Beware of the Assad “Extortion Component”

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Washington DC – December 29, 2009 (Farid Ghadry Blog) — Hamas, towing the line of the Syrian regime, just rejected the “kidnapped for prisoners” exchange between Israel and Hamas.

The deal, on the surface, looks like a Geneva Convention run-of-the-mill swap between two enemies but the reality is a bit more sinister.

If the Syrian regime is involved, you have to factor in what I call the “Extortion Component“. How does Assad and his thugs ruling Syria benefit? In this particular exchange, it looks like over 1,000 Palestinians involved in acts of violence and terror will be going home in return for up to 3 kidnapped Israeli soldiers. But how does this favor Assad? It really does not except for a bit of Macho Ba’athist propaganda.

Soon enough, Israel will know the reasons why Hamas rejected the deal from Damascus (Not from Gaza) and it will not surprise many who follow Syrian politics closely to assume that Assad has some demands of his own as well.

Assad may ask the Israeli Government to exert some influence over the Obama administration to allow the Airbus deal to be completed, which, in my opinion, is a dead end because the US diplomats entrusted with keeping the US safe will not exactly be enamored by such a reversal. Or Assad may seek to revert the bad publicity the Airbus deal may have generated by asking for the immediate appointment of a US Ambassador to Syria. In either case, the Israeli government may be quite limited in pressuring a third-party to relinquish its advantages for a localized regional issue.

In either case, there will be an “Extortion Component” and Israel may be asked to pay even a higher price that it can or needs to.

When I look at this lopsided exchange, I am reminded of the political element of accountability that only free societies appreciate and respect. The difference here is how democratic Israel is willing to sacrifice so much for so little. The preciousness of one citizen (i.e. Shalit) in democratic and majority-Jewish Israel tells a story about the trust citizens place in their politicians to maintain the values of that society. Compare that with the Syrian regime all too willing to sacrifice every Syrian citizen for one Assad to remain in power. That is why, when one studies history, tyranny is short-lived and democracy lives on. Assad may think he is a permanent fixture but the reality is he is on life support just because of what he is and what he stands for.

There are times when being the prime minister of Israel is beyond Herculean. The Shalit dilemma is one of those times. However, if one Shalit is exchanged for 1,000 Palestinians, it means, if the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis holds true, that Hamas and Hezbollah have to defeat only 2,000 Israelis to defeat the whole State of Israel.


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