December 14, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 64

Domestic Syrian Criticism on Resumption of Negotiation with Israel

December 14, 1999
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 64

Dr. Ali 'Aqleh 'Ursan, Chairman of the Syrian Arab Writers Association, criticized what he perceives to be the Syrian concessions that enabled the resumption of the negotiations with Israel. 'Ursan also revealed some details about the exchanges between the US and Syria in the last few months. The article was written in Damascus and published as the editorial of Al-Usbu' Al-Adabi [The Literary Magazine], the journal of the Writers Association.

The Arab Writers Association operates under the auspices of the Syrian regime. There is a possibility that 'Ursan's unusual criticism of the regime's political decisions is also "under the auspices of the regime." However, the Syrian regime usually does not tolerate criticism of its decisions.

Excerpts from 'Ursan's article appeared in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat [1], which wrote: "The Writers Association Chairman anticipates the results of the negotiations and attributes to Syria positions that completely contradict those stated by high-ranking Syrian officials. He does this in a critical manner, apparent to whoever reads between the lines, as well as to those who simply read [the text]."

"'Ursan presents a catastrophic picture of the possibility of success in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations", says Al-Hayat. "Such a success, in case it leads to a Syrian recognition of the "Zionist Entity", will be, in his words "a victory of the Zionist movement and the fulfillment of the goals it set for itself 102 years ago."

Following are excerpts from 'Ursan’s article[2]:

"Syria's insistence led to a political victory, when the enemy… agreed to resume the negotiations from the point where they were left off. Practically speaking, this is a recognition, though unarticulated, of 'Rabin's Deposit' to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borderline, as Syria demanded. However, this omission does not mean Syria failed to learn the lessons of the past, when Zionist deception was revealed on several occasions. It is sufficient to mention the American attempts to evade 'Rabin's Deposit' …in order to force Syria to resume the negotiations without mentioning the progress that was achieved at the Wye Plantation. It is possible that Syria received a written American guarantee for a withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 border, but the question remains whether this issue has become inevitable from the Israeli perspective?! I seriously doubt it….

It seems that this issue will become one of the obstacles the negotiators will face, but will not lead to the breakdown of the new negotiations, nor will it prevent the forging of some mutual understanding...

Obstacles regarding security arrangements and water emerged in the past. It is plausible that security - emphasized by the Zionist Entity - 'won the understanding' of the Syrians including the Zionist Entity's insistence regarding the early warning station in the Hermon...

The Syrian side will also consider the Zionist entity's need for water. We may not be able to legally drink from the water of Tiberias [i.e. The Sea of Galilee] but we would be able to fish in it, using long arms. There may be some 'merely cosmetic' modifications to the border that would connect the principle of the June 4, borderline with the so-called 'international border,' drawn by Britain and France in 1923.

The lenient terms Syria presented… included upgrading the level of the negotiators... This will be the first time in history that a Syrian Foreign Minister negotiates with a minister or Prime Minister of the occupying enemy.

The steps towards resuming the negotiations were accelerated after Syria delivered its answers to the old American questions posed to [Syrian Foreign Minister] Al-Shar' by Clinton. The American Administration tried to get what can be called 'a Syrian Deposit,' in return for 'Rabin's Deposit.' Syria, however, did not answer three of these 10 questions and the gap that was left can be bridged only in the negotiations. The Zionist Entity was also pleased with the return of Rabin's old phrase: 'The depth of the peace is connected to the depth of the withdrawal, and vice versa….'

...The success of these negotiations will facilitate many dangerous Arab changes regarding the Arab-Zionist conflict, which I perceive as an existential conflict. But even before that, we should ask ourselves whether these negotiations could lead to positive results? Is the Zionist Entity serious about achieving what it calls 'peace?' Will whatever is realized come at the expense of [people's] fate, [national] convictions, or at the expense of organizations [alluding to the PLO] or certain states?

The American Administration wants to pick the fruits of a successful [peace] process in the Middle East that would serve it in the coming elections. The Zionist entity, on the other hand, wants to win Arab recognition of its existence, the highlight of which would be Syrian recognition... Thus, the Zionist Movement will fulfill the goals it set for itself 102 years ago...

In my assessment, some solution will be reached. But other crises will occur, resulting in the Zionist solution and in Zionist security continuing to prevail. Thus the Zionist occupier will have [recognized] borders, water, normalization, and a reputation for striving for peace. We, on the other hand, will remain with thorns stuck in our throats, having lost the resolution, the [will to] win, and the will to be liberated...

But, is it the end of history? Did we, as Arabs, reach the point where the issue of the occupation becomes [only] a demand and the Zionist American would become mediator and arbitrator between the murderer and the neck of the victim, meaning us?

...I will be very happy when we regain the Golan by whatever means. Then, at the height of my happiness, I will start crying and adamantly working for the removal of the Zionist occupier from Palestine, for the liberation of the land, and for the liberation from the weakness that delays our revival, our freedom, and our liberation.

The Arab-national aspect of the Palestinian problem is stronger within me than all the marginal [interests] of [one Arab] country. The problem of Palestine will remain an existential conflict with the Zionist occupiers, until victory, the removal [of the Zionists], and the liberation, even if it takes a hundred years..."

[1] Al-Hayat (London), December 12, 1999.

[2] Al-Usbu' Al-Adabi (Syria), December 11, 1999. The article was written on December 9, 1999.

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