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September 13, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Death of Top Hamas Commander Hurt Arms Smuggling - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The quality of weapons being smuggled into Gaza has declined significantly since January's assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet on Sunday.
    Mabhouh was reportedly responsible for smuggling Iranian arms into Gaza.
    Diskin also warned that, based on recent terror attacks as well as concrete intelligence information, the threat of terrorism will increase in lockstep with progress in the peace talks with the Palestinians.
    He said Hamas was largely working through operatives inside Israeli jails who were activating prisoners who recently returned to the West Bank.
    Diskin also noted that with financial support and assistance from Iran, Islamic Jihad was gaining strength inside Gaza.

Israel and Palestinians Clash over Agenda for Direct Peace Talks - Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya (Ha'aretz)
    Israel and the Palestinians are at odds over which subjects will open their next round of peace talks.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to begin with security arrangements, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a Palestinian willingness to declare an end to the conflict when an agreement is signed.
    But Palestinian President Abbas wants to begin by defining the borders of the Palestinian state. Palestinian leaders adamantly refuse to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

U.S. Prepares $60 Billion Arms Package for Saudis - Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    The Obama administration is set to notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, and is in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more.
    The administration will authorize the Saudis to buy as many as 84 new F-15 fighters, upgrade 70 more, and purchase three types of helicopters - 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds.

Ten Palestinian Rockets Fired at Israel Since Wednesday (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians in Gaza have fired ten rockets at Israel since last Wednesday, the start of the Jewish New Year.
    See also IDF Foils Attempted Terror Attack at Gaza Border (Jerusalem Post)
    An IDF force foiled an attempted terror attack on Sunday when it opened fire on a group of men approaching the security fence between Gaza and Israel near Kibbutz Erez carrying firearms and an RPG launcher.

Report: Terrorist Who Planned to Bomb IDF Event in Paris Extradited to France (Ha'aretz)
    A terrorist who planned to bomb an Israel Defense Forces fundraising event in Paris has been arrested in Egypt and extradited to France, the Le Journal du Dimanche reported Saturday, citing French intelligence chief Bernard Squarcini.

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  • New Secret Iranian Nuclear Facility Revealed - Greg Miller
    An Iranian dissident group said on Thursday that it has identified a previously undisclosed nuclear facility under construction northwest of Tehran, claiming to have evidence that shows the Islamic nation is deceiving inspectors and moving forward in its pursuit of a bomb. The information was presented by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, a group that has been on the mark in the past in exposing Iranian nuclear activities, including the identification in 2002 of a large centrifuge installation at Natanz.
        The site is located just north of a major highway connecting Tehran with Qazvin. Satellite images showed significant excavation amid otherwise mountainous and barren terrain. The group said Iran has been engaged in major excavation work for at least five years, building a network of underground tunnels designed to hold centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade purification levels. A spokeswoman for the group, Soona Samsami, said the new compound was 85% complete and could prove to be "far more important than the Qom site," a facility that Iran worked on in secret for years before it was exposed by the Obama administration in 2009. (Washington Post)
  • Obama Sees Enormous Hurdles in Mideast Peace Talks
    President Barack Obama said Friday he saw "enormous hurdles" ahead in Middle East peace negotiations, but said it was a risk worth taking. (Reuters)
        See also below Observations - Obama: We Will Keep Trying for Middle East Peace (White House)
  • Nuclear Scrutiny to Turn to Israel - Jay Solomon
    Arab states are preparing to press for far greater UN controls over Israel's nuclear program, in a move that could complicate the Obama administration's broader nonproliferation campaign and Middle East peace drive. Arab diplomats say they are preparing to use two sets of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meetings in Vienna to pass a resolution for the second consecutive year aimed at bringing Israel's nuclear program under tighter international controls.
        The U.S. has already begun trying to head off the Arab initiative due to concerns it will distract from the conferences' focus on the proliferation cases of Iran and Syria. U.S. officials also said the Arab-led resolution could also cause Israel to reject any participation in a planned 2012 conference aimed at establishing a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. "Another resolution singling out Israel and ignoring proliferation issues like Iran and Syria would seriously diminish the chances for convening a 2012 meeting," said Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA.
        The Arab states scored a diplomatic coup last year at the IAEA's General Conference by securing passage of a resolution targeting Israel. The Obama administration then signed on in May to a UN statement that calls for the holding of the 2012 Mideast conference and for Israel to accede to the NPT, stirring tensions between the U.S. and Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Israel Must Be Recognized as Jewish State
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "On Tuesday, I will leave for Sharm a-Sheikh, for an additional meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in the framework of the direct talks. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will host, as well as attend, the meeting, which will also be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Mitchell. I believe that if the Palestinian leadership adheres to continuous negotiations, despite the obstacles that are coming up on every side, and if it is serious and determined in its intention to advance towards peace, just as we are serious, then it will be possible to - within a year - reach a framework that will be the basis for a peace settlement."
        "A peace agreement is based - first of all - on the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People....We say that the solution is two states for two peoples, meaning two national states, a Jewish national state and a Palestinian national state. To my regret, I have yet to hear from the Palestinians the phrase 'two states for two peoples.' I hear them saying 'two states,' but I do not hear them recognizing two states for two peoples."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Report: PA to Continue Peace Talks If Settlement Freeze Ends - Ali Waked
    Ynet has learned that Palestinian leaders have decided that if Israel's construction freeze in the West Bank is not renewed, this is not a reason to call off the peace talks, and that the Palestinians will have to learn to live with some building, especially in the main settlement blocs. (Ynet News)
        See also Report: Netanyahu to Follow Policy of Previous Government, Build in Major Settlement Blocs - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to adopt a policy identical to that of his predecessor for construction in West Bank settlements. Under Ehud Olmert, more than 90% of construction was carried out in the major settlement blocs - Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel. According to a senior official in Jerusalem involved in contacts with the U.S. administration, Netanyahu presented his plan to implement Olmert's policy to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu to Blair: We Won't Build Massively in West Bank - Attila Somfalvi
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair on Sunday that while Israel will not build tens of thousands of housings units in the West Bank awaiting approval, it will not freeze construction and the lives of the residents of the area's Jewish communities either. Netanyahu noted that he is not putting the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition and by the same token it would be unreasonable for the Palestinians to pose a precondition and threaten to abandon talks. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Your Move, Mr. Abbas - Charles Krauthammer
    The Obama administration is to be commended for structuring the latest rounds of Middle East talks correctly. Finally, we're leaving behind interim agreements, of which the most lamentable were the Oslo accords of 1993. Israel made concrete concessions - bringing in Yasser Arafat to run the West Bank and Gaza - in return for which Israel received growing threats, continuous incitement and finally a full-scale terror war that killed more than a thousand innocent Israelis. As noted by U.S. peace negotiator George Mitchell, what's under discussion is a final settlement of the conflict. Meaning, no further claims. Conflict over.
        The obstacle today, as always, is Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state. That has been the core issue of the conflict from 1947 through Camp David 2000, when Arafat rejected Israel's extraordinarily generous peace offer, made no counteroffer and started a terror war (the Second Intifada) two months later. (Washington Post)
  • How the PA and Hamas View Peace Talks - Boaz Ganor
    From the point of view of the heads of the Palestinian Authority, holding direct negotiations with Israel is an obstacle to their strategy. Until now, they have been working to achieve their strategic goals without being asked to pay any price to Israel, without signing any agreements, without recognizing Israel's right to exist, and without renouncing "the right of return," etc. Any significant progress in the direct negotiations with Israel will necessarily result in sharp criticism within the Palestinian arena and their position will be weakened.
        The Hamas leadership is examining Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's activities in building the infrastructure for a Palestinian state and is preparing its forces in the West Bank for the time when they will take on Fatah and win, and will pluck the infrastructure already prepared by the PA, like a ripe fruit. However, if the process that started in Washington appears to be bearing fruit, then the Hamas leadership will renew the waves of suicide attacks inside Israel. Dr. Boaz Ganor is the founder and executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Globes)
  • Observations:

    Obama: We Will Keep Trying for Middle East Peace (White House)

    At a press conference Friday, President Obama responded to questions on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations:

    • "What we've done is to bring the parties together to try to get them to recognize that the path for Israeli security and Palestinian sovereignty can only be met through negotiations....And there are going to be a whole bunch of folks in the region who want to undermine these negotiations. We saw it when Hamas carried out these horrific attacks against civilians - and explicitly said, we're going to try to do this to undermine peace talks. There are going to be rejectionists who suggest that it can't happen, and there are also going to be cynics who just believe that the mistrust between the sides is too deep....But it is a risk worth taking."
    • "That doesn't mean it's going to work. Ultimately it's going to be up to them. We can facilitate; we can encourage; we can tell them that we will stand behind them in their efforts and are willing to contribute as part of the broader international community in making this work. But ultimately the parties have to make these decisions for themselves."
    • "If these talks break down, we're going to keep on trying. Over the long term, it has the opportunity, by the way, also to change the strategic landscape in the Middle East in a way that would be very helpful. It would help us deal with an Iran that has not been willing to give up its nuclear program. It would help us deal with terrorist organizations in the region. So this is something in our interest. We're not just doing this to feel good. We're doing it because it will help secure America as well."
    • "Now, with respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Middle East, a major bone of contention during the course of this month is going to be the potential lapse of the settlement moratorium....What I've said to Prime Minister Netanyahu is that, given, so far, the talks are moving forward in a constructive way, it makes sense to extend that moratorium so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way. Because, ultimately, the way to solve these problems is for the two sides to agree what's going to be Israel, what's going to be the state of Palestine. And if you can get that agreement, then you can start constructing anything that the people of Israel see fit in undisputed areas."
    • "Now, I think the politics for Prime Minister Netanyahu are very difficult. I think there are a number of members of his coalition who've said, 'we don't want to continue this.' And so one of the things that I've said to President Abbas is, you've got to show the Israeli public that you are serious and constructive in these talks so that the politics for Prime Minister Netanyahu - if he were to extend the settlements moratorium - would be a little bit easier."

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