History Lessons: Who’s Who in Syria

The Assad regime slaughtering Syrians now is a continuation of the Assad regime that slaughtered its own civilians then – the same regime Israeli leaders said could be trusted to protect us from Hezbollah, if only we withdraw from the Golan Heights.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on June 10, 2013)

Just look at the bloodbath taking place in Syria for the past two years. There may be some new actors who have appeared on the scene, like the Al-Qaida affiliated Jabhit al-Nasra militia, but the dominant actors are old acquaintances – Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite minions, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, run by Hassan Nasrallah, getting his orders from Teheran. Their deeds over the years have marked them indelibly as gangsters and terrorists.

Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez, who established Alawite rule in Syria over 40 years ago, was famous for his cruelty and ruthlessness. Suppressing protests by the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982, he had the army under the command of his brother, Rifaat Assad, blast the city and kill over 20,000 of its citizens. A few months later he decided to eliminate the President-elect of Lebanon, Bachir Gemayel, and had him assassinated. The Assads have been and continue to be a gangster regime, having no respect for human life or the law of nations.

So how can you explain the fact that successive Israeli prime ministers, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Olmert, were eager to sign a peace treaty with these gangsters and turn the Golan Heights over to them? That Rabin and Barak tried to get US President Bill Clinton involved in these negotiations, and that Barak lauded Hafez Assad as a great leader and the builder of modern Syria? And that Olmert asked “our great Turkish friend” Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mediate between Israel and the gangster regime in Syria? Even if Clinton was not fully aware of the nature of the gang running Syria, Israeli prime ministers certainly should have been.

As for Hezbollah, that Shi’ite terrorist organization, which according to its 1985 manifesto is dedicated to “the final obliteration of Israel” and which is responsible for the death of hundreds of Israeli civilians, they are now, as should have been expected, assisting Assad in the massacres taking place in Syria. They were propelled to “greatness” by Barak’s precipitous unilateral withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone and the betrayal of Israel’s allies in the South Lebanon Army in 2000. Does anyone still remember the arguments that were offered to justify this unfortunate move? Hezbollah, they said, was going to abandon its war against Israel after the withdrawal and simply become a political party in Lebanon. In the wake of their “victory over Israel,” they became the dominant power in Lebanon with a military force far stronger than the Lebanese army. The Lebanese prime minster who did not suit them, Rafik Hariri, they simply assassinated. Their attacks against Israel continued after the withdrawal, leading up to the Second Lebanon War.

To top off the fantasies that have engaged the minds of the Israeli leaders seeking to strike a deal with the Assads in Syria, it was argued that after the Golan Heights had been turned over to Syria, the Damascus regime would restrain Hezbollah from attacking Israel and Israel would have peace both on the Syrian and Lebanon border thereafter. Syrian rule over Lebanon was good for Israel, these real politicians argued. You could depend on Assad, it was said.

But behind all this intellectual wizardry there was one overriding paradigm which captured the minds of these peace advocates – that Israel should return to the lines that existed before June 1967. That is the recipe for peace and security. So it was with the Egyptian peace treaty which called for turning over to the aggressor all the territory he had lost in the wars of aggression against Israel. So it should be with Syria. And now that that project has had to be abandoned by force of circumstance, so it should be in Judea and Samaria. In the south, the north and the east, the road to peace presumably leads back to the lines that existed before Israel was attacked in June of 1967. They do not want to be confused by Middle Eastern realities, and prefer to forget Israel’s precarious position in June 1967, an Israel that was in mortal danger. Peace is made with your enemies, remember?

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