In a statement by the Syrian President, in response to a question posed by the Russian state-owned news agency about the possibility of Syria normalizing its relations with Israel - similar to what Arab countries have done recently - his response was direct and frank with no room for misinterpretation “Normalization with Israel is possible if it returns our lands.”
However, the real question we must ask ourselves here: How did Syria lose these lands in the first place and why did President Hafez al-Assad give them up back when he was the Minister of Defense in the 1967 war?
Why did he withdraw from the Golan Heights, allowing Israeli forces to take hold of the land almost without a fight, and even announced the fall of Quneitra 24 hours before it actually fell – it is important to note that all of this is recorded and documented.
To make matters worse, during the famous Mena House meeting in Cairo in 1977, five chairs were set up for Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria and the PLO, yet President Hafez along with Yasser Arafat stopped their representatives from attending, leaving their chairs empty as a statement.
What added fuel to the fire is their decision to accuse Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat of treason and boycott Egypt, which contributed to moving the Arab League headquarters from Cairo to Tunisia.
As a result of the efforts made at the time, the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt, and Jordan regained Wadi Araba, while Palestine was deprived of regaining the West Bank and Gaza, which barely had any settlements at the time.
Years later, the late Arafat brokered the infamous Oslo Accords which is no longer in effect now.
In a whimsical attempt to make headlines, we suddenly see the Syrian President demanding the return of his land in exchange for normalization after 53 years have passed, and after the Israelis enjoyed skiing on the snow of Mount Hermon (Jabal Al Sheikh) for five decades.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to demonstrate hesitance on most matters, taking one step forward and two steps back, and committing one flop after another. For instance, he calls for the cease of all settlement activities, yet at the same time, he opens the door for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers to participate in building settlements. One might assume that the President simply does not want to deprive Palestinians of their livelihoods, which is why I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this matter.
Finally, by the end of all this commotion I am left wondering, will we hear the Palestinian media denouncing the Syrian president’s statements to the Russian news agency (Sputnik), and will they express the same outrage as they did regarding the UAE-Bahrain normalization deal? Are some deals deemed patriotic, while others are considered treacherous?
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet Asharq Al-Awsat.