February 06, 2010

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Frustration in Damascus Israel has completed its withdrawal from the Golan Heights as stipulated in the Syria-Israel Treaty of Peace; ambassadors have been exchanged; embassies opened; direct flights established; an exhibit of ancient artifacts from Jerusalem's Bible Lands Museum has been loaned to the National Museum in Damascus. Asma Assad and Sarah Netanyahu are engaged in a series of collaborative civil society initiatives… Bashar Assad understands the price he and the ruling Alawite minority would have to pay, in a country that is 74 percent Sunni, for a genuine peace with Israel. That is why in this week’s New Yorker, Assad frankly told Seymour Hersh that even if Syria regained the entire Golan, Israel, “cannot expect me to give them the peace they expect.” Indeed, if Israel got the peace we expected, Assad’s de-facto truce with the Muslim Brotherhood would come undone. He’d have to expel Hamas leaders from Syria, a step the Brotherhood would find insufferable. A bad divorce with Teheran would ensue. Hizbullah would reorient Lebanon’s policies accordingly. In short, Assad would be going down the path taken by the late Anwar Sadat: carving out a separate peace with Israel while the Palestinian issue festered, albeit due to the Palestinians’ own intransigence. Naturally, if Assad got the Golan Heights on his terms, the legitimacy of his regime would be bolstered. But no Israeli government – not Yitzhak Rabin’s and not Binyamin Netanyahu’s – can come down from the Golan in return for a sham peace.
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Report: Hezbollah raises alert level Hezbollah has raised the alert level among its fighters, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported Saturday, citing Lebanese sources. According to the report, the Shiite group’s leaders were instructed to take precautionary measures for fear of an Israeli strike. The Lebanese sources told the newspaper Hezbollah believes the chances of an Israeli attack have increased in light of the belligerent back and forth between Israel and Syria. For the most part, Hezbollah has so far refrained from directly addressing the war of words between Jerusalem and Damascus. Also on Saturday, Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper published an editorial saying that Damascus believes the recent threats made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reflect the Israeli government’s intention to wage new wars in the Middle East. According to the Syrian regime’s mouthpiece, “Israel thought it could wage wars and not suffer the consequences – but it was wrong. It (Israel) tested the patience of Syria and the Arab and Islamic nations – and it turned out that this patience has its limits. Israel is testing Syria’s determination to return its conquered land by all the legitimate means at its disposal. “The path to peace is open and its conditions are known, but the path of destruction can also open the moment Israel complies with the aggressive tendencies of leaders who have crime running in their veins and their way is the way of the mafia,” the editorial read.

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