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October 27, 2010

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U.S. Tries Restart of Talks with Iran - Jay Solomon (Wall Street Journal)
    The Obama administration is pushing to revive a failed deal for Iran to send some of its nuclear stockpile overseas in exchange for assistance with peaceful nuclear technology, according to senior U.S. officials. The aim is to try to reduce Tehran's ability to quickly produce an atomic weapon.
    The U.S. is accelerating its efforts to present Iran with a new offer as part of broader talks on Iran's nuclear program planned for Vienna next month, the first direct negotiation between U.S. and Iranian officials on the nuclear issue in more than a year.
    U.S. officials have been talking with allies about ways to expand the original fuel-swap deal to remove more of the stockpile, because Iran has been enriching more uranium since the previous talks broke down.
    Instead of 1,200 kg. discussed then, Iran would need to agree to release or secure at least 50% more, or 1,800 kg., to stay below bomb-making levels, according to nuclear experts.

Israel Sees No Movement in Talks with Palestinians Until After U.S. Midterms (Xinhua-China)
    "We are constantly seeking ways to restart talks with the Palestinians, but haven't succeeded, so far. We estimate that nothing new will happen until after the congressional elections at the beginning of November," a senior source in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said Tuesday.
    "The American demand to continue the freeze is still in effect, but, so far, no formula has been found that will allow that," the source said, adding "as things look now, the total moratorium as it's been implemented in the past ten months will not happen again. What is possible is a limitation on the extent of construction for a limited period."

IsraAID to Send Team to Haiti after Cholera Outbreak (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) announced on Wednesday that it will send a team to Haiti to aid those affected by the cholera outbreak, which killed over 200 people and has reached the outskirts of Port au Prince.

Israeli MK Turns Down Speech in Spain for Fear of Arrest - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) canceled a visit to Spain on Monday because Spanish authorities would not guarantee that he would not be arrested.
    Dichter, a former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief, was invited to speak at a conference. Arrest warrants for top Israeli politicians and generals have been issued in Spain, including for Dichter, who was internal security minister at the time of last year's Gaza operation.

Settlers Deny Ruining Palestinian Olive Grove (AFP)
    Thousands of olive trees in the northern West Bank were found to have been ruined after being flooded with sewage near Deir al-Hatab, just west of Nablus, and close to the Jewish town of Elon Moreh.
    A spokesman for the Samaria regional council denied Palestinian claims of Israeli responsibility, telling AFP it was "impossible" the sewage could have come from Elon Moreh.
    "The community of Elon Moreh has a very sophisticated sewage system which cost hundreds of thousands of shekels. The water is purified and reused within the community for our own agriculture," said David HaIvri, blaming "neighboring Arab communities" for the flood.
    "Over the past two weeks, the Jewish community in the Samaria region has been accused repeatedly of vandalizing Arab olive groves," he said, describing it as a "blame campaign" to try to discredit local settlers which had no basis in fact.

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  • In Mideast House of Cards, U.S. Views Lebanon as Shaky - Mark Landler
    The Obama administration, already struggling to stave off a collapse of Middle East peace talks, is increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader. The White House sent a senior diplomat to Beirut last week to reassure Lebanon's president, Michel Suleiman, of President Obama's support for the investigation and his country's stability. The visit by the diplomat, Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, came on top of a telephone call to Suleiman by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
        "The president felt very strongly that we need to reconfirm our commitment to Lebanon's independence, Lebanon's sovereignty and Lebanon's stability," Feltman said. "There are people inside Lebanon who are arguing that it faces a choice of justice versus stability. That's an artificial choice." "You don't want the perception of a vacuum," Feltman said. "You don't want the perception that Ahmadinejad is the only game in town." Analysts said that the U.S. was right to reassert its commitment to Lebanon, but that it may be acting too late. Rising prices for weapons suggest that militias other than Hizbullah are rearming, increasing the threat of a civil war. (New York Times)
        See also Hizbullah: New Iranian Role - Alex Fishman
    Since Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus a few years back, the involvement of Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards has deepened throughout the Hizbullah chain of command. Today a military council deals with all the areas that were Mughniyeh's, like terrorism outside of Lebanon. Above this body is an Iranian general, Hossein Mahadavi, the commander of the Lebanon corps of the Revolutionary Guards, who sits in Beirut. At his side is a team of dozens of Iranian specialists who serve as professional advisors to Hizbullah in intelligence and weapons systems. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 26Oct10)
        See also Syria Spurns U.S. Bid to Mend Ties
    Syrian President Bashar Assad told Al-Hayat in an interview published Tuesday that the U.S. has created chaos in every place it entered, snubbing Washington's efforts to improve ties with Damascus. President Barack Obama has made repeated overtures to Damascus this year, nominating the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with Assad. Assad also warned that expected indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could destroy Lebanon. (AP-Ha'aretz)
        See also Is Lebanon About to Collapse? - Martin Peretz
    In the next weeks, the judgment of the international panel set up to examine the assassination of the Sunni billionaire Rafiq al-Hariri - also the Lebanese prime minister - will be rendered. It is all but certain that the judges will conclude that the killing of Hariri (and 22 others) was committed in 2005 by men of Hizbullah, Shi'a thugs. This could crush what's left of the parliamentary alliance between the Sunni middle class and what's left of Maronite influence. Hizbullah tried to deflect blame for Hariri's killing onto the Israelis. But some lies are just too preposterous even for one's own. The fact is that no one could grasp why Jerusalem would have wanted Hariri and his men blown up.
        Despite the intentions of the big powers to curb Hizbullah through Security Council Resolution 1701, the effect of its mandate was to accomplish just the opposite. Iran has now claimed a border with Israel, and it is the frontier which the Shi'a mob patrols. Please don't tell me that the threat to peace lies in the West Bank. Lebanon is the scene of the next battle. (New Republic)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: Turkish Intelligence Severed Relations with Israel's Mossad - Zvi Bar'el and Barak Ravid
    Amid the strained relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, Turkish intelligence has severed its working relations with the Mossad following a Turkish government decision on the matter, the Turkish newspaper Sabah reported on Monday. In June, Ha'aretz reported that Israeli security officials were deeply concerned by the appointment of Hakan Fidan to lead Turkey's National Intelligence Organization. Fidan, a close associate of Prime Minister Erdogan, is viewed as a proponent of closer relations between Turkey and Iran.
        Meanwhile, Turkey has conditioned its consent to stationing a NATO missile-defense system on its territory on a guarantee that no information collected by the system be transferred to Israel. Since the American-sponsored plan's original purpose was to defend NATO countries against an Iranian attack, Turkey is essentially demanding that Israel not be given vital information about Iranian missiles. Turkish sources said Washington has agreed that no information from the system will be shared with Israel, since Israel has its own advanced missile-detection systems for tracking Iranian threats. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Turkey in Dilemma Over NATO Shield - Marc Champion (Wall Street Journal)
  • IDF Draws Plans to Transfer Security Control in West Bank to PA - Yaakov Katz
    Under orders from the Defense Ministry, the IDF has drawn up contingency plans for the transfer of security control over certain West Bank areas to the Palestinian Authority. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israel transfer security over major West Bank cities. One area under consideration is the Ramallah region.
        Some IDF officers say that even though PA security forces are currently doing an effective job in cracking down on terrorist infrastructure, the IDF's operational freedom still plays a key role. "Even though the IDF does not go into the cities every day, its presence helps keep terrorism down to a minimum," an official said. The decision will likely depend on progress in the peace talks with the Palestinians, currently deadlocked. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Ahmadinejad in Lebanon - Shimon Shapira
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon constitutes an additional stage in the process of the Lebanese state's collapse. From now on, Hizbullah supporters will find it difficult to argue that theirs is a national Lebanese party operating in the Lebanese reality on behalf of Lebanese objectives. In contrast with the display of force by the Iranian president in Lebanon, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah cut a sorry figure, orating from his bunker without the courage to stand at Ahmadinejad's side. The only place where Nasrallah feels secure is at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • For Saudis, U.S. Arms Deal Is a Challenge
    U.S. plans to sell Saudi Arabia advanced weapons systems worth $60 billion to counter Iran could turn out to be more of a problem than a panacea. The Saudis have always had problems absorbing high-tech Western systems. They already have more top-line equipment than they can effectively use, such as an air force with more aircraft than it has front-line pilots or commanders able to deploy them in combat. Saudi Arabia traditionally bankrolls part of Pakistan's military purchases and in return gets experienced Pakistan pilots to fly its U.S. and British combat jets, as well as seasoned naval personnel to run its navy.
        "The new deal will do little to balance the resurgent Iranian regime in the near-term," concludes the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor. It could take a decade for the Americans to deliver the package, so it's unlikely the Iranians are quaking in their boots at the prospect of their main rival in the Persian Gulf region being deluged with top-line weaponry. (UPI)
  • Karzai and the Scent of U.S. Irresolution - Fouad Ajami
    "They do give us bags of money - yes, yes, it is done, we are grateful to the Iranians for this." This is the East, and baksheesh is the way of the world, Hamid Karzai brazenly let it be known this week. Karzai saw the scorn of Iran's cruel leaders for America's diplomatic approaches. He could see Iranian power extend all the way to the Mediterranean, right up to Israel's borders with Lebanon and to Gaza. The Iranians were next door and the Americans were giving away their fatigue. Why not accept the entreaties from Tehran? The writer is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    The Palestinian Unilateral Threat - Alan Baker (Jerusalem Post)

    • We now seem to be witnessing an old/new development in the Palestinian negotiating technique, in the form of daily threats by negotiators. These threats are: to unilaterally declare a state (Prime Minister Salam Fayyad) or to declare the Oslo Accords void (Muhammad Shatayeh).
    • This is not the first time in the present negotiating phase that the Palestinians have tried to use the "negotiating technique" of threats. At the recent Sharm e-Sheikh conference, PA President Abbas and chief negotiator Erekat threatened to walk out if Prime Minister Netanyahu did not renew the settlement freeze. Now, with talks deadlocked practically before they had a chance to begin, we are witnessing this new spate of threats to act independently, through enlisting the UN Security Council, the Americans and Europeans in an attempt to bypass Israel and impose a settlement based on the "1967 borders."
    • There are several legal and practical flaws in these threats. Any unilateral declaration of a state outside the agreed-upon negotiating process would undermine the Oslo Accords and the legal basis for the existence of the PA. It would also be a violation of Article 31 of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, grounds for voiding the agreement, and would open the door to potential Israeli unilateral action vis-a-vis the status of the territory.
    • Since the U.S. (President Bill Clinton), the EU, Egypt (President Hosni Mubarak), Jordan (the late King Hussein) and others are signatories as witnesses to the Interim Agreement, they may not act to recognize such a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. Voiding the Oslo Accords would bring about a legal vacuum that could result in considerable chaos which none of the interested parties, the PA especially, would want.
    • Similarly, the UN Security Council would be faced with a genuine dilemma if asked to adopt a resolution declaring a Palestinian state within the "1967 borders." The very basis for all the peace treaties and other agreements between Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel are the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the 1973 Resolution 338. These resolutions do not refer to "1967 borders." In fact, there are no such borders, but armistice and cease-fire lines that have never been acknowledged to be borders.
    • The Palestinian threat to organize an emergency UN General Assembly session to adopt a "uniting for peace" resolution in the event that the Security Council fails to oblige, shows either ignorance of or contempt for the UN system. Any such resolution would doubtless be adopted by an automatic majority, but being a General Assembly resolution, would have no legal significance other than to bolster the Palestinian ego and add another futile resolution to the long list of futile UN resolutions.

      The writer served as legal adviser of the Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Canada, and was actively involved in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Arab states.

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