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Obama Rejects Syrian Deal Because His Team Wants F15s (And Other Stuff I Learned At Lunch) – OpEd


By Philip Weiss

The last time we had lunch you misquoted me, my friend from the Arabian peninsula said yesterday at lunch in New York.

I’m sure, but how?

You said I hate liberal Zionists. I don’t hate them. I don’t respect them. That is  because their position is morally bankrupt– they say they are for a two state solution and they will do nothing to have the U.S. pressure Israel. But I don’t hate them. That shows a failure to disaggregate human beings. I reserve that feeling for individuals.

Who do you hate?

Assad, Netanyahu.

What will happen with Assad?

You know, I have a friend in Washington who is connected. Or he’s connected to people who are connected. He knows a realist who has ties to the White House who has told him, he believes there could be a deal. The Sunni business elite and the top Alawite generals would defect, then they go to Assad and arrange the exit of several families. It would have to take place soon and they’d be gone in an instant. That is the only way to preserve the society from mass bloodshed. And to save the Christian community, which is linked to the regime. Look, why do you think Assad has not been indicted? They are trying to preserve that option. They are trying to avoid Libya, where they left Qaddafyi no choice but to fight to the death.

Now it may be that this realist doesn’t have the intelligence. Maybe the Jordanians know more. But the administration has told him it’s not possible. It is not going to happen. It may be they know something; but I think they want a military intervention. My friend says, Obama is just Bush with a nice face. He also is captured by neocons and liberal interventionists.

So when you ask about Assad, I think there are only two paths, one is continuing civil war and the other is the F15s. And both mean 100,000 dead.

Could that happen in Egypt?

No. In Egypt the structure has been preserved. From now on it is just dirty politics. The US and the SCAF [the military command] and the Muslim Brothers, they are all working together.

Why don’t you people [in the Gulf] do something about Syria?

Because the Arab world is impotent. Please. I have no illusions about that. Do you want to charge us with impotence? I plead guilty!

What about Libya, you led that.

No, that was the U.S. It was the GCC [the Gulf Cooperation Council] then the Arab League. But it was all orchestrated. The same orchestration could happen again. And do you know who is against it? Maliki. He says, There must be no foreign intervention in an Arab nation. The man installed by foreign intervention!

My friend laughed. Then he said, I have something to ask you about your site.


This is a small criticism. Whenever something infinitesimal happens in America, you say it is huge. Like you wrote about Chris Hayes having Palestinians on television the other day, and you said, this is huge. Or with Beinart’s blog—which I assure you I will be reading with great interest—you said, this is huge. These things are significant, but they’re not huge.

You’re right. But I’m not intellectual, I’m emotional. Any of my friends will tell you that. Also, I haven’t been following this as long as you have so I don’t have perspective. And then I am inside little New York. Inside Jewish life. Like Little England–they say that about writers in London. So everything feels huge.

Well alright. But where I am, I don’t see the movement you see. And when Friedman says, The Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel lobby, it is very good. But huge? No. You know why he is saying it?


Because he is trying to make people forget he was so aggressive about pushing the Iraq war.

That’s funny. Now I have a question for you.


You’ve been in and out of my country for 30 years. Has Jewish power here increased?

Of course. Absolutely.

How can you say that?

I will tell you what has changed. Did you see that cable that was leaked where back in the 70s Kissinger said, “Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world.” He was saying Israel is not our responsibility. No one would say that now. This was at the time of the reassessment in 1975.

Under Ford.

Yes but Kissinger was behind it. That would never happen now. Or consider the Arab oil embargo. This could not happen now.

That’s Arab countries, I’m talking about the U.S.

But don’t you see– the embargo could only happen because there was no overwhelming consensus against it. Today there would be an overwhelming consensus against an embargo. Then there were two factors preventing a consensus. There was the Cold War. America was not going to invade the Gulf, not with the Soviet Union breathing down its neck. And then American politics. The Republican Party didn’t care about Israel. It was as Kissinger said. And that flipped under Reagan. How much importance you ascribe to either of those factors, I don’t know. But the second one has to do with the power of the American Jewish community.

I must tell you, Arabs always had this dream, wait till the second term of a Republican administration. Because they remembered Eisenhower so fondly. Then Reagan came and he was more on Israel’s side than anyone! And even he was not so bad as they are now. In ’81 Israel bombed Osirak and the Americans were against it. Reagan came out and condemned it. Well in ’07 they bombed Syria and what did you hear from the Americans? Nothing. What does that mean?

Listen, something else you should do.


You don’t write about the Palestinians. You only write about Israel. But the PA is a collaborationist regime. Israel provides them with the passes and the privileges and they sign off on the occupation.

This is Oslo.

But you never write about it. They are a corrupt elite. They pretend to serve the people, but they are only serving themselves.

It’s not my society.

That’s not an excuse. You should write about it. You know, they always say, we are behind in technology, the Arabs. And it is true. We are behind. But something much worse, we are behind in terminology.

You are going to make a joke.

No it’s true. We are behind in terminology. The Israelis say, They want to push us into the sea. They say that over and over. They will push us into the sea. And people believe them. But what do they want? They want to transfer the Palestinians. Isn’t that much nicer? Even the liberal Zionists. They want to transfer!

So we’re back to liberal Zionists.



Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. Mondoweiss is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in New York City.

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