Archive for June 15th, 2009

SWI NEWS: 24 Sivan 5769, Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The Festival of Lights exhibit on display in Jerusalem's Old City. (Flash90)

Enraged Palestinians weigh return to terror for Netanyahu speech

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

June 15, 2009, 2:38 PM (GMT+02:00)

Palestinian "special forces"

Palestinian "special forces"

Senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah, enraged by the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's conditional offer of a Palestinian state Sunday, June 14 - and even more by what they see as US president Barack Obama's perfidious welcome - are weighing extreme options for reprisal, DEBKAfile's military sources report.

Advisers of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas blame him for falling for a phony clash between Washington and Jerusalem, when all the time Obama and Binyamin were scheming together to devise a formula for trapping the Palestinians into discussing a statehood bereft of military and political power.

Netanyahu's acceptance of a Palestinian state hedged in with conditions the Palestinians would never contemplate has had the effect of placing the onus of rejection at their door.

More and more Palestinian politicians in Ramallah argue that because the Israeli prime minister placed new obstacles on the road to the Middle East peace process, they are entitled to revert to the late Yasser Arafat's two-stage tactics of synchronized terror and diplomacy. This would mean resuscitating the Fatah's al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Tanzim terrorist organizations because, they say, Abbas would be ill-advised to engage in peace talks with Israel unarmed with the Palestinians' primary tool of pressure, terror.

Some even argue that Abbas' Fatah, by going back to violence, would force the US president to accept that they will never give up any of their principles, i.e. Israel's total withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem its capital and the right of 1948 refugees to return to their homes.

They also want to telegraph Obama that the Palestinian Fatah is not totally dependent on the military aid and training provided Palestinian Authority security forces by US, British and Canadian military experts, but have their own independent "military" resources.

This would also be the Palestinian rejoinder to Israeli prime minister's demand for a demilitarized state.

Fatah's resort to terrorist tactics would, in the view of some Palestinian officials, heal the internecine quarrel with the radical Hamas and help the Palestinians present a united front not only to America and Israel but also to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

As for Netanyahu's demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinian spokesmen said that never in a thousand years would any Palestinian comply. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak supported this assertion when he accused Netanyahu Monday, June 15, of "scuppering" the Middle East peace process because "no one will support this in Egypt or anywhere else."

Israeli military circles are reported by DEBKAfile to be acutely troubled that Mahmoud Abbas may be tempted to accept the advice of his aides. This would mean a revival of the deadly format Arafat devised for PA security forces' members, to act as serving officers a few hours a day and as terror activists the rest of the time. Their new American training and weaponry would certainly enhance their performance in their second capacity.

Israeli UAVs expected to steal the show at Paris expo A hovercraft designed to evacuate wounded soldiers from an urban battlefield, an unmanned helicopter and a kamikaze drone will be unveiled to the public on Monday at Israel's official pavilion at the 48th Paris Air Show.
The Harop loitering munition ...
The Harop loitering munition (left) and the Mule medical evacuation UAV Photo: Courtesy
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
Twelve Israeli companies - including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael, Urban Aeronautics and Elbit Systems - will present their wares at the Israeli national pavilion, which cost over NIS 6 million to erect at the Le Bourget expo center. Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to Paris on Sunday to attend the opening. One new platform that will be on display is the MULE medical evacuation unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) under development by Urban Aeronautics, based in Yavne. The IDF has expressed interest in the MULE, which the company has said is capable of delivering supplies and ferrying casualties within a battle zone. The MULE can carry approximately 317 kilograms over an 80-kilometer radius. The speed of the MULE is expected to be in the range of 100 knots, with a maximum operating altitude of 3,660 meters. Another UAV slated to be unveiled on Monday is the Picador, an unmanned helicopter developed by Aeronautics Defense Systems. The Picador has already made its first flight test and is designed for naval and land-based operations. It has a range of 200 km. and is reportedly capable of carrying a 180-kg. payload.
The Picador unmanned helicopter
The Picador unmanned helicopter Photo: Courtesy
Another drone on display is the HAROP loitering munition, a self-destructing drone that can be used to detect and destroy missile launchers, anti-aircraft systems and naval craft. Developed by IAI, the HAROP can be launched from various platforms. Rather than carrying a separate missile or warhead, the HAROP drone itself is the weapon and is designed to be a hunter and killer by loitering above a battlefield and attacking targets. It was specifically designed to suppress enemy air defense systems. IAI recently signed a $100 million contract to supply the HAROP to a foreign customer, reportedly India. "This is a state-of-the-art loitering munition system which features accurate detection capabilities and minimizes collateral damage to the surrounding area," IAI CEO Itzhak Nissan said. In related news, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel has decided to purchase the Iron Fist active-protection system developed by Israel Military Industries for the army's new "Namer" armored personnel carriers (APC). Currently in its final development stages, the Iron Fist is capable of intercepting and destroying a wide range of anti-tank missiles, from old RPGs and standard tank shells to the Russian-made advanced missiles in Hizbullah's and Syria's arsenals. The Iron Fist consists of a radar and passive optical system that detects incoming threats and destroys them within a fraction of a second using a combustible blast interceptor. Unlike similar active-protection systems, which fire off a large number of projectiles, the Iron Fist intercepts incoming threats by using a rocket the shape of a mortar shell. The rocket destroys the threat with a blast that crushes its soft components or deflects the missile or kinetic projectile in flight.
Obama: PM's speech shows possibility for 'serious talks' US President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's endorsement of Palestinian independence, saying the development shows the "possibility we can restart serious talks."
Obama responds to a question...
Obama responds to a question during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the White House Oval Office on Monday. Photo: AP
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
Obama, who has been pressing for peace talks to resume, made his brief comments at the end of an Oval Office meeting with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. In the wake of Netanyahu's major address Sunday, the Obama administration has publicly been emphasizing the positive nature of the message despite it falling short of US demands that Israel halt settlement growth. The focus on the positive move by Netanyahu is being seen as effort to move past public disagreements with Israel to allay Israeli concerns and find a constructive approach that might include compromise on some points. "The Netanyahu government took a big step forward yesterday in acknowledging for the first time the need for a two-state solution," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Monday. "I think the president believes that there is a long way to go and many twists and turns in the road to get there, but is pleased thus far with the progress that's being made. And I think yesterday's speech certainly is a big part of that." In his speech, Netanyahu said that "in my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect; each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government." The Obama administration has been pushing for him to embrace a two-state solution, though Netanyahu also said Sunday that it must be a "demilitarized Palestinian state" accompanied by a recognition that Israel is a Jewish state, which Palestinians have so far refused to do. When it came to settlements, he was less accommodating, as he reiterated that natural growth would continue despite US demands that it stop. "We have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements. But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere," he said. Still, members of Congress also welcomed Netanyahu's remarks. "It's encouraging because he's moving in the right direction," said Robert Wexler (D-Florida), one of the Jewish Congressmen closest to US President Barack Obama and someone who has pushed Israel on halting settlements. "There has not been a meeting of the minds between the US and Israel on settlements, but I'm confident that there will be, and I'm confident that Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech is a positive step in the direction of the US and Israel reaching a mutually acceptable position on all the important issues." Yet since the speech - perceived as directed at the Obama administration as much as Israelis ¬- conditions Palestinian statehood in a way likely to make it difficult for the Obama administration to move as quickly as it would like with negotiations, while showing little flexibility on settlements, some suggest the administration is straining to see its positive elements. "This is a way of taking the edge off the tension between the US and Israel in the last few weeks," said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "They have made a virtue of necessity here, because I'm not sure they wanted to get into a fight with Israel," assessed Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East official. He said that to succeed, the speech would need to give "at least give the administration some political time and space and reduce some of the unhappiness on the part of the administration with what the prime minister hasn't said" on a two-state solution and settlements. Based on the White House reaction, Miller said the speech seemed to have worked, and in the process given Netanyahu some political time and space as well. While the settlement issue was unresolved, the two-state solution got a boost, he said. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly reiterated US demands for a freeze in settlement expansion and declined to back Netanyahu's conditions for Palestinian statehood, though he made some remarks supporting the Israeli perspective. When it came to Netanyahu's stipulation that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Kelly said, "You know that yesterday said he was committed to the Jewish state of Israel. Senator Mitchell said it. And I'll just let it stand at that." And asked about demilitarization, he responded, "Israel needs to have its security concerns taken very seriously and worked out." He also appeared to address some of the concerns that some Israelis have expressed over the link Obama's speech in Cairo made between the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel. Netanyahu in his speech stressed that "our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged." On Monday, Kelly emphasized, "We are committed to two states living side by side in their historic homeland." Gibbs, in his comments, also said that it was important for both sides to contribute to making progress. Wexler echoed that point when he said, "It shifts the discussion to the Arab world." Yet experts such as Miller didn't think it had changed the dynamic enough to spur the Obama administration to put the ball squarely in the Arabs' court. "Did this give them any leverage to go to the Arabs and say, Okay, your turn?" he asked. "My judgment is no." Tamara Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, said it merely reinforced the Obama administrations position that all sides had to contribute, which fitted into its overall approach that "they're in it for the long haul." "I think it represents a baby step or two towards where the Obama administration has been heading, but not a great leap," she said. Wittes contended that the Netanyahu government had been testing to get a sense of how serious the Obama administration was about the demands it had been making of Israel. "This is another bid," she said. "It's the second round of bidding, and it's going to be a long poker game."
Obama only heard Netanyahu say ‘Palestinian state’
A statement released by US President Barack Obama on Sunday indicated that he had only heard those parts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace policy speech that he wanted to hear. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Obama was very pleased to hear Netanyahu finally publicly commit to the creation of a Palestinian Arab state. He completely glossed over Netanyahu’s insistence that the peace process focus on the root of the conflict - the Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state - rather than on the international community’s desired outcome. Gibbs did say, however, that Obama wants to see a final status peace deal that includes both “a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestinian state” living side by side. The spokesman did not comment on Netanyahu’s demands that a future Palestinian state be demilitarized, or his refusal to uproot large Jewish settlement blocs and surrender the eastern half of Jerusalem. The European Union followed Obama’s lead on Monday by saying it still wants to analyze Netanyahu’s full speech, but expressing satisfaction that the Israeli leader had accepted the idea of a Palestinian state
‘Netanyahu exposed true root of the conflict’
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon on Monday praised the peace policy speech given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day earlier for exposing the true root of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Arabs’ long refusal to accept Israel as the national homeland of the Jews. Speaking to Army Radio, Yaalon said that Netanyahu’s speech had unmasked Palestinian rejectionism. Yaalon repeated Netanyahu in noting that Israel has surrendered large areas of land to the Palestinians already, only to receive increased terrorism in return, thus proving that the conflict isn’t really over a few scraps of land. While Netanyahu disappointed many of his right-wing backers by supporting the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, he put such conditions on that outcome that it is very likely to never become a reality. First, Netanyahu was adamant, and spent much of his speech demanding that the root of the conflict highlighted above be addressed, that the Arabs explicitly recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people before any final status peace deal is considered. Second, Netanyahu firmly and repeatedly stated that his government will only ever agree to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, as the only purpose for such a state to have weapons would be to threaten Israel. And third, Netanyahu was clear that major Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will not be uprooted to make room for a Palestinian state, nor will that state be given even one inch of Jerusalem as its capital. The above conditions have all been roundly rejected by the Arabs in the past, leading many Israeli commentators to note that while Netanyahu is representing Israel’s initial core peace demands in a way that former prime ministers failed, he has effectively and indefinitely stalled progress in the land-for-peace process.

The White House welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu's support for the creation of a Palestinian state. For the first time, Netanyahu stated he would support a Palestinian state but under certain conditions. 

Netanyahu came to Israel's Bar-Ilan University and delivered what many believed was one of the most important of his political career. He said he would accept a Palestinian state but only after Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  Click here for more insight on the potential effect Netanyahu's speech could have.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu articulated tonight a vision of peace, of mutual recognition, of Israelis recognizing the rights of Palestinians to have a state of their own, of course demilitarized and of Palestinian recognizing the Jewish peoples' right to self-determination in our country too," said Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesperson.

Netanyahu put a number of other conditions on a future Palestinian state. He said it could not field an army, control its own air space or make military pacts with groups like Hezbollah or nations like Iran. He said Israel couldn't afford another "Hamastan" on its borders. He also stated Jerusalem would not be divided with the Palestiniants, but would remain the eternal capital of Israel.

While Netanyahu called for a stop to new settlement construction, he said "natural growth" or what he called "normal life" within existing settlements, would continue.

"I think the world won't agree to the conditions of Mr. Netanyahu from my point of view or a majority of the Jewish people in Israel it's a must conditions, we can not allow to have army for the Palestinians and to activate terror against Israel like they do in Gaza," said Shaul Goldstein, Mayor of Gush Etzion.

Chief Palestinian authority negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Netanyahu's conditions.

"He is not with the two state solution, he is not going to stop settlements including natural growth," Erekat said. "So, we have attempts to move a peace process which was moving like a turtle in the region, now Netanyahu tonight flipped it on its back."

Some interpret Netanyahu's acceptance of a Palestinian state - even with his conditions - as giving into U.S. pressure from the Obama Administration. How his speech will affect U.S.-Israel relations remains to be seen.