Popular Syrian actor says normalization with Israel ‘is coming’

Duraid Lahham supports ties with Jewish state under terms of Arab Peace Initiative, prompting criticism on social media; opposes deals between Israel and Gulf states, others

Syrian actor Duraid Lahham (video screenshot)
Syrian actor Duraid Lahham (video screenshot)

A popular Syrian actor said he would support peace with Israel if it returns “occupied Arab lands” and accepts a Saudi-backed peace initiative, reportedly angering some of his countrymen.

“These peace agreements, or what is known as ‘normalization,’ is coming. And I’m not opposed to it, as long as it is done according to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,” Duraid Lahham said in a recent interview with CNN.

Referring to the initiative, Lahlam said normalization between Israel and the Arab world would require the establishment of a “sustainable” Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem; a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees; and “the return of occupied Arab lands,” such as the Golan Heights to Syria.

“When those conditions have been met, there is nothing to prevent normalization or peace agreements with Israel,” he said.

However, Lahlam slammed the US-brokered normalization deals Israel reached with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

A picture taken from the remains of a tank dating back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War shows the Syrian town of Quneitra, as seen from the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2019. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

“As for the normalization agreements… between two states with 3,000 kilometers between them. What is the mutual danger these states pose to one another? Why are you making peace with a country you don’t even have borders with,” he said.

Lahham said he viewed the deals as “an international stratagem to fragment the Arab world. To fragment our positions.”

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, many were surprised by the statements from Lahham, who was known in the past for his support of Iran and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The network said he been attacked by some on social media who have accused him of “catching the normalization virus” in the wake of the recent diplomatic agreements.

Israel and Syria do not have diplomatic relations and technically remain in a state of war. In recent years, Israel has struck thousands of Iranian-linked targets in Syria, saying it won’t tolerate an Iranian military presence on the border. The Assad regime is allied with Iran and Hezbollah, which are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Israel has maintained the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, will remain Israeli “forever,” after the Trump administration recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. The new US administration has signaled the issue could be reopened if the Assad regime, which is responsible for the nine-year civil war in which hundreds of thousands have been killed, is replaced.

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