Syria-Lebanon-Israel Triangle: The End Of The Status Quo?
Washington Institute Soref Symposium
On May 19, 2000, Patrick Seale, biographer of Hafiz al-Asad; Daniel Pipes, editor of Middle East Quarterly; Uri Lubrani, Israel's coordinator of activities in southern Lebanon; and Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for al-Hayat, jointly addressed The Washington Institute's fifteenth annual Soref Symposium. This discussion took place just days before the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from Lebanon.
ROBERT SATLOFF: Let me simply open by putting the cards on the table. Mr. Seale, you wrote an obituary for the Syria-Israel peace. Is, indeed, this track dead? If so, why? And if not, why not?
PATRICK SEALE: Well, I want to thank the Washington Institute, Jim Schreiber, and, of course, Bob for inviting me here. I am a voice, in a way, from the other side of the divide. And I take it as an indication that your Institute is, more than ever, ready to listen to voices which don't entirely agree with the policies you've been advocating. You've done a tremendous job in this Institute in expounding Israeli policies and influencing American opinion in favor of Israel, in preaching the identity of Israeli and American interests.
Now, one of the themes I want to try and develop in this conference this morning is that there is a new reality in the region. The time when Israel could impose its terms on a defeated or embattled Arab world, this is over, and really Israel has to now think in terms of coexistence with its neighbors rather than in terms of domination. I think that your Institute, which played such an important role in the past, can, if it adjusts to these ideas, can play a very valuable role. And the fact that you have invited me here today is an indication, to me at least, that you're moving in that direction.
Now, Bob puts a tough question to me: Is the track dead? And as you've kindly suggested, I wrote an article saying it was. I think it is for the moment. It's dead, for the moment, barring a last-minute initiative. And we hear that all sorts of things are afoot. The Egyptians, the Omanis, tried to cobble together some last-minute compromise. But as you all know, the timetable for withdrawal from Lebanon is set; only a few days to go, really, in which such an initiative could possibly delay or consummate such a withdrawal. So to me, at least, it doesn't look too hopeful.
However, that's the bad news. The good news, at least as I see it, is that Israel's leaders, both political and military, have understood that holding the Golan and the Golan settlements are no contribution to Israeli security. On the contrary, perhaps, the real threat is further to the east and therefore, the decision to give up the Golan has been made. Rabin made it. Peres made it. Barak made it. We're not talking about the Golan as a whole. Where the thing broke down is over the last few hundred meters of the Golan. So that's a very important consideration, and I think that strategic assessment will endure. That means that, sooner or later, perhaps under a new American administration, negotiations will pick up again. So it's not all bad news. But it's bad news for the time being, because the withdrawal from Lebanon will create a new reality, and people will have to deal with that new situation, unpredictable situation. So nobody quite knows how that will affect the future of these talks.
Now, Bob said to me, "Why have the talks broken down? Why?" And I want to--I only have a few minutes for these opening remarks--I want to suggest some immediate short-term reasons and some perhaps longer-term ones. Now, the immediate short-term reason, as you all know, and as I'm sure you all studied your briefing book and seen all these maps, the immediate reason was a dispute over borders and water, two linked issues.
Now, Israel wants exclusive control over Lake Tiberias--the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, whatever you call it--and of the shoreline which runs round the lake and of the road which runs beyond that, around the lake. And they want total access to, total control of the waters which flow into the lake from the upper Jordan River and other streams. Now, that is the Israeli position.
The Syrian position is that they want access to the lake, because they were on the northeastern corner of the lake in 1967, and they want to share the water that flows into the lake from the upper Jordan, Banias Spring and other streams. So this essentially is the immediate reason.
Now, the 1923 international frontier, which you'll see in your briefing books, put the lake firmly inside Palestine. It was a frontier drawn by Britain and France in 1923. And the line runs ten meters from the northeastern shoreline of the lake. That proved unworkable, because there were a number of small Syrian villages there. You can imagine a fence ten meters from the water and people unable to touch the water.
So in 1926, the British and the French completed a good-neighborly agreement whereby people in that area could have access to the water and that pier was built. And from then on, from the 1920s on, the Syrians fished in the lake, swam in the lake. And as far as they were concerned, that shoreline was theirs. And the Syrians, many of them, didn't recognize the 1923 international frontier. They said that was a line drawn by imperial powers. Independent Syria had nothing to do with it. The line they want as their frontier with Israel is the 4th of June, 1967, line, the line which prevailed before the war. And before the war, the Syrians were on the upper Jordan River and on the northeastern corner of the lake. And they say, "We don't want to take water from the lake, but we want access to the lake for fishing and swimming, and we want to share the water that comes into the lake according to the rules of international law," which protects the rights of upstream and downstream states. So that is their position.
Well, Barak could not accept that, for various reasons which we'll go into eventually. Now, so much for, very briefly, the immediate causes for the breakdown, the failure to reach agreement on those few hundred meters. In fact, Barak's position was not simply that he didn't recognize the 4th of June line and Syria's presence on the shoreline of the lake. He wanted to push back the 1923 line several hundred meters eastwards so as to give Israel total control of the road which ran around the lake. The Syrians found this unacceptable.
Now, we should look at some underlying and perhaps more fundamental reasons for the failure to reach an agreement. One is a difference of negotiating styles. When Barak came to power, he made very clear, to me at least, when I saw him before he formed his government but after he'd won the election, that he wanted some sort of summit in which himself, Asad, and Clinton would thrash out some big political deal, and that would be it. He said, "If we could be locked up in a room for a couple of hours together, we could do a big deal, with tradeoffs."
Now, that is completely contradictory to the way Asad likes to negotiate. Asad has a long history and a long experience in these negotiations. He's very meticulous. He believes that the three leaders themselves should only appear on the scene at the end of the negotiations, that he's totally against the way the Palestinians negotiated, which was, defer major issues till later on, left up to Israeli goodwill. Look what's happened to them. And so his position of negotiation is to go point by point, step by step, put aside a point as soon as it's settled, move on to the next one in a very meticulous, careful way.
He also doesn't believe in gestures, in public diplomacy. He believes each leader should be responsible for his own public opinion. He doesn't see it as Syria's responsibility to effect a greater public opinion in favor of peace. He has his hands full with his own public opinion. So there are fundamental differences of style.
SATLOFF: Can I hold you just for a moment?
SATLOFF: Because I just want to get the general--the first order of response from each, and then we'll go back into each of these issues about style and about tactics and about public opinion.
SATLOFF: Dan, what's your view? Is the Syria track dead? Was it ever alive?
DANIEL PIPES: Mr. Seale wrote his obituary [of the Syria track] in early May. I published mine in the Christian Science Monitor in mid-December of last year, just a week after the meeting at the White House. And my obituary at that time was based not on the diplomacy, not on a few meetings here, not on the charming thought of the Syrians wanting to fish and swim in the Kinneret, but rather on far more basic facts of life. And they are as follows.
I believe that any regime, any government, looks first to its own domestic issues, and its foreign policy is a reflection of its domestic issues. And therefore, to understand Syrian foreign policy, you must understand Syrian domestic policy. And the basic fact of Syrian political life is that, since 1966, the government has been run by a small and hitherto despised minority called the Alawites. It's a post-Islamic religion, an intricate and interesting story; something like one-eighth of the Syrian population living in the far northeast of the country, historically despised.
For a variety of reasons, in 1966, an extraordinary development took place by which the Alawites took over the government of Syria. The first few years were a bit rocky. Hafiz al-Asad took over from other Alawites in 1970 and has now been there for thirty years.
I believe it is Hafiz al-Asad's main concern to maintain his rule and the rule of the Alawites in Syria. I believe that he fears that should he and his people, his tribe, his family, and his people--his people meaning the Alawites--lose power, there will be some terrible consequences. It will not just be like Ceaucescu, but it'll be the whole people who will suffer. And therefore, the absolute priority is regime maintenance, staying in power. And everything that the regime does is seen through this prism.
From that point of view, one can understand foreign policy and domestic policy. And in particular, looking to the relations with Israel, I would say that the Asad regime in 1991 saw the writing on the wall, saw the American victory over Iraq, saw the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, and said, "Well, the time has come to make some changes in our policy. Let's start a negotiating track with the Israelis. We have to. We need to do this in order to assuage the Western powers." And they did, and it was a substantial change in policy. And indeed, at the time I was fairly optimistic that this could lead to other things.
But it quickly became clear that the Syrians were using the peace process as an end in itself, as a way to curry favor with the West, to say, "Look, we're doing our best." Yet they had no intention whatsoever--never had any intention--of reaching an agreement. So my aphoristic summation of this is, "peace process, not peace." And now those negotiations have been going on for eight and a half years.
Nothing has been achieved. Oh, there are all sorts of theoretical agreements that have been reached, but nothing has been achieved; eight and a half years of talk, talk, talk. And if you look more carefully, what you see is that, when there is an agreement, the Syrians have really come up with a new demand. There was a very great sense of excitement in June of 1996 that there was a breakthrough, and suddenly the Syrians decided that the Israelis had to, in advance, give up an early-warning station on the Golan Heights.
In the early part of this year, we saw the Israelis make this extraordinary concession of handing over the Golan Heights. And, what do you know, suddenly the Kinneret comes into play. I'm fully confident that if the Israelis give in on the Kinneret, who knows what? A square mile in Haifa? I don't know what the next demand would be. But there's no pleasing the Damascene government.
In short, Hafiz al-Asad is a man who won't take yes for an answer. He doesn't want yes, because, to get back to my original point, a treaty with Israel, a peace treaty, a signed peace treaty with Israel, is something much larger than a technical agreement with a neighbor. It is a reorientation of the Syrian regime. It is moving it out of the rogue camp and toward the West.
I like to draw the comparison with Anwar Sadat's decision to throw out the Soviet military advisers in 1972. That was not a military decision, a technical decision having to do with the military. That was a reorientation of his regime from the East to the West. And so, to the populace of Syria, a peace treaty with Israel would represent a shift, a fundamental shift. It would say, "Yes, we're open for business. Now we have political participation. Now we have foreign investments. Now there are human rights groups that are going to be monitoring. Now this is a more open society."
And I believe that Asad, whose eye is always on regime maintenance, looks at this possibility with horror. This is the man who has ruled with considerable success, with a totalitarian grip, a country for thirty years. The prospect of this kind of an opening, which he doesn't know how to deal with, scares them to no end. So, no, there's no way he's going to do that. But, yes, he does have to continue the negotiations. Therefore, the negotiations are a show. They've never been serious, never will be serious so long as Hafiz al-Asad is in power. I don't have any idea what follows, but so long as he's in power, there's no chance of them going anywhere. Thus I wrote my obituary [of the Syrian track] before they started in December.
SATLOFF: So we have, "They were a couple of hundred meters apart, with some underlying differences still to be worked out," and "They were never serious." You should have written your obituary nine years ago. (Laughter.) "They were never serious to begin with, but they were a show." Raghida, which one of these is right?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: Both are wrong, of course. No, I would not say about the Syrian-Israeli track that it is dead and still flying. No, I wouldn't say that. I think it very much depends at this stage on the extent of the need by both Israel and Syria to arrive at either a breakthrough, or to go back to the process, or whether they opt to just wait, the "so be it" diplomacy, if you will, because the process is all right and there's no harm in waiting. It depends on each one of them, and not like Daniel would say--who, of course, wrote the obituary before death and before birth, and therefore he buried it alive before it even came around.
So, in a way, this is dangerous, I would say--but we'll argue this a little later--but I think it's dangerous, because otherwise it would make people question the intent even by Israel and the supporters of Israel to join the peace process if you had already decided it wasn't going to get anywhere so long as Hafiz al-Asad is in power.
Anyway, I think mid-June is an important date to look forward to in terms of what will happen to the whole peace process, and mid-June because, it seems to me, if the United Nations goes ahead with the Security Council and the plan would be to put the arrangements for the withdrawal of Israel from South Lebanon, according to Resolutions 425 and 426, it seems to me that that line of withdrawal will be clearer by mid-June, and therefore we would find out where that part of the developments in the region is heading.
And the second reason is because of that very important meeting that will be taking place in Damascus and the meeting for the regional command of the Ba'th Party, where they would be electing, amongst others, I suppose, the son of President Asad, Dr. Bashar al-Asad. And I think along with what the Syrians have been doing in the last couple of years, and highlighting in the last couple of months, I think they are setting a process within the country in order to bring about fundamental changes that Dr. Bashar al-Asad has himself said were really needed in Syria. They are admitting now that things have gone--things have been very bad and they need to be upgraded in order to survive in this world. And I think they are keeping the window open. The Syrians are keeping the window open on the possibility of the resumption of the negotiations.
Patrick mentioned the several interlocutors, many Saudis, the United Nations, the Europeans, if you would recall, and Mr. [Peter] Hain was only last week in Damascus, and he said that he went into the meeting very pessimistic and --
SATLOFF: The British defense secretary.
DERGHAM: Thank you, yes--no foreign secretary. What is the official --
SATLOFF: Minister of state.
DERGHAM: Minister of state. And so he said he'd gone into the meeting with both the foreign minister and Bashar al-Asad quite pessimistic and came back out optimistic. And that's when the Brits--the British say that it's not like, you know, the Arabs, "insha Allah, insha Allah," but there's more to it.
So I think there have been quite a number of messages sent out by Syria, and particularly through Asad the son, when he met, for example, with Azmi Bishara, the member of the Knesset, though an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset.
There is a message there. There is something that they are throwing out so that people who care to bring back the process into the right track, and hopefully for conclusion, so that they could notice this sort of thing. And so I believe that it is not dead. I worry tremendously, not only about what is referred to as a dysfunctional relationship between the Syrians and the Israelis, but I worry more just equally about the disconnect between the United States, the administration and Syria; there is a fundamental misunderstanding and a disconnect that I think contributed to the Geneva failure. I think Rob would want me to get into why I say that later, but I think one should pay great attention to where the impact of the American contribution takes the process.
And finally, we are looking at the imminent withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Lebanon. Very much depends on what Israel does as it withdraws with its proxy, the SLA, the South Lebanon Army. If it leaves any pockets there, it will come back to haunt Israel. I think the SLA is the responsibility of Israel, and I think Sheba--these farms that are disputed right now to see whether they will be included in the line of--not demarcation; the tactical line of withdrawal, whether they will be included or excluded. I think that will be dealt with. But I don't think it's an Israeli problem as such. I think it's a Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli problem. But as to the SLA, it is squarely, from my point of view, an Israeli problem. And I guess this is the right time to turn it to you.
SATLOFF: Well, the SLA and Lebanese issues we're going to get in as the morning proceeds. But I just wanted to conclude with this first take of where we stand on the Syria-Israel track. And I should say at the outset that Uri is here in his personal capacity, not representing the government of Israel. I don't suppose you're here speaking for Ehud Barak. Since I know the answer is no --
URI LUBRANI: Whether I like it or not, it will be construed as if I do.
SATLOFF: That's the difference between inference--the people can infer, but I can say what I need to say. So you're here in your personal capacity. Uri, do you agree with the assessment--which assessment do you agree with? Were these peace talks a few hundred meters apart from success, or was it really a show for all these years, or something else?
LUBRANI: Well, you know, it's very difficult to read what is happening in Syria. And I don't profess to be a Syriaologist, and therefore I feel rather humble in trying to deal with what Daniel said and what Patrick said. I can only give you my gut feeling. And I think Asad blew it, very simply, because I cannot imagine any Israeli government coming forth, being so forthcoming, as this present government in trying to reach an agreement with Syria. I'm saying this because--and I haven't been privy to all the nitty-gritty of the negotiations; I'm sure Patrick knows much more about them, but I can tell you only one thing--the public opinion in Israel has changed for the last two or three months. Many, many people who would have been accepting a deal in which the Golan would be a part with alacrity, knowing that this might enhance a comprehensive peace, many of those people will, if they get the same deal today, not vote for it. This is my feeling.
Why? Because I think the Syrians, the way they handled these negotiations, manifested a clear misunderstanding of Israeli psyche, Israeli public opinion, Israeli needs, wants and so forth. It's one thing for Patrick to say that the Syrians say, "Our public opinion is our problem; your public opinion is your problem." Israeli public opinion is the major factor in any government's decisions--any Israeli government's decisions.
And I think the way this was handled by Syria was wrong. I mean, I was always telling anybody who went to Damascus that they should try, at least try to find a way to explain their case to the public in Israel, to put it forward, to have an Israeli team come to Damascus and tell them. Azmi Bishara is not a classical representative of Israeli public opinion and therefore an Arab-speaking Israeli television team--"Come and tell them what you want, what do you want of us?" Nothing of the sort has ever happened. On the other hand, you get diatribes, constant diatribes, diatribes of a very sinister nature. And I don't want to go into that. So we have a problem there.
Now, having said that, having said that, I would like to say I'm sure that there will be a resumption of the negotiations. I don't know when this is going to happen. It's certainly not going to happen before Israel pulls out its troops from Lebanon.
SATLOFF: Certainly not.
LUBRANI: No. No, I don't think so. I think that this is not on. I don't think so. Even miracles will not bring it about. But I think that there will be negotiations, and it will most probably have to wait some time, because I don't think that anybody who will replace Asad will very easily feel self-confident, feel he has the support of the people to go into the next cycle of that sort, because under any circumstances, such an exercise cannot be a give one without a take one. And there will be--this is a hard nut to crack. It has always been one, and it will be one. And therefore, you need both sides with strong public support to go and do it. No government, be it the Israeli government or be it the Syrian government, no weak government can do it. Both governments have got to be strong to take these negotiations on.
Now, having said that, I'd like to say something about Israeli plans to pull out its forces. It's going to happen, and hopefully it's going to happen --
SATLOFF: Uri, we're going to get into Lebanon in just a minute, okay? I just want to focus on the Syrian side --
LUBRANI: No, I just--you know, I'm susceptible. I just heard this from my Labor [colleagues], I thought I'd mention it, but never mind.
SATLOFF: That's all right. We're going to --
LUBRANI: We'll talk about it later. (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: Now that at least the introductory views are on the table, let's go more deeply into some of the issues that were raised. There were issues of territory, issues of leadership, issues of public opinion, issues of the U.S. role, and then the implications of where we are going with this track, the potential for Israel-Syria confrontation in the absence of Israel-Syria negotiations, especially over Lebanon. So let's look at these a bit more specifically.
First, the territory issue. In terms of the idea that Asad blew it, I think this is a common refrain both in Israel and increasingly in the United States, and I would say increasingly even among those in the Arab world, a sense that if you couldn't make it with Ehud Barak, then, you know, it's sort of a "If you can't make it here, you're not going to make it anywhere."
After all the deposits, after all the discussion about withdrawal from the Golan, why is it that a couple of hundred meters kept Asad away from Shangri-La, of peace with America, peace with the world, billions in investments, the saving of this crumbling economy? Why?
SEALE: Do you want me to try and answer that?
SEALE: I mean, I must speak up on one or two of the points that have been made here by my colleagues. Pipes's remarks are really a caricature of the peace process. It suggests he hasn't really been following it very carefully. (Laughter.) If Warren Christopher were here or Dennis Ross were here, they would tell him that the negotiations that took place in the 1990s were extremely serious, detailed and produced some very considerable achievements. The idea that nothing was achieved--that it was all talk, talk, talk; that Asad was simply concerned with regime stability, that he was interested in the process, not peace--this is garbage. (Laughter.) Not to put too fine a point on it.
SATLOFF: We would like you to express your opinions candidly--(laughter)--without that British restraint. (Laughter.)
SEALE: I feel we all here want to get at the truth, to understand what really happened. Now, the two big achievements of the 1992-96 period of negotiations under Rabin and Peres were two, and they were cast in stone, and they are the two fundamental pillars of the Syrian negotiating position.
Now, the peace process, as you know, started in 1991 at Madrid. Now, nothing happened, and the Syrians refused to tackle any substantive issues until they got from the Israelis a conditional commitment to withdraw to the 4th of June [line]. Asad's whole position was that, until the Israelis conceded that, at the end of the day, he was going to get all his territory back, he was reluctant--in fact, he refused to enter into negotiations on the other elements of the peace package, which were security, normalization, the timetable, interfacing, so forth.
And it was only in 1994, to cut a long story short, that Rabin finally gave that commitment that, provided that Israel's needs on security and normalization were met, he was prepared to withdraw to the 4th of June line. He gave that formally to the Americans, conveyed to Asad, through the Syrians, this was conveyed to the Syrians through the Americans. And that once Rabin was assassinated, Peres endorsed that commitment, the so-called deposit in the American pocket. That is very, very clear.
Now, once the Israelis had made that commitment, once Rabin had made it, and it was formal--the documents are not a question of hypothetical, it's there, black on white--the Syrians were then concerned at what Israel might ask as a quid pro quo. They'd made the commitment to withdraw to the 4th of June, what will Israel ask in exchange in terms of security? And so Asad went to great pains to get the Israelis to agree to a paper entitled, "The Aims and Principles of Security Arrangements."
Now, of course, the Israelis wanted considerable security advantages in exchange for that commitment to withdraw to the 4th of June line. So Asad was anxious to limit what advantages they could seek. And so that's why, in this paper on the aims and principles of security arrangements, he spelled out how the security arrangements should work. They should be on either side of the border, the 4th of June border. They should be equal, mutual, and reciprocal on either side, with some small adjustments for geography, and that the security of one side should not be at the expense of the security of the other. This was for him a fundamental agreement, and this paper was lodged with the State Department, brokered by the United States. The United States helped draft it. Warren Christopher came to the region several times, got the agreement from both parties for it.
So these two principles--full withdrawal from the 4th of June [line] and the aims and principles of security arrangements with basic equality were the two great achievements of that period, achievements which Dan Pipes denied.
Now, what's happened with Barak is that Asad gradually realized-- First when Barak came to power, as you recall, Asad he welcomed him. He thought-- Why did he welcome him? Because Barak said that Syria was the keystone of peace. In fact, when I saw him, at that time, he drew an arch for me, and he said the arch--"You can't dance on it; you can't walk on it until the keystone is in place. The keystone is Syria," he said, which I immediately told Asad about. He also praised Asad as the founder of modern Syria, and he said he's walking in Rabin's footsteps. So of course, Asad said, "Ah. Barak agreed with these two fundamental achievements of the previous period."
Then came the disappointment. Barak wanted to renegotiate the two points. He didn't want to accept the 4th of June line anymore where the lake was concerned, and he wanted to renegotiate the security paper, saying, "Oh, no, no, we have to have a presence on Mount Hermon. We have something there, the early-warning station, which the Americans can't possibly do for us. Satellites are not enough. Aerial surveillance is not enough. Side-looking radar is not enough. We want to have a say in the Syrian's order of battle. We want to have a say in where they put their ammunition and dumps for their fuel, dumps for their armored column and so forth." So he attempted to renegotiate these two fundamental questions. And this, of course, was a huge disappointment for the Syrians. They realized that they weren't going get a deal with him. And that's really one of the reasons why the whole thing--one of the underlying reasons why the thing broke down.
If I've got another minute--have I got another minute?
SATLOFF: One more minute.
SEALE: One more minute. There is another fundamental issue which we haven't really tackled and which is more difficult, I think, to understand, and that is, in the Israeli mind, there's still the idea that, "We are stronger. We won all the wars. How come they won't-- For our security, we don't need total border security. What's a few hundred yards of Arab territory? They have to acquiesce in the loss of this territory."
Asad sees things completely differently. He wants a negotiation between equals, and he wants a peace which is not dependent on Israeli power alone, which it can break or keep at will. He wants a peace based on some sort of balance of power, mutual deterrence, equality of treatment, equality of security arrangements. So this is really the fundamental sort of difficulty, that Israel's strategic doctrine hasn't yet adapted to this new reality. I mean, I just was reading an article which Ephraim Sneh published the other day in which, if it weren't for the escalation in Lebanon, we might have to act decisively so as to create the new conditions for--[audio break]--relations.
Now, this question of whether Asad wants peace or not--I might just have half a minute to try and answer that question. Asad has wanted peace since the 1970s--since the mid-1970s. He said so then. He thought Kissinger was going to deliver it. His great disappointment was that Kissinger was only interested in taking Egypt out of the equation. Asad was firmly convinced in the past years that Syria--that their interests would be addressed, Israel would withdraw from the occupied territories, and we'd have peace. Again, in the Madrid process--he joined the Madrid process convinced that Bush and Baker really meant it--it was their pledge that brought him in there.
What happened? Israel gave lip service to the notion of peace with Syria. Rabin said yes, he wanted it--wanted it. But over time what did he do? He went to get a separate deal with the Palestinians, then another deal with Jordan. Syria was kicked to the back of the queue. Asad's grievance is not that he doesn't want peace; his grievance is that his interests in peace have not been addressed. He wants peace badly. He has wanted it all these years. He still wants it. He has shown a great deal of flexibility on every issue except the territorial issue. If you look at the draft agreements which Barak leaked, and which were drawn up by the United States, you will see the extent of Syrian concessions on normalization--they have agreed on the joint water board; they agreed the Hermon early-warning station should remain for a number of years under U.S. and French control--made many, many, many concessions. Great flexibility, but not on territory. For Asad, the Golan is a symbol of Syrian sovereignty and independence. Not an inch can be given up. And Barak was ill-advised in the meeting that Asad could be pressured into giving up those few hundred yards around the lake.
SATLOFF: Daniel? Historical revisionism? (Laughter.)
PIPES: When I studied debating in high school, I was told that you know you've won when your opponent starts to insult you. (Laughter.) So I take it as a form of concession.
SEALE: I am not insulting you--I am insulting your views.
PIPES: All right, all right. I think you made three major points, and I would like to address each of them briefly.
First, to the specifics, I dismissed it as achieving nothing, and you gave us mind-numbing detail about what happened in 1992, '93, '94 and so forth. I am happy to agree that when Warren Christopher went twenty-six times to Damascus he did achieve certain theoretical agreements--I think I did refer to theoretical agreements. I'm simply saying: What's there to show for it? It happens to be almost nine years later, and nothing has happened. Nothing has happened--right? There are no agreements, period. It doesn't count to have theoretical agreements on principle when you don't actually have an agreement. Nothing has happened--that's my point. And you can go on for ten years, nine years, eighteen years, twenty-seven years--and my point is that's what the Syrian regime wants, is for these things to go on and on and on and form theoretical agreements that go nowhere.
Point two. The notion the Israelis are arrogant and that Ephraim Sneh and David Levy and others are pounding this kind of arrogance toward the Syrians--well, let's go back a bit. There was a war in 1967, and in that war the Israelis won and the Syrians lost. And there are certain facts that follow from winning a war and losing a war. And right now what has been on the table since that time is the Israelis have made it clear that in theory they will return some or all of the lands they won in return for something they get back. And that something they get back is assurance that those former enemy states will no longer attack them, specifically in the case of Syria. Syria can potentially get back some or all of the territories it lost in return for assuring the Israelis that they are not going to do this again. The Israelis are the judges of this, and the Syrians are the petitioners. The Israelis need to be convinced that this ugly totalitarian regime will not once again use the Golan Heights and other parts of its territory to launch an attack. That's the pure and simple basis of this.
What is so extraordinary is the way in which the Syrians have managed to present themselves as the aggrieved party and the party that needs to be convinced, that needs to be given assurances. I find it remarkable the extent to which the Israelis have been accommodating. I mean, if you go back to December, the White House meeting, here you have the key politician of Israel, the elected prime minister--and who is he meeting with? He is meeting with a foreign minister, and not just that, but the foreign minister of a totalitarian regime that has absolutely no power, no say, no nothing. And why did the Israelis agree to do that? Because he is trying his very best to go--to take the extra step to meet. The Syrians of course, in this kind of arrogant way, say, "Well, we'll send you our second-stringer." And then they each give a talk at the White House Lawn, and the Israeli talks about mothers and peace and so forth, and the Syrian gives this long list of grievances and the like. I find it hard to see this arrogance.
And you mentioned Ephraim Sneh. Ephraim Sneh just yesterday made a very interesting statement. He said that it is not a good idea for Israel to be leaving Lebanon, but we are leaving because we don't have the staying power. Israel is not an aggressive state; Israel is a weak state. Israel is a state that, although it has great economic and military power, it doesn't have the morale to go on fighting this. And so that's why you see this exit from Lebanon. That's why you see the willingness for example for Barak to meet with Shara in December. I don't see arrogance; I see weakness.
The third point was about Asad being willing to have peace since the 1970s. Well, I actually don't use the term "peace." I think the term "peace" is, in this context, useless. Everybody wants peace--the Nazis wanted peace, after all. The question is, "What terms?" The question is, "What are the specifics?" Everybody wants peace. So let's be more specific.
Asad wanted a peace treaty, a signed peace treaty with Israel in the 1970s?
PIPES: I think you'll have to establish that. I don't think he wanted that peace treaty in the '70s. Moshe Ma'oz, another biographer of the Syrian president, points to 1988 as the decisive date. I have yet to see it. I have yet to see any sign that the president of Syria wishes to have a signed agreement with Israel. And the proof is in the pudding. Look how much the Israelis are giving. If you look at the Golan Heights as a whole, the contested area, the area that was won in 1967, the Israelis have been offering now for years 96, 97 percent of it. Now they are up to 99 and a substantial fraction, and we are being told that it has to be 100 or it's worthless. My advice to the Israelis is make it a hundred--see what will happen. You know, call his bluff. I mean--
SATLOFF: Let me actually ask Uri about this--just one second--because it does--all the Israeli government positions notwithstanding, it does beg the question--the same question I asked Patrick in reverse. If peace is such a strategic advantage for Israel, if it will open up the doors to the world, to the Arab world, et cetera, et cetera, is there really a belief that these 200 meters should stand in the way of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and achieving comprehensive peace? Where is Israeli public opinion on that issue?
LUBRANI: First of all, I don't think it's only a matter of 200 meters. Two hundred meters is of substance, certainly of substance. But it is a matter of with whom you make peace. If these 200 meters are to be of substance, they should be of inconsequence to the other party too--if they really want to make peace. And to me, as an individual, I always thought that Asad has a very, very difficult job of persuading us that he really wants peace. And he has been very bad about it. I must say that Asad is very fortunate in having Patrick Seale as his spokesman, and I congratulate him for that. But I think that is the most complicated and the nitty-gritty of what has transpired till now.
I think as I see it there was a point in which Asad had to make a decision: "Do I go and open up Syria?" And he should know--he knows that a peace treaty with Israel is not simply signing on the dotted line and having 200 meters here or there. He will have to open up Syria to crosswinds of change, of new ideas, of intercourse of all sorts, a Syria which has for I don't know how long--thirty-five, forty years--been closed, been closed to ideas, closed to modern technologies. I know a very good friend of mine the other day he told me he met a Syrian professor and asked him how they teach sciences. And this professor said, We don't teach sciences; we teach history of sciences, because our books come from the 1950s and the '60s. So I mean, it is that kind of Syria that has to deal with its future, with its destiny.
So Asad knows that if he opens up, Syria will change, and most probably the Alawi predominance will have to disappear. There will be a new Syria, a different Syria to the one it is. This is what he has to have in his mind when he comes to make peace with Israel.
And apparently the guy decided that he doesn't want that--it's too dangerous for the future of his regime. And that's the way I read it, and that's the way, by the way, that many Lebanese read it to whom I talk and who know better about Syria than I do and many others.
SATLOFF: Raghida, is there something to be afraid of from peace if you are the Syrians? What would peace have done to Syria and to Lebanon?
DERGHAM: You see, this is--I would like to say in answer to your question, referring to Mr. Lubrani's point, when you discussed the possibility of peace with Syria and an agreement with Syria, there is always that precondition and assuming ahead of time that that precondition will not be met. It is always putting the nature of what happens within Syria as if it is the business of Israel, when it signs a peace treaty with Syria, if it does.
It's this part of that condescending attitude that Daniel quite continuously has done, because I think we debated four or five years ago right at the Institute, and you said the same thing all the time: There is a loser and there is a winner in a war, and the loser will have to pay a price. And in that you dismiss everything that has happened in clear attempts to negotiate in good faith a peace process that will bring us to agreement, as if you have dismissed everything that happened in Madrid and thereafter, including Oslo, because if you want to argue your point of that agreement, where are we, what is there to show for it? It's not an agreement--fine. The Palestinians have an agreement--have several agreements. And the Palestinians can say, "Well, show me what's in it. Show me what has it given me." And so far it hasn't given them something that they should just be comfortable with. So if we take your argument and apply it to the Palestinian track, then it becomes a very dangerous thing, because we are urging the Palestinians to wait, because the agreement will show something; whereas with the Syrians we say all these negotiations, everything that has been done, except for whatever, whether it's the water or the shore of Tiberias or the 200 meters--it is stuck at that and only that.
SATLOFF: Let me ask you more specifically--what would peace have done to Syria, to Syrian-Lebanese relations? What--I mean, there is a general sense that if they had signed a peace, lions would have lied down with the lambs in the Middle East, and this would be the comprehensive end to all the Arab-Israeli conflict--Lebanon would be solved, Syria, Israel would be solved. Is that your sense of what would have happened if this small territorial issue were resolved?
DERGHAM: Yes, it is my sense. And the majority of the Arabs--I don't know the ones you are talking to--but the majority of the Arabs have absolutely hoped that the comprehensive peace will bring the breakthrough that will follow through on the breakthrough that has taken place in Madrid. That was quite a psychological breakthrough. And now what we have, the majority of the Arabs say the comprehensive peace with Israel is of course very good for Israel, but also good for the Arab in as far as moving on amongst--in terms of moving on not only economically but also culturally, and within a relationship with each other. The Arabs are united on the comprehensive peace and its value and its improvement of the situation in the region altogether with Israel. But what they are not united about is [what to do] in the absence of a comprehensive peace. If comprehensive peace is elusive, then what? Then where do they stand? Then is it the logic of negotiations or is it the logic of resistance? And that's--but in the final analysis I think-- Mr. Lubrani, I avoided your question, because why--from the point of view of Israel the 200 meters, or whatever the territorial element--why was that not surmountable, if it were to bring the desired peace that Israel wanted and the normalization with its neighbors? I still don't get it. I don't get it from the Syrian point of view, except that I agree with Patrick Seale, because when Asad had said June 4th, and that everything else is negotiable, everything else is flexible, he meant it. It's --
SATLOFF: I think from the American perspective the clear understanding was June 4th was an idea. June 4th was not a line. June 4th was something to be demarcated. June 4th was a concept, not something on a map. And --
DERGHAM: But that's the disconnect.
SATLOFF: And I am sure that this is what American officials will say, is that --
SEALE: There's some truth in that, Bob. So, there is some truth in that the June 4th line doesn't exist on any map, and the Syrians have agreed to set up a committee with the Israelis to demarcate the line. However, everybody knows where the June 4th line lies. If you look at the maps in your briefing papers, you see where the line ran. Syria was on the lake. There is no dispute about that. Of course, Barak was hoping to fudge that. And that's why he was so reluctant to enter into discussions on the demarcation of the line. That's what happened at Shepherdstown--that's why Shepherdstown broke down. If you recall at Blair House, four committees were set up--four joint committees. But when they met again at Shepherdstown, the Israelis didn't show up at the border demarcation committee and the water committee. And only once did they show up on the very last day. They were much more anxious to see what Syria would give on the other issues. And that's why it broke down.
LUBRANI: Well, that's part of the nature of the negotiations, Patrick. Look, constantly there were negotiations in which they reached a point and then some new problem arose on the part of the Syrians. I told you I am not privy to all the nitty-gritty of the negotiation. But constantly we got to know that there is a new demand, there is a new something new. There was a feeling that we are being dragged into something which will become in the end a nonstarter. And so it happened. Look, I must say that I have been for a long time full of admiration at the efforts of the various administrations to get the Syrian-Israeli track on track. They went to great lengths--untold lengths--I as an Israeli sometimes really thought it is much far beyond the call of duty for an American secretary of state to go to Damascus so many times--at times to be humiliated there, waiting on the tarmac--in order to get things moving again.
Now, all this didn't help. And at the end of the day, when I think the crunch line came, something gave, and it was not the Israelis. And, madam, if you ask--I am sure you have occasion to ask people in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, in this--who is to blame this time for the breakdown of the negotiations?--it is not Israel; it is Syria. I am sorry. So, Syria has reached a point where the whole Arab world wants peace. They want this business beyond them. And they have Syria as a blockage now--because of 200 meters or without 200 meters, they have it as a blockage. And one man makes the decisions. One man. It's a one-man show. He calls the shots. So, I mean at this point in time--I mean, Israeli public opinion came to understand at this time it is a nonstarter.
SATLOFF: Raghida, then Patrick, and we'll move on.
DERGHAM: I just want to understand why is it not possible to ask both sides, the Syrians and the Israelis, to take an initiative, or bracket the Tiberias issue, the lake issue, or find a way that both--both--will take initiative to make it happen. I am not absolving Syria from its responsibility at this stage as where we are; but I am not ready to absolve Israel other on this --
SATLOFF: I think Patrick wants to absolve Syria. (Laughter.)
SEALE: No, no --
DERGHAM: But let me--what's important is--on this very point this is very important for me to make it clear that I--that it was painted that we say the Syrians are to blame, because President Clinton came out of Geneva, and he said the ball was in Syria's court. And from the Arab point of view that you refer to, that was not so, because then it was understood from the Arab point of view that Mr. Clinton brought Mr. Barak's views, adopted them, brought them into Geneva, and said, "Look, here's what the Israelis can do, and that's the bottom line." That's not negotiations either. Both have not gone the distance. And if it's two hundred meters or two meters, both have not got the distance.
SATLOFF: My sense of the conversation in Geneva, and for what it's worth --
LUBRANI: Excuse me, have you been to Geneva?
DERGHAM: Have I been to Geneva during the meetings?
LUBRANI: No? How do you know that this was going that way? Maybe it went the other way.
DERGHAM: Okay, I don't know, but I was --
SATLOFF: The story that I heard--I'd be interested, Patrick, if you would correct this--the story I heard about what happened in Geneva is Clinton offered his--put forward the idea on the table about the strip along the northeastern shore. Asad said, you know, "No, I want to swim in the water, I want to barbecue, I fish in the water--"
DERGHAM: I didn't start that way.
SATLOFF: Let me finish. And Clinton turned to Asad and said, "Excuse me, but didn't--but three months ago your foreign minister told me, or didn't raise the issue of the Galilee waters, the Sea of Galilee waters at Shepherdstown." And Asad turns to Faruq al-Shara and said, "Did you really not raise this issue?--or, "Is that really what you said?" And Faruq al-Shara had changed the topic--(laughter)--with the implication being issues that weren't important at Shepherdstown became important later on. Is that --
SEALE: It's not correct. I mean, look, none of us were there, but we've all had accounts from different delegations, and I've had accounts from the Israelis, the Americans, and the Syrians. Now, on the whole, the accounts do concur. One point which they all agree on was that the atmosphere turned sour very quickly--in the first six or seven minutes. Now, the Syrians went to Geneva with great hopes. They had been led to believe, rightly or wrongly, that Barak was ready now at long last, if only privately, to endorse the commitment to withdraw to the 4th of June line, which his predecessors, Rabin and Peres, had made. Now, Asad was very heartened by this, and he was prepared in return to give some major assurances on normalization, on water, on the timetable. And he went to Geneva with a very large delegation of 130 people. He thought this was going to be an historic moment which would relaunch the peace process. And indeed the press at that time reflected this optimism--the Arab press and the international press, and myself. We all thought this was the great moment. In fact, I spoke to Martin Indyk for example in Israel just before that, and he was optimistic. He thought that this could be an indication for an exchange of assurances by both sides.
Now, what appears to have happened was that Barak mobilized Clinton, perhaps unwittingly, into putting forth his own maximist demands, which were total control of the lake and total mastery over the waters flowing into the lake. Now, the question is: Why did Barak think that Clinton could pressure Asad into making these concessions? I think possibly for two or three reasons. One reason, I think the Israelis were very much influenced by Kissinger's account of his negotiations with Asad. And Kissinger wrote in one of his books that Asad would negotiate until the very last minute, and almost go over the edge of the precipice, and holding on with his fingernails he would then yield--the very last minute. Well, in this case it turned out to be a mistake.
Another reason I think of why--a rather complicated reason some of you may not know--but during the Netanyahu era somebody called Ron Lauder did a bit of private negotiations back and forth. And when he got it wrong, when he confused the 4th of June line with the 1923 line, we don't know. But, anyway, Barak saw him shortly after going to power, and Lauder gave Barak the impression that Asad was prepared to negotiate on the basis of the 1923 line. And this I think lodged in Barak's mind.
A third possible reason that the Israelis thought that Asad could be pressured is that very often you hear in Israel that the Syrian economy is on its knees, that Asad is dying and he wants to hand over to his son, and therefore he is in the mood to make concessions. In fact, the contrary is true. Asad doesn't want to give his son a flawed deal. He is likely to be harder in his negotiations, because he wants to give his son a deal which his son can defend, and honorable deal.
Anyway, for all these reasons --
PIPES: You mean it would have been easier five years ago?
SEALE: Well, no, look, on the question of territory--(laughter)--on the question of territory, Asad has been remarkably consistent. Right from the beginning with the Madrid process, he has said the 4th of June line, and not an inch--and I think Barak misread the legacy of the past negotiations. But I have to stress that I am not a spokesman for the Syrian government or for anybody else, contrary to what had been said here today, and that I am very happy to hear Uri Lubrani say that the Arab world wants peace. It's a great misreading of the Arab world to think they don't want peace, or the Syrians don't want peace. It's also a mistake to think that Syria is a closed society. The point about Syria is this: They are not a high-tech society--they haven't had $100 billion of American money. They haven't had 300,000 Russian graduates. They are largely an agricultural country, and they have food security, they have energy security. They want --
LUBRANI: They are on the list of terrorist-supporting countries. They can't get any funds. What can you do?
SEALE: They're on the list of terrorist-supporting countries for an incident which happened in 1986, which if you look at it very carefully it's a very mysterious and shadowy incident in which the Mossad was deeply involved. But, nevertheless, the Syrians on the list of--
PIPES: May I note for you that Barak had Clinton be his spokesman, and that in 1986 it was Mossad that caused a Syrian attempt to sabotage an El Al plane.
PIPES: Do we hear hints here of a Jewish conspiracy behind everything that's going on?
SEALE: No, not a Jewish conspiracy behind everything that is going on.
PIPES: What's going on, Mr. Seale? This is preposterous stuff. Why don't you talk seriously about what is going on. President Clinton was not a spokesman for Barak; he was presenting what he understood to be, as Mr. Lubrani has presented, the very best effort the United States can make to bridge these positions. Why don't you deal seriously with international policy instead of giving us conspiracy theories, like Jewish control?
SEALE: President Clinton was outraged by the briefing he had been given by Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger, and indeed Asad was angry with Shara for setting this thing up. The Syrians knew this, that this ended up by having a trap. Anyway, his expectation of good news from --
SATLOFF: Look, a couple of things. It's difficult for me to imagine--I mean, I don't even want to get into the notion that the Mossad is behind Hindawi. To me that's preposterous.
SEALE: Is it? It's a view shared by many people in the establishment --
SATLOFF: It certainly wasn't a view shared by the British court that convicted Colonel Muhammad Ghuli --
SEALE: No, but since then a lot of information has emerged, which I am happy to share with you.
SATLOFF: Let's just--let's stay with the current Syria-Israel negotiation for a moment. I do want to turn the floor over to questions on Syria-Israel issues before we take a break and then talk about Lebanon-Israel-Syria issues --
DERGHAM: I have a just quick observation.
SATLOFF: Yes, I know, I have to ask this question, because both Mr. Seale, Daniel and Uri--Patrick, Daniel and Uri--spoke about public opinion earlier on. One, has it--actually--Patrick spoke about it as to how the Israelis have a misconception of how the Syrians should act towards Israel. Uri talked about it, how the Syrians just have no idea of the importance of Israeli public opinion. Why is there such a disconnect? Why is it that not only whenever the Syrians have an opportunity to say something, they not only don't say something positive, they say something very, very negative? I think Ehud Ya'ari in the back corner interviewed Faruq al-Shara several years ago--it was a step backwards for the peace process--
EHUD YA'ARI: Thank you. (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: We're keeping Ehud away from the peace process--(laughter)--when this spring--this spring, not only were there no positive statements from the Syrians, but there were the most vicious Nazi references in the Syrian media in February, March, after the breakdown at Shepherdstown. Why is there a sense that Asad, even if the Syrian officials, if they don't keep their mouths closed, when they do open it, it is actually a step in the wrong direction. And Raghida, please play on this, because you understand--I mean, you play in the regional media as well. This is not always commonplace--not all Arab leaders have the same approach to understanding Syrian public opinion. Why is it so bad coming from the Syrians?
DERGHAM: Because sometimes half the stories are told too--like your account, Rob, of what--one of the accounts--as Patrick said, we all have heard different accounts as to what happened in Geneva. I concur that I heard the same thing you said. But let me just tell you what else I have heard. Just before the segment that you went through, everybody getting sort of flabbergasted--why would Asad say "I want even the water of the lake?" What happened then, according to that account I heard, is that Asad continuously and repeatedly said to Clinton, "Do I get my land back? Do I get back my land?" And that was--that was one definite thing that Asad had in mind, that, "Once I get the territorial concession that I have been so consistent about throughout the years, then I--everything else is doable." And of course the disconnect from the point of view of Asad is that of course President Clinton said, "Yeah, you know, what--I'll give you your land back." This is the misconception in the Syrian mindset, that they think the U.S. can deliver Israel.
But from other point of view, when Clinton was unable to assure Asad that this is what we have been talking to you about, and we understand you, Asad felt terribly misunderstood, deceived, and he said then, "Not only will I want the lake, the shores, I want the water too." And then goes on your story. This is part of the problem. You reported one part of the story, and there is the other part that will tell us why there is always this disconnect and misinterpretation. And the gestures diplomacy--it was made clear by the Syrians--they never said, "I am going to invest in public opinion." They were consistent. No gestures diplomacy. We only would negotiate, and at the end we will do it.
Now, the thing is, the flexibility they showed was on everything else. Again, we started to bombard them in the American media and the Israeli media. "Where are you? Why don't you shake hands? Where is the gesture diplomacy?" And they have never said they would. So--but we set them up to disappoint us. And that's another reason for the disconnect. They do not communicate in the way that you and I--even the Lebanese track or the Egyptian track--they have their own way. Why am I as a negotiator or as a neighbor going to impose on the Syrians that style before even concluding --
PIPES: Let me see if I understand this right. Because the Syrians do two things consistently--one, always demand every last meter of the land they lost in 1967; and, two, insist that they'll never help the Israeli public opinion, that justifies itself? Because they do it, and they do it every year, and they always do it? Why ask questions? Of course it makes sense --
SEALE: Well, I tend to agree with those critics of Syria when they say that Syria hasn't engaged in public diplomacy. I think that we should. I think we should make gestures. I think we should be more sensitive to Israeli public opinion, and I think we should help Barak take what is a difficult decision.
Now, we didn't do it--perhaps incapable of doing it for various reasons. I mean, you have to put yourself a little bit into their shoes. Their land is occupied. Lebanon, just next door, is bombed almost daily by the Israelis, and its sovereignty violated for decades. The international community is worried about the 17,000 Israeli settlers on the Golan, but hundreds of thousands of Syrians were expelled from the Golan and are now refugees waiting to return and their villages obliterated. The public opinion in Syria would take--does not look kindly on the regime if you are trying to make very friendly gestures.
Shara obviously comes under some pressure domestically--that's why he didn't shake hands. I think that's a little mistake. I mean, of course they should have shaken hands, of course they shouldn't have run Holocaust denial articles, one article in the Syrian presses. They are huge mistakes. But that is the way they are. And they feel their cause is right. They feel they are victimized. They feel that Israel is aggressive and expansionist and uses its military power to impose its terms. And they would like that. It is very difficult in such circumstances--and you see at the same time as all this is going on--you think I am harking on something, but David Levy's remarks caused a terrific outcry in the area. And you should understand why. When he says a child for a child and a life for a life, Uri Lubrani will tell you that since 1984 only eight or possibly nine Israelis have been killed in northern Israel as a result of cross-border attacks--eight or nine. Of course, Israel also lost about twenty soldiers illegally occupying a neighboring state.
Now, on the other side of the border, the Lebanese border, thousands were killed--19,000 were killed in the first weeks of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Hundreds of thousands were regularly disbursed from their homes in Operation Accountability, Operation Grapes of Wrath; material damage running into billions of dollars, and disproportionate violence on both sides was colossal--colossal.
Now, when you ask the Syrians and the Lebanese to make gesture of friendship to Israel, to this colossus that is hitting them whenever it feels like it, you have to put yourself into the other man's shoes. And this is what I am trying to preach here, that the days Israel can impose its rule by force of arms is finished --
SATLOFF: Which days were those?
SEALE: Well, ever since Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion sought hegemony over the region by military means. This has been pursued by other Israelis ever since. That era, I believe, is coming to an end. You now need co-existence. You have to respect your neighbors. Peace is the best guarantee of security--security indivisible--you can't have security with Israel at the expense of the insecurity of its neighbors, which is an important concept.
LUBRANI: Are we in for a recess? (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: We are in for a recess in a moment. (Laughter.)
LUBRANI: Because before going into a recess, I would like to tell you, Patrick, don't bring in these Lebanese dimensions when you talk about Syria.
SEALE: Why not?
LUBRANI: The Syrians don't care a hoot about Lebanese lives.
LUBRANI: Absolutely truth.
LUBRANI: Absolutely truth, because if they were--if they were, they would have behaved differently to the Lebanese. They don't want them to make peace with us. Why? Because they want the Golan Heights. Deny this. Deny this.
SEALE: Uri--yes, Uri, they don't want a separate peace, they want a peace for both countries together. Of course they don't want --
LUBRANI: Okay. This is a standstill because they don't know how to put it differently.
SEALE: They don't want separate peace.
LUBRANI: Let the Lebanese decide for themselves. Why do they have to get Syria to tell them what to do?
SEALE: Of course they don't want Israel to withdraw from Lebanon but stay on the Golan. They want --
LUBRANI: Why, why?
SEALE: They want a comprehensive peace based on full withdrawal --
LUBRANI: Yes. That's --
PIPES: Because a comprehensive peace allows the Syrians to remain in Lebanon with 35,000 armed forces and God know how many --
SATLOFF: Excuse me, gentlemen. Excuse me, gentlemen. We are going to go into--deeply into--all the Lebanese issues. After we have a cup of coffee.
LUBRANI: I'm ready.
SATLOFF: So, with that, we are going to take a 15-minute break.
[The opening question resuming the session was accidentally not taped, due to an error on the part of the hotel. We apologize for any inconvenience]
LUBRANI: (In progress)--Heights. So they began a process by which Syria began to use the Lebanese militia, Hizballah and not only Hizballah, to get us needled enough to pay heed to what Syria needs on the Golan Heights. We tried from time to time to sense whether there is a chance of negotiating directly with Lebanon. From time to time we were asked, Why don't you go negotiate? The Lebanese wouldn't talk to us, and they wouldn't talk to us because the Syrians told them not to talk to us. And I have to say here--I mean, I am saying this not because I heard it--because I lived it. And nothing would have been easier for Israel and Lebanon to strike a deal to--I mean, I sat here in this city at the head of an Israeli delegation in the beginning of the 1990s in bilateral talks after Madrid, with a Lebanese delegation. And then the only thing the Lebanese delegation wanted was 425. I was talking about peace. But Zoel Shamas, who was the head of the Lebanese delegation, said, "We want 425." Now they don't want 425 because the Syrians don't want 425. But at that time there was only 425.
Now 425 is to be implemented, and I have to tell you I have been privy to some of the tribulations and considerations and apprehensions concerning this proposition. In the United Nations, of course they have--they have Sierra Leone on their minds. I mean, they are going to invoke a United Nations force into an environment which could very well on blow up into something similar. And therefore they have to be very careful. And it is now in the making. I don't know how it will end. But I know one thing, that the SLA will have to be disbanded.
We have undertaken--we are committed to take anybody of the SLA who had contact--anybody who had contact with us who feels threatened in Lebanon, we will take them in. We have made all the arrangements possible. We will take him in, we will give him whatever he needs in order to pursue a life, in order to want to go somewhere else in the world and continue his life there. That we are ready to do. But of late we feel that while we were planning for a considerably--a considerable number, that the number will--as of now I am saying--the number will be less because they don't want to leave. And they come to me and say, "We want to stay for now, and we don't want to become refugees."
Now, one of the reasons is because of course they are all farmers. They are sons of farmers, they are sons and sons of farmers. I mean, they don't want to leave their land. But there is another reason. They are subjected to daily propaganda from Hizballah and the central government, but mostly from Hizballah, the latest one being for instance that two or three days ago, Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizballah, goes on Lebanese television saying not only are we going to slaughter you, but we are going to slaughter you in your beds. And I have the cassette with me.
SATLOFF: Let me interrupt you right now.
LUBRANI: Okay? So I mean when these people feel that, not only are they threatened but their village is threatened, their family is threatened, so "To hell with it, I'm staying. " And here we have a problem--it's not resolved yet. And we will have to see how best we can manage with it.
SATLOFF: Raghida, let me ask you--Israel is withdrawing, is planning to withdraw--425, something that Lebanon has asked for for many, many years. Why did the president of Lebanon say if Israel withdraws there will be war? Raghida, why?
DERGHAM: The president of Lebanon had said that if Israeli withdrawals were certain, then he went on under certain circumstances there will be war. Resolution 425 is accepted by the Lebanese government--425, right now. When the envoy of the secretary general went to the region he got assurances from that president of Lebanon, the prime minister, and from Syria, that they would cooperate with the United Nations in the implementation of that resolution, 425, and 426. The Israelis are withdrawing from southern Lebanon because they have to, because they were defeated by the resistance, by the resistance in southern Lebanon to an occupation, and that is why they are retreating. This is not about a peace agreement. In fact, it is too bad, because there is nothing in it for the Israelis, because if they had withdrawn within the context of a peace agreement with Syria and Lebanon, they would have gotten something back. I don't know about the military--you said that militarily the strategy has succeeded. I think you said that. I don't think so, because this is a retreat, and because you had the number of soldiers that died in Lebanon--250--I think you would consider that quite a high price to pay for something that you decided hasn't worked. It has been a failed policy, and that is why the Israelis are finally, after twenty-two years of rejecting 425--not accepting 425--now saying yes, we will implement it.
Secondly, implementation of 425 will not decouple the Israeli--excuse me, that it will not decouple the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks, because the-- simultaneously the two tracks of negotiations have been established by both Lebanon and Syria, and that for me is when they sign peace together. It's not the simultaneity of withdrawal, the timing of the withdrawal, but the signature of the peace treatment.
The Syrians are now, as I said, supporting the implementation of 425. They were quite confused in the beginning. You were right, before the Israelis gave the formal notification to the Security Council and said, "We will implement, and these are the conditions." Before that, that's when the president of Lebanon was all over the place--"Yes, there will be war."
After, in the past couple of weeks, and Mr. Lubrani is well aware, there have been constant arrangements being put in place. Actually I believe the secretary general is right now preparing his report that he will be submitting to the Security Council on Monday--or anyway the Security Council will debate it on Tuesday, and everything will be in that report as to the steps needed to be taken by both--by the three parties, if you will--Lebanon, Israel, and Syria --
SATLOFF: To be fair, many Lebanese politicians have said, We don't care if the Israelis withdraw from Lebanon, unless they also solve the Palestinian refugee conflict--
DERGHAM: No, that was--
SATLOFF: --the refugee camps. Then this withdrawal does not mean the end of --
DERGHAM: No, that was only a statement--you're referring to what the president of Lebanon had said in a letter that he sent to the --
SATLOFF: To the secretary general of the United Nations.
DERGHAM: --secretary general. And since that was before Terje Larsen went to the region and had his trip throughout the region, that is no longer on the table. The problem --
SATLOFF: So that's not Lebanese policy any more?
DERGHAM: No, it's no longer at the table. Right now we are waiting on that. Right now we are--the two problems are actually the SLA and Sheba, and we will get to Sheba later. But I just want to make a quick point on the SLA, the South Lebanese Army, which has been an auxiliary of the IDF--and no doubt about it--it has been proxy for the Israeli occupation forces. So from the point of view of the Lebanese government and people that you know what? They have worked for the occupier. So now, do I think that all of a sudden--do I think that this is justified, what Nasrallah said, Hizballah's leader to say to slaughter them? Absolutely not. But I feel that the government of Lebanon is responsible to take care of the families, but not to listen to the Israeli demands, give them amnesty. You can't just demand that the Lebanese government will offer amnesty to those soldiers and commanders who have betrayed their country, who have worked for the occupation. That's why I still say it's an Israeli problem. The SLA is an Israeli problem above all.
Sheba is a different story, but I think you want me to get back to that later on. But this is a retreat, and --
LUBRANI: Can I respond?
SATLOFF: Just on the SLA. Then I want to move over here. Just on the SLA.
LUBRANI: On the SLA certainly it's also our problem, and we are committed. And we say--I reiterate--we will take anybody of the SLA who will feel threatened who wants to come over--anybody. We will not be able to --
DERGHAM: But the UN has more demands--you are aware of the demands of the UN. You are aware.
LUBRANI: We are not yet quite aware of what the report will say. You know that, the report is not yet written.
DERGHAM: Some of the things, yes--structure --
LUBRANI: The prime minister is set on conforming and complying to what the report will say. We'll see what the report says, and we'll try to comply--there is no doubt about it. I am not trying to argue whether it is a defeat or not a defeat for the Israeli public opinion to come to the conclusion that it has to find a different way of how to confront its threats. It's--we take our hat off--this is what the public opinion wants. This is what the government has committed itself, and we will do the best we can. Some of us, you know, feel that this is a risky job to withdraw, but once the government decides this is it, it is going to happen. It is going to happen in the best way possible.
But let me add one thing. Israel has never demanded that--[audio break]--the leaders of this fight--because--but what about the rest of them? And I am telling you right here and now that if the majority of these people will opt to stay, and something will happen to them, and something will happen to them, it will not be the Lebanese government which will cause it, because the Lebanese government doesn't--they want to put them on trial. But it will not be the Lebanese government who will cause massacres. It will be Syria who will be instigating it, and we will point the finger to Syria. Syria will be the one who will instigate that thing, because it might be in their interests. And if I were in Syria, I would think twice, because that will really cause a problem.
SATLOFF: Let me turn to Patrick. I think it's fair to say that Syria is the power broker in Lebanon--35,000 or some odd troops. Lebanese politicians don't take a move without going to Damascus. Now whenever a Lebanese politician says something about implementing 425, and Shara says something else, the Lebanese backtrack. Can you tell us--the Syrians can't be too happy that South Lebanon and the Golan are being "decoupled" as it were. What is Syria going to do when Israel withdraws? How are the Syrians going to relate to Hizballah? Will there continue to be flows of weapons from Syria to Hizballah? Do you expect there to be violence across the border?
SEALE: Lots of complicated questions. Let me try and answer some of them. First of all, I must pick up Uri's point about Syrian-instituted massacres. I think this will not be the case.
LUBRANI: Insha Allah.
SEALE: Insha Allah. As some of you know, the fighting force of the SLA is about 2,000 or 2,500 strong. They're weakened by defections. In addition to that, there are a couple of thousand people engaged in the civil administration of that area, and there are about two or three thousand Lebanese who work in Israel mainly on agriculture. And they have dependents, families, homes, businesses. What is going to happen to all these people, perhaps 25,000 of them? Well, the Lebanese government and Hizballah have made it pretty clear that they are not intending to exact revenge on the families. The officers, if they surrender, will be put on trial. If they don't surrender, they have to seek asylum in Israel or other countries. But the families--and I spoke to Hasan Nasrallah about this myself--he said that there is nothing in Islam or in our intentions to punish innocent families. And the Lebanese government has said much the same. But collaborators--people who fought, people who killed Lebanese soldiers or indeed Hizballah members, will of course have to flee. If they choose to stay and fight, that will depend on what weapons the Israelis leave behind with them. So there is that point.
Now, the point about the withdrawal is that, as you all know, Prime Minister Barak's preferred option was not a unilateral withdrawal. He wants the withdrawal within the context of a deal with Syria. And that was correct--nice policy. Unfortunately the deal wasn't possible, because of those few hundred meters we discussed this morning.
So he's now bound to honor the pledge he made to the electorate to pull back within a year. And as Uri himself said a moment ago, it's a leap in the dark. Nobody really knows what's going to happen there. Nobody can crystal ball gaze. The point is that nobody knows who is going to control that area in the South.
Now, UNIFIL--people talk about UNIFIL, talk about expanding its force to seven or eight thousand, but UNIFIL has no peace enforcement mandate. And the members of UNIFIL have no intention of sending troops into a danger zone--too many examples from earlier, Sierra Leone and so forth. The Irish and the Finns simply want to pull out of UNIFIL, let alone to contributing more forces. The French have been very, very cautious, not saying they are going to send troops in if there is going to be trouble. So forget about UNIFIL. The Israelis have ignored the United Nations for half a century, and now they want help from the UN? Maybe a bit late.
SATLOFF: So, then who has an interest in turning it into a danger zone?
SEALE: Well, let me add something. The Syrians and the Lebanese have no intention of going in there and taking the blame for any cross-border incidents. It only requires one or two people, and the border there is a very difficult one. Israel has built right up on the border. It would be very easy for someone, a sniper, to shoot a couple of farmers across the border--what will Israel then do?
Now, we've had hints of what Israel's policy would be, a policy of massive retaliation. This means that the agreements of the past--that is to say, the 1976 Red Line agreements and the 1996 understandings about hitting civilian targets on our side, these go by the board, a policy of massive retaliation. Now, this is a recipe for escalation and eventually perhaps for war. And the Syrians suspect--perhaps wrongly--but they suspect that there are hawks in Israel who wouldn't mind an escalation which could lead to a military showdown in Syria. Now --
SATLOFF: I just have to press on this issue, because for many years the Syrian position was that it will permit the supply to Hizballah because it's an occupation--it's fighting an occupation in South Lebanon. Will that policy now come to an end, because there will no longer be an occupation in South Lebanon?
SEALE: Let me say a word about Hizballah. Uri was very eloquent about the peace and tranquility, he said, on both sides of the border. What does he mean, "both sides of the border"? On the Lebanese side of the border, there's constant bombing, depopulation of that whole region, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been forced to moved to slums around southern Beirut.
LUBRANI: Patrick, I was referring to the security zone.
SEALE: Ah. Just the tiny security zone.
SEALE: You're not referring to the--
LUBRANI: No we don't take that --
SEALE: You don't take that into account, the fact that every now and then they launch an operation which displaces three or four thousand people from their homes, leads to massacres, like Qana--you don't take that into account. All right. But --
SATLOFF: I am going to be persistent.
SEALE: Yes, yes, do.
SATLOFF: For many years the Syrian position has been that it permits resupply Hizballah because of the--because of fighting occupation.
SEALE: Right. Now, I want to make two points here, if I may. First of all, Hizballah. Many people suppose that Hizballah is a creature of Syria and Iran, created by them. The fact of the matter is that Hizballah represents the Shi'a population of South Lebanon who have been victimized by this policy of almost constant, daily bombing. So it is a national resistance movement to occupation. It's trying to protect the people of South Lebanon, and in the meantime, Hizballah has developed into a formidable guerrilla force, perhaps one of the finest in the world, in terms of the skill of its military operations, its equipment, its adaptability to Israeli tactics, its political leadership. It has become possibly the strongest political force in Lebanon.
SATLOFF: Next to the Syrian troops.
SEALE: Well, the thing is that the Syrian troops are not supplied in offensive position. And I think the latest figure is about 22,000. And the Syrians have been thinning out and redeploying their troops in recent weeks, of course frightened of a military confrontation which might follow.
Now, the second point I wanted to make is that Israel's involvement in Lebanon goes back a very, very long way. We mustn't forget that. It goes back--I would recommend to all of you a book by a young academic in Britain called Kirsten Schulze, an American. She wrote a book called Israel's Covert Diplomacy in Lebanon. It's very fascinating. It describes in great detail the involvement, and particularly of course the aims of the 1982 invasion, which are not simply to destroy the PLO, but which were to also drive out the Syrians and to bring Lebanon into Israel's sphere of influence, by putting in Lebanon a leader of Israel's choice.
Now, what then happened was that Syria and its allies were able to abort the so-called 17th of May 1983 question, which was brokered by George Shultz, which would have confirmed Israeli tutelage over Lebanon. Now, as President Asad would say, that was the finest success of his presidency. He labored to wrest Lebanon out of Israel's orbit.
And indeed the withdrawal we are now talking about, Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, really began then. That was a failure of the policy then, the policy of trying to reshape the Middle East, give Israel a regional hegemony by controlling Lebanon and neutralizing Syria--that was the policy which Sharon and Begin dreamt of. But it turned out to be a mistake. The Israelis now admit the whole invasion was a mistake. And we are now witnessing the final act, Israel's final withdrawal from Lebanon.
Now, your question is, Will Syria continue to support Hizballah? Imagine Hizballah will cease to be a military--cease military operations once Israel has withdrawn--of course it depends on whether the withdrawal is total, it depends on whether Israel respects Lebanese airspace and its maritime waters. It really depends of course on whether the SLA is truly disbanded or whether it continues to control this little strip and be protected by Israeli artillery and air. It depends on whether the notorious prison at Khiam is opened up and that the prisoners, Lebanese prisoners held there for years and years, are released. All these things will determine how Hizballah behaves. But I believe that if we cease military operations, we'll remain in arms, because no peace has yet been concluded. This is just a unilateral withdrawal. And they will want to see how Israel behaves. Will Israel leave Lebanon alone after all these decades of involvement, of infringement of its sovereignty? This is the key question.
SATLOFF: Well, let me ask you, Dan. Israel will get out of Lebanon. Patrick says that Hizballah will not attack and that Syria has no interest in having a hot Lebanon Israel border. Is this therefore no longer a danger? Is this therefore no longer a leap into the unknown? It sounds like everybody is going to be holding their guns.
SEALE: There are other actors.
PIPES: Well, you won't be surprised I have a different reading. Mr. Seale has predicted that Hizballah will cease military operations. I know that Hizballah has in the past laid claim to nothing less than Jerusalem, and most recently has laid claim to villages in the Galilee, the Sheba Farms, and so forth. The Syrians just this week have endorsed some of these claims. I see Sheba is as laying the ground work for future attacks. In other words, the reading I gave you before, that Israel is a weak state, is a reading that is shared for example by Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hizballah. They see Israel on the run. Ms. Dergham's characterization of Israel having been defeated is a correct one. Israel was defeated. This fancy talk about how Israel's defeat is actually a threat to the Syrians is nonsense. They lost. They lost bad. The Syrians know it, Hizballah knows it, Iran knows it. And they are savoring their victory at this moment, and they are preparing for the next step. So we will see. You will see shortly enough whether the northern border is quiet or not--and I predict that it will not be.
But if I might then make a few points in response to the various discussion that has taken place, four points?
One, Israel has had, by and large, success vis-à-vis its neighbors with the outstanding exception of Lebanon. Its policy has been one of deterrence. When the Egyptians and Jordanians and Syrians in the 1950s and '60s were having guerrilla attacks on the border and other trouble-making, the Israelis used a policy of--employed a policy of deterrence, which is effectively to say, "You hit us--we will hit you back much harder." And, lo and behold, with time the attacks stopped.
In Lebanon that didn't work post 1967, because there was no central authority in Lebanon that could withhold the attacks. Right after the '67 war until now, Lebanon has been a source of anxiety--has been, I would say, the great failure of Israeli foreign policy. They have not been able to cope with it. In 1978 and then 1982, they went into Lebanon to try to create a cordon which would protect them. It is that cordon which led to the deaths of hundreds of soldiers, but only a few civilians. It is that cordon which is now being--from which they are withdrawing.
And from an Israeli point of view, I would think it's an enormous risk. They are going back to the mid-1970s. They are going back to the kind of attacks on their northern towns which were possible then. And it's even worse, because in the 1970s there was still a kind of morale and spirit in Israel that would allow them to stand up for themselves. I don't think that's there now.
The second point would be that the Syrian occupation of Lebanon is an extraordinary development. Lebanon is today the only satellite state in the world. It's not Syria. Lebanon is different. Lebanon has a civil society. There is considerable freedom of speech. The very analysis I gave at the beginning of this discussion about the Alawites and so forth, I gave in an interview to a Lebanese paper a month ago, and it was printed in full in Beirut. I call that law freedom of speech. It is somewhat like Poland to the Soviet Union. It's different. It's much more lively. There's commerce. The economy is not great, but it's far, far better than in Syria. There are millions of Syrians, by the way, working in Lebanon. Lebanon has a population of three million, if not four.
The key point here is that the Syrian government has never accepted the fact of an independent Lebanon. And between 1975, when the war began within Lebanon, until 1990, in a space of fifteen years, the Syrians did to Lebanon roughly what Iraq did to Kuwait, but Iraq did it to Kuwait in four hours; the Syrians did it to Lebanon in fifteen years. In fifteen years, you know what?--it works a lot better. The Syrians now control it, as Rob pointed out. No politician makes any decision without going first to Damascus.
Mr. Seale pointed out a book written in Britain about Israeli ambitions in Lebanon. I might be so bold as to say that I have myself authored a book called Greater Syria, in which you could find a lot of detail about Syrian aspirations in Lebanon. From the very beginning, from 1920 on, the Syrians have not accepted--the Syrians basically of all stripes have not accepted Lebanon as an independent country. And unless there is a significant change in the power equation--for example, should Asad die and there be lots of turmoil from Syria--I don't see Syrian forces leaving. Syrian forces are there for the duration.
At the same time, the great strength of Lebanon is a civil society. And I do think that no matter how much it is battered Syria is likely in the end to emerge independently. That's a long-term prognosis.
PIPES: Sorry, Lebanon is likely to be independent.
Finally, the last point about the SLA, the Southern Lebanon Army, it has under the tutelage of Israel turned into a significant force--not a large one, but it is not covering a large piece of ground--you can see on the map. It has predominantly Christian, but not exclusively Christian, membership.
LUBRANI: Sorry, predominant Shi'a.
DERGHAM: Mmm hmm. That's right.
PIPES: All right. I meant the officer corps, but as a whole, it's predominantly Shi'a. It is a truly patriotic force that is trying to hold on to its land; it has acquired a considerable degree of autonomy, and it has had a successful record against Hizballah, military record against Hizballah, over the years. And I am very much hoping that the key question is whether the Israelis will allow them to keep their heavy arms or not. They have agreed to these light arms. They're seen in the case of--correct me, Mr. Lubrani, that they are not allowed to have the arms. I do very much hope that the SLA will be allowed to keep the heavy arms, which will permit them to retain control, or have the possibility of attaining control of the security zone. I think it's absolutely crucial not only for the Lebanese of Southern Lebanon; I think it's crucial for Israel's credibility, if they ever want to have allies in the region again. It's also crucial for the future of Lebanon. If there is to be a free Lebanon, the likelihood is it will come out of some kind of free zone in the South, and not out of Beirut.
DERGHAM: I need to make comments on these two points.
SATLOFF: Raghida, go ahead.
DERGHAM: Yes, I need to make comments. One, on Patrick's--when Patrick said forget about UNIFIL, it is not going to be able to do the job, and if UNIFIL does not do the job, I don't think this is acceptable. I don't think this is what Israel would like; nor is it what Syria would like. I think this is where there is a meeting of needs between the Syrians and the Lebanese --
LUBRANI: It depends what the Lebanese will do.
DERGHAM: And the Lebanese, exactly. So I think that what is right now happening is clearly a way to combine the needs of the three parties. And UNIFIL is the right way for it. And UNIFIL, as Mr. Lubrani said a little earlier, I don't think they would just go in and be available to be slaughtered. Before UNIFIL is enhanced with its new job of implementing 425, all the pieces will have to be in the right place, including one that will absolutely dismiss Daniel Pipes's point, because if this advice of Daniel's is taken up by the--under SLA--I was going to say exactly, it would allow them to keep their heavy arms. If the Israeli government takes you up on that, it's all out. The UNIFIL will not go in. The Israelis are the ones who are going to need the United Nations to confirm their withdrawal and to be there in that area guaranteeing that there is no more vacuum. Your advice would be devastating for Israel--
SATLOFF: Briefly, Patrick, and then I want to ask quickly a set of questions.
SEALE: Okay, very briefly. I think everybody agrees that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon robs Syria of a card--robs it of some leverage in the situation. So Syria would be very anxious I think to contain the political damage. And I think it has managed to do so largely in that it's now pretty clear that the withdrawal cannot lead to a separate peace between Israel and Lebanon. There's no consensus for that in Lebanon. That's a point in fact that Raghida made earlier. I think it's also true that the withdrawal will not lead to significant pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops or its presence from Lebanon. I think there was, again, no consensus in Lebanon for that.
Now, this question of Daniel Pipes saying that Lebanon is not independent, it's become a total satellite of Syria--I think one has to look at this in a slightly more nuanced way. The Syrians would argue, with some justice, that they have been the main champions of Lebanese independence. They helped end the civil war, they have brought peace there. They were invited in--so they would argue that in fact their role has been pretty beneficial. And there is, as I say, there is almost unanimous support now in Lebanon for Hizballah, and a very clear distinction in most Lebanese mind between the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the Syrian presence there.
So, the other point very quickly. Daniel Pipes mentioned a million Syrians working in Lebanon. This is wrong. The figure is about 300,000, rising to about 400,000 during harvest time. But they come and go.
LUBRANI: Patrick, sorry to intervene --
SEALE: Yes. Go ahead.
LUBRANI: Sorry to intervene. Nobody counted them. Nobody counted them.
SEALE: Nobody counted them, but --
LUBRANI: I've heard figures between a million and a half and 200,000. Nobody counted them. The fact is, there are lots of Syrian workers working in Lebanon.
SEALE: There are lots of Syrian workers, but the possibility and opportunity to work is rather limited, and I think most Lebanese--government officials whom I've interrogated on this subject--would say the figure is between three and four hundred thousand, depending on the time.
Now, the important point I would like to leave with all of you is, Why is Syria interested in Lebanon? It's largely to do with its confrontation with Israel. You only have to look at the map. If a hostile power were to control Lebanon, which would be like a gun at the head of the Syrians, the Bekaa Valley cuts Syria in two. So Syria cannot tolerate an Israeli presence or an Israeli influence in Lebanon. It's fought very hard to prevent that.
Syria and Israel, I like to think, are like two queens on the chess board. They are the two principal powers in that region, nose-to-nose in the Levant. And they are fighting over three lesser players: the Palestinians, Jordan, and Lebanon--these are the three--it's a mistake to call them pawns--they are not pawns--they are independent --
SATLOFF: I would never have suggested that Hafiz al-Asad was a queen. (Laughter.)
SEALE: Well, bishop is not the right word in view of the role that religion plays in those part. But, nevertheless, the Syrian interest in Lebanon is largely for security reasons.
SATLOFF: Let me--I want to leave a half an hour for questions, so I want to ask this group a set of quick-response questions. Israel-Lebanon border, will there be peace and quiet over this border over the next six months after withdrawal? Yes or no?
LUBRANI: You want me to answer?
LUBRANI: I have my grave doubts.
SATLOFF: And will the culprits be Hizballah, Palestinian rejectionists--who?
LUBRANI: Assuming that 425 will be implemented in full?
LUBRANI: That is the premises we're talking about.
SATLOFF: The premises of the question.
LUBRANI: It will inevitably, as a major player, be Syria.
SATLOFF: Coming back to Syria?
SATLOFF: Raghida, will there be quiet on this border?
DERGHAM: If 425 is implemented in full without any tricks or pockets, yes.
SATLOFF: They'll be quiet? Daniel?
SATLOFF: No. And the culprit will be?
PIPES: The Syrians, Iranians, the friends and agents, Hizballah, Palestinian nationalists--a whole motley of radical groups in Lebanon.
SATLOFF: Patrick, will there be quiet on this border?
SEALE: Well, I think Daniel Pipes is right.
SATLOFF: Whoa. (Applause/laughter.) Headline! (Laughter.)
SEALE: The problem--the problem is that nobody knows--I repeat this point--nobody knows who is going to control that region if UNIFIL is not up to the task. A few thousand people cannot control what is a very, very difficult terrain. You would have to have one soldier for every person there. Now, all the people that Daniel mentioned a moment ago are there. There may be some dissident members of Palestinian groups who feel abandoned by Arafat, abandoned by the Lebanese. There might be--it only takes one or two people to slip through.
And if I may just say one word about the Syrian position. I think the Syrians have two options: either to lie low and keep quiet and accept that the Israel is leaving Lebanon but temporarily staying on the Golan--and I think that is the most likely option in terms of Syrian policy. The other, and possibly a precedent, would be the way they reacted to the [Abdullah] Ocalan case, the Kurdish question--they were very quiet and almost passive there. And the second possibility is they may tolerate a certain amount of low-intensity and low-caliber activity on the frontier just to keep the pot boiling and to remind the Israelis that until there is peace with Syria, they won't have a particularly quiet life. But that's extremely difficult to control, because what the Syrians fear as much as the Israelis is escalation.
SATLOFF: That's what I want to ask about lastly. Escalation. There is a reasonable chance--let me ask it differently--Israel I think will have a different strategy in response to incursions or attacks post-withdrawal than they've had over the last number of years. From what one hears, it'll be more of an air-based strategy, and it will be escalatory first to the Lebanese and perhaps elsewhere. What do you think is the likelihood that after having nine years of discussion on and off, successful and not successful, of Syria-Israel peace that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we're actually talking about Syria-Israel conflict. Daniel?
PIPES: I'm optimistic there. Just as I don't see Asad signing a peace treaty, I don't see him tangling with the Israeli military in a significant direct way. Yes, the bishops or pawns can--you know, there can be conflict in Lebanon, but not a significant battle between the Syrian and the Israeli forces. He's scared of that I think.
My presumption is all along that Asad, like other totalitarian leaders that we know much more about, be it Hitler or Stalin or Kim Il Sung or Saddam Husayn, is obsessed with security, and extremely fearful of the world around him. And he is--he has allowed his military to decline. It is much less of a threat to Lebanon than it used to be. The last thing he needs--or two last things he needs are, one, a peace treaty; or, two, a war. I think that no war, no peace, endless negotiations is what the doctor ordered. And so long as the president of Syria is alive, we will be in a fairly static situation.
I want to stress that once he's gone all bets are off, and the situation could change rapidly and radically. But so long as he is there, I really don't see anything changing. It's static. It is just as static as it could be.
SATLOFF: Static? No change? No real risk of conflict--anybody disagree?
SEALE: Well, the situation is not static. The fact that the final peace treaty has not been reached doesn't mean that nothing happened in between. I mean, if you look at the history for example of U.S.-Soviet negotiations--they may not be absolutely perfect, but a lot of agreements have been signed, a lot of movement has taken place. The same has happened on the Syrian-Israeli front. A lot of progress has been made. The negotiators themselves will tell you that the gap is very, very small now. And I believe it will eventually be bridged. It's just unfortunate in my view that Prime Minister Barak didn't act early on, when he was strong. Last July or August he could have endorsed the 4th of June commitment.
SATLOFF: Syria-Israel conflict?
DERGHAM: Do you want to go? Go ahead, please.
LUBRANI: I would say that if we have a lively situation on the northern border, and it doesn't take a lot for this to happen, Israel will have to retaliate. We don't want to go through a war of attrition while we are within our borders. It's a much more--much more difficult proposition than having a security zone as a buffer of sorts. And that retaliation will have to be--and we will have to determine who is instigating this trouble. And knowing what I know about the attitude of the Lebanese government, they will not want to instigate this. So the other option is the neighbor in the North. And of course the finger will be pointed there with all of the consequences. If I have anything to say, this is what is going to happen. I don't believe that we should penalize the Lebanese for something that is happening inside Lebanon which they don't want. That's it.
DERGHAM: Having listened to Uri now, I wonder why Israel does not take the initiative and really be creative and somehow resolve the outstanding problem with Syria, so that it can have not only--it could neutralize more than one border and have the comfort of peaceful borders and co-existence, given the fact that you said you are worried about a "war of attrition within our borders," to quote you. Now, that, if I were an Israeli I would be saying, "Why would I opt for that?" I would pull out from southern Lebanon, retreat from a failed policy in southern Lebanon to bring a policy that will be threatening to you from within your borders. It doesn't make sense to me. I would love to hear a good logical explanation.
LUBRANI: Once we are within our borders, and we have complied with the United Nations requirement, what else do you want? It takes two to tango. The guy doesn't want to tango. So what else is there to happen? So something will have to make them want to tango, and I don't know, something will have to happen.
DERGHAM: As to the border, whether it would be explosive or not, I think it is quite bona fide for the time being. I think if both the leaderships of Syria and Israel decided that these are red lines we don't want to cross, I think they will go out of their way to make sure that 425 is implemented fully, fully, fully, and I mean in everything on the SLA. And I emphasize that, because that would be very detrimental to the UNIFIL operation. That would need both Israeli consent and Syrian consent. And therefore the only way that this is going to be static is by implementation of 425; otherwise they will have a explosive border.
SATLOFF: I think it's fair to say from the panel so far that there is--I don't want to say unanimity on anything--(laughter)--but that the chances that this remains a quiet border are pretty slim. Whether or not it escalates into something larger between Israel and Syria is an important question that will be on the agenda once this withdrawal happens. In and of itself, this bespeaks an end of the status quo and suggests that we are entering a new era in this Israel-Syria-Lebanon triangle.
With that I would like to begin--to open the floor to questions. I know that the last couple of hours must have provoked a lot of interesting things. Let me begin with the man who contributed so much with Faruq al-Shara, Ehud Ya'ari. There's a microphone coming your way.
EHUD YA'ARI: Thank you, Rob. I just want to point out that it's not a leap in the dark that the parties are taking; it's a limp in the dark. A limp in the dark. (Laughter.) It's not brinkmanship on all sides; it's "limpmanship" on all sides. But my question, which I believe is the key, and I would like to address it to all of the members on this very distinguished panel, is the following: Would it be advisable for the government of Israel, whether publicly or through diplomatic channels, to declare in advance of the completion of the pullback that Israel will hold Syria responsible to anything happening on the border? Thank you.
SATLOFF: Uri, would that make good sense?
LUBRANI: Absolutely. (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: Okay. Anybody disagree with that? You want to give suggestions to the Israeli government?
DERGHAM: Yes, of course.
SATLOFF: Should they hold Syria responsible for --
DERGHAM: I mean, I already had said that the Israeli government had already made that very clear, that if things would--if there would be cross-border attacks that the infrastructure of the Syrian presence in Lebanon would be targeted. So it is not new. But I don't think this is guaranteed --
SATLOFF: Is that good policy? Would that be good policy?
PIPES: I don't think it has any credibility.
SATLOFF: Because you don't think the Israelis will actually respond?
PIPES: The Israelis are ready to destroy power stations in Beirut; they are not ready to take on the Syrians.
LUBRANI: Mr. Pipes, try us. (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: Okay, let's--
PIPES: Prove me wrong. (Laughter.)
SATLOFF: Okay. David Makovsky on the left-hand side.
DAVID MAKOVSKY: This is a question I think to Mr. Seale and also to Raghida as well. You know, you talked about Syria as against the policy of gestures. I think it goes beyond the issue of gestures. I think there's been a failure by Syria to convey a sense that peace will be every bit as tangible as the territory it seeks to return, the Golan.
Syria is very capable, in the Arab press, in al-Hayat, and other places, very capable of saying, June 4th, June 4th, June 4th, until it comes out of your ears. But it is not articulated in any speeches that I have seen. And I am not talking about little footnotes in the Shepherdstown document--yes, it was leaked--but it does not convey to the public what direction the Middle East is heading for Syria. What sort of a peace does it envision, does it hold out to the Israeli people? What is a post-peace Middle East like? How is Syria-Israel cooperation--and I don't want to hear about, "Yes, in the Shepherdstown document we talked about a free movement of goods." That is not what is heard by the people. And I think so long as Syria is incapable--and I am sorry to use that phrase, unless I am proven wrong--of articulating how peace will be every bit as tangible as the land it seeks to obtain, there will not be a peace.
And therefore I turn to both of you, and I notice you, Patrick, have been somewhat critical that the Syrians haven't been more forthcoming in this. But I am asking--I am not just talking about inviting more Israelis to Damascus; I am talking about public speeches articulating what is the future--not just June 4th. And I'm asking you--maybe I'm wrong--how could Syria do this. And maybe I'm wrong, maybe you think they will--but why haven't they done so until now?
SEALE: Well, I think you are mistaken in saying that they haven't done so. They produced several slogans which have been taken to heart by their own population. One slogan is "Full peace for full withdrawal." Another slogan which they use constantly is "Normal peaceful relations." They are ready for normalization. They are ready for Israeli tourists. There is going to be an Israeli embassy in Damascus, flying a flag. There are going to be people transiting Syria on their way to Turkey and Europe, coming from Israel. There is going to be trade.
Now this doesn't mean that Syria is going to throw itself completely open. It does mean that Syria will not discriminate against Israel any more than it discriminates against anybody else. Syria--(laughter)--Syria has got young industries which need protection. That protection will continue. But tourism, a limited amount of trade--they are not prepared to be eaten for breakfast or devoured by Israel's much stronger economy. But they are certainly prepared for normal peaceful relations, and have said so on many, many, many occasions.
MAKOVSKY: A slogan doesn't articulate coherent policy.
SEALE: Absolutely. And they are ready for it. And they've said so. And their people are anxious for it. This is the mistake I think Daniel Pipes makes, to say that they don't want peace, this regime. They have even prepared their public opinions for peace. There's tremendous pressure from below and an impatience from below, because everybody in Syria understands the no-peace/no-war situation of recent years has meant that Syria has remained backwards, on the wrong footing--hasn't been able to liberalize and open up. There is tremendous demand for such reforms, as reflected in Dr. Bashar's recent policies.
Now, if I may just pickup very quickly a point which you made just earlier, if I may, Bob, this question of should Israel declare that Syria is responsible for any infringements, any cross-border attacks. The point there is that first of all, Syria does not want to be a policeman guarding the Israeli frontier for the Israelis, number one.
The second thing is--we mustn't forget this--that the Israelis insisted in 1976 on so-called red line agreements which prevented Syrian troops going south of the Abali River, and Uri will confirm, prevented Syrian use of Lebanese airspace by their air force, prevented the positioning of ground-to-air missiles on Lebanese territory. So the Syrians are quite constrained in what they can do there. And the real point is this: Who in the world can control those badlands in the South?
SATLOFF: But by the same token, Mr. Seale, I mean, the Syrians did succeed in disarming every other Lebanese militia over the last several years; it would seem to make sense that, with the withdrawal from Lebanon, it would become a Syrian policy to disarm the last remaining Lebanese militia --
SEALE: When there is peace--when there is peace within the--nobody knows how Israel will behave after its withdrawal--is it going to continue overflying? Is it going to continue arresting Lebanese fishermen? Is it going to continue breaking the sound barrier over Beirut every morning at noon? These are the questions. How will it behave? If it behaves properly, if it respects Lebanese sovereignty, then I believe that Hizballah will not act. Hizballah is essentially a Lebanese phenomenon, in spite what Daniel Pipes says. They have no irredentist claims over Israel. They have been defending the South, the martyred population in South Lebanon. And I believe they will direct their attentions to Lebanese politics. And Iran will do the same. Iran will continue supporting Hizballah. It wants the Shi'a community to play a bigger role in internal Lebanese politics. These are the facts of life.
DERGHAM: In answer to the question addressed, I think we don't leave the Syrians well enough or deep enough. With the small things they take as--you know, that's more from our point of view, or at least from the American point of view. The steps that have been taken, including the new laws that are being right now considered and then adopted in terms economic reform, of opening up--all these things are really signals as to how much are they ready. Even that is what I mentioned, about receiving a Knesset member and all that sort of thing. But I think that that's--you will hear it clearly--you will hear a coherent policy only when the depth of the withdrawal is identified; that is, it is interconnected. It's like, who is first? When do you define the depths of the Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, and when do you define the depths of the normalization by Syria? And between the two of them--and I think we are --
PIPES: But usually the Israelis must apply to the Syrians for Syrian acceptance of the Golan Heights.
DERGHAM: Daniel, if you want to say that, that's fine--it's not what I was saying.
PIPES: It is.
DERGHAM: Okay, I was saying that we have been having the problem of who is first for quite a number of years--who does what first? Who defines --
PIPES: Why is there a problem? Who won, who lost?
DERGHAM: Well, because you have the territory and you --
SATLOFF: Okay, we're going to go to the next question.
DERGHAM: --have to define the territorial before, you know--or at least simultaneously--but at least --
PIPES: Common sense.
LUBRANI: I would like to make a very small comment about what Patrick said. You said quite correctly about these red lines which were there since --
LUBRANI: --1977 and '78. But surely you don't mean that the Syrian long arm of intelligence has been heeding to these red lines. You know to what point the Syrian intelligence is operating right to our border. So don't come and tell me this red line has anything to do with Syrian control of the Lebanon. Nothing.
SATLOFF: In the very front, Bud McFarlane had a--what we call here a "two finger" intervention--and he had the right two fingers.
ROBERT MCFARLANE: While we're attributing blame for misjudgments to various Syrian or Israeli governments, it's probably fair to have the United States acknowledge its own share of misjudgments in this very violent history. Saying that as one who participated, I'll try to keep this brief. The fact is, in 1982, in September, whatever one may believe about Israeli motives and the invasion, the United States was faced with a very clear question: What is it that we want, both for Israel and for ourselves, in Lebanon? Well, I think there may be consensus throughout the room that Lebanon's only constructive contribution to stability in the Middle East is to be a buffer worthy of the name--and that means without foreign forces and with the ability of a sovereign Lebanon to maintain that buffer status, without Syrian or Israeli presence.
Well, if that is the ideal, in 1982, the only way that you were going to achieve that was to use foreign force to maintain a temporary security while you try for a period of years to build a Lebanese army worthy of the name to maintain its own sovereignty--a very, very daunting task.
However, the United States made a very serious historic misjudgment at the time by saying that instead of pushing Syrian forces out entirely from 1982 on that we should devote ourselves to trying to negotiate a peace treaty in which Israel and Lebanon would have a second peace with an Arab state. But it was manifestly clear that it would be absolutely infeasible for Amin Gemayel to carry it out.
Our second misjudgment was that we didn't reckon with the inevitable rearming of Syria by the Soviet Union, and instead by forcing--by preoccupying ourselves with negotiating an infeasible May 17 agreement, we allowed in that eight months time Syria to become rearmed. If instead we had focused on the fundamental goal of restoring a sovereign Lebanon and using those forces, not to sit vulnerably at the airport, but to move out, into the Shouf and beyond, to establish what would be a viable Lebanon and then behind it undertake to train foreign forces, we might have had a shot at doing it. After all, Syria was quite weak in 1982. I think it was W. C. Fields who said you should never kick a man unless he's down. Well, Syria was down--(laughter)--and we should have taken advantage of that. Well, we didn't.
The final point I would make is this, though: At the time, the paralysis in the U.S. government turned in part over whether or not we would be intervening in a civil war. Even Tom Friedman got it wrong--to this day--without acknowledging the Syrian-Iranian sponsorship of this conflict. And until today and tomorrow and beyond, until the United States begins to identify that foreign sponsorship of the problem, we are going to face the same recurrent problem there.
SATLOFF: Well, thank you, Bud. Let me follow on that question by asking very quickly, Israel is going to leave Lebanon in the next six weeks. When do Syrian troops leave Lebanon? (Laughter.) Raghida?
DERGHAM: Yes, I'll answer this question. The Syrian troops are in Lebanon officially by invitation of the government of Lebanon. (Laughter.) Absolutely. The Syrian troops are not an occupation force in Lebanon. They are invited by the government. The Lebanese had been through a very bloody tumult themselves. And in fact I would add that the Syrian presence in Lebanon has helped very fundamentally in putting--in getting Lebanon back on its security path. Without them, I think there would have been a lot of bloodbaths--that's number one --
SATLOFF: But the question is when does the Lebanese government ask them to leave, then?
PIPES: Yeah, when does it leave?
DERGHAM: I don't think they would be asked to leave until it's clear whether there is going to be a peace--the peace possibilities of the simultaneity of the two tracks with Israel. That's number one. Number two, whether they leave, or what number they leave or not, Lebanon will have to remain for a while, for a short while or a long while, I don't know, part of the strategic depth of Syria, because it is needed--because there is no peace yet, and because the situation remains volatile. Do the Lebanese want the Syrians to stay? You know, I came--I'm born in Beirut, and I know the Lebanese quite well--there is a division--not all the Lebanese want the Syrians to stay--[audio break]--they are not equal to the Israeli occupation of the South. One is an occupier; one is invited by government.
SATLOFF: When do Syrian troops leave Lebanon?
PIPES: I would say in five years. I'm an optimist.
SATLOFF: Mark that down, 2005. (Laughter.)
PIPES: I don't think the president of Syria is going to live much longer. I think there will be a rapid diminution of Syrian power, Syrian will to control the country, Syrian ability to control the country. I think the Lebanese will take heart and will make efforts to push out the Syrians--I don't think it's for very long. It's for as long as Asad lives plus, you know, four or five years.
SEALE: Well, I think it depends on two essential things. One, civil peace in Lebanon. When that really takes roots--not to forget there is a fifteen-year intercommunal struggle in Lebanon, which has left all sorts of ruins. And the second thing is when there is a peace with Israel for both Lebanon and Syria. Then--I mean, it's easy for Daniel Pipes to talk of Syria as occupying power, pressing the Lebanese. The Syrians want a successful Lebanon. They need it. Lebanon plays a very big role in the Syrian economy. There will be huge opportunities for the Lebanese in Syria once Syria opens up a bit more and once there's peace in the region. The two societies are very closely knit, kith and kin ties, historical ties. All of you know that, until the carve-up of the region after the First World War, much of Lebanon today was Syrian.
SATLOFF: But Syrian troops, you say, depends on civil peace in Lebanon?
SEALE: No, there are two things. Civil peace in Lebanon taking root, and peace treaties with Israel. But this doesn't mean that Syria will allow Lebanon to be a free for all in competition with Israel. I believe that the Syrians will try and keep Lebanon in their orbit one way or the other. They will work to tighten the bonds between the two countries economically, socially, politically, militarily. They cannot afford to allow Lebanon to slip back possibly into Israel's sphere of influence.
LUBRANI: Well, let me say, as an Israeli, I am totally in agreement with the fact that there is a special kind of relationship--has been historically a special kind of relationship--between Syria and Lebanon. Lebanon had never an embassy in Syria; neither did Syria have an embassy in Lebanon. There was a special kind of relationship which proved there are special ties and bonds and interdependencies which exist. We may not have been aware of it, but this is a fact of life.
Now, by the same token I have to say that, from what I hear, from many, many Lebanese to whom I talk, they take the view that they would like at this point in time to have Syria leave--Syrian troops leave Lebanon--as soon as possible. When this is going to happen--I am telling you now something maybe with a tongue in my cheek. But I am telling you the moment the Lebanese will feel that Syria is weak, they will come up and demand. That's what I say.
PIPES: Could I just add a coda to that? Mr. Seale wrote a book--I think in 1965--called The Struggle for Syria. And the premise of that book was that Syria was the prey and the other countries around them were the hunters. And what Hafiz al-Asad has managed to do is to turn his country into the powerhouse. And if you look at the bases, they are really very fragile in terms of the kind of rule, the kind of economy, the kind of military. And I believe that that power will decline rapidly with his own demise, and that Syria once again will be the prey. And you or some other writer can in some years again write a book called The Struggle for Syria. And in that context the control that Syria maintains over Lebanon just seems likely to continue.
SATLOFF: And that leads me to the closing session--the closing question for this panel. Asad dies. What happens in Syria? Does the Ba'th Party disintegrate? Does Bashar take over? What does it mean for the Syria that we have come to know and--love? (Laughter.)
DERGHAM: Is that tongue in cheek?
SATLOFF: For the Syria we have come to know for the last thirty years--what does it mean?
LUBRANI: It depends when.
SATLOFF: Foreseeable future, next year, whatever.
LUBRANI: Will Bashar be in?
SATLOFF: I'm asking you.
LUBRANI: Well, it depends. Look, if he will manage to win in--Bashar into a seat of power, and he will feel strong enough to take on the challenges which a young leader of Syria will be faced with, there may be a continuation of what is happening--not the way Syria was ruled up to Asad's demise, but there will be a continuation. I doubt very much whether there will be in the foreseeable future enough of self-governance in Bashar to take on this job. That's my very personal kind of thing.
SATLOFF: So you think it will--that whatever we think now about succession is unlikely to in fact come to pass?
LUBRANI: Not unlikely. There is a big question mark whether this will --
SATLOFF: A big question mark?
LUBRANI: A question mark. I don't know.
SEALE: Well, Dr. Bashar is the leading candidate for succession. He is the one name which has been put forward. You don't know what other candidates there may be for power. They haven't shown their hand; nor will they show their hand until the boss disappears. So there is an element of uncertainty there.
But one has to say, I think, that I would have agreed with Uri Lubrani had this question been put to me, say, eighteen months ago. But here was a very young man--he's only 34 years of age, with limited political and military experience. And also he's a doctor by profession, ophthalmologist, very well brought up, rather gentle in his manner. And he didn't seem to have the sort of stuff of real leadership. But, nevertheless, in the last year, and I've seen him a few times, he's come on a great deal. He looks much more decisive. He's managed to put his people into positions of power. He is intervening in all sorts of aspects of policy, and not only is he in charge of the very important relationship with Lebanon; he's also been instrumental in appointing the new cabinet, which has just been appointed a few weeks ago. He is playing a very, very key role in things like education in Syria, information technology, the Internet, mobile phones--the whole idea of sort of modernism, of opening up. He is the candidate of the younger people, of the technocrats, of the people who are smarting under the rather stifling old regime who want change, opening up.
Now, I believe that if he is able to secure majority support in the Alawite community, in the armed forces, in the security force and in the Ba'th Party--those four bodies--then I think he has a very good chance of making it. Of course, he hasn't been tempered in the fire. He's had an easy life so far. He's not like his father. It's going to be a different sort of--but we hope--everybody hopes this will be in the context of peace, and peace will change a lot of things in the region. There will be all sorts of exchanges between Israel and its neighbors. And that is why I believe that Prime Minister Barak, instead of focusing on this question of a few hundred yards on Lake Tiberias, should have preached to his people about the benefits of peace with Syria, how it should have been--unlock the key to peace for the whole region, how it will allow the idea to pull out of Lebanon painlessly. This is what--this is the lesson which Barak should have preached to his own people.
SATLOFF: Daniel, Asad--I mean, Syria post Asad?
PIPES: As I say, I feel confident so long as Asad is around. I don't know what happens afterwards. But I think the decisive question is whether what are called the Alawite barons, the leading figures in the military and intelligence who are of Alawite origin, will be able to hang together or whether they will hang separately. Bashar is a side player in all of this. The key people are the people who run the military bases, who run the intelligence services. And they have been working together. There are a lot of fresh faces lately after nothing much happening. There are a lot of fresh faces. Are these people going to work together and going to maintain Alawite control of the country? Or are they going to dispute power among themselves and therefore open up the--allow an opening so that others can come in and push them aside? That's the key question.
My inclination is to think they will hang together. The alternative is so dire that they really probably in the end do that, in which case the regime, with perhaps Bashar as the more or less figurehead of it, will continue to limp on for some time. But it's going to be so much weaker, and the economic and cultural and other devastations of totalitarian rule will become more apparent. So I think there's likely to be more continuity than not, but it's awfully hard to predict. And there are so many factors that come out of the woodwork--so much has been repressed. What Mr. Seale has delicately called the rather stifling old regime is about to come to I think an end.
SATLOFF: A final word, Raghida?
DERGHAM: Yes. I spoke of mid June when I first--answered the first question. And I spoke of the tangible steps that the Syrians have been taking--and they are taking many steps in terms of the reform, economic and otherwise. But 17th of June is the date for that meeting of the regional command, and of the Ba'th Party. And that is a very important day, because this is when Bashar al-Asad will be elected as one of twenty members of the highest political authority--it's the secretary general, which is Hafiz al-Asad. So I feel that this is the first formalization, if you will, for the son to be able to sit alone. So there wouldn't be much in terms of--there will be some continuity like Daniel said, but I think the most important thing would be the decision whether to go ahead and wait till it's the right time for concluding peace--or at least going back to the process of the peace process; or whether--who can afford to wait, and who needs it most. And here, again, this is an opportunity--a very big opportunity--that I pray both the Syrians and the Israelis will seize, because it is so tremendously important for the region. Resolution 425 is one step. The Syrians will live with it--nothing will change. Whether Asad dies or not, that will be "so be it" policy--but I think it would be most important for Israel in particular if it goes the distance and really makes that step for formal peace, because then it's another world in the region.
SATLOFF: Well, thank you. Thank all of you. I think this has been a--(applause)--this has been an enlightening panel--I can't--I am not going to put a headline that we have solved the Syria-Israel-Lebanon set of problems, but I do think there is an agreement that whether it's come June 17th or come July 7th or whatever, that we are entering a new world in this set of relationships. And that means that we will have a lot to talk about in the months to come.
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