THE AMERICANS: Shortly after the US Department of State’s release Monday of an Arabic language video message from new Special Envoy to Syria Daniel Rubinstein, pro-opposition channel Orient News showed a series of reactions from Syrians that varied only in the degree of negativity.
“The ambassador is a dog and a son of a dog,” wrote one commenter, employing what is a severe insult in Arab culture. “They replaced shit with someone shittier,” wrote another.
“Syrians responded to the appointment of Daniel Rubinstein as Special Envoy to Syria with sarcasm, criticism and indifference,” begins the Orient presenter of the segment entitled “The Syrian street is no longer concerned with Washington’s position.”
Arab and western analysts acknowledge that Rubinstein is distinguished by his understanding of the region and facility with the Arabic language, but warn that his appointment is unlikely to trigger substantive change in US policy on Syria.
“Danny Rubinstein is an American who speaks, reads and writes in Arabic; he follows the Arabic media, which of course significantly improves his understanding,” said Palestinian journalist and political commentator Daoud Kuttab in comments to Syria Direct Tuesday.
“But diplomats are more implementers than policymakers–the policies are made in Washington or in the Pentagon,” he added.
Nonetheless, the State Department announced Tuesday–Rubinstein’s first full day as Special Envoy–that it would suspend Syrian Embassy operations in Washington.
The orient broadcaster suggested that Syrians’ comments on the satellite channel’s Facebook page “starkly revealed the level of anger and bitterness toward the American position.”
Commenters responded with vitriol to the State Department’s video, in which Rubinstein—a veteran Middle East diplomat and fluent Arabic speaker—refers to the third anniversary of the Syrian uprising as “a somber occasion and a reminder to all of us of the work still ahead” and pledges that “the United States will stand with you.”
Rubinstein steps in to replace former Special Envoy to Syria Ambassador Robert Ford, who resigned from his post at the end of last month. He has served in a wide range of regional postings, among them Baghdad, Amman, Tunis, Tel Aviv, Damascus, the Sinai and, most recently, Jerusalem.
“One commenter expressed that Rubinstein’s comments were the same talk that Syrians have heard from hundreds of officials from the US and elsewhere,” the presenter added.