Hassan Haidar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
July 21, 2011 - 12:00am

Is it recognition of the Palestinian state or recognition of Israel? The question concerns the surprising Syrian statement that announced Damascus’s recognition of the state of Palestine on the borders of June 4th, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital – a statement that represents the latest example of the incoherence of the slogans which the current Syrian regime has ever since it arose worked diligently to hide behind in order to depart from Arab consensus and play on the contradictions of the Palestinian issue, as well as to force Lebanon to follow behind Syria’s policies even if they are at odds with its own interests.

Over four decades, talk of a Palestinian state was considered by the regime in Damascus to be “treason” against the Cause and “squandering” of the land of Palestine “from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea”, according to Baath Party literature. And it has used the desire to establish a Palestinian state as a pretext to level accusations in bulk against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its leader, the late Yasser Arafat. Such accusations repeatedly developed into actual wars, striking against the Palestinian “competition” and forcing it into submission, even if this would indirectly meet with Israel’s desire for a besieged and weak Palestinian party to the negotiations.

And although the late Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad was a man of few words who preferred to work silently, his son and heir Bashar has been quite fond of standing on the podiums of Arab summits and meetings to longwindedly lecture Arab leaders, who are experienced and well informed of hidden matters, about the “existential” nature of the conflict against Israel and the necessity of clinging to the slogan of the Three No’s, a slogan that has given rise to wars the destructive effects of which can still be felt in the Arab World to this very day. The one-party regime of rule in Syria has also been one of its unfortunate results.

And although Damascus used the desire of the Palestinians to request recognition of their state at the United Nations when the General Assembly convenes in September as cover for announcing its decision now, the fact that this coincides with the regime being faced by a popular upheaval that reflects the profound desire of Syrians for change and for moving towards a pluralistic democratic state means that the Syrian regime is willing to offer every possible concession, not to its own people, but to the “Imperialist” American and Western, as well as “Zionist” Israeli, forces which it has always claimed to oppose, in order to gain their approval and obtain another opportunity to prove its “good intentions” after the resentment it had aroused among them when it sent waves of Palestinian civilians to their deaths at the border of the occupied Golan Heights, simply to prove its ability to “upset” Israel if it fails to lift the international pressures being exerted on the regime.

Yet what is even more surprising is the complete silence with which Syria’s allies and followers in Lebanon have responded to its new decision, in spite of their outbidding and endless speeches about “liberating all of Palestine” and “beyond Haifa”. The only statement on their part has come from former Prime Minister Salim El-Hoss, who saw in such a stance a “painful development” as well as the “concession of a Pan-Arab commitment Syria has been known for and the abandonment of a position of principle”. He also considered the motive behind it to be “nothing more than gaining the approval of international forces that are in a state of truce with Israel and are biased towards it”.

Hoss’s stance may be consistent with his Pan-Arab commitment and the strength of his conscience. Yet the problem is that he still believes, despite everything that has happened and is happening in Syria and in Lebanon, that the slogans held by Damascus were sincere and true.


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