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August 23, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant Named as Next IDF Chief of Staff - Anshel Pfeffer and Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, 51, head of the IDF's Southern Command, was named as the next Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He will replace Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
    See also Profile of New IDF Chief of Staff - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Yoav Galant began his IDF career in the navy commandos in 1977 and later served as the unit's commander.
    He has served as commander of the Jenin Brigade in the West Bank, commander of the Gaza Division, head of ground forces, and army secretary to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
    Galant was a major player in the planning and execution of the Gaza operation in 2009.
    See also Galant Appointment Sends Strong Message to Iran - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    Galant's most prominent characteristic as a military man is his tendency to choose offense over other combat approaches.
    Had it been up to him, the Gaza operation would have been launched a year to a year and a half earlier, and would have been much broader. His plan was supposed to not only put an end to the rocket barrages directed at southern Israel, but also to terminate Hamas' rule in Gaza.
    His appointment conveys a clear, sharp message: The State of Israel does not intend to remain idle and wait to be attacked by rockets, missiles, and possibly unconventional weapons.

Iran Unveils Unmanned Aerial Bomber - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled an unmanned bomber jet Sunday, the Karrar, that he termed a "messenger of death for the enemies of humanity."
    The audience applauded and praised the prophet Muhammad and his descendants as a sheet covering the olive-green aircraft was removed. A short video showed what was said to be the drone launching into the sky and firing a missile, as martial music played.

Natural Gas Deposits Improve Israel's Energy Outlook - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that more than 120 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves lie beneath the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, most of it within Israeli territory.
    Several months after the report, a field of 8.7 trillion cubic feet was found off Israel and a second, twice that size, was detected and is thought to have a 50% chance of proving out.
    Christopher Schenk, a geologist who led the Geological Survey's study, said there was little doubt of the area's enormous gas potential. Israel's energy needs will easily be filled for the next generation by the gas, and the country could well become an energy exporter.

Informant Is Key to NY Synagogues Bomb Plot Case - Tom Hays (AP)
    Four Muslim men charged with trying to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will be reunited at their trial with someone who was in on the plot every step of the way: a wire-wearing FBI informant named Shaheed Hussain.
    The government credits Hussain with rooting out radical Muslims at a mosque in Newburgh, New York.

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  • U.S. Announces Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday: "After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I've invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C., to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year. President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort....These negotiations should take place without preconditions."  (State Department)
        See also Quartet Statement on Renewing Talks (State Department)
        See also PA Clinging to Quartet Statement
    The Palestinian Authority is basing its hopes on the Mideast Quartet statement, issued Friday, rather than anything said by American officials, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad said Sunday. While Clinton insists that the talks should renew "without preconditions," the Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to previous statements including one on 19 March which called on both sides to adhere to the Roadmap and specifically demanded that Israel "freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth." Al-Ahmad noted that remarks made by U.S. Quartet envoy George Mitchell contradicted those outlined in the Quartet statement. Mitchell said the agenda for talks would not be set in advance but would be worked out during negotiations. (Maan News-PA)
  • In Mideast Talks, Scant Hopes from the Beginning - Ethan Bronner
    The American invitation on Friday to the Israelis and Palestinians to start direct peace talks was immediately accepted by both governments. But just below the surface there was an almost audible shrug. There is little confidence - close to none - on either side that the Obama administration's goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met.
        Yossi Beilin, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal. "I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration," he said. "There is not a chance in the world that in a year - two or three - peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big." On the Palestinian side, not even the leadership is enthusiastic. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has spent the past year and a half resisting the entreaties of Mr. Netanyahu to sit down together without preconditions. He was hoping that the Obama administration would impose a solution.
        As most Israelis see it, twice in the past decade their governments made generous offers to the Palestinian leadership that were rejected or ignored, evidence that peaceful coexistence was not the other side's goal. What happened in Gaza over the past five years has also created intense Israeli disillusionment. Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers and the result was a victory for Hamas, which rejects Israel's existence, and thousands of rockets shot at Israeli communities from Gaza.
        Dore Gold, a former diplomat who has left public service but is closely associated with Mr. Netanyahu, said the negotiations "can be important as long as Israel's red lines are not crossed." The lines he considers red are the need to keep Jerusalem united and under Israeli sovereignty and preserving Israeli control of the area in the West Bank along the Jordan border to prevent any flow of weapons in. (New York Times)
  • Iran's Nuclear Clock Is Not Slowing - Gary Milhollin
    The phrase that Iran's "nuclear clock has slowed" is now one of the Obama administration's favorites when arguing that Iran's progress toward nuclear-weapon capability has diminished, and that more time is available to convince Iran to change its ways. Sad to say, the assumption is false. The clock is still ticking, vigorously.
        By the beginning of this year, Iran had produced enough low-enriched uranium to fuel two nuclear weapons if the uranium were further enriched to weapon-grade. By now, Iran has added almost enough of this low-enriched uranium to fuel a third weapon, and by the middle of next year (at the current production rate), it will probably produce enough to fuel a fourth. To make matters worse, in February, Iran started to further enrich this uranium to a higher level, a level at which the Islamic Republic will have accomplished 90% of the work needed to raise its enrichment to weapon-grade. All this is happening at a time when Iran is successfully fielding ballistic missiles that can carry a nuclear payload far enough to reach Israel.
        But why quibble about how long the final phase of bomb making might take? Instead, we should keep our eyes on the big fact here, which is that Iran is fast approaching the status of a "virtual" nuclear weapon state - one with the ability to kick out UN inspectors and build a handful of nuclear warheads. We must confront the growth of Iran's nuclear capability, and not be lulled into imagining that it's not real. The writer is executive director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. (Atlantic Monthly)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: We Can Surprise the Skeptics to Reach Peace
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday: "I welcome the U.S. invitation to start direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority without preconditions. Since the Government's inauguration nearly a year and a half ago I have been calling for these direct talks. The achievement of a peace agreement between us and the Palestinian Authority is a difficult thing, but it is possible....We are seeking to surprise the critics and the skeptics, but in order to do this we need a real partner on the Palestinian side. It is possible to succeed with a hand extended in peace, but only if someone on the other [side] likewise extends one. "
        "This agreement will be based on three initial components: First of all, on real and sustainable security arrangements on the ground; secondly, upon recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, and this means that the solution of a problem like the demand for return will be realized in the territory of the Palestinian state; and the third component, the end to the conflict. We are discussing a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state. This state, if it should be established after this process, is due to end the conflict and not to be a facade for its continuation by other means."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also In Peace Talks, Israel to Focus on Security Arrangements - Natasha Mozgovaya, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to lead the direct negotiations with the Palestinians in Washington on September 2. Netanyahu said he wants to discuss security issues with the Palestinians first; only then would the two sides focus on borders of a future Palestinian state. Sources said on Saturday that most of the negotiations will take place in Israel or the region and not in the U.S. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What It Took to Get Israelis and Palestinians to Agree to Talks - David Ignatius
    The Palestinian side agreed Friday to come to the talks based on a statement of principles that was issued by the Quartet. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is responding to the invitation issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, without endorsing any terms of reference. Indeed, Netanyahu is said to have explicitly rejected the language of the Quartet statement as a framing document. It's a classic piece of diplomacy: One side is responding to one letter of invitation; the other is responding to a subtly different request. It's a finesse that has succeeded in getting both to the table, but it also highlights the huge differences that exist between the two sides. If it was this hard to get people to agree to come to the table, that surely doesn't bode well for the larger issues that need to be resolved. (Washington Post)
  • Many Possible Israeli Concessions Would Be Suicidal - George F. Will
    The only place for a Palestinian state is the West Bank, which Israel has occupied - legally under international law - since repelling the 1967 aggression launched from there. The West Bank remains an unallocated portion of the Palestine Mandate, the disposition of which is to be settled by negotiations.
        There was in 2007 essentially a coup in Gaza by the terrorist organization Hamas. So now Israel has on its western border, 44 miles from Tel Aviv, an entity dedicated to Israel's destruction, collaborative with Iran and possessing a huge arsenal of rockets. Rocket attacks from Gaza increased dramatically after Israel withdrew. The number of UN resolutions deploring this? Zero. The closest precedent for that bombardment was the Nazi rocket attacks on London, which were answered by the destruction of Hamburg, Dresden and other German cities. When Israel struck back at Hamas, the "international community" was theatrically appalled. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Back to Basics on Israel's Security Needs - Elliott Abrams (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon of April 14, 2004, was a return to the key elements of U.S. policy since 1967 developed under President Johnson - the idea that there would be no return to the situation before June 1967; that the so-called '67 borders were incapable of providing Israel with adequate defense and would change. The Bush letter makes no reference to the '67 borders. It refers to "the armistice lines of 1949."
    • President Bush stated U.S. policy in a speech in the Rose Garden on June 24, 2002, where he called for "new Palestinian leadership." It included the understanding that peace was not going to be made as it had been made with Jordan and Egypt, because Israel and the Palestinians were more deeply intertwined. Security for Israel depended also on what happened inside Palestinian society.
    • The "incitement" issue is not trivial or marginal. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, the location of the border and what is on the other side of that border are equally important. President Bush said that the Palestinians needed institutions of statehood where those who are in charge of education policy are not nursing ancient hatreds. Israel should not back away from the incitement issue because it is a security issue.
    • Similarly, those who back away from the idea of defensible borders are making a huge mistake. Presumably they think defensible borders are too much to ask for. But there will be no peace with the '67 lines, as has been understood since 1967. Clarity about the fact that those lines will change actually promotes peace. The point is to reflect the reality on the ground and establish the basis for a peace that can last. We need to stick to the basics and what is most basic is security.

      The writer is former Senior Director for the Near East on the U.S. National Security Council, and Deputy National Security Adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

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