Israeli and Syrian prezes making nice

So there was Israel’s figurehead president, Moshe Katsav, at the Pope’s funeral in Rome, reaching out to shake hands not only with Iranian President Muhammad Khatemi but also with Syria’s Bashar al-Asad.
(That’s one thing big state funerals are excellent for: throwing unlikely seatmates close to each other.)
The BBC, citing israel radio, reported that,

    Mr Katsav first shook hands with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as the funeral ceremonies began.
    The Syrian president was seated one row behind Mr Katsav.
    The report said Mr Assad later initiated a second handshake as the funeral ended.
    Mr Katsav, who was born in Iran, is also reported to have exchanged words in his native Farsi with the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami.

Actually, Katsav and Khatemi come from the same hometown, Yazd.
Later, Katsav, who has no executive power but is reported to be widely respected in Israel, told a web-reporter for the Israeli daily Maariv that he had

    urged the country’s leaders to take up a Syrian offer to renew peace talks.
    Moshe Katsav rejected Israeli official objections which said Syria’s overture transmitted via UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen was insignificant.
    “In my opinion it is important and worthwhile to thoroughly check out the intentions of (Syrian President) Assad,” he told the Maariv daily.
    Mr Assad said he was willing to resume talks with Israel without conditions.

Well, that’s from the BBC’s renedering of the story.
A return to Israeli-Syrian negotiations? Who knows? The two parties got very close indeed to a final peace agreement back when Rabin and Peres were prime ministers in Israel, in 1994-96. In 1994 Rabin gave the Clinton administration an undertaking called “the pocket” that informed the Americans that actually, deep down, his government was indeed ready to withdraw from all the territory of Syrian Golan that Israel had held under military occupation since the June war of 1967– though in return for a full peace and some fairly severe disarmament conditions that Syria would have to abide by.
Then, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist (November 1995). Then, Peres somewhat seriously misplayed his political hand and lost the election of June 1996. Then, Bibi Netanyahu took “the pocket” off the table. (That much, you can read about in my 2000 book that covered the negotiations from 1991-96.)
Then, in 1999, Mr. Wise-Guy Ehud Barak was elected PM in Israel. However he was just a little too big for his boots, that one, and thought he could pull something off with the older President Asad by sort of pretending to put “the pocket” back on the table, but actually not doing so. (He’d skimmed a vital hundred-meter-wide strip off what he was prepared to “give back” to Syria, running around the northeast segment of the Sea of Galilee/Lake Kinneret. Did he think Hafez al-Asad wouldn’t notice the difference?)
Well, so then Hafez al-Asad keeled over and died. Ehud Barak was such an incompetent pol that he completely lost his ruling coalition in almost record time for Israel and then lost an election to Ariel Sharon…. And there things have stood till now.
I personally don’t expect a big change. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

5 thoughts on “Israeli and Syrian prezes making nice”

  1. I heard a radio report about these handshaking’s stories this morning. Concerning Syria/Israrel, the reporter added that Ariel Sharon who is supposed to meet with Bush very soon was furious against Moshe Katsav. Kathami pretended he hadn’t talked to Moshe Katsav and this last said it was unimportant, just a civility.

  2. Oh.. and that also : while ME prezes were so civil, that’s not the case of Bush. Jacques Chirac stretched his hand three times toward him, but Bush pretended not to notice. THe French TV channels were full of these images.

  3. Note to the reader – running statistic – 3 times my IP address has been blacklisted without due explanation, 9 posts have been censored because Helena disagreed with the contents, and 4 posts have been allowed. This post is a repeat of deleted material.
    Tony – This has got to be the funniest, most eager nonsense I’ve read since Juan Cole’s famous “transcendent nationalism” in reference to Muqtada’s ill-fated and ill-conceived campaign back in 2003 (see his remarkably silly Le Monde Diplomatique piece at the time). You’ve just repeated that laughable line. Please get over yourself and your ideological premises (and all the [arab] nationalist mixed with Third Worldist undertones). It’s quite the silly spectacle.
    Beautifully said Tony.
    The problem that the nihilists and leftist-fascists have in their analysis of Iraq is that they deny that Iraqis (and by extension human beings) have aspirations besides power grabbing, ideological and opportunistic ruling on others, and cheap false nationalism (nationalism is better described as social egotism).
    For Helena, Iraqis or the socially conscious layers of their society have no desire to bring about civil society and inter-sectarian justice. History is simplisticially reduced down to grab for oil, cheap nationalism, anti-Americanism, and 3rd worldism.
    The progress the Iraqis are making in bringing about civil society must be condemened by the Cole-Cobban axis, as it eats away right at their ideological upbringing and biases, and also livelihoods and Entitle VIs. If there are no blood conflicts in Iraq, then who needs these “scholars”?
    For them, a thug carrying an AK-47 is a far more romantic and vivid expression of social justice, than all the liberties, elections, parliaments, constitutions, laws and institutions that an Iraqi civil society may ever achieve or require.
    Unlike what the piece implies, inter-sectarian political rivalries, in a civil setting, is the only way for Iraqis to reckon with their identity. This sad piece reflects – as us middle easterners like to say – “the camel who dreams of cotton seeds”. A lot of wishful thinking about religious, fascist, and opportunistic thugs to come together and rule over the civil and conscious segments of Iraqi society.
    Iraqis have made a conscious choice through their participation in the election that they prefer construction of a civil society over cheap cries of “gut independence”.
    Posted by Razavipour3 at 10. apr

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