Assad in Paris last November.(Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President (which is to say, dictator) Bashar Assad has some thoughts on Israel for investigative journalist extraordinaire Seymour Hersh. The clearest stand he takes is that there will be no peace until Syria gets the Golan Heights back: “Peace treaty is what you sign, but peace is when you have normal relations,” he explains. “So, you start with a peace treaty in order to achieve peace. … If they say you can have the entire Golan back, we will have a peace treaty. But they cannot expect me to give them the peace they expect. … You start with the land; you do not start with peace.”

Analyzing Israel’s efforts vis-à-vis the Palestinians (half a million of whose refugees, Assad notes, reside in Syria), he argues,

They do not have any of the old generation who used to know what politics means, like Rabin and the others. That is why I said they are like children fighting each other, messing with the country; they do not know what to do.

[The Israelis] wanted to destroy Hamas in the war and make Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] strong in the West Bank. Actually it is a police state, and they weakened Abu Mazen and made Hamas stronger. Now they wanted to destroy Hamas. But what is the substitute for Hamas? It is Al Qaeda.

Oh, and Assad even commented on J Street. “Ahh … that is new!” he said of the group’s willingness to criticize certain Israeli policies. One imagines J Street feeling queasy at the thought of Assad celebrating it, but actually, for the record, he appears to understand that the American “pro-Israel, pro-peace” outfit takes the “pro-Israel” part of its slogan as seriously as the “pro-peace”: “we should educate them that if they are worried about Israel, then the only thing that can protect Israel is peace, nothing else. No amount of airplanes or weapons could protect Israel, so they have to forget about that.”

Direct Quotes: Bashar Assad [The New Yorker]