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.
Firas Maksad Reform Party of Syria (RPS) 18 May '10
When the Obama administration came to power, it began to dismantle the diplomatic "box" that had been built around Syria, a box meant to isolate it for its destabilizing behavior in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Administration officials argued that the international will to pressure Syria no longer existed and that an attempt at distancing it from Iran was worthwhile. The United States' gentler approach has included sending senior officials to Damascus, refraining from public criticism of President Bashar Assad and his government, and nominating a U.S. ambassador to Syria for the first time in five years. But such engagement has proved its limits, and it's time to put the box back together.
International concern with Syria is on the rise. Assad's latest affront, despite genuine outreach to the Syrian leadership, was hosting a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, in Damascus in April. This bold show of defiance — together with reports that Syria has supplied increasingly sophisticated weaponry, possibly including Scud missiles, to Hezbollah in Lebanon — left many in Washington, Paris, Cairo and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a loss, trying to make sense of Assad's strategic calculus. Did he not foresee the likely consequences? Could he not have taken advantage of Western and Arab efforts to woo him from Tehran? Was the message not getting through?
It's hardly a message problem. More U.S., European and Arab officials have visited Damascus in the past months than at any time in the last five years. Assad has a very clear idea of how such behavior will be received in Western and Arab capitals. The problem is that he believes he can get away with it.
Further insight into Assad's thinking surfaced this month when Hezbollah leaked to a Lebanese daily that its leader actually asked Assad if he was "capable of handling the international pressure that will ensue from the publication of the picture" showing the two of them together. The Syrian president reportedly replied: "I've handled heavier loads before; this will be an easy lift."
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!"