June 11, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 100

Israel's Defeat is the Beginning of a New Arab History

June 11, 2000
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 100

The next President of Syria, in his most recent interview, on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the peace process and Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon

Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, the son and expected heir of Syrian President, Hafez Al-Assad, who died on June 10, was interviewed by Mustafa Bakri, the editor of the Egyptian Nasserite opposition weekly, Al-Usbu'.[1] This is the most recent interview Dr. Bashar Al-Assad gave to the Arab media, prior to his father’s death.[2] Following are excerpts from the Bakri's article:

Mustafa Bakri writes: "It was not unexpected that the issue of Lebanon came first... Dr. Bashar Al-Assad's perspective was based on four points:
1. The Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon was not a voluntary Israeli decision. Israel was forced to make this decision due to the strong blows of the Resistance [meaning Hizbullah] and the struggle of the Lebanese people who remained steadfast, for more than 22 years, in confronting the occupation and the repeated [Israeli] military attacks.
2. The Israeli defeat in South Lebanon is the beginning of a new Arab history that will remind [people of] honorable pages of our Arab history that abound with victories over invaders and occupiers.
3. This victory proves once again that the option of force is capable of imposing a new situation and that the nation opting for a just and comprehensive peace is capable of forcing the occupier to withdraw using the weapon of force, if the enemy does not respond to the voice of reason and does not surrender to the legitimate resolution that [stipulates the] the return of rights to their owners.
4. The Syrian-Lebanese relationship has provided a model for leadership in defending the pan-Arab national convictions and the realization of the pan-Arab national dream... This special relationship [between Syria and Lebanon] is likely to experience more cooperation in the future.

Dr. Bashar said that for Syria peace does not mean giving up a single grain of its land. It means forcing Israel to accept a full withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 border as a basic precondition in order for the Syrian side to accept the peace process.

Dr. Bashar said that Israel's refusal to commit itself to a full withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 border was one of the main reasons for the failure of the last Clinton-Assad summit [in Geneva.]

Dr. Bashar expressed his amazement with those who claim that President Al-Assad has no alternative but to sign a peace accord with Israel in order to pass rule to his son.

He said: Syria has only three options in this matter:
1. Either it accepts an incomplete peace -- and this is not acceptable to the [Syrian] leadership and public alike;
2. Or, it will aspire [to achieve] an honorable peace that will completely return all of the land;
3. Or, [it can] let the current situation continue as it is.

Dr. Bashar said that whether he or anybody else is nominated for the succession – nobody in Syria could accept an incomplete peace with Israel for any reason.

Dr. Bashar spoke at length about the expected scenario after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon. He said: Israel does not conceal its conspiracies against both Syria and Lebanon. However, the Lebanese people are well aware of the nature of the Israeli goals. The [Lebanese] people are also well aware of the hands that operate in secrecy in order to inflame the situation in Lebanon and cause troubles with Syria.

Dr. Bashar expressed his disappointment with the positions of the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, especially since Arafat's conduct before and after the stage of negotiations completely contradicts the principles of coordination between all tracks in a way that [can] guarantee the full return of Arab rights."

[1] Al-Usbu’ (Egypt), June 5, 2000.

[2] MEMRI translated another interview by Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, MEMRI Special Dispatch, No. 73, "Syrian Foreign Minister Reflects on Peace and Negotiations with Israel," March 13, 2000.

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