Intelligence Experts: Mideast Status Quo Sustainable, But Not Preferable - Forrest K. Lewis (Harvard Crimson)
Former director of the CIA David H. Petraeus and Meir Dagan, former director of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, analyzed the prospects for future peace in the Middle East at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University on Monday.
Dagan asserted that the Palestinians are unwilling to make any immediate compromises, a result of what he calls the "legacy of [Yasser] Arafat."
For a lasting settlement, he said, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, and other surrounding countries would have to come to an agreement about the rights to holy places.
According to Petraeus, the once widely held Israeli view that the current situation is not sustainable has become less prevalent due to Israel's strengthening security forces.
Petraeus said that Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and security barriers have shielded Israel from many of the attacks and suicide bombers that were a daily occurrence a decade ago.
"I'm not so sure the status-quo from Israel's perspective is not sustainable. You have now the best security that Israel has had in a number of years, if not longer," Petraeus said.
Dagan and Petraeus agreed that although increased security measures could allow the status-quo to be sustainable, it is not preferable.
"There is a real desire from both sides to reach eventually a peace agreement," Dagan said.
U.S. Says Iran's UN Envoy Choice "Not Viable" - Angela Greiling Keane and Julianna Goldman (Bloomberg)
The U.S. told Iran that the ambassador it has chosen for the UN is "not viable" because he was part of a group that took over the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
The selection of Hamid Aboutalebi as UN envoy "is extremely troubling," Carney said. "The U.S. government has informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in Tehran Wednesday that the choice has been made and that Aboutalebi "is qualified for that position."
Has the U.S. Started Arming Syrian Rebels? - Jack Mulcaire (War on the Rocks)
Fresh video from the battlefields of southern Idlib province shows the rebels using U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-armor missiles. This weapon has never been observed in rebel use before.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford recently stated that he expected a move by the administration to change the military balance in Syria.
Korea Seeks to Buy Low-Altitude Radars from Israel (Korea Herald)
South Korea is seeking to buy 10 low-altitude radars from Israel to better detect unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the wake of the discovery of three UAVs near the border with North Korea in recent weeks, military officials said Wednesday.
South Korea's current radar is limited in detecting drones such as those discovered only after they had fallen to the ground.
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- U.S. Warns of Iran's Two-Month Nuclear "Breakout" Capability - Justyna Pawlak and Parisa Hafezi
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday Iran has the ability to produce fissile material for a nuclear bomb in two months. "We're operating with a time period for a so-called 'break-out' of about two months," Kerry testified at a Senate hearing.
His comments highlighted Western concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions and the wide divisions between the two sides that could still foil a deal. The overarching goal of the powers in the talks is to persuade Iran to scale back its program to the point that it would take it much longer, perhaps as much as a year, to produce fuel for a bomb if it chose to do so.
- Israeli Settlement Plan Derailed Peace Talks, Kerry Says - Mark Landler
Explaining to senators why his latest efforts to bring together Israelis and Palestinians had almost broken down, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the precipitating event was Israel's announcement of 700 new housing units in Jerusalem.
Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peace negotiator, said Kerry's emphasis on housing could complicate his efforts to get the process back on track. "He'll get no points with it from the Palestinians, rattle Netanyahu's cage, and make the Israeli political situation more complex by focusing on Israeli building not in the West Bank but in Jerusalem," said Miller, now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
(New York Times)
See also Kerry: Israeli "Settlement Building" in Jerusalem Caused Talks Crisis - Tovah Lazaroff
It wasn't what Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday, but how he said it, that generated headlines blaming Israel for exploding a deal to extend the peace talks. A well-crafted message from the State Department holding both Israelis and Palestinians culpable for the crisis did little to mitigate the impact.
"When they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof - that was sort of the moment."
The "settlement" Kerry spoke of is Gilo, a southern Jerusalem neighborhood of 40,000 residents that most Israelis who support a two-state solution already see as an integral part of Israel.
See also Israel: Construction Tenders for Jerusalem Neighborhood Were Not New - Tovah Lazaroff and Lahav Harkov
An Israeli official remarked that in every past peace plan it had been understood that Gilo would remain within Israel's borders. He said that these particular tenders had already been published in the past and had been republished last week.
- Kerry: Israel and Palestinians Are Still Talking
Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday regarding the Middle East peace process:
"I read some who question why the Secretary of State is engaged or is intense as he might be, or why the United States should be doing this if the parties don't want to do this. Well, the truth is the parties say they want to continue these talks. The truth is the parties are actually still talking to each other in an effort to try to see if they can get over this hurdle and make that happen....The fact is that everybody volunteers gratitude for the fact that the United States is engaged in that effort." (U.S. State Department)
See also Israel, Palestinians Press on with Peace Talks Rescue Bid - Jeffrey Heller
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended another U.S.-mediated session on Tuesday with no sign of a breakthrough in efforts to save peace talks from collapse, but an Israeli official said they had agreed to meet again.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Ya'alon: "Every Time, the Palestinians Run Away and Try to Blame Us" - Gideon Allon
The Palestinian Authority is a partner that wants only to receive, and not give anything in return, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. Ya'alon said Israel is in the midst of a crisis with the Palestinians regarding the peace process: "Every time, the Palestinians run away and try to blame us." (Israel Hayom)
- Chinese President Tells Israeli President He "Fully Understands" Security Concerns Regarding Iran - Marissa Newman
China is well aware of Israel's concerns with the Iranian nuclear program, and will continue to support the nuclear negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Israeli President Shimon Peres Tuesday in Beijing. China, a major Iranian oil customer, has been a staunch backer of Tehran and has resisted efforts to impose heavier sanctions on the regime. The Chinese are seeking a greater diplomatic role in the region, especially concerning Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
(Times of Israel)
- Is Israel to Blame for Peace Talks Collapse? - Jonathan S. Tobin
It is disingenuous to say that the publication of tenders for housing units precipitated the bitter impasse in peace negotiations last week between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry knows very well that the negotiations were doomed once the Palestinians refused to sign on to the framework for future talks he suggested. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas wouldn't say the two little words - "Jewish state" - that would make it clear he intended to end the conflict. Since the talks began last year after Abbas insisted on the release of terrorist murderers in order to get them back to the table, the Palestinians haven't budged an inch on a single issue.
Thus, to blame the collapse on the decision to build apartments in Gilo - a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that would not change hands even in the event a peace treaty were ever signed and where Israel has never promised to stop building - is, to put it mildly, a mendacious effort to shift blame away from the side that seized the first pretext to flee talks onto the one that has made concessions in order to get the Palestinians to sit at the table.
So long as the Palestinians pay no price for their refusal to give up unrealistic demands for a Jewish retreat from Jerusalem as well as the "right of return" for the 1948 refugees and their descendants and a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end the conflict, peace is impossible no matter what the Netanyahu government does. Appeasing them with lies about Israel only makes it easier for the PA to go on saying no. (Commentary)
- A Predictable Collapse - Zalman Shoval
Just as former U.S. President Bill Clinton exposed the true face of Yasser Arafat at Camp David, we must thank Secretary of State John Kerry for exposing PA President Mahmoud Abbas' rejectionist colors. The Palestinians booby-trapped the process from the start and never abandoned their original plan to ultimately turn to the UN. While Kerry's honest intentions need not be questioned, perhaps he and his advisers should have been more cognizant, based on the facts from the past, of the prearranged Palestinian script.
What was the basis for their belief they would succeed, this time around, to overcome the fundamental Palestinian negativism toward any process obligating them to compromise on the conflict's core issues?
We should assume that the Americans will not withdraw from the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is possible they will be less active in the intermediate future, but after a short while it is safe to envision that regional and domestic political interests will bring them back with renewed vigor. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- Quiet Steps Short of Peace Ease Jewish-Arab Relations - Ira Sharkansky
Thanks to Oslo, Israel leaves Palestinians to run their own affairs. Exceptions occur when it is necessary to send in the troops for the sake of Israelis' security.
By all the signs, the world will have to accept the anomaly of a Palestine short of statehood, with substantial but incomplete autonomy - a state recognized by others but not by Israel, that will continue to surround all of Palestine-West Bank and most of Palestine-Gaza. Egypt sits on the short part of Gaza's borders, and is currently no more friendly to the Gazans than is Israel.
Things have improved in recent years, despite the dim prospects for Kerry's process. The Palestinian leadership seems to have learned from their periods of violence not to provoke the Israelis with anything more than words. Continued conversations between various groups of Palestinian and Israeli technocrats have reduced violence to a manageable level, allowed more easy movement for Palestinians throughout the West Bank and into Israel, and the entry of more to Israel on a daily basis for work. These steps have served to increase investments and living standards for West Bank Palestinians. The writer is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.
(San Diego Jewish World)
Lawfare, Not Intifada, Expected If Peace Talks Collapse - Crispian Balmer (Reuters)
- If Middle East peace talks collapse this month, the Palestinians are set to confront Israel on the diplomatic stage rather than in any popular uprising.
- Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah movement, said Monday that moves to join UN bodies would be carried out in "phases," suggesting the Palestinians would look to increase pressure on Israel and Washington in stages rather than in a single blitz.
- The last time a concerted peace push fell apart, in 2000, the second Palestinian Intifada lasted more than four years, killing more than 4,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis and wrecking the economy in Palestinian self-ruled areas.
- Ghassan Khatib, an academic at Birzeit University in the West Bank and a veteran observer of Palestinian affairs, said polls for his Jerusalem Media and Communications Center showed support for armed struggle stood at under 30% - its lowest level in 17 years. In 2001, 85% of Palestinians supported military operations against Israel.
- "The current leadership is not at all interested in resuming violence. What happened last time around was a big lesson for everyone," said Khatib.
- "We had three years without negotiations before this last attempt and I think we will simply go back to a similar situation. Life will continue more or less as it was."
See also Palestinians Are Not Impressed by These Peace Talks - Noga Tarnopolsky
Given the disastrous course of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, you'd think Palestinians in Bethlehem would be on edge.
But those willing to be dragged into conversation about prospects for peace expressed deep disenchantment with leaders of all stripes.
Modi Sobek, who has an academic degree, works as a housekeeper in a Bethlehem hotel. "If there will be another intifada, it will be against the [Palestinian] government because we pay taxes but the government gives us nothing back." (GlobalPost)
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