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September 2, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Lebanon Asked Iran for Anti-Aircraft Weapons - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News/Ynet-Hebrew)
    Iran has offered to arm the Lebanese military, Beirut's al-Akhbar newspaper reported Wednesday.
    After the Iranian Embassy in Beirut inquired after the Lebanese army's armament requirements, the army replied in detail, focusing mainly on air defense needs.

Iran Lawmakers Back Minister Wanted in Bombing of Jewish Center (Reuters-New York Times)
    Iran's parliament signaled support on Tuesday for the new defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, a man Argentina says was involved in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people, as deputies chanted "Death to Israel," state broadcaster IRIB reported.

Ahmadinejad Plans UN Visit - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that he plans to travel to New York to give a speech during the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23.
    Ahmadinejad has regularly attended the UN summit since he was elected in 2005 and his appearances have generally been met with protests.

France and Saudi Arabia to Sign Nuclear Cooperation Deal - Michel Abu Najm (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Saudi Arabia in November to sign an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and France.

Qaddafi Cancels Plans to Stay in New Jersey - Anahad O'Connor (New York Times)
    The Libyan government has canceled plans for its nation's president, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, to stay in New Jersey during his visit to the U.S.
    Qaddafi had planned to erect a Bedouin-style tent on a Libyan-owned estate that sits next to a yeshiva in Englewood, a New Jersey suburb with a sizable Jewish community, but instead he will confine his stay to Manhattan.

Israeli Analyst Quoted on Hamas Website (Jerusalem Center-Hebrew)
    The Hamas website Al-Bayan translated and published an evaluation of the negotiations to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit written by Pinhas Inbari, a senior political analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, that first appeared on the center's Hebrew website on Aug. 30.

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  • Iran Ready for Talks, Says Nuclear Negotiator - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said Tuesday that his country is ready to reopen talks with world powers, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. "Iran has prepared to present its revised package of proposals...and is ready to hold talks with world powers," he said.
        U.S. officials said Tuesday that they would reserve judgment until they receive an official communication from Iran. "We're prepared to respond to some kind of meaningful response," said Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the State Department. "We're not going to respond to something that's made through the media."  (Washington Post)
        See also U.S., Europe Discount New Iran Proposal - Nicholas Krale
    U.S. and European diplomats said they had seen no Iranian proposal and cautioned that the move might be designed to buy time and provide Russia and China with a pretext to delay new UN sanctions. Privately, U.S. and European diplomats said Tuesday that the timing of Jalili's comments seemed to follow a familiar pattern. It is "typical Iranian tactics to go to the press" before a meeting on the nuclear issue, a senior European diplomat said. On Wednesday, diplomats from the five permanent UN Security Council members - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China - as well as Germany will meet in Frankfurt to discuss further actions if Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of UN resolutions.
        Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution, said "everybody has been anticipating that they would" come forward with a proposal in September to deflect pressure for new sanctions. "They want to be on the offensive, not defensive, diplomatically" and give the Russians and the Chinese "a lifeline" to oppose new penalties. (Washington Times)
  • Analysts Play Down Expectations from Obama-Abbas-Netanyahu Talks - David Harris
    There are increasing signs that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will meet Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu later this month, with U.S. President Barack Obama chairing the session. However, Israeli analysts are playing down the chances of an early breakthrough in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. "At this time, the Palestinians are too divided, and their leaders are too weak to make the historic compromise that is necessary for a stable two-state solution," said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.
        Steinberg argues that the central issues have been in existence for 60 years, since Israel's creation, and that Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank are merely "symptoms." Tackling the symptoms will not resolve the underlying problems, he says. "After so many failed peace efforts, Israelis, and not only Netanyahu, want the assurance of a permanent peace through the recognition of the right of the Jewish nation to self-determination. This has always been the main source of the conflict."  (Xinhua-China)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Diplomats Describe Outline for Restarting Negotiations - Shlomo Shamir, Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar
    European and Israeli diplomats told Ha'aretz that U.S. envoy George Mitchell and other top Washington officials said, "Obama has no new peace plan," and that the diplomatic outline is different from the Annapolis process and is based on several guiding principles. First is that talks will advance according to the Middle East road map. Second, the target for completing negotiations will be two years from now. Third, the U.S. will take a more active role in the talks and will "take a seat at the negotiating table."
        U.S. officials said that in the coming weeks Washington could declare an agreement for "confidence-building measures" drafted by Israel and the Palestinians to allow talks to progress. "We didn't reach 100% of what we wanted in Israel and the Arab states, but we got enough to allow for the renewal of talks," a U.S. official said. The agreement would call for Israel to temporarily or partially freeze settlement building. American officials said they had achieved a series of normalization steps by Arab states toward Israel, though Saudi Arabia had declined to commit to any goodwill gestures toward Israel. One European diplomat said Qatar would reopen the Israeli diplomatic mission in Doha, and several other states will allow direct flights from Israel through their airspace and to their airports. Several Persian Gulf states also agreed to grant tourist visas to Israeli tourists and businesspeople. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli, Palestinian Ministers Meet in Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
    Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom met with Palestinian Economic Minister Bassem Khoury in Jerusalem on Wednesday for the highest level talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in half a year. The ministers discussed economic proposals to improve life for the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Cancels West Bank Arrest Raids Due to Presence of U.S. Diplomats - Anshel Pfeffer
    The Israel Defense Forces has canceled a number of planned arrest operations in the West Bank due to the presence of American diplomats touring the territories. The diplomats, mostly from the U.S. consulate in eastern Jerusalem, have been traveling regularly to the West Bank to gather testimony on settlement construction, oversee American-funded projects, and meet with PA officials. "We were told that the situation with the Americans is sensitive, and that it is not desirable that operations are conducted that could lead to violent situations when they [the Americans] are there," one of the officers said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Hamas Gunmen Killed by Their Own Bomb - Ali Waked
    Two Hamas gunmen were killed by an explosive device they were attempting to place near Gaza's border fence, Palestinian sources reported Tuesday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Upcoming Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks? - Shmuel Rosner
    Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas are reportedly planning to meet next month on the sidelines of a UN conference in New York. In what has become almost an annual ritual, peace talks are "relaunched" with much fanfare and enthusiasm, only to yield little in the way of substantive progress. If there's no talking, there can be no progress. But both American and Israeli officials understand that differences in position between the two sides are probably too wide to bridge at this time.
        More importantly, the agreement of all sides to meet signals an end to the antagonism that has characterized U.S.-Israel relations since the beginning of Obama's term. Netanyahu has essentially agreed to some form of settlement freeze. Obama's peace envoy, George Mitchell, has accepted the reality under which Jerusalem can't be part of any freeze agreement. (New Republic)
  • Rejectionists Readying to Counter U.S. Peace Push - David Pollock
    The positions of the rejectionist axis - Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Hamas - have hardened even further as the U.S., Israel, PA, and Egypt keep talking about peace talks. After months of scattering verbal hints of possible concessions, Hamas has now clearly opted out of diplomacy.
        Can Arab moderates reject the rejectionist challenge and proceed with the peace process? They can if Washington encourages rather than undercuts them. This means containing, rather than trying to engage, Hamas or Hizbullah, and concentrating on further improving conditions in the West Bank. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Boycott Israel? A Response - Rivka Carmi
    As president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, I strongly believe a call for a worldwide boycott of Israel written by a Ben-Gurion University faculty member, Neve Gordon, that appeared in The Times oversteps the boundaries of academic freedom. The primary effect of Gordon's Israel-bashing will be to detract from the work of his university. I am a doctor; my professional career has focused on preventing hereditary genetic diseases in the Bedouin Arab community. Today, the laboratory that I founded at Ben-Gurion University is working with Bedouin, Palestinian and Jordanian doctors and researchers to improve the health of Arab children across the region. This is but one of the many Israeli-Arab collaborations that will be compromised if "collective punishment" is imposed on Ben-Gurion University. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    Why Has the Peace Process Stopped? - Charles Krauthammer (Fox News)

    • The whole delay in the peace process is a self-inflicted wound. For over a year, the previous prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, had been negotiating with the head of the Palestinians and made an astonishingly generous offer in December of '08, which the Palestinians refused, as they always refuse.
    • Instead of trying to get the Palestinians to moderate, the U.S. tried to make an issue of settlements, which had been in consensus. The U.S. and Israelis had agreed: No new settlements, no new expansion of territory in settlements.
    • The Palestinians had accepted that, had never refused negotiations for anything else. But then the U.S. adds a condition of no thickening of settlements, i.e., you don't construct a kindergarten if children are born, which the Israelis have rejected.
    • And all of a sudden the Palestinians and Arabs have said no negotiations until Israel jumps through this higher hoop.
    • So the Arabs and Palestinians have said we are not going to move. We're going to let the U.S. extract unilateral concessions out of the Israelis, and that is why the process has stopped.

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