By Yoram Ettinger

(December 28) - Prime Minister Barak has claimed that Assad is an honorable man. Barak has given the public a false sense of security so as to make a total withdrawal from the Golan easier.

Defying a series of water agreements signed with Jordan starting in1953, Syria has diverted 50 percent of the Jordanian share supplied by the Yarmuk River. Damascus has used its control of the "Yarmuk faucet" to undermine Jordan's stability and to force change in Jordanian policy toward Iran, Iraq, the Moslem Brotherhood, and Israel.

Formal peace did not prevent a Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 and threats of invasion in 1980 and 1989. In fact, Assad has attempted to topple the Hashemite regime - via subversive activities - since 1970.

But Assad is an honorable man...

Syria concluded three major security protocols with Turkey in 1987,1992, and 1993, in addition to several less comprehensive agreements. Assad violated all of them. In the agreements, Syria promised to expel the PKK Kurdish terrorists from its territory and Syrian-controlled Lebanon in return for additional water from the Euphrates.

Syrian support of the PKK has persisted, and more than 20,000 Turks have been killed since the mid-1980s.

But, Assad is an honorable man...

In 1978, Syria and Iraq concluded a series of agreements, both military and nonmilitary. But in 1979 they were on the verge of a war ignited by Assad's alleged involvement in an attempted coup in Baghdad.

Syrian and Iraqi militias have been engaged in a war by proxy on Lebanese soil since the 1975 Syrian invasion of Lebanon. That year Assad cut drastically the water quota of the Euphrates committed to Iraq. But Assad is an honorable man...

Assad considers peace agreements a temporary tactical means, advancing permanent strategic goals: Greater Syria and regional domination. He has cooperated with Iran, Sudan, Libya, North Korea, and other terror entities to achieve these goals.

While he has identified, rhetorically, with inter-Arab covenants of unity, Assad has supported the Popular Fronts for the Liberation of Bahrain, Oman, and the Arabian Peninsula.

But, Assad is an honorable man...

The subjugation of Lebanon, the "Western Province," has been exacerbated despite Syria's signing the three Arab Summit Resolutions (1978, 1982, and 1989) calling for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. In October 1990 Assad reinforced his military units in Lebanon, conducting a massive massacre of Christian strongholds there.

International agreements, inter-Arab commitments, and basic codes of human rights were brutally violated.

But Assad is an honorable man...

In 1973 Assad launched a surprise attack on Israel, violating the cease-fire agreement of 1967. In 1975 he violated the 1974 Disengagement Agreement with Israel, igniting a wave of anti-Israel terrorism, operating from northern Jordan. In 1977 he abrogated the1976 Red Line Agreement with Israel (in Lebanon). violates the 1974 Disengagement Agreement and the 1993 (Operation Accountability) understanding. But, Assad is an honorable man...

Would it be logical to assume that Assad - a leader of international terrorism, a ruthless abuser of human rights, the ferocious occupier of Lebanon, a chief heroin trafficker and a systematic violator of agreements - is credible? Would it be logical to assume that Assad would accord to the Jewish state that reliability which he has denied his Arab and Moslem neighbors?

Assad sticks by agreements only when they serve his interests or when he feels threatened. In October 1998 he expelled Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the anti-Turkish PKK terrorists, from Syria, in response toTurkish military deployment on his border. In 1970, Syria withdrew from Jordan in the face of a full Israeli military mobilization.

Israeli tanks and artillery on the Golan Heights, less than 60 kilometers from Damascus, have kept Assad constrained on that front. A determined Israeli military response stopped Syrian-supported terror in 1975 and the 1977 violation of the Red Line Agreement in Lebanon.

But, Assad is an honorable man...

Continued overlooking of Assad's violation of commitments would add to a false sense of short-term security. It may facilitate quick conclusion of an agreement with Syria. But it would jeopardize the long-term survival of Israel and the pursuit of a durable peace.


Yoram Ettinger was editor of Contemporary Mideast Back-grounder and was minister at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

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