Archive for December 13th, 2008

SWI NEWS: 16 Kislev 5769, Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, December 13th, 2008
US demands Syria cooperate on nuke plan American ambassador to UN nuclear watchdog says Damascus must decide whether it plans to follow in Iran's footsteps or cooperate on its alleged atomic program. A failure to do so, he warns, would lead to punishment measures  
A warning to Syria: US Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte says Syria has three months – until the United Nations nuclear watchdog's next governors' meeting in March – to start cooperating on its nuclear program, or it will be punished. A failure to do so, he warns, will lead to "punishment measures". In an interview published Saturday with the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Schulte said that "the Damascus authorities must decide whether they wish to follow in Iran's footsteps or cooperate." Schulte also noted that North Korea has neither denied nor confirmed its involvement in the construction of the Syrian nuclear reactor allegedly bombed by Israel.  "I hope the Syrians reach the conclusion that they should cooperate, for the sake of their own interests," he said.  According to Schulte, if Damascus failed to cooperate "this would lead to a negative response, and serious questions would be raised".  Schulte refused to discuss the sanctions which would be imposed on Syria if it continued its policy, saying that the IAEA's goal at this time is to convince Damascus to cooperate.  "No one is talking about sanctions today. The only thing we are talking about is a probe. The international agency is giving the Syrians an opportunity to cooperate, and they have an extension until the next meeting to cooperate."  He added that this was not an official extension, but a date on which the nuclear watchdog would reexamine the Syrian nuclear issue, after the matter was discussed in the council's latest meeting two weeks ago.  Despite his reservations, Schulte added that "Syria is engaging in a tactic used by Iran in recent years – the failure to cooperate. This is not the road we want Syria to take. We hope Syria cooperates fully with the agency in regards to what happened in the Syrian desert. If they fail to cooperate, there will be consequences."  Syrian reactor before bring bombed by Israel (Archive photo: AFP)  Only two weeks ago, the IAEA decided to provide Syria with technical support as part of its efforts to develop a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes. This decision was a serious blow to the United States and Israel, who have been working in the past year to thwart this move, claiming Damascus is trying to develop nuclear weapons. 
The UN nuclear watchdog has been probing Syria since May, following American intelligence reports which stated that Damascus was close to completing the Pyongyang-supervised construction of a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, at the site bombed by Israel.  According to reports published last month, IAEA inspectors discovered uranium traces at the secret site attacked by Israel in September 2007. Syria denied claims that it had tried to attain nuclear energy for military purposes, violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it had signed.  

Has Livni buried the two-state solution of Israel-Palestinian dispute?

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis

December 13, 2008

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni

Foreign minister and aspiring prime minister Tzipi Livni used an apparent paradox to bury the two-state solution. In a speech she gave to high school pupils Thursday, Dec. 11, she said: "The place for Israeli Arabs to exercise their national aspirations is a future Palestinian state - not Israel, which is the Jewish national home." Livni's next comment: "No single Palestinian refugee will be admitted to Israel" was a roundabout message in the same vein to the Israeli Arab minority (a steady one-fifth of the population).

She clarified this later by saying that while Israeli Arabs would not be forced to leave or lose their civil rights, "those who wished to realize their national aspirations should look elsewhere," namely to a Palestinian state when it rises.

But what Palestine was she talking about? For now and in the foreseeable future, there are two – one ruled by Hamas in Gaza and one by Fatah on the West Bank, as the foreign minister knows very well.

America and European leaders will no doubt do their utmost to breathe life into the two-state solution. It was first enunciated by President George W. Bush and is the only raison d'etre of the Middle East Quartet, which convenes next week at UN headquarters. In Bahrain Saturday, Dec. 13, US defense secretary Robert Gates promised the incoming administration would continue to back a two-state solution of the Middle East dispute.

But they are all in for a head-on clash with reality.

As long as Israel is not prepared to use its army to recapture the Gaza Strip, crush the Hamas government and make Mahmoud Abbas a gift of the enclave, only three eventualities are in store:

1. Either the Hamas entity extends its rule to the West Bank and ousts the Abbas administration, a recipe for war rather than diplomacy; or

2. The two Palestines endure as separate, unstable entities – Hamas-ruled Gaza sustained by Iran and the West Bank governed by Fatah, propped up by US-trained Palestinian security forces and the Israeli military presence; or

3. While Israeli sustains its blockade of the Gaza Strip from the north and east, Egypt will lift its closure in the south and so pave the way for its gradual domination of the territory.

The geographic duality of Palestinian rule is only one complicating factor.

Another was offered Saturday by former Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala).

He, like the Israeli side, confirmed that the negotiations which he and Mahmoud Abbas conducted with Ehud Olmert and latterly Livni for two years were hopelessly stuck in the mud. He then administered the last rites to the ideal of an Israeli and Palestinian states co-existing side by side

Their US sponsor's had assumed that had been the object and guiding principle of those talks.

Not so, according to Abu Ala.

He outlined Israel's proposal: The handover of 93.2 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians while retaining the Jerusalem sector up to Ramallah (Givat Zeev and part of the Gush Binyamin), Maaleh Adummim, Gush Etzion and the Jordan Valley. Israel offered to trade the 6.8 percent remaining in its hands for a comparable stretch of the Negev. Jerusalem was not discussed.

The Palestinians rejected this proposal out of hand.

Abu Ala's frankness was motivated less by Israel's election campaign, in which Livni is running a close race against the right-of-center Likud party headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, than his wish to put president elect-Barak Obama and designated secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the real picture as seen by the moderate Palestinians which he represents.

He was advising them to give up the Middle East peace principles guiding the outgoing administration in the last two years, because the Palestinians had no intention of going through with the Bush administration's initiative.

Abu Ala did not try to haggle over the size of Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, because that is not the point.

The Palestinians negate the basic premise of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 Six-day War borders - the conventional wisdom of US and European diplomacy though not enshrined in any maps or international accords.

The Palestinians are demanding nothing less than Israel's retreat to the 1949 armistice lines and in some places the UN 1947 Partition Plan plus the Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees.

The two-state formula – now confirmed by Gates - cannot bridge this gap and is therefore unrealistic as a starting point for Middle East peace diplomacy.

(Res.) Brig. Giora Eiland, head of Israel's national security council under former prime minister Ariel Sharon, put the dilemma in a nutshell in a lecture to the diplomatic corps in Jerusalem on Nov. 17:

"When we talk about a two-state solution, we face a paradox: On the one hand, Israelis and Palestinians feel a genuine need to resolve their dispute. On the other, neither has any real interest – or belief - in the establishment of two states living side by side. This dichotomy is far deeper than generally appreciated and is getting deeper all the time."

Eiland pointed out that the career risks any Israeli or Palestinian politician runs by embracing this formula would far outweigh his chances of success. Neither side is therefore willing to gamble his personal future against such odds.

Barak: Schalit release not at any price Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated on Saturday the government's wish to see kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit home safely, but emphasized that this would not be achieved "at any price."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Photo: AP
Barak, who made his comments at a 'Shabbat Tarbut' function in Holon, responded to comments Foreign Minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni made on Thursday, when she hinted at the possibility Israel could not secure Schalit's release by saying the State could not return every soldier. "I'm not too sure that I understand [Livni's] statement… I have buried many soldiers who were killed and did not return. We have the highest responsibility to return a soldier who is alive and in captivity through suitable and possible methods, but not at any price. "The path to Gilad's return demands difficult decisions which entail certain dangers. I am prepared to take responsibility to see to it that is among us," Barak said. Livni, who was lashed out at by demonstrators calling for Schalit's release on Friday, refused to retract her comments. In response to her comments, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told troops that "there is not a day where the subject of returning Gilad Schalit goes off the agenda."

Anti-Israel Christmas Carols in Britain - LONDON - A group of anti-Israel Arabs, joined by a few Jews, held a Christmas service in a church in central London, featuring "alternative" lyrics for traditional holiday carols. The Twelve Days of Christmas morphed into the twelve assassinations, eleven homes demolished, ten wells obstructed, nine sniper towers, eight gunships firing, seven checkpoints blocking, six tanks a-rolling, five settlement rings, four falling bombs, three trench guns, two trampled doves and an uprooted olive tree.
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According to a report in London's The Times, the hymn "Once in Royal David's City" became "Once in royal David's city stood a big apartheid wall." Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Proser held the Church of England responsible for failing to speak out against such an aberration of the Christian celebration of Christmas. "Unfortunately, the criticism from within the Church of England, which should have echoed with bold moral clarity, has instead sounded like a silent night, but far from holy," Proser told The Times. "It was appalling to see a church allow one of its most endearing seasonal traditions to be hijacked by hatred," he said. Proser also said the Reverend Charles Hedley, rector of St. James church in Central London where the service took place, "gave the stage to incitement -- of the kind of incitement we hoped had passed from this world, instead of encouraging understanding and interfaith tolerance." Hedley said that while he didn't condemn the event, he may not allow another because of the many complaints he received. Meanwhile, Lord Carey of Clifton, the former archbishop of Canterbury and one of the few Christians to speak out, told The Times that anti-Semitism remained rife among British Christians. "Such actions strengthen an anti-Israel agenda, trivialize the political issues and nourish an anti-Semitic culture," Clifton said. "This is not because it is wrong to criticize Israeli policy but because such campaigns single out Israel alone for particular opprobrium and censure it above regimes elsewhere in the world that are genocidal in intent and oppressive to the extreme," he said.
Palestinians rejected Olmert offer to withdraw from 93% of West Bank, accept 5000 refugees

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia tells reporters that Prime Minister Olmert proposed that Israel take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees over five years, and agreed to give up more than 93% of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") as well as land from within sovereign Israel to compensate for the 6.8% of the West Bank that Israel wants to annex.

Qureia says both offers were acceptable to the Palestinians. He said, in remarks to reporters, that Israel never revealed its position on the most contentious and politically sensitive issue: Jerusalem. His comments were the most detailed yet after more than a year of secret talks. The comments appeared to be aimed at providing a public record of the Israeli position ahead of leadership changes in Israel, the United States and quite possibly the PA. Speaking earlier Friday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that 2009 "is a year which I hope will bear fruit in the Middle East." Progress toward Middle East peace is being made "somewhat below the radar" by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, he said. "They are setting the stage for peace." The statements confirmed what it generally known: despite the promises of the Bush Administration and Middle East leaders at the Annapolis Conference, no agreement will be reached by the end of the year. The best the parties are aiming for is some general statement of "accomplishments" which they hope will mean that the next set of negotiations will not need to start from scratch.

Roee Nahmias

Published:  12.13.08, 09:26 / Israel News