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Watchdog Finds Evidence that Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad (New York Times)
The International Atomic Energy Agency revealed for the first time on Tuesday that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.
A report on the progress of Iran's nuclear program also indicated that Iran has begun to recover from the effects of the Stuxnet computer worm. Iran's main production site at Natanz is now producing low-enriched uranium at rates slightly exceeding what it produced before being hit by Stuxnet.
The computer worm appears to have been designed in a secret project in which the U.S., Israel and some European allies all played a role.
UN Report Concludes that Syrian Site Destroyed in 2007 Was Nuclear Reactor - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
A UN investigation formally concluded Tuesday that Syria was building a secret nuclear reactor in 2007 when the partially completed project was destroyed by Israel.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency officially linked Syria to a clandestine nuclear program, opening the door to punitive measures including a possible referral to the UN Security Council for sanctions.
UN officials determined that the reactor on the banks of the Euphrates River was not configured to produce electricity.
"It is very likely that the building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the agency," IAEA investigators concluded.
Blast Hits Iran Refinery as Ahmadinejad Visits (AP)
An explosion rocked Iran's largest refinery in the southwestern city of Abadan on Tuesday around the time of a visit to the plant by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian media reported that two people were killed and 20 injured.
Geneva Airport Refuses to Refuel Iranian Plane - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
The Swiss daily NZZ has reported that the international airport in Geneva is refusing to refuel Iran Air flights.
Airports in Holland and Vienna have already refused to provide fuel to Iran Air planes.
Swiss Freeze Funds for Pro-Palestinian NGO - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
The Swiss government froze its funding stream for a pro-Palestinian NGO BADIL because an anti-Semitic cartoon appeared on its website, the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger reported Wednesday.
The cartoon, posted in Fall 2010, shows a caricature of a Jewish man holding a blood-soaked pitchfork and keys while standing over a dead Arab child.
Video: Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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- Netanyahu, Addressing Congress, Lays Out Vision for Mideast Peace - William Branigin
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing Congress on Tuesday, laid out a vision for Middle East peace that would include "far-reaching compromise" by Israel if the Palestinians accept his country as a Jewish state.
In a speech punctuated by standing ovations from supportive U.S. lawmakers, Netanyahu repeated his insistence that Israel would not accept a return to "indefensible" borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and he ruled out allowing Palestinian refugees to return to Israel or giving up any part of Jerusalem.
He said he recognizes "that in a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland."
View Video: Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks to Congress, May 24, 2011 (YouTube)
See also below Observations: Highlights of Netanyahu's Speech to Congress (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Netanyahu: Israel Must Have Defensible Borders - Sean Hannity
Prime Minister Netanyahu said in an interview Tuesday: "I think there's agreement between Israel and United States that Israel must have defensible borders. Because in our part of the world, there's a simple truth, a peace you cannot defend is a peace that will not hold." (Fox News)
- Democrats Join Republicans in Questioning Obama's Policy on Israel - Peter Wallsten
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and other Democrats appeared to reject the president's reference to the 1967 lines in his latest attempt to nudge along peace talks, thinking that he was giving away too much, too soon.
White House officials say Obama's assertion did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy. But the president's comments touched a nerve among pro-Israel activists, drew a rare Oval Office rebuke from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and instantly became a litmus test in domestic American politics.
- U.S.: Hamas Must Recognize Israel's Right to Exist
U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Tuesday in London: "The U.S. very clearly believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization; that until it ceases its use of terrorism and recognizes Israel's right to exist, that they can't be a credible partner for peace....Hamas has in the past indiscriminately targeted innocent women and children and men through the firing of rockets or through bombs on buses. So they certainly share the characteristics of a terrorist organization that has indiscriminately taken civilian life."
"We believe that getting the [peace] process going is going to require a credible answer from the Palestinians about the role that Hamas is going to play in the new government, and whether a Palestinian partner and interlocutor can credibly say it recognizes Israel's right to exist and is not committed to engaging in terrorism. So...there is some step that needs to be taken on the Palestinian side to give Israel that confidence coming into the negotiation." (White House)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Applause Heard in White House, Around World - Herb Keinon
The overall importance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday was not in the substance, but rather in the overwhelmingly warm ovation he received.
Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel. Even his wife, Sarah, received a standing ovation when she entered the hall. The prime minister was applauded some 30 times, many of those accompanied by standing ovations.
The nearly four-minute ovation he received when he entered the historic chamber was not only heard by Netanyahu, but also by President Obama, the Palestinians and the world at large. With all the talk of the country's sense of isolation, when Netanyahu spoke to the most important parliament in the world, it exuded nothing but warmth toward Israel.
See also Bibi Rocks the House - Jennifer Rubin
Netanyahu publicly stated he would give up land considered by Jews to be part of their historic homeland and left no doubt that the Palestinians' refusal to recognize a Jewish state is the sole reason there is no Palestinian state.
The genuine expression of warmth and respect, but more important, agreement from Congress was undeniable. Netanyahu is a uniter - is there any issue on which the Congress is so totally united?
And Netanyahu made a key point to lawmakers weary about demands from unstable regimes. "No nation building is needed. Israel is already built. There is no need to export democracy. We already are one." And there's no need for U.S. troops because "we defend ourselves." (Washington Post)
- Israel Approves Largest Desalination Plant - Sharon Udasin
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement on Monday approving the construction and operation of a new desalination facility in Soreq, near Ashdod, which upon completion will make Israel's domestic water consumption 65% reliant on desalinated sources.
The $400 million project will be one of the world's largest desalination plants and is to be ready in 2013. (Jerusalem Post)
- Understanding Obama's Shift on Israel and the "1967 Lines" - Glenn Kessler
Until Obama on Thursday, U.S. presidents generally have steered clear of saying the negotiations should start on the 1967 lines.
Starting with President Lyndon Johnson, right after the Six-Day War, U.S. presidents often have shown great sympathy for Israel's contention that the pre-1967 dividing line did not provide security.
Even the "Clinton parameters" of President Bill Clinton shied away from mentioning the 1967 lines even as it spoke of "territorial swaps."
On Nov. 25, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned a state based on 1967 lines as a "Palestinian goal."
Thus, Obama's statement Thursday represented a major shift. He did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a "Palestinian goal" but as U.S. policy.
See also Fact Checker: Netanyahu on Palestinian Refugees - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
- Obama and Netanyahu: The Scorecard - Jackson Diehl
Netanyahu objects not only to Obama's formula for basing a Palestinian state on Israel's 1967 border lines but also to the strategy of pressuring Israel to make concessions on territory before addressing Palestinian demands for a "right of return" to Israel for refugees.
Netanyahu believes there must be a tradeoff between territory, refugees and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state - especially as Israel has little to concede other than land. Remarkably, however, in three public statements over five days, Obama never reconfirmed the U.S. position under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, which is that most or all refugees must be resettled in the new Palestinian state.
Netanyahu offered several concessions in his speech to Congress - particularly an acknowledgement that in any final agreement some Israeli West Bank settlements will be left outside of Israel's border. (Washington Post)
- The Obama Doctrine for the Middle East and its Consequences - Jonathan Rynhold
Netanyahu asserted Israel's right to defensible
borders, specifically the long-term, interim presence of the IDF along the
Jordan River. This would prevent both the smuggling of heavy weapons and
missiles into the West Bank and the possibility of amassing the Arab states'
This position is based on the conception that the West Bank's geo-strategic
significance to Israel relates not only to Palestinian intentions and capabilities,
but also to the wider regional situation. This strategic outlook aligns with the historic position associated with
Yitzhak Rabin and endorsed by Ehud Barak.
In contrast to the Israeli position, the
Obama administration conceptualizes Israeli security vis-a-vis the West Bank
in terms of the Palestinians alone.
By making a complete
military withdrawal dependent on only the Palestinian situation, and not the wider Middle East environment, Obama's vision poses a serious danger to
Israel's security, especially in the uncertain and deeply problematic regional
environment we see before us right now.
The writer is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for
(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
Prime Minister Netanyahu Addresses the U.S. Congress (Prime Minister's Office)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress on Tuesday:
- Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.
Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.
- In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel. No distortion of history can deny the four-thousand-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.
- The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state.
- So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it. Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. I stood before my people and I said: "I will accept a Palestinian state." It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: "I will accept a Jewish state."
- The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.
Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.
- As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.
- If Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren't going to live that way either.
- So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel's security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.
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