Posted by Joshua on Friday, October 1st, 2010
PM rejects U.S. guarantees in exchange for renewing freeze
U.S. reportedly incensed over PM’s rejection of a draft letter that would have extended moratorium on West Bank settlement construction.
By Barak Ravid, HAARETZ 01.10.10
The United States is reportedly incensed over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a draft letter that would have extended the freeze on West Bank settlement construction, formulated by advisers to the U.S. and Israeli leaders.
The letter, written by U.S. President Barack Obama’s advisers and by Netanyahu’s and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s adviser Isaac Molho, would have had Israel freezing construction in the settlements for another 60 days in exchange for unprecedented U.S. political and security assistance. Senior American officials said they were frustrated by Netanyahu’s conduct in the affair.
“We’re not buying the excuse of political difficulties anymore,” a senior U.S. official told his Israeli counterpart. “The Americans said Netanyahu’s conduct is humiliating the president,” said a senior European diplomat who met with senior U.S. officials in New York last week.
The details of the letter were revealed by senior researcher David Makovsky on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
According to the report, the letter included benefits crucial to Israel’s security that Netanyahu has been demanding for years. For example, the United States pledged to support Israel’s position on stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state, in order to prevent weapons smuggling.
The United States also would not ask Israel to further extend the building moratorium and would pledge that the issue of settlements would be dealt with only as part of final-status talks with the Palestinians, the letter reportedly said.
The United States also reportedly would veto any UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, would upgrade Israel’s defense capabilities after the peace agreement, and would increase security assistance.
This reportedly would include providing Israel with advanced fighter jets and early warning systems, including satellites. The U.S. also would start talks with Arab countries toward a regional agreement vis-a-vis Iran.
Obama adviser Dennis Ross, who is the moving force behind the letter, is believed to have encouraged Obama to change his policy toward Netanyahu in order to come off as friendlier. Ross reportedly worked with Barak and Molho on the letter during the UN General Assembly in New York.
The White House yesterday denied that Obama sent a letter to Netanyahu, but did not deny that the United States and Israel worked on a letter.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to answer any questions on the subject.
According to a source involved in discussions of the letter, Netanyahu agreed to the talks conducted by Barak and Molho in New York, but began to backpedal in two phone calls with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said he appreciated the letter but could not accept the American proposal because it included a two-month extension of the construction moratorium, which he said would damage his public credibility.
According to an Israeli source involved in the details of the affair, Ross was very insulted by Netanyahu’s conduct and considered it “treason.”
To head off a possible public confrontation following Netanyahu’s rejection of the letter, Ross and White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro met Tuesday in Washington with a large group of Jewish senators and congresspersons to report on talks with Israel and the draft letter.
According to a source informed about the meeting, Ross said the administration was surprised that Netanyahu had turned down the draft. To increase pressure on Netanyahu, Ross reportedly passed on the draft to Makovsky, who published it online Tuesday night.
According to a senior Israeli official, the “guarantee letter” may now be off the table and the Americans may be formulating a different solution to allow continued negotiations.
On Tuesday morning, Netanyahu met with U.S. envoy George Mitchell. Mitchell met yesterday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and will meet with Netanyahu again today.
Meanwhile, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton landed yesterday in Israel and will mee
t with Netanyahu today.
According to news agencies, the Arab League, which was to meet Monday to decide whether direct Israeli-Palestinian talks should continue, has put off the meeting until Wednesday, giving another 48 hours for Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Syria: Mideast peace process dead
New York – The new Middle East peace talks are a “dead letter” because of Israel’s renewed settlement building in occupied Palestinian territories, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday.
“In Israel there is much talk about peace yet the drums of war continue to sound,” Muallem told the UN General Assembly.
But he offered to resume mediation talks with Israel that have been brokered through Turkey.
Feltman: We have important differences with Syria… (mideastwire.com)
September 28, Asharq al-Awsat
“Feltman added saying: “Washington is trying hard to achieve global peace in the region. This means that we should also be more active on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks while carrying on with our efforts on the Palestinian-Israeli track.” Asharq al-Awsat asked Feltman why there was no scheduled joint press conference after the meeting, to which he said: “There is no backdrop for this issue since Secretary Clinton did not hold a joint press conference after the bilateral meetings that she has conducted in New York with many world leaders and representatives.” As for the US Department of State, its spokesman said that the meeting with Al-Muallem represented a rare opportunity to proceed with dialogue with Syria in regard to the peace process and the latest developments in the Middle East region.
According to the JTA, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is not interested in reviving talks with Syria where they left off under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
Those talks, mediated by Turkey, operated under the assumption that Israel would return the entire Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, should a comprehensive peace be secured. Netanyahu says he will only restart talks with no preconditions and has suggested that he is not willing to return the entire Golan.
“The secretary affirmed our objective of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, which includes the Syrian track,” the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said in a conference call with reporters. “Foreign Minister Muallem was very interested in pursuing that, and there was a pledge that we would develop some ideas going forward on how to proceed.”
How U.S. Jews Strangle Peace Talks
by Peter Beinart
Is Syria ready for the “Muslim Brotherhood Initiative”?
Akif EMRE in World Bulletin
WSJ(9/28) US Woos Syria In Mideast Peace Push
2010-09-27 (From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) By Jay Solomon
NEW YORK—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intensified American efforts to woo Syria into backing the U.S.’s Middle East strategy, holding her first direct meeting with her Syrian counterpart in a bid to find common ground on Iran, Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli dispute.
But Damascus’s top diplomat, Walid Moallem, in an hourlong interview Monday, voiced opposition to many of the Obama administration’s top regional initiatives, and expressed skepticism about the prospects for renewed Syrian-Israeli peace talks.
Mr. Moallem said Damascus would oppose United Nations efforts to issue indictments to support the U.N. investigation into the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a crime some Lebanese officials have blamed on Syria.
The Syrian diplomat ruled out any further cooperation with a U.N. probe into evidence that Damascus had been covertly developing a nuclear reactor along the Euphrates River before Israeli jets bombed the site in 2007.
Mr. Moallem said the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, discredited itself last week by failing to approve an Arab-led initiative that seeks to place Israel’s nuclear infrastructure under IAEA safeguards.
“It is discredited, the agency,” Mr. Moallem, 69 years old, said in the interview in a mid-Manhattan hotel. “It shows how much politics is inside their work. But more, it shows double-standard policies.”
Damascus has for years denied any role in Mr. Hariri’s death, as well as accusations that it was seeking to develop nuclear weapons in cooperation with North Korea.
Senior U.S. officials have increasingly sought to engage Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a bid to gain Damascus’s support on a range of Mideast issues, as well as to weaken its strategic alliance with Iran. Syria and Iran partner closely in arming and financing the main Arab groups fighting Israel—Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria also has close ties to many of the political factions currently seeking to form a new Iraqi government.
U.S. officials believe a resumption of direct Israeli-Syria talks over the status of the Golan Heights region—a process that broke down in 2000—could diminish Syrian support for Hamas and underpin the separate Israeli-Palestinian peace track.
State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said later Monday Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Moallem discussed a range of regional issues and that Mrs. Clinton “expressed her commitment to securing a comprehensive peace.” Mr. Crowley said Syria’s foreign minister voiced his own government’s interest in peace talks and that Washington and Damascus “would explore ways to move the process further.”
Still, Mr. Moallem said he believed a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would be doomed without Israel’s commitment to first freezing any new construction in disputed territories. He said any direct talks between Syria and Israel could begin only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to restoring the Jewish state’s borders with Syria to the pre-June 4, 1967, lines. “So the land is ours. And it’s not up for negotiation,” Mr. Moallem said.
The Syrian foreign minister stressed that following such a commitment on the Golan, Damascus would be prepared to discuss joint security and water arrangements, as well as normalization of diplomatic ties, with Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu’s government has said it won’t enter into talks with Syria that have preconditions. Israel also says Syria has been transferring increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles to Hezbollah, a charge Mr. Moallem denied.
Lebanon remains an issue of tension between Washington and Damascus. The U.S. has strongly voiced its support for the U.N. completing its investigation into Mr. Hariri’s murder, as well as trying those indicted for the crime at a U.N. court in The Hague.
Mr. Moallem alleged Monday that the U.N.’s work in Lebanon has been irredeemably “politicized” and that Damascus has received word that members of Hezbollah were soon to be formally charged with the murder. He said that such developments risked plunging Lebanon into a new round of sectarian strife and that the U.N.’s investigation should be replaced by a purely Lebanese investigation to ensure fair treatment.
“We are convinced that a condemnation of the prosecutor of this court against Hezbollah will be a factor of disturbance in Lebanon,” Mr. Moallem said.
The U.S. and Syria also could clash diplomatically this fall over the nuclear-proliferation issue, as the Obama administration has indicated it would press for the IAEA to have the powers to launch a “special investigation” of Syria’s alleged nuclear infrastructure.
Such a move, if pursued by the IAEA’s director general, could result in Syria facing a U.N. Security Council censure, and possibly sanctions, if it doesn’t comply with the agency’s requests for documents and visiting rights.
Mr. Moallem said Syria, as a signatory to the U.N.’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would continue to allow the IAEA to visit Damascus’s research reactor, which is included in his country’s formal cooperation agreement with the U.N. body. But he said the IAEA wouldn’t be allowed to return to the Euphrates site.
“They know that this case is baseless,” Mr. Moallem said. “Of course, to have a nuclear program, a military one, we need to invest billions of billions of dollars. We are not advocating a race for nuclear weapons in the region, on the contrary.”
The Syrian diplomat said Mr. Assad has grown disappointed with the pace and scope of President Barack Obama’s administration’s effort to rebuild ties with Syria over the past 18 months.
The White House’s special envoy to Syria, George Mitchell, has visited Damascus and outlined ways that pervasive American sanctions on the Middle East country could be eased to facilitate high-tech trade and the shipment of spare parts for airplanes, according to U.S. officials. But so far, Mr. Moallem said, these steps have had little impact inside Syria.
“Until today—nothing,” he said.
Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate resists deportation from Israel – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
Allawi in Sryia, Tells Iran to Stay Out of Iraqi Politics
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has called on Middle East leaders to stop Iran from interfering in Iraqi politics. He made the call in Syria Wednesday, following a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Allawi said he had asked Iran’s allies, which include Syria, to send the message to Tehran.
The news of the visit comes only days after former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi said he asked Syria to persuade Iran to keep out of his protracted battle for the premiership with incumbent Nuri al-Maliki following March 7 elections.
It also precedes Ahmadinejad’s visit later this month to Lebanon, where Iran’s ally Hezbollah is locked in a bitter war of words with Prime Minister Saad Hariri about a UN-backed court’s probe into the assassination of his father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.
The new Saudi arms deal: Encouraging Iran to Go Nuclear
By Stephen M. Walt Tuesday, September 21, 2010, Foreign Policy
The Obama administration is about to propose the sale of more than $60 billion worth of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. Apart from providing an obvious boost to the U.S. defense industry, the clear purpose here is to send a message to Iran. As an unnamed U.S. official stated a few days ago, “We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage. . . We want the Iranians to know that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose.” In short, the sale is “mainly intended as a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran.”
I get all that, although it seems like an awful lot of weaponry to “contain” a country whose entire defense budget, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is only $10 billion.
But my real question is this: if our primary goal is to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons, then might this new initiative be counter-productive? Doesn’t it just give Iran an even bigger incentive to get a nuclear deterrent of its own? Think about it: if you had a bad relationship with the world’s most powerful country, if you knew (or just suspected) that it was still backing anti-government forces in your country, if its president kept telling people that “all options were still on the table,” and if that same powerful country were now about to sell billions of dollars of weapons to your neighbors, wouldn’t you think seriously about obtaining some way to enhance your own security? And that’s hard to do with purely conventional means, because your economy is a lot smaller and is already constrained by economic sanctions. Hmmm….so what are your other options?