Ori Nir, communications director of Americans for Peace Now, interviewed Imad Moustapha (audio), Syria’s U.S. ambassador, about the current Syria-Israel peace negotiations being brokered by Turkey. Moustapha made an impressive pitch that confirmed the seriousness of the talks and of Syria’s commitment to their success. Here he makes the case that Syria not only holds the key to peace on Israel’s northern border, but with other Arab nations as well:
Syria plays the role of the gatekeeper between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. If Israel wants to make peace with the Arab world, Israel needs to understand this legitimate demand based on the premise of land for peace.
One might quarrel with this assessment and say that he’s overstating Syria’s importance. But when you realize that Syria holds the key to the involvement of so many players including Hezbollah, and by extension Lebanon, and even Iran, his claim becomes somewhat more credible.
Nir asked Moustapha why U.S. involvement in the talks is so important to his country. The ambassador replied that he doesn’t expect the U.S. to become involved in the nitty gritty of the negotiations. But its role would be to help “provide guarantees” and “help create momentum” that would lead to negotiating and signing an agreement. Because Syria understands that such peace negotiations would lead to a “new paradigm” in relations among the front line states, U.S. engagement is critical to ensure the success of such a transition. He means that if Syria is to turn away from current alliances with Hezbollah and Iran, that Syria will expect the U.S. to “pick up the slack” by opening trade, restoring relations, and even guaranteeing Syria’s security if attacked by any of its enemies or former friends.
In answer to a question about whether Syria sought a “re-alignment” in relations with the west, Moustapha confirmed that it did:
Syria has always wanted to open up to the west and in partnership with the European Union and to have the best possible relations with America. We are not enemies to the United States.
…We…are telling the state of Israel that we desire to end the state of war between us, to conclude peace between two states, to recognize each other and to live as peaceful neighbors with each other, within a normalized context. We think this is a very serious proposal (…) here is the grand thing on offer: let us sit together, let us make peace, let us end once and for all the state of war…
Of course, there are Syria-skeptics both in the Bush Administration and among Israeli rightists. Which is why the following comment from an Israeli academic expert on Syria reinforces the gravity of what Mustapha has to say in this interview:
“These are the most progressive and helpful comments I have heard ever from Moustapha, and I know him quite well and follow what he says all the time,” said Moshe Maoz, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University.
For anyone hoping for peace between Israel and Syria, your November vote is critical. You have one candidate who will energetically push forward such negotiations and another candidate wedded to the discredited policies of the current Administration. How can anyone be sure what John McCain’s position will be regarding Syria-Israel peace talks given his closeness to Bush’s core Mideast policies? And given the critical importance of peace to Israel’s well-being, can we entrust such a U.S. role to a president whose views are unclear on the subject?
Thanks to Dan Fleshler for first blogging this story which has also been reported by Haaretz and Bloomberg.
Shlomo Glickstein says
With the present Syrian behavior in Lebanon and their support or engineering imo of the Hezbollah war and the fact that they are since the father Assad the most crafty slick salesmen and continious liars it’s hard to take any fig leaf he offers. Syria really isn’t interested in the Golan or the rock pile Sheba Farms.. they’re interested in the billions they steal in graft from the Lebanese economy. Sure the Syrian want the Golan and Syrian national tv propogandizes the great enemy of the Syrians the “zionists/jews” but not having the Golan but almost getting it and keeping Lebanon is the BEST POSITION by far for Syria… they make get some goodies from the US and Israel – still have the ‘boogey men’ to prop up to their people to ignore their own hate for the Assad dictatorship – and get some leniency from the US regarding Lebanon… this broken record’s been played before…. and this same Syrian Embassador who lied through his teeth in 06 knows exactly who he’s playing that little fig leaf he dropped to.
Richard Silverstein says
Oh, there’s a broken record here but it isn’t Syria that’s playing it. It’s you I’m afraid. We’ve all heard the hate, mistrust & cynicism from the pro-Israel right before & it sure does get tiresome.
A mixed metaphor & an incoherent one at that…
Shlomo has one thing right though, which is that Syria isn’t interested in the Sheba Farms. They’ve been saying for some time now, and the UN agree, that the Sheba Farms belong to Lebanon.
SShlomo Glickstein says
NThe rigid ones are yourselves. Its negotiate 24/7 no matter what no matter when no matter with who… and it has to be officially and with a Dovish Israeli PM! Give something no matter what you’re being offered in return in words or deeds even if you get almost nothing bcs it would make you Richard Silverstein feel good, especially the press ops or handshake for public consumption… however meaningless.
Also, if things don’t work out or if it’s decided official negotiations are a waste of time… well then it’s the Israeli PM’s fault especially if he’s not a far left winger… not the Mukharat or Hamas thugs who are likely double dealing or offering nothing for something… always it’s the case via the far left commentary.
This is incredibly ironic considering the dictatorial double dealing Mukharat thugs you’re talking to. Whether its the goons at the top of the Mukharat or Hamas is of no mind… however, if Sharon was doing the negotiations or Begin well then that is a chandra [sic]!!! and they must be mocked for the “right wingers” they are!! Hilarious considering the thugs in Syria simply murder Leb politicians or media who simply speak out against them and won’t join in on the Syrian dole… or who might not give Hezbollah a majority, so simply murder them! lol!
Let’s take a look at the present behavior of the Syrian regime and see if their purview [sic] has changed in the least bit? If they’re not simply using a potential official meeting with the Israelis as a way of conferring legitimacy on themselves as a PR victory and that’s it… another words they’re serious about not supporting terror organizations, truly getting their intell goons out of Lebanon and allowing that country to move past Syrian hegemony over their economy, police forces, and gov’t.
And this propoganda is a Saturday Night Live skit on 1984!
Now these truly are people you can negotiate with… it’s those Sharon types you really have to worry about…
Richard Silverstein says
Shlomo! You don’t know your chakra from your shande. Where did you learn Yiddish? Or did you? Anyway, you meant shande, not chandra. I guess you got yrself into such a lather of righteous indignation you got a bit confused.
As for the links…you expect anyone to respect links from a blog written by a research fellow working for the Foundation in Defense of Democracies, one of those DC neocon think tanks (Max Kampelman is one of its luminaries)???!
I don’t make any pretence of claiming that Syria is a paragon of virtue anymore than I’d claim that Israel or Hezbollah or Hamas is. But unlike you, I’m a pragmatist who wants the wars to end. You think that somehow Israel can wait out all the evil regimes it detests & eventually negotiate a peace w. some future Arab regimes that will be more favorable to it. The rest of us know what a pipe dream this is.
BTW, you don’t hate Arabs do you? Or is it only “bad” Arabs you hate?
Shlomo Glickstein says
Do you hate all Jews or only those Jews who you classify as “bad” Jews? Sharon Feiglin? Etc… Is that really the best you can do? To infer moral flaws in the person you’re arguing with to try and elevate yourself? To infer I “hate Arabs” yet the writer of that blog is a Lebanese Arab? Further in his blog he quotes an article extensively which is written by another Lebanese Arab writer in the Daily Star. And you immediately state well that blog has no credibility bcs of his “association”… with another site… that’s not even to get into the immature tit for tat and cite some of the blogs in your blogroll and some of the bile published in them… bcs that’s a rather weak and very immature conversation.
It is notable that the writer of that blog is a Doctoral Student in Near East Studies at NYU and an Arab Lebanese. He writes about Syria from first hand experience and bcs Lebanon is his country… so are you inferring that he hates Syria and Arabs due to his writing about the thuggish behavior and lies of the Syria Mukharat Dictatorship? Ahhhh.. this from the man who gets insulted and “won’t stand for” anyone who questions his love of Israel? And did you not cite Uri Avnery in another comment thread? Is he a traitor of sort to Israel, just a way out nut?, or is he someone who if anyone were to question his love of Israel or sanity they would be a “fascist”?
No, the present PM is conducting under the table talks with Syria as Israel has consistently done over the years on and off… A pragmatist realizes one doesn’t jump at any slick statement made by a Muhkarat regime flack/thug that is/has consistently behaved as out and out thugs? I am realistic about what the regime in Syria is really after and that at best what they’ll offer is a very temporary lull with Hezbollah or Hamas and that they really don’t want the Golan back unless they get it for absolutely nothing… they want Lebanon and the billions it provides to prop up their dictatorship and they want Israel as an enemy to prop up the Golan is comparably insignificant to them – direct photo ops with the US though are invaluable as Badran details…. And if “approaching” negotiations with the Israelis is a way of getting this than all the better.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks, you’ve just given me an opportunity to ban you. I don’t hate Jews. I am one. And for making the idiotic statement that I hate Jews, your comment privileges have hereby been revoked.
I hate no one for their religion. I thoroughly disapprove of people whose political views perpetuate more war and suffering for Israel & its Arab neighbors. That has very little to do w. religion. I don’t believe religion is at the heart of the problem regarding this conflict (though it contributes).
Ah, so you DON’T hate all Arabs. Just “bad” ones. Clearly, the writer of the blog you quoted is a “good” Arab because he’s right wing & works for the far-right League for the Defense of Democracies. BTW, I never said there were no far-right Lebanese. In fact, some Lebanese Christians are quite so & there was the Lebanese Phalangist party after all.
Notice that you just DID what you claimed you wouldn’t do. No, you’re not “weak and immature” are you?
Yes, he hates the Syrian regime. He also seems to detest a Syrian academic expert for whom I have great respect, Josh Landis. His nastiness toward Josh is rather churlish & petty.
I’ve not only quoted Uri Avnery, I’ve written posts about him & have great respect for him, even when I disagree w. him. He’s neither a traitor nor a “way out nut.” I think you deserve the honor of being called the latter, though. If I had a choice between Tony Frey & Uri Avnery, I know who I’d choose.
I don’t know what that means. The talks are fully publicly acknowledged.
One man’s “realism” is the rest of the world’s flaming, ranting ant-Arab militancy. You’re no realist. You’re a paranoid hater of anything you deem inimical to yr twisted vision of Israel’s interests. You’d rather rant than provide any real proof of any of the things you say.