Sen. Brownback has introduced a bill to delete the waiver abused to stall the mandated move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The requirement to move the embassy was enacted by a vote of 90% to 10%, 14 years ago. Israel is the only country in which the US embassy is not located in its capital, although other countries have had similar territorial disputes.
Every six months, our most recent three Presidents have cited "national security" as the reason for their waiving the move. They either do not explain what national security is involved or they offer an illogical and weak explanation.
The presidents imply that if it were moved, Arabs might riot. In the 14 years since the law was waived, riots and terrorism have gotten worse, leading to wars. The implication holds this U.S. law hostage to Arab rioters. We don't let terrorists hold our other laws hostage. Putting our law into the hands of enemy terrorists is contemptible. By making the U.S. contemptible, our presidents embolden the Arabs against the U.S.. Does that help or hinder U.S. national security? It undermines the "international war against Islamist terrorists."
Pres. Clinton said implementation of the move would have to wait until a peace settlement? Why? Where is the logic in that? His peace efforts failed anyway, so what was the point? This is a matter of U.S. law having nothing to do with foreign countries' arrangements. No explanation given.
You might think that the presidents' stalling merely is avoiding taking sides in a territorial conflict. But it does take sides. It takes sides by making a pro-Arab exception in U.S. policy and "harms Israel's long-standing position that Jerusalem is its capital." (11/5 press release by ZOA, headquartered in New York and of which I am a member.)
Notice the presidents' double standard about what law to defer to terrorists and what capital to recognize. There are too many double standards against Israel, including many in the UN Human Rights Council, itself, to be coincidence. The reasons offered when making Israel the butt of so many double standards must be phony. People must learn caution about accepting idealistic sounding excuses given by cynical agencies, such as the State Dept., which has deployed Nazis,
Every government declares what part of the country that it controls is its capital. If a territorial conflict resolves itself differently, embassies can be relocated accordingly. ZOA was too tactful to mention that the State Dept. has an anti-Zionist tradition. The State Dept. does not recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of a country it did not want to recognize, wanted to revoke sovereignty of, and either wants to dismantle Israel piecemeal or would deprive it of secure borders that prevent its conquest.
The State Dept. excuse about Jerusalem is that the UN resolution advising that there ought to be a Jewish state suggested that Jerusalem be kept apart from any national state. Advice and suggestion have no legal standing, not that that advice made sense then, especially because the other international cities all were conquered by surrounding countries. Obviously, the State Dept. excuse is a cover for animosity. U.S. foreign policy should be based on U.S. national interests and not on some subversive clique's animosity. It is not their government, it is ours. They have forgotten they are supposed to be the servants of the people.
For more on the status of Jerusalem, click here
Continued (Permanent Link)
A sermon about uranium, and about what the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) had to say about it, but actually an arrogant refusal to meet the West half way and to play Mr. Obama's dialogue game.
Last update - 12:08 07/11/2009
Iran will not exchange uranium with the West, top official says By Haaretz Service
Iran will not exchange its domestically low-enriched uranium with the West to supply Tehran?s reactor fuel, the Chief of Iran?s Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said on Saturday, in what seems as a direct rebuff of a UN-drafted deal.
"Iran is not to give any of its 1200 kilograms fuel to the other party to receive 20 percent [enriched] fuel and whether gradually or at once, this will not be done and is called off," Alaeddin Boroujerdi told the ISNA news agency.
The Iranian official was referring to a recently drafted UN proposal according to Iran would transfer 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium produced in its nuclear site Natanz to Russia, where it would be enriched to 20 percent, then to be transferred to France for industrial processing, after which it would be returned to the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.
Boroujerdi also stated that Iran and fuel supplier countries must find a new way to provide Tehran's reactor fuel.
"Presently, Mr. Soltanieh is in talks to find an approach for the issue," Boroujerdi added, referring to Tehran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh.
"Referring tp remarks by some western officials that Iran must respond to the IAEA brokered deal regarding purchase of fuel in two days, Boroujerdi said, "The west cannot see a deadline and we are not committed to their remarks."
On Friday, a hardline Iranian cleric told worshippers that the The United Nations nuclear watchdog is legally obliged to provide Iran with nuclear fuel for its research reactor without setting any conditions.
Ahmad Khatami, a member of a powerful clerical body that can appoint or dismiss Iran's supreme leader, said in a sermon broadcast on state radio that Iran was prepared to produce fuel for its Tehran reactor if world powers insisted on the deal.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency is legally obliged to provide fuel ... if you want to play games with us then I can assure you that we will produce it by ourselves," Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University. "The Iranian nation is wise and will not be deceived by the nuclear deal."
"Why should we send our low enriched uranium abroad? ... who can guarantee that you will then provide us with the needed fuel?" said Khatami.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have tried for years to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities in return for economic and political incentives.
Tehran has so far refused to halt its enrichment.
Katami said Iran had no intention of yielding to the West's pressure over its nuclear program.
"No one has traded over the Iranian nation's legitimate nuclear right," said the cleric in the sermon, which was broadcast live.
The West's priority is to reduce Iran's LEU stockpile to prevent any danger that the Islamic Republic might turn it into the highly enriched uranium needed for a nuclear bomb.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Iran has evidently been experimenting with nuclear warheads. They will explain that the warheads are intended to produce electricity. Juan Cole will explain that it is an error in the translation, and J Street will insist on more dialogue. The USA National Intelligence estimate will determine that there is a high probability that there is a medium probability that they haven't the foggiest notion what is going on, and a medium probability that there is a high probability that they understand all too well what is going on but do not want to admit it.
Exclusive: Watchdog fears Tehran has key component to put bombs in missiles
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 November 2009 20.45 GMT
The UN's nuclear watchdog has asked Iran to explain evidence suggesting that Iranian scientists have experimented with an advanced nuclear warhead design, the Guardian has learned.
The very existence of the technology, known as a "two-point implosion" device, is officially secret in both the US and Britain, but according to previously unpublished documentation in a dossier compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian scientists may have tested high-explosive components of the design. The development was today described by nuclear experts as "breathtaking" and has added urgency to the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.
The sophisticated technology, once mastered, allows for the production of smaller and simpler warheads than older models. It reduces the diameter of a warhead and makes it easier to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.
Documentation referring to experiments testing a two-point detonation design are part of the evidence of nuclear weaponisation gathered by the IAEA and presented to Iran for its response.
The dossier, titled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program", is drawn in part from reports submitted to it by western intelligence agencies.
The agency has in the past treated such reports with scepticism, particularly after the Iraq war. But its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said the evidence of Iranian weaponisation "appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, appears to be generally consistent, and is sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needs to be addressed by Iran".
Extracts from the dossier have been published previously, but it was not previously known that it included documentation on such an advanced warhead. "It is breathtaking that Iran could be working on this sort of material," said a European government adviser on nuclear issues.
James Acton, a British nuclear weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "It's remarkable that, before perfecting step one, they are going straight to step four or five ... To start with more sophisticated designs speaks of level of technical ambition that is surprising."
Another western specialist with extensive knowledge of the Iranian programme said: "It raises the question of who supplied this to them. Did AQ Khan [a Pakistani scientist who confessed in 2004 to running a nuclear smuggling ring] have access to this, or is it another player?"
The revelation of the documents comes at a time of growing tension. Tehran has so far rejected a deal that would remove most of its enriched uranium stockpile for a year and replace it with nuclear fuel rods which would be much harder to turn into weapons. The Iranian government has also balked at negotiations, which were due to begin last week, over its continued enrichment of uranium, in defiance of UN security council resolutions.
There are fears in Washington and London that if no deal is reached to at least temporarily defuse tensions by the end of December, Israel could set in motion plans to take military action aimed at setting back the Iranian programme by force, with incalculable consequences for the Middle East.
Iran has rejected most of the IAEA material on weaponisation as forgeries, but has admitted carrying out tests on multiple high-explosive detonations synchronised to within a microsecond. Tehran has told the agency that there is a civilian application for such tests, but has so far not provided any evidence for them.
Western weapons experts say there are no such civilian applications, but the use of co-ordinated detonations in nuclear warheads is well known. They compress the fissile core, or pit, of the warhead until it reaches critical mass.
A US national intelligence estimate two years ago said that Iran had explored nuclear warhead design for several years but had probably stopped in 2003. British, French and German officials have said they believe weaponisation continued after that date and may still be continuing.
In September, a German court found a German-Iranian businessman, Mohsen Vanaki, guilty of brokering the sale of dual-use equipment with possible applications in developing nuclear weapons. The equipment included specialised high-speed cameras, of the sort used to develop implosion devices, as well as radiation detectors. According to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security, the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, testified at the trial that there was evidence that Iran's weapons development was continuing.
The IAEA is seeking to find out what the scientists and the institutions involved in the experiments are doing now, but has so far not been given a response. The agency's repeated requests to interview Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whose name features heavily in the IAEA's documentation and who is widely seen as the father of the Iranian nuclear programme, have been turned down.
The agency has also asked Iran to explain evidence that a Russian weapons expert helped Iranian technicians to master synchronised high-explosive detonations.
The first implosion devices, like the "Fat Man" bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, used 32 high-explosive hexagons and pentagons arrayed around a plutonium core like the panels of a football. The IAEA has a five-page document describing experimentation on such a hemispherical array of explosives.
According to a diplomat familiar with the IAEA documentation, the evidence also points to experiments with a two-point detonation system that represents "a more elegant solution" to the challenges of making a nuclear warhead, but it is much harder to achieve. It is used in conjunction with a non-spherical pit, in the shape of a rugby ball, or explosives in that shape wrapped around a spherical pit, and it works by compressing the pit from both ends.The IAEA has expressed "serious concern" about Iran's failure to give an account of the research its scientists have carried out.
Descriptions of "two-point implosion" warheads designs have occasionally appeared in the public domain (there are extensive descriptions on Wikipedia) and they were first developed by US scientists in the 1950s, but it remains an offence for American officials or even non-governmental nuclear experts with security clearance to discuss them.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced," I do not choose to run" in the January 2010 Palestinian presidential elections. He insists that his decision is "final."
Abbas declared that he had fulfilled his political platform by "improving the situation in the West Bank and continued the aid to the Gaza Strip despite the Hamas overtake." He added that Hamas had thwarted all Egyptian reconciliation efforts.
Abbas stressed that despite efforts by fellow Fatah officials to dissuade him, his decision was "neither reversible nor debatable."
The PA president explained that the obstacles standing in the way of peace and reconciliation had caused him to decide to leave the political arena. Israel is implementing a policy that is destroying all peace efforts, he said, adding that the US had backpedaled on its Mideast policy by refusing to press Israel to freeze settlement construction.
"We have to abide by the UN resolutions and agreements, as well as the Arab peace initiative and vision for a two-state solution," he stated, adding that there was still a possibility that he would "take steps" in the future to promote the Palestinian cause.
Abbas went on to outline the issues on which the Palestinians had yet to reach an agreement with Israel. "There is no legitimacy for the continuation of settlements on Palestinian land," he asserted, speaking also of the need for solutions on the issues of water resources and refugees.
As for his vision for the future Palestinian state to be established within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement, Abbas proclaimed that Israel and the Palestinians would have to "go back and agree to the '67 borders" while making arrangements to establish "a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem."
Security forces should be deployed along the future Palestinian state's border with Israel, said Abbas, "allowing the Palestinians to use all resources on their legitimate land." He added that any agreement with Israel would also take into account the release "of all Palestinian prisoners."
Abbas stressed that "the difficulties of the current situation" were no excuse for political disorder, explaining that for this reason he had announced that presidential elections would be held in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Jan. 24, 2010. "By then," he said, "we would have hoped to achieve our national unity."
The PA president denounced the actions of rival faction Hamas, which had threatened to boycott the elections and prevent them from being held in Gaza. Hamas is obstinate, he said, and should reconsider its position.
"It is time for the world to put an end to our suffering," said Abbas, thus concluding what the Palestinian media called "a significant speech to his people."
Actually, perhaps it is time for the Palestinian people to put an end to their own suffering: to agree to peace with Israel on terms similar to the The Clinton Bridging Proposals, to stop insisting on "Right" of Return for refugees, allow for at least some Jewish rights in East Jerusalem, and demand that Palestinian refugees must be helped to resettle in Arab and Western countries, ending their long and pointless suffering in refugee camps. If Abbas wanted to help his people, he would have made those proposals, which no Israeli or American government could refuse, and he would have had the backing of almost the entire world.
What may be in store in the months ahead? There are several possibilities. One is that Abbas's final, absolutely final resignation is a ploy to get the United States to force Israel to implement a settlement freeze. Assuming the United States will take the bait, how much pressure would they apply to Israel and how will the government of Benjamin Netanyahu respond? Another possibility is that there will not be elections. A rumor to that effect has been floating about for some days. A third possibility is that a successor to Abbas will be found who can keep the Fatah and less extreme Palestinian polity together. Salem Fayyad, the moderate Prime Minister, has been suggested by some. Fayyad does not have a political base though. He is an independent with little political support from organizations. He is too moderate to be accepted by Fatah, and possible too incorruptible to join them. A fourth possibility is that the Fatah-PLO based Palestinian Authority government will fall apart, or be taken over by the Hamas.
Palestinian negotiator Saeeb Erekat revealed what is on his mind and what may be the preferred foreign policy of the Palestinian Authority in the future. According to a Ma'an News article he said:
Palestinians should "refocus their attention on the one-state solution where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live as equals," Erekat said. "It is very serious. This is the moment of truth for us."
In other words, if Israel will not agree to Palestinian peace terms that amount to destruction of Israel, then Palestinians should seek to destroy Israel in another way. Erekat knows that there are no states in the Middle East except Israel where Muslims, Christians and Jews live as equals, and there have never been such states since the advent of Islam.
Labels: Palestine, Palestinians
Continued (Permanent Link)
Israeli naval commandos stormed a ship laden with arms. Obviously, knowing the arms were there required some very good intelligence, and the raid was well prepared. The Israeli commandos may well have been the somewhat shadowy and no longer very secret Shayetet 13. Of course nobody knows how many such ships get through undetected. It is not likely that the "ship was discovered during routine patrols conducted by the Navy" since there are many ships on the Mediterranean at any given time and they are not all raided. After intelligence told the Navy what ship to find, the navy "discovered" the ship. The ship, which sailed from Cyprus, must've gotten its cargo of arms from Iran either directly or after the arms had been delivered by a different ship from Iran to Cyprus.
Israeli special forces on Wednesday took control of an Iranian vessel carrying arms intended for Hezbollah in a daring pre-dawn raid not far from Cyprus.
The ship was believed to have set out from Iran and later docked in Yemen and Sudan before sailing through the Suez Canal. Its final destination was believed to be either Syria or Lebanon.
The Antigua-flagged ship was discovered during routine patrols conducted by the Navy, according to a communiquefrom the Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit.
After soldiers boarded the freighter ship, they discovered a large cache of arms and ammunition which were concealed in order to appear to be of a commercial nature.
After the initial search on board the ship, the navy towed the freighter to Israel, where it conducted a thorough inspection of the cargo, the IDF said.
Intelligence agencies had surveilled the vessel for a number of days leading up to the raid. The decision to seize the ship was made following a recommendation by top IDF brass and was approved by the country's most senior echelon.
In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were kept abreast of preparations for the raid over the course of a few days.
"There were Katyusha (rockets), whose purpose is to hit civilians," Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.
He did not give any quantities, saying the ship was still being unloaded in Israel and voicing doubt its crew knew munitions were on aboard.
Asked if the weaponry had been earmarked for Hezbollah, Vilnai said: "Yes. It strengthens (the group) and improves its long-range firing capability into Israel."
Netanyahu released a statement Wednesday saying that the weapons found on board the ship were intended to harm Israel's cities and town. The premier hailed the IDF and the Navy for the operation.
Barak praised the capture of the ship. Barak congratulated IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Marom for the ship's seizure.
"This is another success in the endless struggle against attempts to smuggle weapons and military equipment whose goal is to strengthen terrorist elements who threaten the security of Israel," the defense minister said. "I congratulate the IDF troops for the successful operation."
Following the raid, ministers in the diplomatic-security cabinet convened for a special session Wednesday morning, where they were given an intelligence and operational briefing on the details of the seizure.
Before the meeting, the ministers who were summoned were told that the discussion would focus on the latest developments related to the Palestinian Authority. The meeting though was devoted exclusively to the ship's capture.
From all indications, the operation was not brought for cabinet approval prior to its execution. Rather, it is likely that a small forum of a select number of ministers gave the go-ahead.
Foreign Ministry officials on Wednesday launched consultations to determine Israel's public relations stance in explaining the operation and its ramifications to diplomats and the foreign press.
Since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, last winter's three-week military offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Navy and the Israel Air Force have conducted routine and extensive patrols and reconnaissance in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.
The military seeks to intercept ships bearing arms intended for Hamas and Hezbollah. As part of these efforts, the Navy has deployed warships through the Suez Canal.
In January 2002, IDF special forces stormed the Karine-A freighter which was carrying 50 tons of weapons loaded on board. The vessel was spotted and intercepted while sailing across the Red Sea.
Israel believes the weapons on the ship were meant to be delivered to Palestinian rejectionist groups in the Gaza Strip.
Continued (Permanent Link)
"We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity and we have a very firm belief that ending all settlement activity, current and future, would be preferable," Clinton said after meeting with Egyptian officials including President Hosni Mubarak.
According to the article, the US still wants a settlement freeze, but believes that getting to talks is the best way to do it. These confused remarks were interpreted by Assistant Secretary of State Crowley, who indicated that like the remarks, US policy is confused:
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley, speaking to reporters on Clinton's plane Tuesday night, amplified that message. "What we're trying to do ... is to try to just figure out what is the best way forward. How can we help move the parties towards the start of negotiations," he said.
It is not clear what the US is trying to do. If they are trying to figure something out, it would be better if they didn't think out loud and came to the world with a consistent policy and tone after formulating policy. Earlier Clinton remarks that had praised the partial Israeli freeze on new settlement housing construction did not endear the U.S. to the Palestinians, who expressed their opinion that she had been "bribed by the Zionists
It is necessary to state emphatically that the Zionists did not bribe Hillary Clinton. It is not that we are more moral than the Saudis and others who do bribe and threaten the United States with oil leverage, Al Qaeda attacks and other such enticements. Rather, we concluded that it doesn't pay to bribe people who don't stay bribed. U.S. policy simply wanders all over the place as different officials think out loud and try to figure out what they are trying to do, where that Israel place is, and other important matters. There is no point to bribing people who are apparently wandering in their minds.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Palestinian Authority officials have expressed disappointment with statements by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called on them to resume negotiations immediately and without preconditions; they are calling her a liar and inexperienced, saying she has been bribed by the Zionists, and accusing her of being pro-Israel.
Following are excerpts from articles and statements on the issue:
Advisor to PM Fayyadh: "Clinton, Why Must You Lie?" "How Much Did The Zionists Bribe You?"
In an article titled "Clinton, Why Must You Lie?" Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul, advisor to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyadh and columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "U.S. Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] and her administration's officials must answer many questions regarding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. First of these is: Why is Mrs. Clinton lying to herself, to the American people, and to [other] world nations by twisting the truth and accusing the Palestinians of being an obstacle to a [peaceful] arrangement?!
"Why, Mrs. Hillary? How much did the Zionists bribe you, and what weight does AIPAC carry in your decisions and inclinations? Have you asked yourself who is occupying whose land? Which side is plundering the land, murdering [its] inhabitants, sowing death, violence, and terror, and destroying human civilization in the region?
"Mrs. Clinton, your lies can deceive only a few simpletons, who have been led astray - but the overwhelming majority of people can clearly see the truth… Despite all stratagems and coercive pressure [exerted by] your administration, the Palestinian leadership will remain an address for peace [in the Middle East] and for adherence to the settlement option; yet it will never submit itself to your or your administration's rationale of resuming negotiations while construction in the settlements continues." 
'Abbas: The U.S. Position is "Unreasonable"
PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas stated: "[T]he U.S. has proposed no new [initiative] to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process ahead; its position is unreasonable, since a six-month suspension of settlement construction is not the same as a complete freeze - which is a precondition for the peace process." 
PA Presidential Speaker Nabil Abu Rudeina accused the U.S. administration of "going back on its promises," and said that it is "unable to fulfill its commitments, and in particular the demand to freeze all settlement [construction] - which Obama set forth in his Cairo University address." Abu Rudeina went on to state: "Washington cannot compel Israel to freeze settlement [construction] because it is not pressuring it enough. If the U.S. administration cannot persuade Israel to freeze the settlements, how will it force it to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem?
"The Palestinian side still adheres to its former position that all [construction] activity in the settlements must be stopped before negotiations are resumed." 
Columnist: The U.S. "Gave a Powerful Push to the Escalation of Palestinian and Arab Extremism"
In a column titled "Obama Should Fire Her" in the PA daily Al-Ayyam, Talal 'Awkal wrote: "Mrs. Clinton has poured oil on the fire. For her, it wasn't enough that the U.S. has been backing down more and more from its internationally [declared] position of championing a freeze on settlements, including natural growth - [no,] she [also had to] praise the position of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [that is], opposition to a definitive freeze on settlements in Jerusalem and insistence on continuing the construction of 3,000 housing units in the West Bank…
"The U.S. administration has perpetrated a great deception, by backing down from the position that it itself declared and that had [subsequently] been internationally [accepted]. Thus, it strengthened the concerted efforts by Netanyahu and his government to destroy the peace process, and dealt a severe blow to all advocates of moderation, flexibility, and peace in the Palestinian arena. At the same time, it gave a powerful push to the escalation of Palestinian and Arab extremism.
"Mrs. Clinton has [always] been known as an Israeli sympathizer - as a presidential candidate and then as secretary of state. This time, however, she has showed her inexperience in political action.
"If the aim of her visit to the region was to support Senator George Mitchell, her statements at the press conference with Netanyahu undermined [Mitchell's] efforts, and may even lead to his resignation. That is what I would do if I were in his shoes." 
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), November 2, 2009.
 www.alarabiya.net, November 1, 2009.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), November 2, 2009.
 Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), November 2, 2009.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Special navy forces discovered weapons and ammunition on a cargo ship overnight Tuesday, after boarding a cargo ship some 100 nautical miles west of Israel flying an Antiguan flag.
Defense officials said the ship was carrying arms sent by Iran and destined for Syria and probably Hizbullah.
The troops found the weapons and ammunition cache hidden behind what appeared to be a civilian cargo.
According to the officials, the ship carried advanced weaponry including missiles, and the incident was apparently similar in scope to the seizing of the Karine A ship intercepted in January 2002 off the coast of Gaza. That boat carried some 50 tons of military equipment including Katyusha rockets, antitank missiles, and high explosives.
The ship is currently docked in the Ashdod port, and being unloaded for further inspection.
A month ago, Der Spiegel reported that the US Navy had boarded a German cargo ship near the Suez Canal that was carrying ammunition from Iran to Syria or Hizbullah.
Continued (Permanent Link)
At least in the United States, the case of Israel regarding the Goldstone report is secure after congress voted overwhelmingly to ask the President to oppose any endorsement of the Golstone report in the UN. The house resolution was modified at the last minute to take into account the objections of Judge Goldstone, but the modifications did not weaken it, according to a JTA report.
The vote is also a defeat for the nascent J Street lobby, which had criticized the resolution and sought to replace it with a resolution calling on Israel and the Palestinians to launch investigations into the war crimes allegations. The Israeli military already is conducting such an investigation. There is no chance, of course, that the Palestinians will investigate whether or not firing terror rockets at civilians is a war crime and whether or not they were fired. Everyone knows they were fired and everyone knows that indiscriminate attacks on civilians are crimes against humanity. That's the whole point of having groups like Hamas, isn't it?
The European Union is probably going to ask for a resolution similar to the J Street concept, calling for investigations. It is very likely however, that the resolution that will pass the General Assembly will be the Arab sponsored one that condemns Israel unilaterally. Such resolutions have no effect, since only the Security Council, where the United States holds veto power, can have substantive effect.
Since the United States could be arbitrarily accused of war crimes in precisely the same way as Israel has been accused, adoption of the Goldstone report would create a dangerous precedent. Therefore it is in the interests of the United States, as well as Britain and other European countries to prevent legitimation of the bizarre initiatives of the U.N. Human Rights Council which originated the Goldstone report.
The U.S. Congress on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a resolution encouraging President Barack Obama's administration to oppose any endorsement of the Goldstone Commission's damning report on Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
The final tally had 344 votes in favor of the resolution and 36 opposing it.
The UN-commissioned report accuses both Israel and Hamas of carrying out war crimes in the Gaza Strip during the offensive there earlier this year. The Human Rights Council has commissioned the report, which was endorsed by the Palestinian Authority.
The Ros-Lehtinen/Berman resolution basically defines the report as "biased and unworthy of further consideration," U.S. Representative Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said recently at the Jerusalem Conference
Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, warned lawmakers that further consideration of the Goldstone report could seriously harm Middle East peace negotiations.
"Israel, like all sovereign nations, has the responsibility to respect human rights and adhere to international law," she said, "However, its defense of its citizens against attacks by Hamas militants simply cannot be conflated with terrorist actions.
"Facilitating a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is among our most important foreign policy priorities, and further consideration of the Goldstone report could hinder movement toward peace negotiations," said Lowey.
The National Jewish Democratic Council urged Democratic members of Congress to support the resolution and denounce the commission's report.
"The Obama administration has made it abundantly and repeatedly clear that they stand with Israel against the distorted Goldstone Commission report. And as this legislation correctly asserts, the report is indeed 'irredeemably biased,'" the JDC said in a statement.
"We concur with the findings of the Ros-Lehtinen/Berman resolution that this report is deeply flawed, and that the U.S. government should do all in its power to stop this report in its tracks at the UN, lest it be used to undermine Israel's fundamental right to self-defense in the future."
Israel urges West to reject Goldstone report
Meanwhile, Israel has called on Western nations to speak out against any endorsement of report when the matter comes up for deliberation at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
Israel has told the countries of the European Union and other friendly nations that it expects them to vote against any resolution proposed by the Arab states on the report.
The deliberations will revolve around a draft resolution by Arab states
calling for the adoption of the report and the transfer of the debate from the General Assembly to the Security Council. The resolution also calls for an independent inquiry by Israel into Operation Cast Lead and the presentation of its conclusions in three months.
Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry described the Arab resolution as very extreme and said it constitutes an escalation of the attacks against Israel in international forums.
A vote is not expected immediately, but Israeli sources say one is likely by the end of the week.
On Tuesday, Britain and France, representing the EU, held talks with
representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Arab states at the United Nations in an effort to soften the proposed resolution.
Accordingly a Franco-British document representing the EU has been drafted, describing "red lines" that the resolution should not cross if the Arab states and the Palestinians expect Western support.
Essentially, the offer seeks to avoid the transfer of deliberations from the General Assembly to the Security Council or the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The Europeans are asking Israel and the Palestinians to agree to an independent inquiry into the war and a return of the matter to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A notable element in the Arab draft resolution is a failure to mention Hamas; it refers only to the Palestinians, even though the original Goldstone report mentions Hamas and accuses it of carrying out war crimes along with Israel.
Whatever form it takes, the Arab resolution is expected to gain a majority with 130 votes. However, if it remains extremist and the Europeans refuse to support it, there is a chance that around 60 countries will vote against it or abstain.
Foreign Ministry director general Yossi Gal told ambassadors on Tuesday that any further support for the Goldstone report would have a negative effect on the peace process and undermine democracies' right to self-defense.
ADL director to Goldstone: As a good Jew, repudiate report
Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman of ADL called on Goldstone to repudiate his report: "I have had great respect for you over the years. Your work at the head of the South Africa Reconciliation Commission and in helping to find a just solution to the Bosnian conflict deserves the highest commendation.
"Moreover, I know you to be a proud Jew who serves on the Board of Trustees of Hebrew University and who has a daughter living in Israel."
"With this background, I wondered in the first place how you could take on the chairmanship of the investigation of the war in Gaza mandated by the UN Human Rights Council," he said. "After all, the Human Rights Council has repeatedly demonstrated its bias against Israel and in its stated mission for the investigation began with assumptions presuming Israeli guilt."
Continued (Permanent Link)
From the latest expression of brotherly love coming from Tehran, even the most blissfully optimistic true believer in dialogue with Iran must have gotten the impression that things are not going very well. The Ayatollah Khameinei, the real boss of Iran, claimed that "Whenever the US offers a smile, it hides a dagger." That's not the best way to get off to a good start.
Iran seems to be pretty good in the smiles and daggers deparmtment, which probably why they suspect the same of the US.
Nov. 3, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's on Tuesday warned against the US imposing its will on negotiations with Teheran.
Khamenei's statements come as Iran is asking to modify a UN-brokered proposal for Russia and France to turn the Islamic republic's uranium stockpile into nuclear fuel and allay Western fears over a possible weapons program.
"Whenever the US offers a smile, it hides a dagger in his back," said Khamenei according to the state news agency. He rejected "talks in which the US decides about its results in advance."
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday in Marrakech that the UN nuclear deal could not be altered.
Khamenei's statements came the day before annual anti-American demonstrations for the 30th anniversary of the 1979 storming of the US embassy - traditionally a time for speeches slamming Washington.
The US and its western allies fear that Iran's nuclear program is geared toward producing a weapon, while Tehran maintains it is for peaceful purposes.
Khamenei said that even as the US talks about negotiations with Iran, it is threatening it.
"American talk about negotiations on one hand but on the other they continue their threats and say how negotiations must reach their own desired conclusion."
Khamenei also slammed what he called "the new US president's beautiful words," which are not supported by deeds, referring to several messages directed by US President Barack Obama to the Iranian people.
Khamenei, who has final say in all state matters, also urged the US not to pin its hopes on the Iranian opposition, who are calling for better ties with the West, describing them as "few" and "naive."
Even as Khamenei dismissed the opposition, however, a possible showdown is looming over Wednesday's annual anti-US demonstration as reformists have called for anti-government protests.
The demonstrations would be a display of resolve by the opposition against Ahmadinejad's crackdowns since his disputed re-election in June, but authorities have said they will not tolerate any disruptions to Wednesday's events.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the head of Teheran's security forces, Gen. Ali Reza Alipour, as saying that police will use all their "power and capacity" to confront any demonstrators.
Continued (Permanent Link)
The United States is bankrolling the Palestinian Authority and the Obama administration put itself way out on a limb to support Palestinian statehood and the peace process. So it is really not the wisest move, perhaps, for the Palestinians to accuse the US of killing peace prospects.
One good rule to observe regarding US politics is "don't get Hillary Clinton mad at you." Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman did it, and learned the rule. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learned the rule too it seems. Now it is the turn of Mr. Abbas.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Pointing an accusing finger at the United States, the Palestinians on Sunday said Washington's backing for Israeli refusal to halt Jewish settlement expansion had killed any hope of reviving peace negotiations soon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, buoyed by new-found support from the Obama administration, urged the Palestinians to "get a grip" and drop their settlement freeze precondition for restarting talks suspended since December.
On a one-day Middle East visit on Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Israel's view that settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank should not be a bar to resuming negotiations -- contradicting the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has proposed limiting building for now to some 3,000 settler homes already approved by Israel in the West Bank. He does not regard building in occupied East Jerusalem, annexed in defiance of international opposition, as settlement.
U.S. President Barack Obama himself, after persuading Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September to meet Netanyahu in New York, called only for "restraint" in settlement, not the "freeze" he had previously proposed.
Stung by Obama's about-face and Clinton's remarks, the Palestinians voiced their frustration.
"The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel's intransigence and America's back-pedaling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
He said the Palestinians were calling for the Arab League to formulate a "unified Palestinian-Arab position" on the stalled peace process.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it was a "critical moment" and insisted settlement must halt to revive peace moves.
"Pressuring Palestinians to make further concessions to accommodate Israeli intransigence is not the answer," he said.
Netanyahu told his cabinet that U.S. envoy George Mitchell would continue efforts on Sunday to revive negotiations.
"We hope very much that the Palestinians will get a grip and engage in the diplomatic process," Netanyahu said. "It is in the interests of Israel and the Palestinians."
Abbas faces intense domestic pressure from Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip, and any compromise on settlements could hurt him politically in a run-up to Palestinian elections he has scheduled for January 24. Hamas has rejected holding a vote.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem alongside 2.8 million Palestinians. Israel captured the territories in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors. Palestinians say settlements could deny them a viable state.
Netanyahu's coalition, including pro-settler groups, does not believe Abbas is strong enough to deliver Israeli security in any deal. Some analysts see Netanyahu's cooperation with Obama's demand for a resumption of talks on establishing a Palestinian state as intended mainly to ensure U.S. support against Iran.
Palestinians warn that popular frustration with the failure to produce statehood deal could spill over into an upsurge in violence, even if few have appetite for a broad new uprising.
George Giacaman, a political analyst at Birzeit University in the West Bank said, "The Palestinian Authority is weak and has not been achieving any results.
"I believe we are at a dangerous stage. With no credible political process, this could create a political vacuum that might lead to violence."
Nadir Saeed, at the same institution, said Abbas had little option but to try and keep talking with Israel and the Americans, adding: "It is no better for him to come back to his public empty-handed.
"(Abbas) has built his career on the idea of negotiations. He cannot credibly back away."
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Erika Solomon in Ramallah and Tom Perry and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
Continued (Permanent Link)
Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nablus Soap and Detergents Company says its revenue has grown as much as 20 percent since Israel removed three major roadblocks in the area, making it easier for merchants from other parts of the West Bank to visit.
"We now have the possibility of finding more customers and sales have improved," said Mojtaba Tubeileh, 41, general manager of Nablus Soap, which had 2008 revenue of about 1 million shekels ($267,000). "We are waiting for more improvement."
Economic growth in the West Bank may accelerate to 7 percent this year from 5 percent as Israel eases restrictions, the International Monetary Fund said in a report last month. The lifting of barriers must continue for the expansion to be sustained, the lender said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is focusing efforts on boosting the West Bank economy and will continue easing movement restrictions. Palestinian investors say a political process must be launched to bring in the foreign investment needed to turn around an economy that, according to the World Bank, has contracted 13 percent in the eight years between 2000 and 2008.
"This is a step forward, but you can't build an investment decision on it because if they have problems, the roadblocks will come back," said Samir Hulileh, chief executive officer of the Ramallah-based Palestine Development and Investment Ltd. Investors have to see "the West Bank and Gaza without the army and tanks and demonstrations."
The company is the largest private investor by initial investment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the Palestine Capital Market Authority.
Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said on Sept. 23 that his country is "committed to economic peace and to focus on ways to ease the lives of Palestinians."
Palestinian security forces "are working better against extremists and this makes it possible to cancel more roadblocks in the future," he said.
Israel has removed 11 checkpoints this year, including the three around Nablus in the past six months. Some 250 roads that had been completely closed have been reopened since 2007, including 100 in the last six weeks, military spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner said in a phone interview.
Netanyahu said Oct. 31 that Israel's decision to dismantle roadblocks and eliminate "a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to daily life and economic activity in the Palestinian Authority's areas," had resulted in "a Palestinian economic boom."
Some 450 blocked roads and 14 checkpoints remain in the West Bank and are necessary to stop Palestinian militants from reaching Israeli towns and cities to carry out attacks, Lerner said.
"If the situation turns around into a negative one, we do have the ability to relatively, in a short period of time, re- implement these elements and put them back in place," he said.
Tubeileh said the situation was too uncertain to forecast revenue for this year or next.
Palestinians, as well as the IMF and the World Bank, say that roadblocks severely limit travel and transport of goods in the West Bank and have strangled the local economy, especially the private sector.
"As a result of the Israeli security regime, the Palestinian economy has hollowed out, with the productive sectors declining and the public sector growing," the World Bank said in a report released in June.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters in Ramallah on Oct. 14 that economic growth has been led by the $1.7 billion in international donor money granted to the Palestinian Authority last year and the $1 billion donated so far this year.
Solid Waste Investment
Imad Al-Hindi, the general manager of Ramallah-based National Beverage Company, the Palestinian franchisee for Coca- Cola Co., said revenue climbed 5 percent since the easing of restrictions as trucks can now more easily travel through the northern West Bank toward Nablus and Jenin. Revenue in 2008 was 200 million shekels, he said.
Profit from revenue growth was partly offset after a major checkpoint in the south was closed, increasing the cost of sending goods to that area, Al-Hindi said.
"There is a slight improvement but not something that will lead to major changes," he said. "A lot more of that has to happen for there to be a critical mass of change and the economic revival to go forward."
Hulileh said PADICO is concentrating investments on "big projects that need a longer period of time to mature" such as power stations and solid waste management. These types of infrastructure projects can be kept going "through wartime and occupation," he said.
While per capita Palestinian GDP has fallen about a third since 1999, it may expand this year due to Israel's lifting of roadblocks and to Palestinian institution building and financial changes, the World Bank said in a Sept. 22 report.
Unemployment in the West Bank fell to 16 percent in the second quarter from 20 percent in the previous three months, a drop the bank said may largely be due to a seasonal increase in agricultural employment. Palestinian gross domestic product in 2008 was $6.5 billion, according to the IMF.
The Palestine Stock Exchange has gained 11.4 percent this year, compared with a 68.1 percent jump of the Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Index.
Tubeileh said that while conditions in the West Bank have improved, Israeli limits on the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip are undermining potential growth there.
"Before 2000, 70 percent of our sales were to Gaza," said Tubeileh, who says his family has been making soap out of olive oil in the West Bank city of Nablus for more than 400 years. "Since then I have sent two containers, and those only in the past three months."
Last Updated: November 1, 2009 17:18 EST
Continued (Permanent Link)
Elliott Abrams came to prominence in the Reagan Administration and later served in several national security posts under President George W. Bush. He was Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy, under President Bush, during which time he also headed the Near East, North Africa desk of the National Security Council. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spoke with Felice Friedson at The Media Line's Mideast Bureau on October 26, 2009.
The Media Line: They say a day is like an eternity in the Middle East, and your involvement in Mideast peace making dates back a long time. First tell me, when we hear the phrase "Middle East Conflict", which specific conflict should come to mind?
Abrams: I think people usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict or if I can put it in a different way, the refusal since 1948. People usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another way of putting it, I think, is the conflict that results from the fact that since partition in 1948, the Arabs have refused to accept the existence of the state of Israel as a permanent fact. I think that's really what's at the root when people usually refer to the Middle East conflict. Other things in the Middle East, like the case of Iran are usually what we mean when we talk about the Middle East conflict.
The Media Line: Aren't other conflicts like Sunni-Shia greater? Aren't they still considered Middle East Conflicts?
Abrams: But the world is less interested in those and more interested in the ones between Arabs and Jews. The conflicts in which Muslim kills Muslim or Arab kills Arab, Sudan as an example, just don't excite attention.
The Media Line: Media likes to portray Israel as the maverick that's going to mount a dramatic mission over the Iranian sands, neutralizing Iran's nuclear threat. Is Israel capable of doing it? Can it even try without a green light from the Obama White House?
Abrams: I think Israel can do a great deal of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. You know it's not on the level with the U.S. Air Force. Nobody's air force is on the level of the U.S. Air Force, just in terms of size and number of fighters and bombers and tankers and missiles and so forth. I do believe that Israel would set the Iranian program back some years and things can happen in those few years, like the government of Iran is in big trouble internally, it can fall. How long is that government going to last? Ten years? Five years, who knows? I think we should take seriously the fact that both the United States and Israel do have some kind of military option. The Obama administration would like to avoid the use of that option by Israel or the U.S. but so would we all. Everyone would like to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon without any turn to violence.
The Media Line: The concern is that there are so many different plants throughout Iran; it would take massive armies to take them out almost simultaneously. How could Israel handle that?
Abrams: Nobody is talking about armies and nobody is talking about invading Iran. When I hear people sometimes compare Iran with Iraq, or people say 'you know, if there's a strike on Iran, it'll be just like the Iran-Iraq war. No, no, no. Nobody is talking about anything like that. What we would be talking about is a very brief air strike on a very small number of locations. I don't agree with the view that you hear a lot in Washington and elsewhere that there are so many targets in Iran, it's now impossible to attack them all. It's true. It's impossible to attack them all. But you don't need to attack them all. There are a few critical targets like Natanz obviously, where they have something like 8,000 centrifuges. I think the Iranian regime understands full well that they could be quite vulnerable and set back for some period of time.
The Media Line: There are those who say Iran is an existential threat to Israel? Is that hyperbole?
Abrams: Well if you think about the world in 2009, how many cases are there in which one nation is saying it wishes to eradicate, destroy, annihilate or end the existence of another? There is actually only one, which is the case of the government of Iran. Now, it's a rhetorical device. It's just a matter of making speeches, unless or until they get a nuclear weapon. At that point, we have this amazing combination of somebody in possession of the ability to annihilate saying I would like to annihilate another country. I think it may sound like hyperbole and rhetoric if you're sitting in Washington or London or Beijing, but if you're sitting in a place where the bombs might land, it's not going to sound quite so relaxing.
The Media Line: As we sit here, there are think tanks and strategists, many people, trying to figure out if sanctions or other means are going to make a difference in stopping nuclear proliferation. Do you feel that sanctions work and do you feel that there are other angles that have not been addressed?
Abrams: I think sanctions can work. They worked in the case of South Africa. They worked in that case because they were global, they were multilateral. It's a lot tougher for unilateral American sanctions to work. In the case of Iran, I do think sanctions can still work and I would give you the Iranian offer which they may not be serious about, but the offer to remove all of their low-enriched uranium to Russia. Why would they entertain such an offer? Why would they make such an offer? What is that about? I think it's a sign of weakness on the part of the regime. I think they are desperate to avoid additional economic sanctions. The political situation inside Iran is making them very anxious. In the months since the June election, they have not eliminated opposition to the regime and the regime itself is split. The clerics are split. This is big trouble for the regime and they don't want additional economic sanctions. They will do a lot to avoid sanctions. So if we can, we the P5-plus-1, the global community so called, if we can credibly threaten additional economic sanctions against Iran, I think it is still possible to freeze their nuclear program.
The Media Line: What about individual sanctions?
Abrams: Sanctions by individual countries—
The Media Line: And targeting individuals within Iran?
Abrams: You know, we should be doing that because it's the right thing to do, but it isn't going to be powerful enough. We, the United States, are pretty much sanctioned out. We can't alone deprive Iran, for example, of the ability to import gasoline. 40% of the gasoline they use, they need to import. If the world could agree to prevent that, their economy would freeze very quickly. I think in the current political situation, they would actually agree to a freeze on their nuclear program. I believe that. But I think the question is, whether the Russians and Chinese are going to be willing to go along and allow these kinds of sanctions.
The Media Line: Turning to the groundswell on the ground— young people— many were surprised at how they took to the streets during the elections. Do you feel that much needs to be done to reach out to these young people who oppose what's happening right now in the current government?
Abrams: I think we can try to do things for them. We can try, for example, to get them resources. Most importantly, we should do more broadcasting to make sure they have all the information they need. Fundamentally though, we're not going to overthrow the government of Iran. If anyone is going to change that regime, it's going to be Iranians. I think our critical contribution is to speak freely, openly, candidly and make clear to the people of Iran whose side we're on - namely theirs. My greatest fear about the negotiations that are commencing with Iran is that they legitimize that regime. And that is the thing that we have to avoid above all else— abandoning the people of Iran and giving the government of Iran the chance to say 'the world doesn't care about you.'
The Media Line: Ralph Bunche won the first [Nobel] peace prize for his work in the Middle East back in 1950. There have been five more since. So why is the problem still not fixed?
Abrams: Because it's extremely complicated. I tend to the view that fundamentally problems are not solved at conference tables. They are solved in the real world, and the real world changes are reflected at a conference table, at a negotiation. So what we need to concentrate more on is pragmatic, on-the-ground developments.
The Media Line: You opposed the Oslo accords as being bound to fail. Why did they?
Abrams: You know, my view of Oslo was, they should be seen in the context of a century or century and a half struggle between moderates and extremists on the Palestinian side. Once upon a time it was Haj Amin Al Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, later it was Yasser Arafat, willing, happy to kill Jews for their political ends. But there have always been Palestinians who just want to build Palestine, who just wanted a better life for the Palestinian people. That struggle goes on. It seems to me that what was wrong with Oslo was that just at the point when the extremist leadership of Arafat was really collapsing, Oslo brought them back to center stage.
The Media Line: Israelis fondly look back on the George W. Bush years; a vast majority of them bestowing the term "Pro-Israel" on the former president. How close did President Bush come to achieving some sort of significant agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
Abrams: President Bush was more optimistic about that than I was. I did not think that we were that close. A lot of people were saying - as they said in 1990 and 2000 – they are an inch apart the Palestinians and the Israelis, we're almost there. My sense was always that neither side wanted to go that extra inch because what it meant was a compromise that neither side really wanted. I did not think that the institutional development on the Palestinian side, like the development of the Institute of Justice, including courts and jails and a police force, was sufficient for Palestinian statehood at that moment, [or] sufficient to guarantee Israeli and Palestinian security. I didn't think we were that close. I do think that President Bush deserved the accolade of being very pro-Israel because he was. His speech to the Knesset in 2008 I think demonstrated that. He was also very pro-Palestinian. I don't think that's a contradiction. What he wanted was the best for both sides. He wanted peace, he wanted justice, he wanted a better future for both sides.
The Media Line: President Bush allowed Israeli leaders to believe that he signed-off on the idea that there will be some changes from the 1967 borders in any final settlement. Obama came in and said the new administration had reviewed every note, every memo and every transcript from the Bush years and found no such understanding as described by the Israelis. You said you were there. Are the Israelis on firm ground in believing that some of their post-1967 communities will survive any agreement?
Abrams: Yes, there is no question about that, and in every negotiation there has been, the Palestinians have understood in private that these major communities—the major blocs as we call them are going to stay in Israeli hands. I think that is a fact of life. I would say that in 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinian leadership has privately acknowledged that and talked about things like swaps. We did have an agreement with the Israelis with respect to settlements. It was not written down except in people's private scrawled notes. It was not a treaty. It was not a formal agreement, it was an oral agreement. We had the kind of relationship with Israel that permitted us to do important things on the basis of talking to each other. We didn't have to have treaties ratified by Congress. So the Obama officials are correct when they say 'we've reviewed all the treaties and so forth and it's not there,' but they did not recall what we told them during the transition and they were told about this, as they were told about some other things that they then conveniently forgot later with respect to Afghanistan.
The Media Line: Is it fair to say that when President Bush entered office the focus was on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but that when he left office it was between Israel and the entire Arab world?
Abrams: In our assessment of why President Clinton's efforts failed - and he made many powerful efforts to get an agreement - the Clinton administration believed, and we agreed, that the lack of broader Arab support for the Palestinians in the compromises they would need to make was important. So we thought, 'if we ever get around to this, after the Intifada, if there is another round of negotiations, we should try to bring the Arab states in to support the Palestinians.' And that was Condi Rice's idea with Annapolis, to bring the Arab states in early so there is a broader agreement that does involve the Arab states. The heart of it remains the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states can't substitute for that.
The Media Line: Is the agreement between Israel and all Arab nations a deal Israel can't refuse—or a deal Israel can't sign?
Abrams: I would say it depends about what's in the deal. Israel can refuse if the Arab states make an offer that is simply unreal and I would say the Saudi plan was unreal in the sense that it gave no room for negotiation or compromise over '67 borders period. Later, when it was adopted by the Arab league, with all the refugees returning, or so-called refugees returning—well that's not to happen and those have never been the terms discussed in any serious negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. So the Israelis can refuse and they did. It would be much better if the Palestinians, in these negotiations, someday accept that they are going to have to make difficult compromises. It would be much better if they had the full support of the Arab states and when we get to that point, we can only hope and try to cajole them into agreeing to provide that support.
The Media Line: Help us understand the Middle Eastern version of negotiations without conditions. In your role as an American mediator, how do you deal with negotiators who say there are no conditions as longs as Israel stops building; the Palestinians stop firing missiles, and so on?
Abrams: We've always tried in the United States to talk to [both] Palestinians and Israelis, Israelis and Arabs. We really do want a solution that benefits Israelis and Palestinians. What has been harder sometimes to convey is that we are not going to jam anything down the throats of the Israelis, partly because that's not how we treat allies and partly because the things that people have proposed we jam down their throats are not going to produce peace. That's the other thing. We were able to make an independent assessment of that and also make an Israeli assessment of that. The notion for example, is that the only way for peace is by a square inch by square inch return to the '67 borders. The '67 borders produced war after war after war. Why is that a good thing? I think there is a path forward but again it doesn't start on a table in Geneva or some place. It starts on the ground, particularly in the West Bank.
The Media Line: Prime Minister Netanyahu says an economic foundation for the Palestinians is more important than setting a date for statehood; the Palestinians say he just wants to deflect progress, and Prime Minister Fayyaad set a date for statehood. Who's right?
Abrams: I can understand the Palestinian desire to have a sense of timing in the sense of 'no this is going to take another 50 or 100 years.' I do think that setting a date is not possible [as we saw with] the Road Map. It was called a performance-based road map towards getting a Palestinian state. You can't tell me the date, sitting here today, when there will be an adequate Palestinian military police force, when there will be a court system that works, when Palestinians will be able to provide law and order fully for their own people, and so forth. So I don't understand how it's possible to pick a date out of the sky, and say 'one year, or four years, or two' - who knows? I think what we need to do is move in that direction knowing, that as we move in that direction of course, life for Palestinians is getting better, because each of these improvements is a real improvement in the economy, in mobility, in self-government, in the amount of justice available in the West Bank. That's the direction I would move in. I can understand why Palestinians want to move faster. Anyone in their situation would. I think that the last few decades have proved that efforts to move faster than the real world permits are just going to collapse.
The Media Line: I believe you cautioned against America pushing for Palestinian elections when there was a distinct probability that Hamas would win. Another round of elections is set for January. What would you counsel your successors in the White House to do?
Abrams: You know, Americans believe in elections. We believed in them in Japan and in Germany after World War II. We believe in them in Iraq and Afghanistan these days. We believe it's a way to provide a legitimate government for Palestinians as well. I think the mistake we made in the Bush administration was to allow a terrorist group, Hamas, to participate in the elections and to retain all of their weaponry. I think if you go back to Oslo, terrorist groups were not supposed to participate in post-Oslo elections. I think this is a general view in Europe too that armed groups should lay down their arms, and then participate in elections. The mistake we made was that we did not say to Hamas, 'when you are willing to give up terrorism, and promote political goals by the ballot box, then and just then can you participate in elections in the Palestinian areas.' I'm not opposed to elections in Palestinian areas. I think that you should have to choose between trying to seize power by guns, and offering your program to the Palestinian people peacefully.
The Media Line: How could any process move forward without Hamas and Fatah coming together unified in some way?
Abrams: Well I don't think that unity between a terrorist group and Fatah is a way forward. I think all that does is it destroys efforts to create a new, more moderate, more progressive Palestinian government. You're going to get the lowest common denominator there, which is going to be a Palestinian government that contains terrorists. I don't see how that helps the Palestinian people and in this, I think the Egyptian, and other nations' efforts to force a unity government are an advantage to the Palestinian people. I think terrorism needs to be left behind, and political, economic and social reform - institution building - is the way forward. I am not in favor of anybody doing a coalition government with a terrorist group.
The Media Line: President Abbas is not the most powerful person in the Palestinian areas today, so what can happen if there were elections and Hamas does not come into play and you're left without leadership.
Abrams: Well, somebody is going to win the election and people have a raw memory of the legislative election. Of course, President Abbas easily won the presidential election. The Parliamentary Legislative election was quite close. It was 44% to 41%, Hamas over Fatah. Who knows why or how much of it was religious versus secular or how much of it was a rejection of the corruption of Fatah over Arafat. Some of it may have been that the leadership of Hamas had better politicians. I think it is possible for Fatah to win the elections by saying to the Palestinian people, 'look at what we are doing in the West Bank and how we are doing in the West Bank, and look at Gaza, which is not only living in poverty but is increasingly a kind of Taliban, a Wahabi-type state where Hamas is telling people what clothing to wear, not to mention what they are doing in the schools.' I don't think Palestinians, who I think have the highest literacy rate in the Arab world - I think over 90% - are going to choose to go live in a kind of Taliban-like republic. I think that if Fatah and the PA can perform for Palestinians living in the West Bank, all Palestinians are going to look at that and say, 'you know, that's the way forward.'
The Media Line: A lot has been written about the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and Israel under the Obama administration. What's your take?
Abrams: We achieved a level of trust and confidence and intimacy in the Bush administration, achieved partly during the Intifada, when we gave such strong support to Israel to resist and fight back against terrorism, which in the early years of the Bush administration, was suffering terribly, if you look back at some of the suicide bombings that killed over 1,000 Israelis in total. So we achieved something as yet that I think the Obama administration has not yet achieved. But I think the alliance between Israel and the United States is quite strong. I see it in Congress and I see it in the American people. I don't think people realize, for example, that the majority of American tourists who visit Israel are Christians. The support among tens of millions of Christian-Americans for Israel is really quite overwhelming and tremendous. So I think the relationship between the United States and Israel as countries is as strong as ever. I do think there has been some trouble with the Obama administration and they need to fix it.
The Media Line: Finally, your prediction: where will the Mideast be, peace-wise, when the Obama term in office is over?
Abrams: Well now, I'm a Republican and this raises the question of when the Obama term [will be] over. Is it a one-term presidency or a two-term presidency? Sitting here today, we don't know. It's of course very early on, too hard to judge. I am hopeful. I think that if I can put it in a non-partisan way, and say where will we be ten years from now, I think there is quite a decent chance the people of Iran will have risen up and replaced this regime which they clearly loathe with a different regime. That'll change the Middle East because a lot of the problems of the Middle East are really owed to the regime in Iran. It is plausible to think of real progress toward a Palestinian state. I don't know whether there will be a Palestinian state but I know we will be a lot closer to it because what is happening now in the West Bank seems to me to show the practical way forward. So I know there are a lot of people who say the Middle East is only on the verge of blowing up. I actually think things are going to look better five or ten years down the road than they do today.
The Media Line: Elliot Abrams thank you very much.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Iranian Presiden Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that Iran now deals with the West from a position of power. The enemies of Iran are like a mosquito, according to him. Nations of shopkeepers. Paper Tigers. Springtime for Iran and the IRGC, Winter for the USA, EU, GCC countries and Israel. Ahmadinejad and Iran have joined an exclusive club of people and countries who have dealt with the United States, Britain and France from a position of power. The club includes Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolph Hitler and Germany, Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy, the former USSR, and of course, Saddam Hussein They all dealt with the the West from a position of power, for quite a while,
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday comparing the power of Iran's enemies to a "mosquito," saying Iran now deals with the West over its nuclear activities from a position of power.
The comment from Ahmadinejad comes as Iran is negotiating with the West over a UN-backed proposal to ship its uranium abroad for further enrichment.
The UN-brokered plan would require Iran to send 1.2 tons (or 1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium - around 70 percent of its stockpile - to Russia in one batch by year's end, for processing to create more refined fuel for a Teheran research reactor.
But senior Iranian lawmakers on Saturday rejected the plan, raising further doubts about the likelihood Teheran will finally approve the deal.
Iran has made clear that, at most, it may agree to send only part of its stockpile in several shipments.
Continued (Permanent Link)
The latest Haveil Havalim Jewish Blogging Review is out. The review is done in rotation by different Elders, and reveals all the secrets of the International Jew Zionist conspiracy. This one done by Snoopy at Simply Jews is uncensored and outs the inmost intricacies of the pernicious Zionist plot from all angles - from Bacon eating Jews supporting evolution to ultra-ultras who think Pinhas Wallerstein of the Yesha Council is a dangerous leftist collaborator wimp. It's all there, so don't miss it - Haveil Havalim Jewish Blogging Review .
Continued (Permanent Link)
Even the Associated Press had to report the news in one or two paragraphs, though making certain to devote the rest of their article to the Palestinian "narrative." The fact is, that it became obvious to the United States that it is the Palestinians who are being deliberately obstructive of the peace process. As the representative of an administration committed to meeting the Arab world far more than half way and as the person who spear headed the American effort to halt Israeli settlement ("No settlements period") this was a very difficult admission for Clinton to make.
What will J Street make of this? Will they continue to back the Presdient even when he turns out to be pro-Israel, because being pro-Israel is the only position that makes sense, or will they keep blaming Israel? Will professional media outlets like AP stop blackening Israel
as an obstacle to peace?
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is praising Israel for "unprecedented" concessions in the interest of restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, but her shuttle diplomacy produced no sign of a breakthrough.
The Palestinians on Saturday rejected Israel's offer to show "restraint" in settlement construction in the West Bank, rather than completely halting building. Clinton spoke approvingly of the Israeli offer, knowing it is at odds with the prevailing Palestinian view.
After talks Saturday in the Persian Gulf with Palestinians and in Jerusalem with Israelis, Clinton flew to Marrakech to prepare for talks to include consultations with Arab foreign ministers. She arrived Sunday at sunrise.
Palestinian leaders have said they will not return to peace talks with Israel unless it stops all settlement building on lands they claim for a future state, and they believe Israel has blatantly defied a U.S. demand for a settlement freeze.
Speaking Saturday at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton said Israel is putting significant limits on settlement activity.
"What the prime minister has offered in specifics on restraints on a policy of settlements ... is unprecedented," she said.
The issue has become the biggest sticking point in getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Clinton made it clear that she wasn't pleased with Israeli settlement construction but that it was no reason to hold up talks.
"There are always demands made in any negotiation that are not going to be fully realized," she said.
Clinton also agreed with a statement by Netanyahu that Palestinians had never demanded a settlement freeze in the past as a condition for sitting down with Israel.
Her comments represented a significant departure in tone from her previous statements demanding a total Israeli settlement freeze without exception. Israel has been resisting that demand for months, and has given no indication it would be willing to call a total freeze.
Clinton's main aim during her one-day visit to Israel was to resuscitate the Obama administration's flagging Mideast peace push by persuading the two sides to return to talks.
But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his refusal to resume negotiations until Israel stops building settlements. Abbas is fighting a perception among his people that he repeatedly caves in to U.S. demands.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh, responding to Clinton's comments, said, "There can be no excuse for the continuation of settlements, which is really the main obstacle in the way of any credible peace process.
"Israel is not interested in stopping its settlement activities and the American administration didn't succeed in convincing the Israeli government to stop these activities," he said. "There should be a real change in the Israeli position toward this issue in order for the peace process to be restarted."
Earlier in the day, a top aide to Abbas, Saeb Erekat, told The Associated Press that Abbas rejected Clinton's request that he allow Israel's government to complete building 3,000 units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and to allow the government to construct public buildings and continue construction in east Jerusalem — a territory Palestinians hope will be their future capital.
"This is a nonstarter," Erekat said. "And that's why it's unlikely to restart negotiations."
Before visiting Israel, Clinton met with Abbas in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi. Besides meeting Netanyahu, Clinton also held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Palestinians see Jewish settlement building as one of the biggest threats to their ability to form a viable state in the territories of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Some 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
Hamas' control over Gaza is another main stumbling block to peace efforts. The group violently seized control of Gaza from Abbas' forces two years ago, leaving the Palestinians with rival governments. Hamas has long preached that Abbas' moderation doesn't pay and that only armed struggle will produce a Palestinian state.
Continued (Permanent Link)
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
To this Blog only
Web Logs & Sites
Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israël in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog
Friends and Partners
Middle East Analysis
Middle East Analysis
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Peace With Realism
Liberal for Israel
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog
Encylopedic Dictionary of
Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Gaza & the Qassam
Victims of Sderot
Six Day War
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Elsewhere On the Web
Stop the Israel Boycott
RSS V 1.0