Commentary Magazine


Topic: Yedioth Ahronoth

How Western Engagement Thwarts Israeli-Syrian Peace

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s candid interview this week with Lebanon’s As-Safir paper ought to be studied by anyone who still believes in either the possibility of Israeli-Syrian peace or the utility of Western engagement with Syria.

According to both the Jerusalem Post and Ynet (the website of Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth), Assad told As-Safir that Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a message via Russia offering him the entire Golan Heights if Syria would sever ties with Iran and with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Assad said he wasn’t interested: He refuses to abandon the option of “resistance.”

Whether or not Peres actually made this offer (which his office vehemently denies) is irrelevant. The point is that Assad claims it was made. Yet his response was not to pursue it via direct or even indirect talks with Israel. It was to assert that Syria will never pressure Hamas and co. to disarm; that Israel doesn’t want peace anyway, so there’s no point in talking; and that it would be a “mistake” to “erase the resistance option,” thereby “becoming hostage to the peace option.”

This response has three noteworthy aspects. First, Israeli advocates of peace with Syria all claim that previous talks collapsed over one single issue: Jerusalem insisted that the border be the recognized international border, while Damascus demanded the pre-1967 border, which includes Israeli territory that Syria illegally occupied in 1948. Therefore, they argue, if Israel would just stop fussing over that sliver of land and cede it all, a deal would swiftly be signed.

Second, these advocates always said peace would bring one major benefit: Syria’s removal from the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

Yet now, Assad claims that Peres offered precisely what Israeli peace advocates always wanted: the whole Golan. And he contemptuously refused to pay the desired quid pro quo.

Most noteworthy of all, however, was his reason: Abandoning “resistance” would be foolish, because it works. And as evidence, he cited Syria’s renewed ties with the West, especially Washington. In short, he views the Obama administration’s engagement drive as proof that supporting terror pays.

Moreover, when asked to identify Syria’s key regional interests, peace with Israel didn’t make the list — but “dialogue with the U.S.” did. Thus peace with Israel no longer offers any compensation that would justify abandoning “resistance”: The one benefit it was traditionally thought to offer — an opening to Washington — has now been achieved by “resistance” instead.

This also explains why Assad eagerly engaged in indirect talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just two years ago, but scorns the idea today. Then, he was being boycotted by the West, and especially by former President George W. Bush, so talks with Israel were needed to end the boycott. Today, he is courted by Europe and Washington alike. So who needs peace with Israel?

The conclusion is clear: As long as Assad can get everything he wants from the West without a peace deal, Israeli-Syrian peace will be unattainable. Only when the West starts punishing “resistance” rather than rewarding it will Assad’s strategic calculation change.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s candid interview this week with Lebanon’s As-Safir paper ought to be studied by anyone who still believes in either the possibility of Israeli-Syrian peace or the utility of Western engagement with Syria.

According to both the Jerusalem Post and Ynet (the website of Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth), Assad told As-Safir that Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a message via Russia offering him the entire Golan Heights if Syria would sever ties with Iran and with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Assad said he wasn’t interested: He refuses to abandon the option of “resistance.”

Whether or not Peres actually made this offer (which his office vehemently denies) is irrelevant. The point is that Assad claims it was made. Yet his response was not to pursue it via direct or even indirect talks with Israel. It was to assert that Syria will never pressure Hamas and co. to disarm; that Israel doesn’t want peace anyway, so there’s no point in talking; and that it would be a “mistake” to “erase the resistance option,” thereby “becoming hostage to the peace option.”

This response has three noteworthy aspects. First, Israeli advocates of peace with Syria all claim that previous talks collapsed over one single issue: Jerusalem insisted that the border be the recognized international border, while Damascus demanded the pre-1967 border, which includes Israeli territory that Syria illegally occupied in 1948. Therefore, they argue, if Israel would just stop fussing over that sliver of land and cede it all, a deal would swiftly be signed.

Second, these advocates always said peace would bring one major benefit: Syria’s removal from the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

Yet now, Assad claims that Peres offered precisely what Israeli peace advocates always wanted: the whole Golan. And he contemptuously refused to pay the desired quid pro quo.

Most noteworthy of all, however, was his reason: Abandoning “resistance” would be foolish, because it works. And as evidence, he cited Syria’s renewed ties with the West, especially Washington. In short, he views the Obama administration’s engagement drive as proof that supporting terror pays.

Moreover, when asked to identify Syria’s key regional interests, peace with Israel didn’t make the list — but “dialogue with the U.S.” did. Thus peace with Israel no longer offers any compensation that would justify abandoning “resistance”: The one benefit it was traditionally thought to offer — an opening to Washington — has now been achieved by “resistance” instead.

This also explains why Assad eagerly engaged in indirect talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just two years ago, but scorns the idea today. Then, he was being boycotted by the West, and especially by former President George W. Bush, so talks with Israel were needed to end the boycott. Today, he is courted by Europe and Washington alike. So who needs peace with Israel?

The conclusion is clear: As long as Assad can get everything he wants from the West without a peace deal, Israeli-Syrian peace will be unattainable. Only when the West starts punishing “resistance” rather than rewarding it will Assad’s strategic calculation change.

Read Less

Goldstone’s Past: Apartheid Hangman

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.