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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Did Livni meet with Moallem

Members of the entourage of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Feigele Livni are denying that she met with Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem at the New York home of the Emir of Qatar on Tuesday. Moallem and Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman, another alleged participant, have also denied that the meeting took place. News of the meeting was first reported on the web site of the Nazareth bi-weekly magazine al-Sinara.
According to the report, which was based on a senior Arab source, the meeting came after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani surprised Livni with a proposal that she convene with the Syrian FM at the UN headquarters in New York.

After consluting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Livni agreed to the meeting, which ended up lasting for over an hour.

During their meeting the two reportedly discussed tensions that have built up between the two countries, and the need to calm things down.

The Arab source said the meeting could be an opening for Qatari mediation between Israel and Syria, especially due to its proximity to the international peace conference set for November.

According to the report, in his previous meeting with Moallem, the Qatari emir brought up the possibility of a meeting with Livni and Moallem agreed.

The report said Moallem demanded clarifications on Israel's real stance, since he claimed that on one hand Israel continues to make calls for peace, while on the other, it infiltrates Syrian airspace.

The Arab source told al-Sinara that Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Gillerman and Syrian Ambassador to the US Mohammed Nassif, who was reportedly involved in setting up previous meetings between Moallem and US and Israeli officials, were also present at the meeting.
Here's my gut reaction to this report - I have no evidence right now whether I am right or wrong:

1. The meeting took place. There are too many details for it not to have happened. Haaretz even places it at the emir's home.

2. Livni did not get Olmert's permission for the meeting. Livni would never have sought it and Olmert would never have given it. Livni is already planning for after Olmert is out of office.

3. The agenda was far more substantive than the reports indicate. The Syrians are not that stupid and they know that the IAF raid three weeks ago was what the Brits would call a "one off." Don't expect anything like it to happen again unless the Syrians are playing with weapons of mass destruction again.

My guess is that the meeting discussed whether Israel is willing to put the entire Golan back on the table in return for a piece of paper from Syria. Olmert is desperate for a 'peace agreement' to keep himself in power, but he doesn't have the political backing to pull it off right now. Syria looks at Livni as Olmert's likely successor and they want to know where they stand with her.

Again, this is all speculation, but that's what I think happened in New York.

Update 11:00 PM

Moallem was interviewed on al-Jazeera this evening:
"Israel is spreading these rumors in the Israeli press," the Syrian minister told the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera.

Moallem stressed in the interview that no meeting had taken place between him and the Israeli foreign minister, adding that no such meeting would take place "as long as the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and the oppression of the Palestinian people continue."
I think Moallem went a little overboard in his denial. Even Olmert isn't going to give him the Golan without a meeting.


At 10:43 PM, Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

Tangential to this, or is it peripheral, the Junior Senator from New York has given her approval to the IDF raid in Syria. Here's an excerpt, as quoted in today's JPost. Her Witchness said "...the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that...There was intelligence and other kinds of verification."

(A brief digression: I'm sure all Israel is now breathing huge sighs of relief, now that the Junior Senator from New York has given her Stamp of Approval. /sarc)

Carl, you'd theorized in previous blog postings that what was destroyed was a Syrian chemical facility making chemical warheads for missiles.

Maybe so. However, my guess (emphasize-my guess) is that it was a nuclear facility and a nuclear warhead or warheads.

For years, Syria has been known to have had SCUDs and other intermediate range missiles, plus chemical weapons - including perhaps Saddam's WMDs - for years. Any well-informed person who surfs the Net a lot and reads a lot of news and news analysis knows that.

A chemical warhead on a new missile wouldn't be considered important or dangerous enough (particularly by Olmert & Co.)to justify a major military operation to take out missile(s) and facility.

But a nuclear facility and missiles with nuclear warheads would, even by Olmert & Co.

And in another article in JPost the other day, a top advisor to Netanyahu made the remark in an interview to the effect that when (not if) the whole story about the strike gets out, it'll shock the world.

Again, a chemical warhead on basically a newer, bigger SCUD wouldn't do that. But a nuke on the latest and biggest N Korean or Iranian missile would.

And that perhaps ill-guarded and unauthorized remark by the Junior Senator seems to reinforce this guess.

As I said Carl, just my guess. Do you (or anybody else?) have any further comments on that?


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