The calls of Syrian opposition activist Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani to make peace with Israel have caused a furor in Damascus Sunday, after he provided an interview with Israeli media and expressed support for the Jewish state.
"We have the same enemies and similar interests," Al-Labwani stated Friday evening, in a special interview with Walla! News. "Now is the time [to work together] it seems that any later will be too late."
"The Syrian nation wants to topple President Bashar Assad's [forces], they also want to prevent extremists from replacing him," he continued. "This is what Israel wants: to distance itself from Assad, from the pact between Iran and Hezbollah, but also to prevent Al Qaeda from taking control."
Al-Labwani stressed that the solution is for the international community to support "moderate" opposition groups in Syria's ongoing civil war. While he insisted "the world has failed Syria," he also claimed that "Israel could be the one to reveal what can happen when you take responsibility and do what's right [. . .] joining with Syria and fighting against [Iran, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah]."
Buthaina Shaaban, a senior political advisor of Assad's, responded to the comments on Sunday.
"Labwani's declarations are not surprising," she said, on a Damascus state television broadcast. "It is known that what is happening in Syria is done through the planning and coordination of [opposition] agents working with Israel."
"Labwani and his associates, who agreed to be interviewed in Israeli media, are servants of the Zionist regime," she alleged, saying they "have betrayed their country for Zionists and work against their nation and people."
State television has also quoted segments of the interview as "proof" Syrian opposition forces are "secretly working for Israel," calling Al-Labwani "friend of the Zionists." Both Syria's and Iran's official websites also condemned Al-Labwani for the interview, with the Islamic Republic deeming him "an Israeli agent."
The activist responded to the wild accusations Sunday by confirming that he continues to stand behind the principles he outlined in his interview. "Whoever attacks his own people and uses chemical weapons should not be preaching about morality," he stated.
Al-Labwani has advocated for peace with Israel before. In March, he stated on Syria Orient News TV that he identified with Israel's fears for its own security and that the opposition must change their mindset about who their natural partners are in the war against extremists.