could get rid of this conflict, which has brought nothing but poverty and headache. Therefore, if there is peace in place then our economy will witness a remarkable pickup and we’ll become a pioneering state in the region.\n\n• I wish for this day to come when we’ll adorn (apply mascara to – a metaphor) our eyes by seeing our homeland again. We’ve departed 40 years ago and our only dream has always been to see Golan again. We were still children when we had to leave, and since then the word ‘displaced’ got stuck with us. I hope for a happy returning, but I just can’t trust Israel.\n\n• We don’t want peace with Israel because we’ve not yet forgotten Qana1, Qana2, Gaza, Jenin, and the Syrian laborers killed during July war (2006) while they were picking up apples. We’ve not forgotten our martyrs in Lebanon nor did we forget our prisoners in the dungeons of our enemy. Peace with whom? With the killers of Mohamed Al Durra and Iman Hejjo? Peace with whom?\n\n• This is nothing but a time gaining maneuver. There isn’t such thing as peace with Israel and we don’t want this peace anyway.\n\n• I think what’s happening is nothing but a ‘dog & pony’ show for media consumption. What about the incessant construction of settlements in Golan? Will they give it up that easily?\n\n• We don’t want peace with this entity of thievery; we’d like to eradicate them from every square inch of Arab land. Palestine shall become once again an Arab state on its entire territories. We’ve not seen this entity enthusiastic about peace until their weakness was clearly shown in July’s war. Then they’ve come to know the countdown to their demise has begun. And now they are looking for a straw to clutch for the rescue.\n\n• How naïve of us!…. they want nothing further but to negotiate after the popularity of their government has hit an all time low, and after the bribery charges against Olmert. None of them is prepared to give away half the water resources, the captivating natural scenery and the military vantage point. Not even the majority of their left.\n\n• Why do we portray peace as a treason? Why don’t we call it a truce? And in return we get our lands back, strengthen our economy and develop education, tourism and infra structure. In this day and age the economical power has become as important as military power.\n\n• What will become of the Palestinian cause and Arab Nationalism? I’d like to ask what’s going to be the destiny of the Palestinian people. (if anyone is thinking of them, that is) and how would we make peace with a robbing entity and an occupier that kills hundreds of Palestinians everyday unless we’re accepting of their practices? The only peace will occur when Israel ceases to exist.\n\n• With all due respect to those who want to fight Israel militarily: \n1. War is not in our interest. \n2. Our problem with Israel is our occupied territory and the rest of the occupied land is not of our concern. Are you suggesting that we spend our lives paying the price for the occupation of a land that is not ours? \n3. Let every nation do whatever suits her best. We –Syrians- are in favor of peace! \n4. And finally, get those myths out of your head and don’t bring it into politics!\n\n• It’s astonishing to see the majority of commentators running behind the illusion of peace like it has become a reality on the ground already. There is no peace. And the Zionist state is a virulent tumor which needs to be removed from the body of the Arab and Islamic nation. Just imagine, you who are calling for peace, the Israeli flag flickering over our lands.\n\n• Let me explain to you: when there is peace in place, our military budget will be reduced. Instead of being 80% of our GDP it will drop down to 20%. And the rest of the 60% will trickle down to the people. You can build schools, roads and improve economy with this surplus. You can get rid of debts and so on… in a nutshell: the livelihood would improve and there will be lots of liquidity in the market.\n\n• I am wondering: if there is peace in place; will the prices of diesel and rice drop down at all?\n\n• Peace is a big illusion. Anybody who reads history will know quite well that lots of Israelis do not believe in peace with Arabs. And when they get weak they resort to establishing a truce to gain some time and nothing else. And when they grow strong again they are back in the business of robbery, occupation and massacres. Therefore, we must think in their terms; we must continue to arm ourselves and strengthening our honorable army.\n\n• Insh’allah there will be peace and we’ll get rid of the compulsory military service, there will be no need for that then. More than half of Syrian youth overseas are there to avoid military service. We really hope there are good intentions this time so that we do away with the occupation.\n\n• Insha’llah peace will take place so that we can return to Syria. We’d no longer be obliged to stay away from home in order to save money for the military exemption fees. We are prepared to sacrifice, but we need also to enjoy our lives at the same time.\n\n• I hope there will be peace starting tomorrow morning! I hope we mend ties with our neighbors and peace prevails over and above them and us. It will be for the common good of us both!\n\n• I pray to God that peace comes around as a relief for all of us!\n\n• We’ve had enough fidgeting and procrastination. All the instabilitiesD’aprs les hypothses, les plus connues, le online casino a une origine perse ou une origine europenne. around us are put under the pretence of cold war. I am just wondering: if there is peace; will the prices cool down?Keno ist ein einzigartiges und leicht zu casino Spiel, es ist so hnlich wie Lotto spielen. Will the roads get proper asphalt? Will we see an end to corruption? … Allah only knows….\n\nConclusion:\n\nI thought hard about the best way to formulate my conclusion. It is obvious that responses fall into four categories: 1-The skeptical. 2- The supportive. 3- The opposed. 4- The humorous (which is indispensable in any discussion that involves Syrians). The commentators within each category listed down variety of reasons for why they take the stand they do. And since this article has already gotten very long; I will leave it to the respectable readers to make out those reasons for themselves.\n

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3 Responses to the Article

Shai Says:

Dear Offended,

Thank you so much for this post. It is very important for Israelis to read and understand the concerns and beliefs of the Syrians, as we are almost never exposed to them (in fact, never). Of course many if not most comments are pessimistic in nature, hating, suspecting, and distrusting Israel and her intentions. The exact same could be found in almost every Israeli newspaper online. And it will take much to change this. Indeed the return of the Golan by itself will not create true peace between Syria and Israel. As you said, Syrians are also very concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, and the continued Israeli occupation of their land. An agreement with Syria will need to have a comprehensive character, and relate directly to some of the toughest issues ahead of us (right-of-return, settlements, 1967 border, Jerusalem).

I believe and hope, that when Syrians see that Israel (under Olmert or anyone else) are is no longer running away from these issues, and is willing to discuss and commit itself to many of Syria’s concerns, then a change of mind can begin to occur. When Syrians will begin to see public opinion changing in Israel, they too adopt a more optimistic outlook. With today’s media and technological capabilities (and indeed the amazing access to information enabled by the internet), almost instant updating is available to anyone around the planet. Israelis and Syrians, in’shalla, will indirectly communicate their feelings and hopes for peace across to each other, and help this dream become a reality.

Syrians must become aware of the fact that many Israelis understand that Syria is the KEY to much in our region, and can serve as a leader in helping to solve our difficult conflicts. They must know that many of us in Israel are working very hard to form a majority for peace, both with Syria, as well as with the Palestinians. Alon Liel’s group (Israel-Syria Peace Society) is just one such example. But there are many others, and in the coming months we will be hearing and seeing more of them. The past 8 years have indeed been terrible to our region. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died, and millions have become refugees. We cannot escape the pictures, the stories, and reality.

Thank god Syria and Israel are at last talking again. We cannot solve anything by force. And indeed we must cease from trying. I chose to end this with the words of two of the Syrians you mentioned above:

“Inshallah peace will take place as soon as possible! Because there will be clear positive impact on our people. We trust you Mr. President. No for war… Yes for peace..”, and,

“If they are inclined toward peace, then you should also be inclined toward peace ” (Qura’nic verse).”

offended Says:

Dear Shai,
Thank you so much for the feedback. I totally agree with you that in order to achieve peace there must be some sort of trust. I found Abu Fares’s article to be the most communicating of my own beliefs. Syrians do not ‘hate’ or ‘distrust’ Israel because they chose to do that. It’s an outcome of this decades-long conflict that has the wear-and-tear effect on our psyche. It’s very important to convey those concerns to each other. And I believe, thanks to our friend Alex, that this step in itself (having this open and candid dialogue about peace between us both on this forum) shows that there is still hope. As you said, we’ve learnt the hard way that things can’t be settled without peace. As you work on promoting peace in Israel I promise you this; that for each Israeli convert toward the rightful settlement and the painful compromises there will be a Syrian who will be ready to accept Israel’s peace with open heart and mind. It should also be noted that the Palestinian track should be worked out as well, for it’s impossible or Syrians, as you may have concluded from the comments, to be oblivious to the Palestinians’ plight. It’s important to keep this very band of communication alive, albeit a narrow and limited one. Finally, I assure you that the overwhelming comments were very supportive of peace, indeed, they might be suspicious or cynical, but they are willing to walk the due walk to the end, because they too realize that this is a chance too valuable to dismissed.

ayman hakki Says:

a whole year has gone by, and nothing has changed. Bush is out Obama is in; Olmert is out Netanyahue is in…nothing has changed.
It’s an existential struggle and the Koran says; and We said to Beni-Yesrael settle the land until the day of promise, and We will rebraid you. (Suraat Al Israa’) That’s the Koran not the Talmude or the Torah!

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