On ‘the Extended Syrian Hand’
By Mohammed Omar
Arabic News Editor
Albawaba.com - Amman
The Syrian president did not reveal at the Arab Summit Conference in Amman the nature of the pressure he plans to exert in an attempt to settle the key Arab issue, Palestine.
Bashar Al Assad, who inherited his father’s policies, does not seem to have inherited his wisdom, experience, intelligence or intuition. Where are the “cards” Syria has collected to put at the Palestinians’ disposal and where is the Syrian hand extended to the Palestinian people?
According to Assad’s words at the Summit meeting, all that Syria has to offer is a pledge by Damascus not to sign a peace agreement with Israel before the Palestinian problem is solved. It is true that Damascus refuses Israel’s “peace track gameS,” but this is not something new. Damascus is fully aware that Israel used to talk about sequencing peace tracks and threaten to activate one track at the expense of another. Damascus also knows very well that the Palestinian issue is far more complex than Israeli’s simple threat to do that. What took place at the second Camp David Summit is evidence for that, and what is now going on in the Palestinian lands is even stronger evidence.
Damascus realizes that Israel has never been, and is not currently prepared, to offer any “painful” concessions to Syria; otherwise the problem could have been solved in 1999. In other words, everybody was aware of the “rules of the game.”
It is not unusual for the Syrian policy to twist facts. Damascus which was, and still is, in need of the Lebanese National Resistance, is now in need of the Palestinians, whose resistance and continuous Intifada has compelled the Arabs to hold two summit conferences in a six month period.
The Arab summits have led to the incitement and resurrection of antagonism against Israel, signaling a new Arab era. Damascus wants the Palestinian lands to remain on fire, and Palestinian blood to continue spilling, so that the Lebanese opposition front against the Syrians would remain calm.
Damascus needs Palestine more than Palestine needs Syria. The only, and perhaps the last, pressure tool which Damascus had was the south Lebanon front, which has now ceased to exist. The Shabaa farms issue is not, by itself, enough to keep the front burning. Neither Hizbollah, nor the Lebanese government, needs to sacrifice all Lebanon’s resources to keep their front with Israel alight. Lebanon need not sacrifice Arab and international solidarity for the sake of keeping its southern front burning. The relatively calm situation on the southern front is the best evidence in favor of this argument.
The slight differences which have arisen between the Lebanese Premier Hariri and Hizbollah is another piece of evidence that Lebanon has decided to fight its battle in light of its own interests, and not on behalf of others.
The “snap up and rush” of some of the Palestinian officials for appearances on satellite channels and their announcements regarding the Palestinian-Syrian reconciliation may have given the impression that the Palestinian side is the weaker. This is not a suprising response from the Palestinian officials since it is part of their daily routine even in their statements regarding Israel. These announcements are below the head of the Palestinians, which is always up. It appears that the saying which President Arafat always repeats “talk softly and hit with a big stick” is not justified any more.
The issue is not against Arab solidarity or coordination, and it is not targeting another Arab country resisting the Israeli occupation. It is the Syrian policy, which is still hindering Arab help from reaching the Palestinian Intifada, to claim that the Palestinian Authority does not represent the Palestinian people and cannot be trusted to look after them. We do not know what Damascus wants the Palestinian Authority to do in order to earn forgiveness. Do we have to repeat what Christ said in Damascus - “Let the one amongst you who is without sin, cast the first stone?”
Damascus, which has attempted to gather up and put all the cards under its thumb, should realize that things have completely changed in the region and the “pressure cards” are now in the hands of people concerned: the Lebanese and the Palestinian people.
The opinion expressed at the Amman Summit that it was the integration of both the Lebanese and Syrian tracks that resulted in the liberation of South Lebanon is untrue because the Lebanese National Resistance was launched in the south before any peace process track existed.
It was not the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al Share who made Egypt withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv, or Oman, Morocco, and Qatar to cut their commercial relations with Israel. It was the Palestinian Intifada which achieved all that and stirred up the public reaction in “the Arab streets” which president Assad talked about.
We do not advocate the saying “everybody should solve his own problem." The Arab Israeli conflict is so complex and far beyond being solved by one side at the expense of another. But we are against the “reasoning” of domination and charity which the Syrian President talked about. The Palestinian issue is the lever of the Arab situation and the stirrer and core of its conflict with Israel. The support of the Intifada is a duty before it is a charity from any side.
The Palestinian hand is extended, but it does not need crippled hands.