Selling us on Syria

Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 2, 2000

The effort is on, big time, to sell us on the peace with Syria. All stops are out to convince you and me, the average Joe Israeli, that a deal with Syria is necessary, strategically sound, even a great bargain.


Consider these examples:


*The Humus is Fantastic in Damascus:* You might call this the Yediot Ahronot school of indoctrination. When peace comes, we’ll all drive our corvettes with girlfriends to Damascus for fun and sun and weekend gambling, and oh-how-wonderful it will be.


Yediot devoted its Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday front pages, just a week ago, to a Damascus travelogue by its star Paris correspondent, the dashing Boaz Bismuth. According to Bismuth, Damascus is “cheerful”. There is no crime to speak of (I wonder why); the Syrian youth love to listen to Spice Girls; and there are beautiful girls studying law at Damascus University.


Bismuth didn’t visit Hamma (Homs).


The hip Syrians he met eagerly await arrival of “the beautiful Israeli cars and women”. The “famous souk of Damascus” (huh?) has bargains galore, including Persian rugs for only $650 — “normally $4000 in Paris”.


Most importantly, “Syrian humus is fantastic”. The falafel and schwarma stands “are spotless” as well. Only 2 NIS a serving, but there are no hot peppers or salads to add on.


Ah yes, the humus in Damascus. Just like the tehina in Cairo — something we Israelis often get to gorge on.


*Assad the Reliable:* Perhaps you’ll be swayed by this. It’s okay to cut a deal with Hafez Assad because Assad will keep his word. Assad is, after all, a “courageous leader”, “reliable”, “trustworthy”, “strong” and “honorable”. So says our Prime Minister.


The argument goes like this: Our Golan border with Syria has been quiet for more than thirty years, right? This proves that Assad can be relied upon. He’s no hothead.


Of course, purveyors of this simplistic line ignore the real reason for our Golan calm: Israeli forces perched high up on the Golan in easy striking distance of Damascus. Just how “dependable” Assad and his successors will be once they completely control Lebanon and the Golan Heights is all-together a different question.


Nevertheless, Stanley Greenberg and friends undoubtedly will be mobilized to peddle the new, responsible Assad. American Jews had better start fundraising and Barak should quickly set up some new *amutot*. Greenberg will rack-up quite a bill in the effort to polish Assad’s image, especially if the Syrian leader refuses to smile or shake hands.


*Neutralizing the Syrian Army:* It is important to settle our conflict with Syria now, we are told, because greater threats (Iran and Iraq) loom on the horizon and we have to be prepared to meet them. Countering the big bad Syrian army just soaks up too much of the IDF’s limited resources, needed elsewhere.


Just how big and bad and threatening is the Syrian military? In its annual report released last week, the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies said that that Syria’s military was *weaker* than ever, posing no real threat to Israel. This explains why IDF Military Intelligence went berserk, publicly chastising the Jaffee analysts for their report and counter-claiming that “Syria’s military is more threatening than ever, improving all the time”. Which is why, again, we need to settle with Assad real quick.


You begin to wonder where the truth lies in these military matters.


Some government propagandists are suddenly telling us that control of the Golan Heights never really provided Israel with military advantage; it was superfluous all these years. Everything we’ve been taught until November 1999 about the Golan and its defense value was Zionist disinformation, you see.


How about this one? “Peace will lead to a Syrian military build-down (and allow Israel to cut the length of army service from three to two years)”. Right. Just like the Egyptian military build-down of the past twenty years. Why do I find it hard to believe that the French and German military industries (and even the U.S.) won’t rush in to “modernize” Syria’s armed forces?


*Compensation for peace:* According to the press and hallucinating IDF officials, Uncle Sam will end up subventing our deal with Syria by some twenty billion bucks. (Get your claims in soon).


Someone in Congress will yet figure out that it would be cheaper to hire foreign legionnaires for one hundred years to maintain Israel’s security zone in southern Lebanon — than to shell out the unbelievable sum of $20 billion for security arrangements alternative to the Golan.


As for the local costs of peace, Ehud Barak is getting away cheap. It cost him only about NIS 150 million last week to buy the support of Shas for the state budget; that is, for the coming deal with Syria.


Of course, Shas denies any connection between the financing of its bankrupt school system and the party’s expected yes vote regarding return of the Golan. But for some strange reason, very few people take these denials at face value.


Not bad: NIS 150 million (plus maybe a few millions more) to buy a *psak halacha*.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

Accessibility Toolbar