Syria capitulation or mutual understanding?
On October 5th, Israel struck what it claimed to be an Islamic Jihad training camp deep inside Syrian territory following the Haifa suicide bombing that left 20 people dead and more than 50 others injured.
Observers view the Israeli raid as full of hidden messages, which both Israel and the USA wanted to deliver to Damascus jointly.
The editor in chief of the Syrian state-owned daily Al Ba’ath - Mahdi Dakhlallah – believes that Damascus has understood the Israeli message very well and the intentions behind it.
“The message asserted that Israel does not only have a problem with the Palestinians, but also with the Syrians - who have managed to avoid an expansion of the conflict to their territories,” said Dakhlallah.
For its part, Israel said the strike was aimed at conveying a message to Syria that it should stop supporting the Lebanese Hizbullah and Palestinian organizations, both of whom are behind the military attacks against Israel, in addition to the expulsion of such organizations from its country – echoing US sentiments.
However, Dakhlallah said this wouldn’t happen, and instead, believes that such attacks would leave Syria more inclined to support these resistance movements.
“From my experience with the Syrian psychology and the political situation in the country, I think Syria will increase its support for every Arab resistance movement and in particular the Palestinian ones,” said Dakhlallah, reiterating that Syria will never give any concessions as far as the Palestinian issue is concerned.
On another note, Dakhlallah is blaming several of the Arab media for accusing Syria of surrendering to American demands, particularly those related to the closure of the Palestinian organizations’ offices in Damascus. “Some Arab journalists have said that Syria has surrendered to the Americans and responded to their demands entirely, while the Americans themselves have said that Syria has not implemented what they have demanded,” said Dakhlallah.
Many Israeli officials including PM Ariel Sharon have threatened to launch more attacks inside Syrian land should Damascus not fully understand the repercussions of their actions and the signal behind the Israeli attack on Ein al Saheb. This warning is expected to put more pressure on Syria, which Dakhlallah believes has only two ‘bitter’ choices left in dealing with such a situation; either keep silent or respond [militarily] to the Israeli attack.
“Syria is in fact between two fires. If it responds directly to the Israeli attack, it will be dragged into a broader conflict and a regional war. However, if it maintains restraint, this will add to the frustrations of the Syrian people and will affect its ability to maintain its political influence [in the region],” added the Ba’ath editor in chief.
Dakhlallah believes that Syria will respond diplomatically to the Israeli attack “I think Syria will respond to the Israeli attack through other options (non-military) including the diplomatic ones available, which is very important. Our battle with Israel has an international dimension, particularly in view of the fact that every Israeli attack is considered an aggression against international law and peace,” he added.
“The Israelis understand the different ways Syria can respond to their actions,” said Dakhlallah, asserting that there are other options available to the Syrians besides the diplomatic ones. While he declined to speak of them, he reiterated “Israel has not dared to face Syria in 30 years, not out of their respect for the agreements [between the two countries] and international law but out of their fear of Syria’s possible response, which the Israelis are fully aware of.”
For his part, the former Jordanian ambassador to Syria - Nasouh al Majali - viewed Israel’s strike on Syria as an attempt to bolster the Zionist campaign in Washington against Damascus. “The strike is a revival of the Zionist campaign against Syria, and an attempt to strengthen US enmity towards the country,” Majali told Al Bawaba, referring to the legislation which the various congressional committees are now discussing that would inevitably allow the US to impose sanctions on Syria. He added, “The message came from Washington - through the Zionist lobby that has been trying to implicate Syria by any means and accuse it, along with Iran, of sponsoring terrorism.”
The US backing to Israel and the expected sanctions have made relations between Damascus and Washington to be at their lowest in years, a Syrian foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
Ties between Syria and the United States were worse than they had been in a long time because of US support of Israel, though Damascus is ready to discuss the problems with Washington, the spokeswoman added.
On another point, Majali thinks that the Israeli attack may be a form of ‘diversion’ of world attention from Israel’s actions in the West Bank. “It is also aimed at sparking some sort of a battle in order to divert international pressure on Israel for the fence it is now building between the West Bank and Israel,” said Majali, adding “The strike has come following apparent and negative international public opinion against Israel due to the security fence they are building, which is in fact a fence being built for settlement purposes (to protect the settlers) and involves the confiscation of large areas of land in the West Bank,” said Majali.
He added, “Israel has always been able to create small skirmishes by expanding its aggression, in a bid to gain American and world sympathy…Damascus has understood the Israeli message quite well, and will be seeking to block Israel of any opportunity to expand the war at a time not suitable for Syria.”
For his part, Arab Knesset member Talab al Sane views any message conveyed by the Sharon government’s attack on Syria as one for the Israeli public, which they (Israeli government) are hoping would help absorb the Israeli public’s anger due to the government’s failure in achieving internal security and an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. “The message is basically for the Israeli people, whose desire for security has not been satisfied by the Sharon government,” Sane told Al Bawaba. He added “Israel had decided to launch its attack following the Haifa bombing to avoid the same response [of razing West Bank homes and assassinating Islamic leaders] it usually employs following previous bombings. The Israeli government wanted to do something new in an attempt to convince the Israeli public that it can do something unprecedented. It is intended to absorb the Israeli public’s rage,” said Sane.
However, the Arab Knesset member also does not ignore the implications the Israeli attack had on Syria.
“Israel wants to tell Syria that it cannot interfere without being held accountable. In other words, Syria cannot engage behind-the-scenes by supporting Palestinian or Lebanese organizations without bearing any responsibility,” said Sane, adding that Israel had also sent the US a message with this attack. “These implications are delivered to the congress as well in order to link Syria with the Haifa bombing, and consequently associate Damascus with international terrorism.”
He concluded, “Israel has no interest in sparking the Syrian front which has been calm for the past 30 years. There is also widespread conviction that Syria will not try to provoke Israel as a result of this attack due to the prevailing political environment in the region and the vulnerable Syrian position, which is also a target of the Bush administration.” (Albawaba.com)