Syrian government newspaper hails Obama-Biden

By Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM – A columnist for a Syrian government newspaper has lauded Sen. Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, explaining the two will “not deceive the [American] people regarding the danger of terrorism [and the need] to fight it.”

Nadia Damiati, a columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra, wrote Obama’s and Biden’s campaign slogan of “change and experience” indicated that “the Americans aspire for their country to take a moral stance, be an honest broker, act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, not ignite wars, not spill the blood of innocents in the world, and not deceive the [American] people regarding the danger of terrorism [and the need] to fight it.”

The newspaper entry was translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

Obama’s positive coverage in Syria follows some Syrian-related controversy for the presidential candidate after it was revealed one of his key foreign policy advisers traveled to Damascus where he reportedly urged Syrian officials to fast-track negotiations with Israel.

Both Israel and Syria announced in May they were holding indirect talks aimed in part at an Israeli evacuation of most of the Golan Heights, which looks down on Israeli population centers and twice was used by Damascus to mount ground invasions of the Jewish state.

The talks have been progressing at a very slow pace, with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Russia last week discussing military cooperation between Damascus and Moscow.

But Daniel Kurtzer, a top adviser to Obama on Israeli-Palestinian affairs who visited Syria last month, reportedly has offered Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem some advice.

“I urged him to move ahead in the Israel-Syria negotiations as much as possible so that whoever is the next president would not start from too far down the track,” Kurtzer disclosed in an interview with the New York Sun.

“I did not say anything about Obama or McCain. I said whoever is the next president is not going to want to inherit a process that isn’t going anywhere,” Kurtzer said

He stressed he was not in Damascus as part of Obama’s campaign but instead visiting as a private expert attending an international lawyers conference. The event is co-sponsored by British organizations and arranged by the British Syrian Society, chaired by Dr. Fawaz Akhras, the father of the wife of Syrian President Assad. The conference was aimed at helping Syria develop legal programs and expand international contacts for the country’s lawyers.

Kurtzer last month joined Obama in his visit to Israel. Kurtzer is a high-profile Obama adviser on Mideast affairs identified by Israeli diplomatic sources as likely to become the Illinois senator’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian issue if he wins the presidency. It is likely Syrian officials associated Kurtzer with Obama’s campaign in their talks with him.

Kurtzer said he informed the Obama campaign of his trip to Damascus.

The State Department considers Syria a state sponsor of terror. Damascus openly hosts the leaders of the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups and is accused of providing weapons and financing to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

The McCain campaign immediately seized on Kurtzer’s trip to Syria.

McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb stated, “If one of Senator Obama’s advisers has been to Damascus, we just wonder how many have been to Tehran.”

McCain’s headquarters even held a public phone conference to discuss Kurtzer’s Syria trip.

,b>Kurtzer ‘one of Israel’s greatest foes’

Kurtzer long has been identified by Israeli leaders speaking on the record as one of Israel’s greatest foes in Washington, and his appointment as a primary Mideast adviser to Obama raised some eyebrows in the pro-Israel Jewish community.

“We oppose the appointment of Kurtzer because of his long, documented record of hostility to and severe pressure upon Israel,” said Zionist Organization of America National Chairman Morton Klein.

Kurtzer has been blasted by mainstream Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

He has angered Israeli leaders many times for pushing Israel into what they described as extreme concessions to the Palestinians.

“With Jews like Kurtzer, it is impossible to build a healthy relationship between Israel and the United States,” Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted saying in 2001 by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Kurtzer “frequently pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs; he constantly blamed Israel for the absence of Mideast peace, and paid little or no attention to the fact that the Palestinians were carrying out terrorist attacks and openly calling for the destruction of Israel.”

Morris Amitay, former executive director of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2001: “Kurtzer … will use his Jewishness as a protective cover for his anti-Israel views.”

The ZOA points out Israel’s leading daily, Yediot Ahronot, editorialized on Kurtzer’s negative influence against Israel:

“Possibly more than any other U.S. State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their afflictions to the center of the U.S. policymakers’ agenda,” the paper stated.

Kurtzer first rose to prominence in 1988 when, as a State Department adviser, he counseled the Reagan administration to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat. The PLO had carried out scores of anti-Western attacks, but in the late ’80s Arafat claimed to have renounced violence.

In 1988, Kurtzer was noted as the principal author of a major policy speech by then-Secretary of State George Shultz in which the U.S. government first recognized the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians.

Haaretz reported in 2001 that Kurtzer had a “vocal conflict” with an Israeli government official in Philadelphia in the summer of 1990 after Kurtzer “attacked the Israeli government for refusing to include the PLO in the peace process [and] said that this constituted the main obstacle to peace.”


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