Is Syria’s Fahad Almasri The Middle East’s New Sadat?

Leader of an opposition movement attempting to forge a path to the establishment of a peaceful regime in Syria, Fahad Almasri continues to reach out to Israel and Israelis. In December, I published a translation of a brief spot on an Israeli news broadcast reporting on a 20-minute video he put out in which he entreats an Israeli entity (apparently The United List party) to desist from supporting Assad and for the Israeli government  to support him. He promises peace with Israel and Syrian citizenship for the Palestinian Arabs within her boundaries.

Later that same month, Almasri met with Likud MK Yehuda Glick and Mendi Safadi of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy. He invited Syrian Jews to return to Syria to help rebuild the country and reclaim their property. According to Safadi, many opposition groups within Syria were surprised and moved by the humanitarian aid and medical assistance provided by Israel to the Syrian people and are now openly seeking contacts with us.

On 11 January 2017, the Hebrew University’s Truman Center held a conference on the future of Syria, attended by exiled Syrian opposition leader, Issam Zeitun and Syrian-Kurdish journalist Sirwan Kajjoand, to which Almasri communicated with the audience via satellite from Paris. They expressed much hope for a new Middle East in which Israel plays a significant part and appealed to Israel to step up and help the Syrian people yet more. Israeli Arab students were livid at this appeal to the establishment in Israel, declaring that the Syrian opposition is a traitor to the occupied Palestinian people.

Fahad Almasri has not only been denounced by Israeli Arab students. His overtures to Israel have earned him threats from Palestinian Arabs in Syria and probably from many quarters in the Arab world. Yet he is emboldened by Israel’s continuing fight against Iranian supported terrorism as he sees a peaceful and prosperous Syria depends upon eradicating Iran’s influence with the country.

How far is he willing to go? Last night Minister Without Portfolio Ayoob Kara sent out a whatsapp message regarding Almasri and I will translate it below.

Al-Masri on Rozana radio Syria

Fahad Almasri, head of the “National Salvation Front of Syria”, announced yesterday from Paris on “Rozana” radio [Syria] that the new Syria under his leadership will not be opposed to Israel and will not oppose any country in the region and that she will recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Almasri added that the Jews of Syria will be a bridge to peace between Syria and Israel and will be able to visit Damascus at any time with Israeli passports and be an inseparable part of Syria.

Minister Ayoob Kara, who is in contact with Almasri, called him to thank him and his people for their stand in support of Israel. During this conversation, al Masri revealed to him that 30 Jews have joined the “National Salvation Front”, three Jewish women from Damascus among them, and added that the Jews are an inseparable part of the national, religious, educational and human Syria, and an inseparable part of Syrian and Middle Eastern culture.

Minister Kara invited Almasri to visit Israel in the near future.

I would like to know more about these Jews supposedly fighting with the opposition forces – where are they from? Are they descendants of Syrian Jews who fled Syria for their lives? We know that a small number of Israelis joined the Kurds in their fight against ISIS. We must wait to verify the truth or myth in the claim that Jews are fighting with the opposition in Syria.

Kara does not mention it, but there are reports of SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) having published Almasri’s “roadmap” for peace between Syria and Israel; I have scoured the SANA website in Hebrew and in English and found nothing.

Syrian opposition leaders are courting Israel and looking for Israeli support. I would love to believe that they are serious.

Sadat changed the path of history for his country when he recognized the fact that Israel is willing to give up land for peace, even when that meant uprooting beloved communities such as Yamit.

Do some in Syria believe that we will be willing to give up the Golan in exchange for a piece of paper declaring peace between our two countries? You can probably sense from how I worded that last phrase that I do not put much faith in such a deal – the Golan is not the Sinai. Anyone who has gone up to the Golan has seen how the entire north of Israel would be at the mercy of any hostile regime on the Golan – it lies beneath you like a precious flower held in a giant’s open palm. And the example of Egypt shows us how long it can take until stability is brought to an Arab country. We cannot again (e.g., the withdrawal from Gaza) sacrifice the well being of our citizens, this time by putting our faith in words of peace that may prove to be empty and meaningless, at least until Syria gets its act together.

I felt honoured by Sadat’s visit to our Knesset and heartbroken by his assassination. I respect Fahad Almasri’s declarations of support for Israel and the Jews. Do I believe he can reach the stature of a statesman such as Sadat? He has a lot to prove before he even comes close.

This was first published on Israel Diaries.

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