Moshe Maoz, professor emeritus of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, is an expert on Syria and Middle East affairs. He is also a former director of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. He spoke to The Jewish Week by phone last week about the volatile situation in Syria and the possible repercussions for Israel.
Q: Is it just a matter of time before Bashar Assad is toppled by his own people like the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen?
It was somewhat jarring this week to see the President of the United States take to his podium to figuratively hold up the head of Osama bin Laden as a political trophy. But that's what Barack Obama felt compelled to do after Republican contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney accused the commander-in-chief of "appeasement" of America's enemies.
I was wrong. I was one of those who criticized the Obama administration for returning a US ambassador to Syria after a five-year absence without getting any clear pro-quid-pro from Bashar Assad. It would be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the Syrians as well as Assad's Iranian allies, I wrote at the time.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to take “bold and decisive measures before it’s too late” and called on members of the world body to unite and take “coherent measures” with regard to Syria, the AP reported. The AP reported those were among Ban’s “strongest criticism yet of the Syrian government.”
After weeks of ratcheting up the criticism and pressure, President Obama has finally explicitly called for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to resign. He intensified sanctions on by freezing all assets of the regime under American jurisdiction and imposing other tough measures, but he ruled out “foreign intervention.”
Imagine what the world reaction would be if Israel, in order to suppress civilian demonstrations among Arabs, were to unleash its army, killing up to 150 unarmed people in a few days of fighting in Israel proper or the West Bank.
Bashar Assad ushered in Ramadan this weekend by killing at least 136 unarmed civilian demonstrators, including nearly 100 in the city of Hama, the place where nearly 30 years earlier his father massacred tens of thousands of his fellow Syrians. Tanks and machine-gunners also targeted mosque minarets in the Sunni-majority city; Assad and his ruling circle are Alouite Shi'ites.
Talks in D.C., French proposal come amid nonviolent Palestinian strategy as September statehood bid looms.
James D. Besser
With the September target for Palestinian statehood action at the United Nations looming ever larger and new border clashes hinting of a change in Palestinian tactics, the pace of diplomacy aimed at restarting stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations picked up this week.
On Monday Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were in Washington for separate talks with U.S. officials in a last-ditch effort to find a formula for resuming direct negotiations before a UN vote officials here fear will further isolate Israel and undermine U.S. interests.
President Obama’s advisors wanted him to get out in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Monday. So they preempted Bibi’s own peace proposal by having Obama call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders, give or take a few land swaps.