For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Syria is back in the Lebanese saddle. The feeling must be good after all these years, because already its politicians are talking about Lebanon as if it were a local province, and using all tools at their disposal, including a high-profile American journalist, to position their country as the voice of moderation in the region.
Damascus has also been indulging in a bit of saber rattling with its old enemy in Tel Aviv. This would be of less concern to the Lebanese if the threat to open a new front in South Lebanon had not been part of the message, and if Walid Jumblatt, for so long a stalwart supporter of Lebanese self-determination, had not pledged unstinting support for the Syrian regime in such an event.
It was Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem who fired the opening broadside late last week by announcing that Syria was ready for either war or peace. “Do not test the resolve of Syria,” he warned. “You Israelis, you know that war at this time will reach your cities. If such a war breaks out... it will indeed be total war, whether it begins in South Lebanon or Syria.”
It is clear that Damascus is tightening the screws in trying to get Tel Aviv to the negotiation table, but the inclusion of Lebanon in the threat is as galling as it is shameless. We wonder what Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami (the irony of his name should not be lost on us) might have to say about the fact that it was his opposite number in Damascus and not he who is briefing the world on matters of Lebanese foreign policy. Indeed one wonders what the Lebanese people might have to say about a Syrian minister threatening to take their country into a war with Israel.
President Bashar al-Assad sought to clarify Mouallem’s statement over the weekend by telling Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who at long last received his invitation to Damascus, that Syria is committed to “stand by Lebanon’s government and people against any Israeli aggression.” It was too little too late. The damage has been done. It is clear from the Israeli response to the heightening of tensions which country it sees calling the shots; and it was not because of what it said, but what it failed to mention that should worry us most.
“Israel aspires to reach peace with all its neighbors,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. “We did so with Egypt and Jordan, and we aspire to do so with Syria and the Palestinians.” Hang on, Bibi. What about Lebanon? Is it that you do not want peace with your northern neighbor or is it simply that you already see Lebanon as back in the Baathist fold?
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"