news on the middle east


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Kerry to Netanyahu: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process

John Kerry revived Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in July 2013 after three years, but he was unable to reconcile the two sides.

In the coming weeks, Kerry must submit his proposals for peace, to the deep concern of the Israeli right. "If he wants an agreement that is not immediately torpedoed by his critics, Netanyahu must go along the fringe of religious Zionists," says Ofer Zalzberg. At this price only, he may marginalize the most radical settlers, and thus reduce their nuisance power. "I would have liked John Kerry to explain to Mahmoud Abbas what could well happen if he continues to refuse to make peace," added Mr. Erdan on public radio. Naftali Bennett rejects the two-State solution, but promises that he will comply with the decision of the Israeli people if this is expressed in a referendum. His ally Uri Ariel, Minister of housing, spares no efforts to accelerate the colonisation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the obvious hope of torpedoing negotiations.

At a conference on security Saturday in Munich, Mr. Kerry spoke of the risks of a boycott to Israel if his efforts to achieve a peace agreement were not successful. He is again the target of Israeli officials and had to face their anger: "It is a pity to see that the American administration does not understand the reality in the Middle East and is putting pressure on the wrong side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," observed passive Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a close associate of the head of Government Benjamin Netanyahu . Mr Netanyahu has stressed that the "attempts to boycott the State of Israel are "immoral and unjustified" and that they would not achieve their objectives."

The international boycott of the settlement movement is growing in importance and impact, as evidenced by the decision Thursday by the American star Scarlett Johansson to renounce his role as Ambassador of the NGO Oxfam, which he deemed "incompatible" with its promotion of the Israeli company SodaStream, established in the occupied Palestinian territory. 
In mid-January, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had accused the US Secretary of State of being "animated by an incomprehensible obsession and a sort of Messianism" and said that he could not "teach him anything on the conflict with the Palestinians". These statements had so shocked the United States that Moshé Yaalon had to apologize, without however going back on the substance of his remarks.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, called Monday on the USA to "lower the tone of its remarks".He added that "Warning against boycott threats can multiply those threats,” and that “John Kerry did that evoke a reality, while his Ministry is fighting against these threats", stressed Mr. Lapid. He seems to be finding it easier to make personal attacks against Mr Kerry than to deal with the issue at hand.

Pressure on Israel increased also on the Palestinian side 
Mahmoud Abbas suggested, in an interview published Monday by the New York Times, that a NATO force led by the United States could conduct patrols in the future Palestinian State. This device would include troops positioned in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and all border crossing points. President Abbas has also suggested that soldiers and Israeli settlers could remain in the West Bank for a period of five years after the conclusion of an agreement, and not three as he proposed earlier. 

Islamic Jihad, whose armed wing has thousands of fighters, promises to oppose with all its strength an eventual agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. "We are totally hostile to these negotiations, which cannot bring anything good," said ­Ahmed al-Mudallal, senior official of the organization. “As we have in the past fought the Oslo process, we will destroy any agreement that would legitimize the Zionist occupation of Palestine. We will not compromise as our reason for being is the liberation of our land, our people and our holy places." 

Created by the late 1970s, this radical organization named on the list of terrorist groups by the United States and the European Union is working with Hamas in several areas. From the 1990s, the Organization has led dozens of attacks including several suicide bombings, in the Palestinian territories and in Israel.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Plight of Gaza

With tensions running high, our man in Gaza says that Gaza’s problems have not been helped by a series of air and tank strikes from Israel, the last on the morning of Thursday, 9 January 2014. However, our Tel Aviv members explain that these were in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel at the time of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Israel. The counter attacks by Israel killed one Palestinian and wounded several others. The death of Ariel Sharon has now heightened fears of an escalation in violence. Again Palestinians struck Israel with rocket fire that morning but the onslaught was brief.

Meanwhile the overall situation in the Gaza Strip is deemed by Hamas as one of Gaza’s lowest points in almost 40 years. Late December saw a heavy winter storm, known as “Alexa”, wreak havoc across the entire Middle East. Snow in Syria put further strain on stricken families who have little protection against the cold in areas such as rural Damascus, while Egypt and Cairo saw snow for the first time in 112 years.

However, it is Gaza where the effects of Mother Nature were felt hardest. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) for Palestine Refugees said that large swathes of Gaza had "water as far as the eye can see". More than 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes and relocated to schools and other temporary shelters because of severe floods after four days of persistent rainfall. Some Gaza homes could only be accessed by rowing boat.

People found themselves trapped in their own homes fighting against the rising water and cold temperatures.

Around two-thirds of Gaza’s estimated 1.8 million population (there are no accurate figures) are classified by the United Nations as refugees from the 1948 war. One refugee camp, in the north of the strip, at Jabaliya, was completely flooded with water rising up to 2m (6.5 ft) in places. Raw sewage mixed with flood waters also greatly increased the risk of disease. According to NCF members in Palestine, parts of Ramallah, El Bireh and Bethlehem, as well as East Jerusalem also experienced power outages of the kind that are already commonplace in Gaza.

Even prior to the adverse weather conditions, Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants had been enduring daily electrical blackouts. These power cuts now regularly last between 12 and 16 hours with many homes left without power altogether in the aftermath of storm Alexa. Our members in Gaza say that though electrical power has now recovered, outages remain common every eight hours.
Initial assessments of storm damage indicate a $64 million price tag on the swathe of destruction from the storm. Qatar has stated it will allocate between $5 and $10 million in aid to Gaza residents in addition to the $450 million worth of constructional projects it is already developing in Palestine. Israel’s Mekorot water utility service has sent four water pumps into Gaza to help control the flooding, which has allowed some residents to return to their virtually destroyed homes. In recent days aid has arrived from Turkey.

Though the flooding has now subsided, hundreds of people are still struggling to return to their homes. 
Politically, Gaza remains beset by the difficult relationship between Hamas and Fatah, who are currently locked in debate over the timing of the next Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. The squabble has now reached trivial proportions. According to our man in Gaza, Hamas are seeking for elections to be held six months after any agreement is reached on Government Unity between themselves and Fatah. On the other hand Fatah want polls three months after any agreement. 

Some respite from Gaza’s troubles has been offered in the shape of the opening of roads between Gaza and Egypt in the last fortnight, with 300 refugees being allowed to leave Gaza thus far but relationships between Egypt and Gaza remain tense.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Arafat was murdered?

It seems the world is waking up to the fact that Arafat was killed. About time:

President Arafat's Last Message

Full transcript of the final interview given by the Palestinian President, Chairman Yasser Arafat at a meeting with the Peace through Media delegation of the International Media Council of the Next Century Foundation. Delegation Members: Roula Khalaf, Ewen MacAskill, Peter David, Anton La Guardia, Jane Kinninmont and Jessica Sallabank.The Delegation was headed by William Morris, Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation. Also present were Jabril Rajoub, and Maie Sarraf. The meeting (President Arafat's last on-the-record discussion) took place very late at night on Monday 11th October, two days before President Arafat suddenly and dramatically fell prey to an undiagnosed but fatal illness. The full discussion lasted three hours. These are William Morris' notes of the meeting:


"We get Gaza with no port, airport or safe passage? And this is good?"


"The Egyptians were disturbed by the Taba bombs, and Mr Avi Dichter[1] warned of this?  How come he speaks of this and does not tell the Egyptians.  If I had anything to tell the Israelis I would send a message through the British.  They have good cooperation.

"We succeeded in stopping many terrorist actions that way. Mark my words:

·         What happened in Sharm Al Sheikh and Taba means tourism will be affected for two years.  That is big income for Egypt.
·         This bombing is an attempt to keep Egypt away from entering into the game politically, either with us or with the Syrians.

"What does it mean that Avi Dichter declared it officially and gave warnings about Taba? 


"What happens in Gaza will have an impact and either help positively or impact negatively on the peace process, with Egyptian cooperation. Soon Omar Suleiman[2] is going to Israel[3]

"We agreed from the beginning to real withdrawal and not redeployment. By redeployment I mean that while they withdraw from most of Gaza, they close off Kalkilya in the northern West Bank and Hebron and Bethlehem in the south and stay in the Philadelphi pass in Gaza.

"Last month some Israeli politicians talked about the administration in Gaza not going to the PLO.  This is a dangerous step.  Only the PLO can handle these issues. Here in this room the Quartet representatives: Moratinos, Alastair Crooke[4] and the UN representative, agreed to kick out all those in the Nativity Church (the Bethlehem siege) to Europe and Gaza and withdraw the Israelis from Bethlehem. But they reoccupied Bethlehem and declared it a closed military zone while our deportees were not allowed to return.

"It is my duty to go to Gaza. But it is also my duty to return back to the West Bank.  But I am here in this prison (the bombed out 'Mukhatta' compound in Ramallah[5]).

"Egypt has accepted that the withdrawal must be part of the roadmap. Egypt is determined that the unilateral plan for Gaza will not deter progress on a wider, negotiated peace. Did you know that withdrawal from Gaza was actually offered long ago in the first Camp David between Sadat and Begin?  We discussed it in 1978 but decided then that Gaza alone was not acceptable.  Even in the Oslo talks it was to be Gaza first but I insisted I’d not sign unless it was Gaza and Jericho.

QUESTION: Discussion turned to recent comments by Ariel Sharon’s senior advisor, Dov Weissglass, who was reported to have said that the Gaza plan would freeze the peace process and indefinitely postpone the prospects of Palestinian statehood.

"A big scandal!" laughs Arafat


"My partner Rabin was loyal to his commitments.  More than that.  Many countries restored diplomatic relations with Israel at that time.  Between Kerry and Bush there is not any difference. It does not matter who wins, what counts is how they approach the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Bush’s father started peace in Madrid.  Sharon was against attending that conference.

"We had a start with the Clinton-Oslo agreement.  It is very difficult to have peace with Sharon.  Maybe with Netanyahu it will work.  Remember that initially Netanyahu accepted the Wye River agreement whereas Sharon refused.  Clinton had to pressure him into agreement.   Then Camp David.  Then the Mitchell Report.

"As for Barak; Barak gave his approval for Sharon to visit the Mosque (Haram es Sharif).  I contacted Barak – 'I am coming to see you in your house', I said.  Me, Nabil, Abu Mazin, Abu Alla. 

"I said, 'You are a General and Sharon is a General.  How do you not respect the order of Dayan who took the flag down on 11 June 1967?  He has forbidden any Israeli person to visit the Mosque. You can’t understand.  Please don’t make that fatal mistake.'  In spite of that, they do this.

"When Netanyahu made a tunnel before that, we warned them.  Yesterday, what settlers did to an Armenian caused problems. 


"Our entire infrastructure has been destroyed.  Our best agricultural land has been destroyed.  Our purchase taxes collected by them – they take 3% and should return 97%.  But they confiscate over more than 42 months, billions of shekels, which has been reserved.  Now, they begin to give us small amounts.

QUESTION: "Is it difficult living in such confinement?" asked one journalist.

"This is not the first time I have been in prison.  Back in 1970/71 I was obliged to stay in Mount Hermon for two years in ice and snow and shelling every day. Nasser made an agreement that we should go from Mount Hermon to Fatah. 

QUESTION: Jane Kinninmont asked: "Looking back on your decades of leadership, is there anything you would prefer to have done differently?"

"I regret that we lost the opportunity at Camp David. They say that we Palestinians were the ones that lost a chance and an opportunity in Camp David.  They are not telling the truth. We did not lose the opportunity at Camp David. It is enough we continued Camp David in Paris in President Chirac’s office, and we continued in Sharm Al Sheikh.  Later we had Mitchell.

"But the Israelis, they wanted to maintain control over air and sea. They wanted:

·         Vertical sovereignty on Haram es Sharif[6]
·         The Armenian Quarter under Jewish sovereignty.

"I went to the Jerusalem Committee of the Islamic Conference and to the Christians.  I offered them what had been offered to me.  I told them:  If you are accepting, we accept.  They refused. Jerusalem is not only for us, it is for the world. I recognize the need to share Jerusalem between Muslims, Christians and Jews. When we were small boys we played together, the Jews and I in Jerusalem. 

"But after Sharm El Sheikh, we went in the morning to meet the Israelis because President Mubarak asked us to come, then Barak refused to come to sign.  Barak had betrayed the Labour Party when the agreement between him and Sharon to hold the snap election was made, to be Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively.

"It is very difficult to have peace with Sharon.  Maybe with Netanyahu it will work.  Remember that initially Netanyahu accepted the Wye River agreement whereas Sharon refused.  Clinton had to pressurize him into agreement. 

QUESTION: Peter David comments: "Yet Netanyahu is opposed to Sharon’s plan to pull settlers out of Gaza?"

Arafat laughs, "When, currently, Netanyahu opposes the Gaza withdrawal, he only does so to score points for a potential election campaign.  Anyway the more fanatical Jews don’t like Gaza.

QUESTION: Anton La Guardia took up Jane Kinninmont's question. "Do you have any regrets, Mr President?"

"For your information, we accepted the roadmap, in accordance with UN Resolution 1515. We accepted the Road Map – why do Israelis still put 14 reservations on something they are supposed to have accepted?  It is not our text.

"Under resolution 181 Jerusalem is under UN control.

QUESTION: Roula Khalaf asked the same question in Arabic. "Do you have any regrets, Mr President?"

"Do not forget that fanatical Jews killed my partner Yitzhak Rabin". (An Israeli assassinated Israel's Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, after he signed the Oslo peace accord.)

QUESTION: To a  question about the cease-fire:

"George Tenet said two weeks cease-fire was all he needed.  We gave 23 days during which I was obliged to arrest Rantisi and put Yassin under house arrest.

"Under the roadmap they asked for a cease-fire.

QUESTION: (The President was asked about the Qassam rockets)

"They have never hurt anyone.  

QUESTION: What about the two Israeli children who were killed by Qassams in the Israeli town of Sderot in September?

Arafat replied that, "Qassams are not 'rockets', they are more like 'pipes'. It is usually the shock that kills people. The settler children were not killed directly by the rockets. They died from the blast.

"We succeeded in making discussions with Hammas.  And Hammas say, 'We are ready for a cease-fire but stop the targeted killings.'


"We are ready to make peace with anyone.  I dealt with Sharon and with his son, Omri, and many times I sent Palestinian delegations to his farm.

QUESTION: Palestinian Security Chief, Gabril Rajoub had joined us for the meal, and was now sitting at the end of the table chewing a falafel cake.  Someone asked Arafat whether contacts were ongoing with the Israelis.  Arafat looked up at William Morris and smiled. 

"Ask your friend." Arafat nodded at Gabril.  "He is in secret contact with the Israelis."

Gabril looked up.  “Omri?  I met him last year”.

Arafat smiled again and looked at William Morris.  "He met him last month." Then Arafat turned to Rajoub and laughed.  “You don’t want to say the truth in front of me! Of course, they are secret talks, so I am keeping them very secret.”

Gabril Rajoub shrugged but remained silent.   

QUESTION: SECURITY: Someone asked who would control the security services in Gaza.

The President smiled.  In answer he replied, “You speak to Yasser Arafat. I was elected. I am the President of the Palestinian Independent State since 1988”.

QUESTION: We asked, would the Israelis withdraw from the Philadelphi pass, the Gaza border with Egypt, and would the Egyptians be capable of taking control at the border.

"Omar Suleiman has started the negotiations and they returned back to get our approval because according to the Camp David agreement, the Egyptian Army cannot go to area C – only the police." [7]


“Now the donors offer to buy the Israeli industrial zone in the North of the Gaza Strip from Israel.”

QUESTION: And the houses of the settlers?

“I want them to destroy the houses.  Gaza has greater population problems than Hong Kong and the space is needed.  The Israelis live in villas in those settlements. 

QUESTION: And what of the development of the gas field?

 “We don’t negotiate over all the details.  The final details have not even been discussed.”

QUESTION: Would Nato monitors be acceptable?

 “The Egyptians declared they are ready to bring border guards between Egyptian Rafa and Palestinian Rafa.  We would accept monitors.  Why not?  Part of the agreement is that there should be observers from the Quartet Committee.  We accept UN multinational forces like those in Sinai and in Jordan Valley.  Why not?”

QUESTION: THE REFUGEE ISSUE  Is a compromise possible on refugees?

"Yes.  We have reached an agreement with Barak.

§  Those displaced in 1967 who became refugees: Their issue can be solved.  No problem.
§  The previous (1948) refugees – we succeeded to arrive at an agreement with Barak and in the presence of President Clinton.  Some of those are in a bad situation, especially in Lebanon where they are forbidden to work in 69 different types of job.

"Clinton asked me how many refugees there were in Lebanon. I said: 'When I was in Lebanon there were 480,000 refugees but some left for Northern Europe, Canada, Australia, Latin America.'

"He asked, 'How many are there now?'

"I said, '320,000'. 

"Later Clinton said, 'I contacted the Lebanese president.  He told me 190,000.'  They must return to Israel or to the West Bank.  Barak has accepted this.

"It is the first place for them to go. 


"As for Jerusalem. I accepted the Wailing Wall, the Jewish Quarter and the passage from the Jewish Quarter to West Jerusalem was under their control.

"We are not Afghanistan.  We are Palestinians.  This is the Holy Land for the whole world.


"Israel will not negotiate. This means destroy the Palestinian future to have a Palestinian state.  Who can accept this?

"Among every 1000 Israeli students, 14 are post graduates.  Among every 1000 Palestinian students, 18 are post graduates.  The highest percentage of education is in this area.

"In Gaza we have the biggest reserve of gas.  And we have the best flowers in Gaza.


"They have quickly to solve this problem.  Remember – President Bush’s father in the first gulf war.  There was strong pressure to continue.  He refused to enter one metre of Iraq – he was a man of vision who knows history.

"I was involved in the Iranian Committee to stop the Arab/Iran war.

"And I convinced Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait and he accepted.  But then he came back to reoccupy – astonishingly.

"The US needs a quick solution.


"We have a problem in North Gaza, Jerusalem and part of Bethlehem where we are unable to proceed with registration for the elections because of obstacles put in our way by the Israelis – Municipal elections should proceed in December.

"In March 2005 we want the main Palestinian Authority elections which should have happened in January 2003.

"Do you not know the Israelis are using depleted uranium on our people every day? The Israelis use depleted uranium on their shells causing cancer.  Infertility has risen. Ask the hospitals, there is now a high rate of infertility in the Occupied Territories.


"Only Saudi pays contributions to the Palestinian Authority.  Sheikh Maktoum in the UAE took all the money of the PLO (the 5% contributed as a proportion of the salaries of Palestinian expatriate workers), 'to help my youth to marry', he said.  (a reference to an incident in 1995/96).

"Kuwaitis last year they were paying – this year.  No.

"Also the Emirates paid in the beginning, but then Zayed is ill.

"It seems there is some pressure from others to stop our friends funding us.

QUESTION: SECURITY: We asked who would control security in Gaza?

"You are speaking to Yasser Arafat.  I am controlling every person.  You can ask the British because they are helping us here and in Gaza.  Here everything goes smoothly.

"Even whilst Khameini was financing part of Hammas, Islamic Jihad and tried to influence part of Fatah.

"Hizbollah tries to make an Al Qa'ida base in Ain Helwa camp.

"(Grand Ayatollah) Khameini is a troublemaker – not only for us.  Khatemi is a good man.

"Qardawi[8] – he was accused of trying to promote trouble.  Kardawi has been playing from the beginning with Qa'ida.  My fatal mistake was helping release him from prison. I had personally intervened to secure Qardawi’s release from an Egyptian jail in 1954. [9]Arafat glanced at Jane Kinninmont and laughed. ‘There – that was my mistake!’ Arafat grins.


The Israelis blew up the oldest church in the world to start construction of the wall[10].

The wall confiscates land.

The meeting then ended at midnight at the behest of Arafat's aids, who were tired, though there was every indication that President Arafat was happy to talk on into the night.

[1] Mr Avi Dichter, Head of ISA (Shin Bet)
[2] Mr Omar Suleiman, Egyptian Security Boss
[3] Now further delayed by President Arafat's unexpected death. The visit had been scheduled for 11 November. It will now take place at the earliest opportunity in the week commencing 15th November.
[4] Mr Alastair Crooke, former special security advisor to Javier Solana, EU High Representative and Head of Foreign and Security Policy
[5] The complex of buildings known as the Mukhatta was built as a British police fort, then served as a Jordanian base and an Israeli military camp before the Palestinians took it over in 1996, turning it into Arafat’s main headquarters in the West Bank
[6] An arrangement under the terms of which sovereignty of all under the ground at Haram es Sharif / Temple Mount would go to Israel whereas everything above the ground would be sovereign to Palestine.
[7] This was a reference to the current state of affairs.  We are aware that there will be an exchange of letters with Israel to allow Egypt’s army access to area C, the area of Sinai that abuts the Gaza.
[8] Arafat refers to the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qardawi, whose recent visit to the UK met controversy over his pronouncements on women’s rights and suicide bombings.
[9] Reference to an intercession many years ago by Arafat when the Egyptians imprisoned Kardawi because they considered him to be an extremist
[10] Reference to the demolition of an archaeological site which stood in a position that obstructed the construction of the barrier

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Israel air strike against Syria

On the 31st of October, Israel launched an air strike on the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. The attack on Latakia is supposedly the 5th air strike by Israel on Syria this year alone.Following the incident, the US government “leaked” that the strike was to halt the Russian shipment of SA-125s although this has not been confirmed. Israeli officials are said to be “privately furious at the White House statement.” Syria and Israel have yet to make any comments.

Credit: chotravel

According to several witnesses, “several explosions were heard in an air defence base in the Snubar Jableh area.” According to one Israeli official, “This raises disturbing questions and affects trust between allies. Sharing information is embedded in the nature of the relationship between Israel and the US. It’s like a big pipeline that’s open to permanent flow. So disclosing information is a cause for dismay.”

The Israelis are making a habit of launching air strikes on Syrian targets. Israeli air-raids on military targets inside Syria have become one of the strangest sub-plots of the civil war. This is thought to be the 5th such attack this year but it is Israeli policy not to offer any public comment on specific operations.

The Syrian government has not commented on the reports. Earlier this year, Mr Assad had promised to respond to any future strikes by Israel. Previously Israel had stated publicly that it won't allow the Assad government to transfer powerful rockets and missiles to it allied Shia militia Hezbollah in Lebanon where they could threaten targets in Israel. 

The US, Israel's closest ally, may be a little concerned. The consignment of weapons destroyed is thought to have come from Russia and Washington won't want to see Russian displeasure provoked at a moment when it's co-operation is needed to keep alive any hope of peace talks.

Furthermore, after decades of being locked in a strange love triangle with Israel and Saudi Arabia, the US is breaking out to make other friends in the region. The US’s attempt to re-establish relations with Israel’s Arab neighbours and Iran is making Israel uneasy. 

Timeline of Israeli strikes on Syria in the last 10 years

31st October 2013: Israel launched an air strike on the city of Latakia destroying a shipment of weapons supposedly from the Russians.

5th July 2013: Israel allegedly launched an air strike. The attack was allegedly made by the Israeli Defense Forces against targets believed to contain advanced anti-ship Yakhont cruise missiles supplied to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad by Russia. 

5th May 2013: Multiple military sites were targeted. One of the strikes were on what was believed to be a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles reportedly on their way to Hezbollah. A Fourth Armoured Division camp on Qasioun Mountain, including an arms depot as well as a Republican Guard camp at Wadi Barada. Attacks were reported near Damascus airport and in the suburbs of As-Saboura, west of Damascus.

3rd May 2013: Israeli forces targeted advanced “game-changing” surface-to-surface missiles apparently bound for Hezbollah.

31st January 2013: A weapons convoy believed to be transporting SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles was raided. The convoy was travelling from Damascus to the Lebanese border to be delivered to Hezbollah.

6th September 2007: Named Operation Orchard, Israel attacked an unfinished nuclear reactor in the Northeast Deir Ezzor region which was being used for military purposes.

5th October 2003: airstrike on an alleged Palestinian fighter training camp Ain Es-Saheb, 22km Northwest of Damascus. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The Sudanese writer Dr Khalid Mubarak has a different perspective on the Middle East Peace Process. I like his coining of the new Palestinian word “AlMutashail” for someone who is both an optimist and a pessimist. I guess that applies to us all in this context. We had best be positive though - it's an ethical obligation !


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Alone and Isolated / Deja Vu in Geneva / The Interim Agreement is Already Here

Alastair Crook's Conflicts Forum has been sending us articles they note as being of particular interest. We thought you might find their latest offering of interest. This came in today:

Conflicts Forum distributes articles and reports that we think might be of interest – in doing so, CF is not endorsing the content of the articles or papers, nor do they reflect any corporate view of CF. They are articles, reports, papers, etc. that we think might be of interest.

Commentaries from the Israeli press and leading Israeli commentators beginning with this piece by leading Israeli security and defense commentator, Alex Fishman:

Yedioth Ahronoth, 20 Oct, Alex Fishman 

The explosion between Netanyahu and Obama over the Iranian nuclear issue appears today to be inevitable.
The Americans reported to top Israeli officials about the Iranian opening offer, which was substantively different from anything that we’ve seen to date. That report was received with mixed feelings. On the one hand, even the Israeli establishment admits that the Iranian approach—as it was presented in Geneva—is new and interesting. On the other hand, officials in the prime minister’s inner circle harbor a deep concern, one which is based on information, that the American president is going to be prepared to ease sanctions on Iran even before the talks have been completed.
And so, while Netanyahu has been speaking about the need to continue and even to stiffen the sanctions, at least until a satisfactory agreement is signed with the Iranians, the Americans are already talking publicly about freeing Iranian assets in the United States and in other Western countries. There has been talk in the corridors of the administration in Washington about easing sanctions that pertain to Iranian oil.

Israeli officials admit that if the ideas that the Iranians have put on the table are just their opening positions, as befits seasoned traders, then there is an opening here for a solution that Israel will be able to live with. But if Iran succeeds in maneuvering the West so that its opening position becomes the end result of the negotiations, that would be catastrophic from Israel’s perspective. It is probably very reasonable to assume that the Prime Minister’s Bureau is already sharpening the swords of Israel’s friends in Congress.
On the eve of the talks in Geneva, Israeli security officials cited a series of signs that would indicate whether the process was serious this time. All of those signs appeared: there was a direct American-Iranian meeting; teams of professionals were formed to work on the ideas that were raised in the first meeting; a team will be formed to prepare for the next meeting, which is to be held as soon as early November. The Iranians didn’t waste time with interpreters; they simply chose to speak in English. They even asked for an end date for the talks: in one year.
The Iranians showed willingness to make concessions on two central issues: the production of nuclear fuel and increased inspection on production. They are prepared to show flexibility on the production of enriched uranium by means of centrifuges and converting it [into fuel rods], and they have agreed to relinquish the irradiated fuel in the plutonium plant in Arak. They are not prepared, at least not in the current stage of talks, to give up their production infrastructure. The nuclear facilities will continue to operate, but the Iranians will allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit them so as to ensure that they are not being used for military purposes.

If Iran meets its commitments, the production of an Iranian nuclear bomb will be delayed until an unknown date. But since the Iranian interest to become a nuclear power hasn’t changed in the Rouhani era, one needs to expect that any such agreement will be temporary. If nothing is done to dismantle the infrastructure that produces the nuclear fuel, Iran will be able to expel the IAEA inspectors at a time of its own choosing and have a nuclear bomb within a year.
That is why the next stage of the negotiations has to focus on curtailing the means of production. In other words, the reactor in Arak needs to be shut down and the number of centrifuges operating needs to be scaled back significantly. The Iranians don’t want to give that at the opening stage of the talks, and for good reason. As long as their production facilities are operating at their current rate, the threat of a nuclear Iran will continue to hover over our heads.

Yedioth Ahronoth, 21 Oct 2013, Nahum Barnea 

The prime minister’s father dedicated years of his life to studying the Conversos in Spain.  The Conversos [anusim in Hebrew, meaning “forced”—INT] were Jews who converted to Christianity, but continued to long secretly for their old religion.  They worshipped one God outside, and another God in their cellar.
There are cases in which a father’s research topics are passed on to his son.  This may be what happened to Benzion Netanyahu’s son, the politician.  He opposed the Oslo Accords and signed the Wye River Memorandum and the Hebron agreement; he opposed the disengagement from Gaza and voted in favor of it; he opposed the Shalit deal and embraced it warmly; he opposed the release of prisoners who were citizens of Israel and prisoners with blood on their hands as a gesture to Abu Mazen and agreed to this; he opposed Karnit Flug’s appointment as governor of the Bank of Israel and after four months of embarrassing delays, gave his blessing to the appointment.
This, more or less, is how the Conversos managed to survive in hostile surroundings.  Some of them produced a fairly successful career from their double lives.
There is nothing wrong with a pragmatic prime minister, who understands that in real life one cannot get everything one wants.  Sometimes one has to swallow a bitter pill, sometimes one has to compromise.  Netanyahu’s problem is the gap between his self-image, of a macho man, a firm and determined individual, whose principles are more important to him than his seat—and his behavior in reality.  “The prime minister instructed,” “the prime minister decided,” “the prime minister guided,” say the statements that are issued by his bureau.  There is no chance that a statement will ever be issued saying that “the prime minister was compelled,” “the prime minister changed his mind,” “the prime minister was forced.”
   Netanyahu’s determination dissipates as soon as it becomes clear to him that if he continues to persist he will pay a personal price.  This is his breaking point.  He is not the only politician who acts this way; if he is different from others, he is different in the effort he invests in repression.
   Unfortunately, the process that Netanyahu undergoes time and again is not a state secret.  The Iranian enemy knows, and that is why it responds dismissively to the threats from Israel; the American ally knows, and that is why John Kerry threatens to bring the faltering negotiations with the Palestinians to the moment of truth, the moment in which he will force Abu Mazen and Netanyahu to pay the price for evading decisions; and the ultra-right wing branch of the Likud also knows, and is preparing for battle.
   Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin and their friends do not rely on Netanyahu’s hawkish statements and his staying power.  On the contrary, they rely on his weakness.  They believe that they will fend off the pressure that the Americans will apply to him by means of threats of their own.  Prior to the end of the six months of negotiations the Americans will demand that Netanyahu withdraw from more areas of the West Bank or accept a Security Council resolution on the establishment of a Palestinian state.  They believe that when Netanyahu is between a rock and a hard place, and has to choose between a crisis with the US and removal from the Likud, he will give in to them.
   To this day it is not known why Netanyahu disqualified Karnit Flug.  It is easier to know why he changed his mind: He understood that the sudden downturn in public support for Yair Lapid and his party was forcing Lapid to insist.  [Lapid] desperately needed a victory.  And Netanyahu realized that the public was casting most of the responsibility for the farce upon him.  Ninety-nine percent of the Israelis have no idea who Eckstein, Blejer, Medina or Flug are, or what the differences between them are.  They expect their prime minister to make a decision.  And when they believe that the decision pertains to their pocket, they are particularly agitated.
   Flug acted correctly when she decided to overlook the affront and take the post.  Losers are offended.  Winners have the last word.  She does not owe her appointment to anyone, and that is an excellent start for the governor of a central bank.

Yedioth Ahronoth, 21 Oct 2013, Yaron London 

“God is in the details”; experts have repeatedly used this cliche when talking about the agreement being worked out between Iran and the world powers.  With all due respect, I believe that dealing with the details obscures the trend to which the thinking mind should be paying attention.  The trend is brokering a compromise between the world powers and Iran, and preserving the Shiite state’s ability to build a nuclear weapon when it so chooses.  Will Israel suffer critical harm?
   The most horrific possibility is that the leaders of Iran, who prophecy an apocalypse from which a world subject to God’s rule will arise, will inflict a nuclear blow upon us without taking into consideration what will happen to their country.  The four horsemen of the apocalypse also ride in the minds of Christian fundamentalists, most of whom pose as Israel’s friends, and they appear in a similar version in the visions of delusional Israelis, those who wish to demolish the mosques on the Temple Mount.
   The vision of the Day of Judgment, not as a death wish but as a last choice, has also filtered into Israeli strategic thinking.  The proof of this was given in the past few days, in the series of films about the Yom Kippur War that was aired on Channel One.  The rumors about Moshe Dayan’s request to consider the use of nuclear weapons were confirmed in the filmed testimony of Ornan Azaryahu, the aide of then-minister Yisrael Galili.
   This disclosure does not harm Israel’s power of deterrence, because it teaches our enemies that the “Samson Option” is not an empty phrase.  The chance that the Iranians will cut their own throats just to see our throats cut is comparable to the chance that a meteor will strike and destroy all life on earth.  There is very little to do in order to fend off the cosmic danger, whereas we have been able to distance the Iranian peril, according to foreign reports, by means known as a “second strike capability.”  These are enough to reinforce the rational elements in the Iranian leadership.  Of course, one could write a script about a paranoid ayatollah who takes control of the nuclear trigger, but the history of the Cold War has proven that even ideological zealots are reluctant to turn the earth into dust.
   Another threat that Israel foresees is granting immunity to actions against Israel under the cover of an Iranian nuclear umbrella.  This strategy, of a war of attrition by proxy, was adopted by the two superpowers in the Cold War era, but the lesson is that the proxies fought as if there were no nuclear powers backing them.  The US did not withdraw from Vietnam for fear of a Soviet offensive, and the Soviet Union did not pull out of Afghanistan due to fear of ballistic missiles that could be fired from American silos.  Nuclear deterrence will not reduce Israel’s ability to strike at Hizbullah, or at Iran’s agents in Syria.
   Another more feasible possibility is that the Sunni Arab states will have an incentive to develop their own nuclear weapons.  A large number of players holding weapons of mass destruction increases the chance of an accident due to a technical failure, misreading the enemy’s intentions, or lethal materials falling into the hands of terror organizations.  It is not pleasant to live in an environment in which some of the residents hold nuclear weapons, but the paradox is that an intensification of the threat could extricate us from our loneliness.  Israel has long since explained that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons endangers the entire world, but our argument has not motivated the world powers to take violent preemptive action.  The situation will change as the danger grows.  A nuclear expanse that extends from Afghanistan to Cairo could convince the world where Israel has failed to convince it.
   Meanwhile, under the surface, a positive development from our point of view is taking place: The Sunni Arab states are forced to rely on the West and are strengthening their ties with Israel.  The Palestinian problem is being relegated to the sidelines and this reality enables Israel to cope with it under reduced pressure.  A separate question pertains to our ability and willingness to take advantage of the window of opportunity that has opened for us.

Ma’ariv, 20 Oct 2013, Shalom Yerushalmi 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu walked slowly up to the speaker’s podium in the Knesset on Monday. While in his seat in the plenum, he had pored over what he was going to say until the last moment, changing and correcting, erasing and adding, occasionally asking his neighbor, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon—perhaps his only serious support left today in the government—for advice. On the podium, Netanyahu, as is his wont, gave a forceful speech on the Iranian issue, essentially continuing the aggressive tone with which his associate Tzahi Hanegbi had begun the interview with him which appeared in Ma’ariv last week (“Israel can and must attack Iran,” Hanegbi said.)
   At the end of the speech, Netanyahu addressed the Palestinian issue. Here too, the prime minister sent even more aggressive messages than in the past, which even earned the praise of Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin, the Likud ideologue.  “On the security level, it is becoming increasingly clear just how correct is our demand that in any arrangement, Israel be able to defend itself on its own,” the prime minister said. “While the Palestinians are demanding of us that we recognize the state of the Palestinian people, they refuse to recognize the state of the Jewish people. What’s so complicated about recognizing that simple historic fact?” Netanyahu asked.

   The simple fact is: Binyamin Netanyahu is in his most difficult position since the Western Wall tunnel affair during his first term, in September 1996. Netanyahu is not just alone, as described by the New York Times; he is isolated. The Americans are deserting him and joining the Iranian charm offensive in Geneva. A military strike by Obama? Nothing seems further away today. The negotiations with the Palestinians, having just begun, are in a serious crisis, and the talks are about to explode. Netanyahu understands this perfectly and is looking for footholds. His aggressive speech in the Knesset was also a call of despair to his fellow Likud members: “I want to come back home. Take me in.”
   On Tuesday, the Ma’ariv headline reported, for the first time, what is really happening in the talks with the Palestinians. Let’s review the main points. The sides began to discuss the core issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, etc. The issue of the borders quickly dominated the talks. It began when the Palestinians requested that the Israelis show them a map of the Palestinian state they intend to give them. The Israelis refused. They demanded to first discuss the ways in which the potential borders could be defended, before drawing them, and to reach an understanding on the security arrangements that Israel demands.
   A discussion began. The Israelis demanded that the IDF be permanently deployed along the Jordanian border. The Palestinians demanded that their forces alone be stationed in the Jordan Valley along the border, the way every country defends its independent borders. The Israelis refused outright. “We can give you a demilitarized country, without weapons,” they said. The Palestinians were outraged. “What is a demilitarized country? A prison? We’ll be closed to the east and to the west, with no airspace, no deep sea port, under your daily supervision. We prefer the present situation.” […]
The Next Step
   On Monday, shortly after the prime minister’s speech, the diligent Al-Jazeera correspondent, Elias Karam, interviewed Nimr Hammad, Abu Mazen’s political advisor and his closest associate. Hammad admitted the talks had stalled because of the Israelis’ positions. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Central Committee, was more decisive and detailed in her response. “Netanyahu wants to control the Palestinian state and its borders, border crossings and airspace, and flatly refuses to discuss the possibility of an international force in the Jordan Valley,” she said. “We cannot agree to this. From our point of view, this is a redefinition of the Israeli occupation, which wants to continue controlling our lives. We will not accept this in any form.”
   “All the talks focus on Israel’s security issues,” Ashrawi added. “Israel insists, entrenches itself in its positions and continues building settlements. The negotiations have produced no result so far.” The talks have reached an impasse, but what both Netanyahu and the Palestinians understood perfectly seems to have escaped Justice Minister Tzippi Livni, who is leading the negotiations. Livni gave an interview to Army Radio yesterday, but refused to give details about what was going on behind the close doors. She merely said that Israel had learned the lessons of the disengagement from Gaza, and will be able to protect its borders in the future. Livni, as well as Minister Amir Peretz, a member of her party, claimed that progress had been made in the talks.

    Back to Netanyahu. The prime minister once considered, not long ago, splitting  the Likud and running in a different political constellation. He raised the idea in discussions with several ministers. Later he realized that dismantling the reactor at Natanz would be easier than dismantling his own party, and that only a few would join him should he attempt to walk the moderate path of Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu tried, as we remember, to compete with Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon for the Likud presidency, and after weighing his chances, backed down. These actions awakened the grass roots Likud against Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the party’s three most important institutions have been taken over by three men who oppose any compromise with the Palestinians—Minister Yisrael Katz and Deputy Ministers Zeev Elkin and Danon. These three, with the others, set Netanyahu limited room to maneuver in the peace process.
   The release of the prisoners in mid-August in exchange for the renewal of the peace talks was, it appears, a dramatic turning point in Netanyahu’s term. The Americans discerned that the prime minister was ready to make far-reaching concessions, and perhaps an opportunity to sever him from the right in favor of the negotiations with Palestinians. Netanyahu felt trapped. He will not accept Palestinian demands in the Jordan Valley a long time before the essentials talks are held on the right of return, Jerusalem and the settlements. The Palestinians refuse even to lease the Jordan Valley to Israel. According to one senior official, Netanyahu regrets the prisoner release. Even the Americans have despaired of him. Yair Lapid, who was in the US last week and met with senior administration officials there, can’t stop talking about how Vice President Joe Biden said to him, you’re the next thing.”

  Since there is no point to the negotiations, Netanyahu does not want to also lose his political base. Today, he needs the Likud more than he ever did. These are no longer the days when he could make, with ease, any political combination he wanted, as he did with the Gesher and Tzomet parties before the 1992 elections. Today, he is menaced by Avigdor Lieberman, who is threatening to dismantle his coalition unless he becomes an integral part of the Likud. Netanyahu wants to force this alliance on his fellow party members, but before doing so, he must change his tune [on making peace]. MKs Elkin, Danon Hotovely, Levin, Feiglin and the others repeatedly say, “anyone who gives up [parts of the Land of Israel] will be left outside.” Netanyahu doesn’t want to be outside anymore, but rather inside, deep inside.
   The possible failure of the talks with the Palestinians will be Netanyahu’s renewed entrance ticket into his enraged party. Expect a Likud Central Committee at which Netanyahu will give a festive speech and announce: “I did not concede, neither on Israel’s borders nor on its security. I remained faithful to the Likud’s principles.” The ceiling of the conference hall will fly off, and with it, the peace process and  relations with the United States. How did Netanyahu put it? “If we remain alone, we’ll manage alone.” It seems he was right. […]

Yedioth Ahronoth, 18 Oct 2013, Shimon Shiffer 

“I drank the cup of poison,” said Iran’s spiritual leader Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, describing his consent to a cease-fire in the bloody war with Iraq.  Now, with an ironic smile, it can be said that the talks between the Islamic republic and the world powers will also require Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to drink the cup of poison that the parties have designated for him—the world, so it seems, has turned in Iran’s direction.
   The two days of talks that were held this week in Geneva between representatives of the world powers and their counterparts from Iran, which discussed the suspension of the Iranian nuclear project in exchange for lifting the sanctions imposed by the West on the ayatollah regime in Tehran, left decision-makers in Israel troubled, concerned—and mainly in the dark.  However, it can already be assumed that no agreement that will be reached at the end of the talks will cause officials in Jerusalem to smile, and it will be implemented in spite of Israel’s objections.
   However, a high-ranking political-security official in Israel who is privy to the secret discussions on the Iranian threat explained that focusing on the agreement for suspending the nuclear project misses the real story.  He said that the focus is the talks between Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman—who is nicknamed “the killer” behind her back—and senior Iranian official Abbas Araghchi.  These two are full partners to three secret dialogue channels that were established in the past year between the US and Iran, the aim of which is to examine the possibility of normalization between Washington and Tehran.  “The Americans carefully safeguard the content of the talks with the Iranians,” says the high-ranking Israeli official.  “They don’t tell us what is happening there, and they don’t tell the British and the French either.”

   As far as the nuclear program is concerned, Israeli officials assess that a guiding principle for an agreement is being worked out in the talks between the Americans and the Iranians: President Barack Obama’s administration will permit the government in Tehran to continue enriching uranium to a 3.5% level, in exchange for their willingness to stop the enrichment to a 20% level and in exchange for opening their nuclear facilities to international inspection.  And if that were not enough, the Americans are also willing to examine a reduction of the economic sanctions and a series of humanitarian relief measures, in the context of good will gestures and confidence building measures.  For example, the US could unfreeze some of the assets and funds, valued at trillions of dollars, which are held in banks in the US and were confiscated after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran.  The Israeli official said, “this rapprochement between Washington and Tehran is a cause of genuine concern for us.” […]
   Netanyahu, for his part, intends to tell US Secretary of State John Kerry next week in their meeting in Rome that Israel will do everything in its power to prevent changes in the sanctions regime.  Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who met with his American counterpart and with top CIA officials, demanded that [the US] insist on having the Iranians stop the uranium enrichment to a 20% level before any consent is given to ease the sanctions.  In addition, Israel is demanding to remove from Iran the centrifuges already manufactured and to close the nuclear sites in Fordow, Parchin and Arak.
   “Will there be an agreement in the end?” I asked a Western diplomat who met the Iranian team to the talks.  “It’s not at all certain,” he replied.  “They are negotiating in the salami method, and they discern a strong desire, even haste, on the part of the world powers [to reach an agreement].  But it should be remembered that the agreement will only reach fruition after they sign it—and it should be made clear to the Iranians that if they try to deceive us, they will be punished by the destruction of the facilities that they tried to build under the cover of the negotiations.”

Ma’ariv, 17 Oct 2013, Dr.  Emily Landau (The author is the director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies)
   The talks in Geneva ended with a joint announcement to the press, and as could be expected, with optimistic statements about the expected progress and expectation of another meeting in a few weeks in order to examine the technical details of the various proposals in depth.  What we did not hear were many details about the actual proposals.  If that sounds familiar, that’s because there was a similar dynamic in the past. Except for the more relaxed tones and the demonstratively positive approach, there is nothing significant of substance this time that we didn’t have in the previous rounds in 2012 and earlier this year in the talks in Kazakhstan. Gary Samore, until recently the key person in the Obama administration for the Iranian issue, is of the impression that there is no significant change in the Iranian proposal compared to previous proposals in the past, when Ahmadinejad was Iranian president.  
   One principal question has to be at the heart of the negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue: this question is not whether Iran is willing to make preliminary concessions in the nuclear context, but rather whether it has made a decision to back down from its plan to develop a military nuclear capability. It’s a bit hard to conduct negotiations on something that Iran fervently says that it is not doing and never did. And that’s why, in order to examine the matter, it is necessary to translate what is fairly obvious that Iran is doing in the nuclear context—i.e., taking steps to develop military nuclear capability—into specific issues relating to the most problematic aspects of its plan. And it is on these matters that there must be insistence, before thinking of easing the sanctions.
   The correct way to examine the talks is through the prism of the art of negotiation. As long as there is no indication that Iran has changed direction in its nuclear plans and has decided to give up its intent to develop military nuclear capability, all of its proposals should be seen as tactical steps in the negotiations with the international community. Therefore, it can reasonably be assumed that Iran’s main goal in these talks is to lift the painful sanctions. It wants to make the minimum concessions in its nuclear program and to get maximum easing of the economic and financial sanctions. Iran has probably also realized that tactically, it is more effective to show a welcoming face than a defiant one. One can propose insignificant concessions with a smile, and this makes it harder for the other side to turn these concessions down.
   And what about Israel’s position? As part of the Iranian tactics, if Israel is perceived as being the only one that is vehemently opposed to what is taking place in the talks, it will be easy to push its arguments to the sidelines and to portray it as a side whose positions do not correspond to those of the rest of the world. In this context, it should be mentioned that Israel’s positions, as presented by Netanyahu in New York a few weeks ago, correspond in full to the declared positions of the US, including the matter of not enriching uranium in Iranian territory, as stated by Susan Rice at the end of September this year. Israel’s frustration is understandable: it is not sitting at the negotiating table with Iran but will particularly suffer from the negative consequences of a “bad deal” with it. That said, it is better not to stand out  in such a way that makes it easier for Iran to push Israel to the sidelines; Israel should relay its principal messages to the countries leading the talks by quiet means.


The exchange of blows between Ankara and Jerusalem escalated last night. A high-ranking Israeli political official lambasted the Turks over the exposure of the spy ring in Iran. “Erdogan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a supporter of Hamas and is anti-Israel, not to say an anti-Semite,  he has no real intention of rehabilitating relations with us,” said the high-ranking political official to Channel Ten News. “We have no expectations from him.”
   MK Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said last night that Turkey was not interested in improving relations with Israel. “I believed that the apology for the flotilla would only damage Israel’s standing in the region and would play into the hands of the extremist elements in the Middle East, among which Turkey under Erdogan, the extremist Islamist,” wrote Lieberman on Facebook. “I am not surprised by Turkey’s accusations as if Israel were behind the report in the Washington Post, and I don’t know if there even was such a spy ring,” wrote Lieberman in a first public comment on the issue by an Israeli official.
   “This Turkish accusation, as if Israel were behind the report so as to avoid paying compensation to the participants of the Marmara flotilla, like the previous accusation as if Israel had been behind the riots by Turkish demonstrators in Taksim Square and Erdogan’s comments about how he has ‘documents and proof’ that Israel was behind the coup in Egypt, is devoid of any basis and proves once again that Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership is not interested in improving relations with Israel,” wrote Lieberman.
   “That is why I hope that we will all stop deluding ourselves and understand the reality in which we live and the difference between what we’d like to exist and what does exist,” wrote Lieberman in conclusion. “My opposition to the apology to Turkey is not new and I expressed it clearly both before and after it was done.”
   Turkish intelligence officials claimed that Israel was responsible for the report, and said that they believed this was a campaign that Israel was staging in order to avoid having to pay damages to the victims of the flotilla to Gaza as Israel undertook to do. According to a report in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, officials in Ankara drew a link between this most recent report and other reports in the American media against the Turkish intelligence service.

Senior Israeli official: The Director of Turkish Intelligence is an Anti-Semite
   While Turkey began to intimate that “forces in the region” that wanted to sabotage Turkey’s standing in the Middle East had brought about the report because of the “moderate political atmosphere in the aftermath of Hassan Rouhani’s election,” a high-ranking Israeli security official fired back in the direction of Hakan Fidan, the director of the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT. According to the report in the Washington Post, Fidan has close ties with the regime in Tehran.
   According to the report, Israeli intelligence officials referred to Fidan in in conversations with the Americans as the head of Iranian intelligence in Ankara. “Hakan Fidan is an anti-Semite and an Islamist who consorts with the worst of our enemies,” the high-ranking security official told Channel Ten News. “With Fidan it isn’t that we need to respect and suspect him, but that we need to suspect and suspect him, and the spirit of his leadership is anti-Semitic and Islamist.”

Ma’ariv, 20 Oct 2013, Amnon Lord

The road to a final status arrangement runs through an interim agreement. And the existing interim agreement appears to be the final status arrangement. The more details we hear—if you call the highly partial leaks from the negotiations’ “details” —the stronger the impression that Israel is demanding that which it now has. It is not insisting on sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, but talks of “leasing.” And after all, doesn’t Israel currently control the Jordan Valley—albeit without a lease, but without sovereignty either?
   The addition to the status quo must make the current agreement dynamic, i.e., it has to initiate a process whereby the longer the security situation stays calm, and the deeper that calm is, the more “rights” are given to the Palestinians. It goes without saying that a situation in which Israel is the side that “grants” rights to the Palestinians is no good. It’s an unnatural and unjust situation, but it’s a process that works.
  In the end, a situation has to be reached in which the Palestinians have a degree of freedom of movement which, even if not complete, is more or less on the level of that of the Jews—in all parts of the State of Israel. The preference will be that there be more sources of income and development in the territories of the Palestinian Authority, so that people prefer to work within its borders. And the same goes for the area of Israeli legal jurisdiction.

   All this, in a dynamic process initiated from our side. After all, we will have no choice but to confront reality. The Palestinian side won’t help us reach that interim agreement in which Israel really does give up territories, but without giving the Palestinians everything they demand. It seems that the son of an Arab, of a Christian and my son will be able to live together in relative freedom and security only under the conditions existing today.
   One could almost say that Netanyahu’s peace is a peace of trial and error—without carrying out large experiments on human beings: checking what works but without evacuating [territories] and without losing control of the security situation. At the other end of the spectrum is the method of “agreement at any price.” More and more, it seems that this method leads to an explosion. Its adherents are very strong forces within Israel and obviously also on the American side.
   When the Palestinians oppose an idea put forward by Israel, according to last week’s reports, they apparently rely on an understanding with the Americans, for example, on the issue of the Jordan Valley. But the Americans apparently have a similar tendency with regard to any territory Israel might cede: they speak of “foreign forces” that will buttress security in the Jordan Valley and the other areas. This is completely in opposition to one of the principles outlined by Netanyahu.
   Conclusion: when Abu Mazen rejects an Israeli proposal for a long-term lease, he does so under American cover. This is not the most important issue in the negotiations, but it demonstrates how far apart the two sides’ positions are and how impossible it is, today, to reach the final status arrangement the international community is talking about. True, it’s good that negotiations are happening. But we shouldn’t take them too seriously. It’s not that the two-state solution is dead. The story is a bit different: the Palestinian moment in history was missed. The Palestinians had their moment in history, and it wasn’t during the Olmert period. It was in Camp David in July of 2000. The moment came and Arafat made his decision: he embarked on a war of terror. Ever since, the Palestinian issue has been fading, with moments of high and low tide, and even if they return to the option so many Israelis are afraid of—a renewed appeal to the UN and international institutions—it will be nothing more than political harassment.

Ma’ariv, 17 Oct 2013, Shalom Yerushalmi 
Ma’ariv has learned that Israel proposed to the Palestinians during the negotiations that Israel transfer the Jordan Valley to them but lease it from them for decades. The Palestinians adamantly refused, and the Jordanians also refused an Israeli demand to deploy the IDF along the border. “No Israeli soldiers will be there,” said yesterday Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. “We will not agree to [Israeli] control and we will not lease land. We will not take part in redefining the Israeli occupation.”
   Ma’ariv reported first on Tuesday, that the talks with the Palestinians were on the verge of breaking up because of the Jordan Valley, only two months after starting. This came after the sides started to discuss the core issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and more. The issue of borders very quickly took up most of the talks, after the Palestinians demanded of the Israelis that they show a map of the state they are willing to give them. The Israelis demanded that they talk about ways to defend the borders before drawing them up, and to reach understandings on the issue of the security arrangements.
   In the course of the meeting, the Israelis demanded that the IDF be permanently deployed on the border with Jordan.  The Palestinians demanded that only their forces be deployed on the Jordan Valley border. The Israelis firmly refused. “We are willing to let you have a demilitarized state, without weapons,” they said. The Palestinians were outraged. “What is a demilitarized state? A cage? We will be closed from the east and from the west, with no air space, with no deep water port, with daily supervision by you. Even the current situation is better,” they replied. “The Americans’ attempts to talk about international forces were flatly rejected by Israel. “In any arrangement, Israel must be able to defend itself with its own forces, against any threat, without relying on foreign forces,” Netanyahu made the Israeli position clear on Monday in his Knesset speech.
   At some stage the Israelis on the negotiating team raised a surprising solution: Israel would lease the Jordan Valley for decades from the PA. Such an arrangement exists between Israel and Jordan, which signed a peace agreement in October 1994. According to that agreement, Israel leases a 400 square kilometer enclave in the Arava, and in the Naharayim area. The Palestinians also refused this proposal. Two days ago, in an interview to Al-Jazeera, Abu Mazen’s adviser and his closest associate, Nimr Hamad, said that the negotiations were in crisis because of the Israelis’ positions.
   Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, confirmed the exclusive report in Ma’ariv. “Netanyahu wants to control the Palestinian state and its borders, the crossings and the air space, and adamantly refuses to discuss the possibility of deploying international forces in the Jordan Valley,” she said. “We cannot agree to this. As far as we are concerned, this would be redefining the Israeli occupation which wants to besiege us again and control our lives. We will not accept this in any form.” She said, “all the talks are focusing on issues of Israel’s security. Israel is being insistent, is hunkering down in its positions and continues to build settlements. The negotiations have not yet led to anything.”
   Matters have reached an impasse, but what Netanyahu and the Palestinians realize very well, seems to have gone unnoticed by Justice Minister Tzippi Livni, who is heading the talks for Israel. Livni said after the Ma’ariv report that this was gossip. Yesterday Minister Amir Peretz, from Livni’s party, said that there was progress in the talks. “I am optimistic,” Peretz said. Happy is he who believes.

Makor Rishon, 17 Oct 2013, Ariel Kahane 
A new Israeli proposal has been put forward in an attempt to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians in light of the impasse that apparently has been reached in the talks. The Israeli political echelon has begun to examine new ideas that might allow for some agreements, even limited agreements, to be reached with the Palestinians, since a final status arrangement and even an interim agreement appear now to be out of reach, so as to prevent the talks from dying. Makor Rishon has learned that one of the proposals being considered by Israel is “annexation in exchange for annexation,” which means receiving Palestinian consent for Israel to annex certain parts of Judea and Samaria in exchange for turning other areas over to Palestinian control.
   At this stage, the idea is a general one, but an Israeli source spoke with Makor Rishon about the possibility of annexing the Etzion Bloc in exchange for turning over territory in the Nablus area to the Palestinians. It should be underscored that at issue is not the veteran idea of a “land swap,” since that idea is predicated on Israel’s turning over land from inside smaller [i.e., sovereign] Israel in exchange for recognition of the settlement blocs.
   A large number of Israeli sources have said that, for the time being, the Livni-Erekat talks have yielded no results. The parties repeat their consistent positions, and have been unable to bridge the gaps.
   The Israelis are searching for a way to prevent the talks from being derailed in a manner that might result in the blame being laid at Israel’s doorstep. Israeli officials are afraid of an American position paper being presented towards the end of the period of time that has been allotted to the talks, citing parameters [for a final status arrangement] that will be difficult for Israel [to accept]. That said, Prime Minister Netanyahu has stressed in talks that he will not agree to make any concessions on the issue of security. One of his demands has been a lengthy Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, which is a position that the Palestinians have rejected out of hand.
   In light of the standstill in the talks, Netanyahu has also said that he would be prepared and willing to try to reach a temporary agreement with the Palestinians, but PA Chairman Abu Mazen has remained firmly opposed to that option. It is against that backdrop, and as a result of a desire to put an end to the one-sided pattern that was established in the Oslo, in which Israel gave up territory and received nothing palpable in return, that the above-cited proposal has come to be considered. The chances of it’s being accepted do not appear to be very high for the time being.
   The assessment within the Israeli political establishment is that once the period of time allotted to the negotiations draws near, the Americans are likely to take far clearer positions on the content of what they believe would be a desirable agreement and, by so doing, to place the burden of blame, in practice, on one side.

Ma’ariv, 17 Oct 2013, Eli Bardenstein 
The EU is cooperating with Israel in an attempt to find a solution to circumvent the restrictions imposed by the European Commission on funding for Israeli institutions working beyond the Green Line. The main reason that the Europeans are seeking a way to back down, at least partially, is because they want to see Israel taking part in the huge Horizon 2020 science project, which is one of the EU’s flagship programs.
   Europe cannot cancel the sanctions, and that’s why both sides are looking for creative solutions that will make it possible to have it both ways —in other words, keep the sanctions in place but get around them by various means. The first idea, raised by the Israeli side, is meant to find a solution to the European demand that any institution that desires funding must declare that it does not work beyond the Green Line and undertake that the money it receives will only be used for activity within the Green Line. The Foreign Ministry proposed that the European Commission decide what the location is of any institution requesting funding based on the zip code of its main place of activity. A high-ranking official in Jerusalem explained that this proposal places the burden of proof on the Europeans. So instead of the Israeli institution’s having to prove that it is not active beyond the 1967 borders, the Europeans would be the ones to check this.
   The second proposal, made by the European side, has to do with funding for Israeli institutions that have only limited and indirect activity beyond the Green Line—for example, banks that have branches in East Jerusalem, gas companies with stations in Judea and Samaria, health funds, supermarket chains, the Israel Postal Company, academic centers, and more. According to the current rules, such institutions are not eligible for funding. The Europeans are proposing that these institutions set up subsidiaries for the projects for which they are asking funding, and thus bypass the problem.
   Despite the mutual wish to resolve the problems, there are still disagreements. The Europeans say that the zip code method proposed by Israel does not really ensure that institutions seeking funding are only active inside the Green Line, whereas Israel claims that the idea of subsidiaries is not practical for small companies, which would find this difficult to achieve. That said, the fact that both sides are cooperating and want to solve the problem before the European Commission guidelines go into effect in January 2014, are grounds for optimism.
   The main catalyst to an agreement between the sides is, as said, the Horizon 2020 project. The Europeans very much want Israel to take part in this scientific project because of its proven ability in this sphere. If the cooperation works out, Israel will transfer more than 600 million euros to the EU project over the next seven years, but in return, will receive about one billion euros for scientific and technological projects.
   In meetings that were held at the Foreign Ministry and in the Prime Minister’s Bureau after the European Commission issued its guidelines, all agreed that Israel could not sign new agreements with the EU based on these directives. On the other hand, Israel recognizes that it is not possible to cancel them officially, and that in any case, cooperation with the EU cannot be halted because of them. That is why it was decided to seek creative solutions, and Jerusalem is encouraged by the fact that the Europeans have reached a similar conclusion.
   One of the signs that cooperation between Israel and the EU can be expected to continue is the scheduled visit on Sunday of EU Commission Vice President for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani. Tajani will arrive in Israel accompanied by 65 representatives of European companies and industrial organizations with the goal of encouraging business cooperation between the sides. In the course of his visit Tajani will meet with President Shimon Peres and with ministers Silvan Shalom, Uzi Landau and Naftali Bennett. 

Ma’ariv, 18 Oct, 2013, Eli Bardenstein 

In the wake of the weaker relations between the US and the new government in Egypt, Russia is expected to try to fill, at least partially, the vacuum left by Washington. It is common knowledge that during the Cold War, the USSR provided Egypt with economic, political and military aid; this time around—it is important to note—Russia’s support is to a lesser extent, yet the Russians are nevertheless determined to strengthen their position in the region, and are willing to invest efforts and resources to do so. Moscow is now taking steps to reestablish its standing in the Middle East, and Egypt is emerging as the central axis of its diplomatic maneuvers.
   As will be recalled, Washington announced that it was freezing military aid to Egypt because of its displeasure with the military government’s actions against the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration considers these actions as directly contradicting the basic premises of the democracy that it hopes will arise in Egypt. In addition, the Russian success in Syria, where the Kremlin’s initiative led to a deal between the US and the Assad regime on the chemical weapons, raised Russia’s standing in the region, to the detriment of Washington, and encouraged the Russians to strive more energetically to reoccupy their historical position in the Middle East.
   Egypt, the largest and most important Arab country, is a natural target for Russia. “US-Egypt relations are going through a crisis that is likely to harm the entire Middle East,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told the Egyptian Al-Ahramnewspaper. From the Russians’ point of view, this is an opportunity. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to visit Cairo at the beginning of November, and a visit by President Putin may follow.
   Director of the Russian MFA Department for Middle East Sergey Vershinin raised the issue of the US freezing its aid to Egypt in meetings held in Israel this week, and expressed deep anxiety that if the Egyptians did not receive the money from some alternate source, the country’s already weak economic situation would deteriorate even further, leading to instability. He confirmed to his Israeli interlocutors that Foreign Minister Lavrov would indeed visit Cairo soon, and even mentioned Russia’s intention to renew and upgrade its cooperation with Egypt. At the same time, Vershinin stressed that Moscow would not be able to restore the level of support afforded to Egypt in the past by the USSR. “We won’t go back to the days when we built the Aswan Dam,” he said in talks with his Israeli counterparts. […]  
   Even though officials in Jerusalem harbor fears that Russia will reassume a full-scale role in the Middle East, the Russians have made it clear that in at least one area, it relations with Israel will not be harmed: that of economic cooperation, which they consider to be of prime importance. Putin himself raised this issue in a meeting with Netanyahu in Sochi last year, and the prime minister is expected to convene a joint economic committee, with the participation of both countries, in November.