Posted by Joshua on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008
Syria Defends Destroyed Site As Non-Nuclear Military Base
AFP, 21 November 2008
Syria said Friday a building bombed by Israeli planes last year wasn’t a covert nuclear reactor, as Washington stuck to its allegations that it says are supported in a findings by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
“We are talking about military bases, we are talking about military activities,” Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, told reporters after International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors briefed members about their first visit to the site in June.
Earlier on Friday, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA Gregory Schulte, had said the initial findings of the inspectors’ visit had served to harden the suspicions against Syria.
A four-page report circulated to IAEA board members on Wednesday “reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA safeguards obligations,” Schulte said. “The report sharply contradicts a number of Syria’s claims and catalogs Syria’s repeated refusal to answer IAEA questions.”
The restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said that “while it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building…along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.”
Furthermore, traces of uranium had been found at the site which was razed to the ground by Israeli planes on Sept. 6, 2007.
“No such nuclear material had so far been declared in Syria’s inventory…. In principle, that sort of nuclear material should not exist there. It’s not usual to find man-made uranium in sand,” a senior U.N. official said.
Othman insisted that since the site was a military one, the IAEA had no right to inspect it.
No other country would allow any person to visit a restricted military site, ” just because he would like to see it,” Othman said.
….Syria “will continue cooperation with the agency, there’s no doubt,” he said, adding: “We will continue cooperation, we are member of the international community and we are a member of the IAEA.”
But it won’t sign the so-called Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA greater inspection rights, Othman said…..
Syria all but rules out more U.N. nuclear inspection
AP, 21 November 2008
A senior Syrian official on Friday all but ruled out new visits by U.N inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to follow up U.S. assertions that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium.
Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.
“We will not allow another visit,” said Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s atomic agency.
He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only be one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others.
The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location…
Ehud Olmert, ‘The Time Has Come to Say These Things’
New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 19 · December 4, 2008
On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel’s most popular daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an extended interview of lame-duck prime minister Ehud Olmert by journalists Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer…. The following are excerpts from the Yedioth interview…
we have a window of opportunity—a short amount of time before we enter an extremely dangerous situation—in which to take a historic step in our relations with the Palestinians and a historic step in our relations with the Syrians. In both instances, the decision we have to make is the decision we’ve spent forty years refusing to look at with our eyes open.
We must make these decisions, and yet we are not prepared to say to ourselves, “Yes, this is what we must do.” We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the [occupied] territories. Some percentage of these territories would remain in our hands, but we must give the Palestinians the same percentage [of territory elsewhere]—without this, there will be no peace….
Yedioth Ahronoth: It seems that political leaders in Israel always reach this conclusion only when they themselves are no longer in a position to make this decision.
Ehud Olmert: Not in my case. I reached this conclusion when I was still able to do something about it. I established contacts with the Syrians in February 2007, long before the police opened investigations on me. And I engaged in them quietly. Throughout that period I made many efforts, sent envoys all over the place, and had various people working secretly on my behalf to convince the Syrians that I wanted serious talks with them. Today we’ve arrived at the point at which we must ask ourselves whether we really want to make peace or not.
I’m not saying that this is a simple question. One might argue, ostensibly with good reason, that, look, for thirty-five years, since the Yom Kippur War, we’ve lived on the Golan Heights without any violation of the cease-fire; and there’s none of the day-to-day friction with a civilian population, as in the territories—so why not carry on?….
Yedioth Ahronoth: Based on what you have said, you seem to think that the guilt falls entirely on [Israel].
Ehud Olmert: No. Our burden is ours; their burden belongs to them. I’m not suggesting we make peace with Syria simply by surrendering the Golan Heights. The Syrians know well what they must surrender to get the Golan. They must give up their connections with Iran, such as they are, and their connections with Hezbollah; they must cease funding terrorism, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the holy war in Iraq. They know. These things have been made clear to them.
Were a regional war to break out in the next year or two and were we to enter into a military confrontation with Syria, I have no doubt that we’d defeat them soundly. We are stronger than they. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We could contend with any of our enemies or against all of our enemies combined and win. The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price.
And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? “Let’s talk.” And what would the Syrians say to us? “Let’s talk about the Golan Heights.”
So, I ask: Why enter a war with the Syrians, full of losses and destruction, in order to achieve what might be achieved without paying such a heavy price?
…In the absence of peace, the probability of war is always much greater. A prime minister must ask himself where to best direct his efforts. Are his efforts directed toward making peace or are they directed constantly toward making the country stronger and stronger and stronger in order to win a war?
…What I’m saying here has never been said by a leader of Israel. But the time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.
I read the reports of our generals and I say, “how have they not learned a single thing?” Once, a very senior official told me, “They’re still living in the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign.” With them it’s all about tanks, about controlling territories or controlled territories, holding this or that hill. But these things are worthless.
…The true threat we are facing today in the north, south, and east is from missiles and rockets. We will need to answer these threats but we will not find such answers within a range of two hundred meters.
…Our goal should be, for the first time, to designate a final and exact borderline between us and the Palestinians so that the entire world, the United States, the UN, and Europe can say, “These are the borders of the State of Israel, we recognize them, and we will anchor them with formal resolutions in the major international bodies. These are the recognized borders of Israel and these are the recognized borders of the State of Palestine.”
…Who seriously thinks that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, this will make a difference for Israel’s basic security?………
Buthaina Shaaban: Syria-Israel deal is close. (Thanks to SASA for sending this.)
By Sasa, the Syria News Wire
20 November 2008
Buthaina Shaaban – adviser to the Syrian president and Nobel Peace Prize nominee – has revealed that her country is closer to a peace-deal with Israel than it has ever been during a public talk in Britain.
This year, Syria has had a series of indirect talks with Israel, on the return of the Golan Heights. It is the first time the two countries have talked since Shepherdstown in 2000.
“At Shepherdstown the problem was just the demarcation of the 1967 line (the future border),” she told a packed audience at the Diplomatic Academy of London. “Now, we started by trying to describe the 67 line, so the feeling is better than after Madrid.”… More at the Syria News Wire.
Syria has clear and comprehensive vision of Peace, Sha’aban Says
SANA, 21 November 2008
Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Sha’aban on Friday …. at a symposium titled “Syria is the key to solving Middle East problems”, …at the building of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
“The problem in the region is a political one, it is an outcome of the Israeli continued occupation of the Arab lands and its non abiding by international resolutions… the problem is not religious as some western media depict,” Sha’aban added.
She said that the suffering of the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees is a result of the Israeli and US occupation.
For his part, Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hans Winkler underlined in an interposition at the Symposium the important role of Syria in the Middle East and the peace process, saying “it is not possible to achieve peace in the region without Syria.”
A number of Austrian political and media figures, Arab Ambassadors, intellectuals and members of the Syrian Community in Austria attended the Symposium.
Iraqi Refugees in Syria Watch U.S. Security Negotiations
NAM, 21 November 2008
While the Iraqi parliament deliberates over the controversial security pact with U.S. forces that was approved by the country’s cabinet this week, Iraqis in Damascus are divided over the possibility of U.S. forces remaining in their country for another two years.
Many of the estimated one million Iraqi refugees here say they are eager to return, but they still feel the wounds of the sectarianism that has ripped their country apart in recent years. For refugees here, security in Iraq is a top priority, but many continue to be deeply critical of the ongoing occupation, leaving the community divided on whether security is a legitimate cause for U.S. forces to remain for another two years.
In Seyida Zaynab, the suburb of Damascus often dubbed “little Baghdad” for its largely Iraqi population, … I duck into the Sadrist office, the Syrian branch of the movement of mostly poor, anti-occupation Iraqi Shia. …“We refuse the agreement completely,” says the black robed Al-Qadimi. “The security pact is an agreement between two sides—the Iraqi government and the Americans. Neither side represents the Iraqi people, and no one else has any stake in it. We are an occupied country and the occupying forces must leave…”
Killing of al-Qaida Smuggler in Syria was Joint Syrian, U.S. Effort
By RICHARD SALE
Middle East Times, 21 November 2008
In spite of much angry public protest in Damascus, last month’s killing of top al-Qaida operative Abu Ghadiya, was in fact a joint operation between U.S. Special Forces in Iraq and Syrian intelligence, according to former and serving U.S. intelligence officials.
Abu Ghadiya, a smuggler who for years had moved money, weapons and insurgents into Iraq from Syria, was killed by a U.S. helicopter raid on Oct. 26. Seven civilians were killed with him, and the resulting furor was immediate: Russia and the Arab League strongly protested the raid, and Syria accused the United States of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and lodged an official protest, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Syria ordered the American School in Damascus closed.
But Syria’s alleged anger was calculated to conceal Syrian complicity in the operation. Although the attack is still officially “classified,” serving and former U.S. intelligence officials told the Middle East Times that Syria gave U.S. forces permission to fly into its airspace and even provided extensive targeting intelligence on Abu Ghadiya. “Syrian intelligence couldn’t have been more cooperative,” said a former senior CIA official….
Last May Abu Ghadiya and a dozen gunmen attacked an Iraqi police station in Qaim, killing 12, some of whom were beheaded.
Then, in early October, U.S. intelligence learned that Abu Ghadiya was planning another cross-border attack, and back-channel discussions with Syrian officials began.
Washington has long run a back channel to Damascus through Syria’s air force intelligence, the Idarat al-Murkabarat al-Jawiyya, U.S. sources said.
On Oct. 26, Syrian intelligence alerted U.S. forces in Iraq to Abu Ghadiyah’s whereabouts, at which time, U.S. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operatives began to track him, probably through his satellite telephone.
Four Blackhawk helicopters took off for the northeastern Syrian village of al-Sukkiraya, about five miles from the Euphrates river, an area where a compound of new homes was being built, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
At this point, the raid went wrong. As the U.S. Special Forces poured out of the aircraft, shots were fired and a gunfight broke out that lasted for 10 to 15 minutes. Abu Ghadiya was to have been captured and flown to Iraq for interrogation. Instead he was killed in the fighting, along with seven Syrian civilians, including four children, most of them members of the same family.
“There weren’t to have been any civilian casualties, no collateral damage,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “We wanted the [expletive] alive.” The U.S. raiding team carried off two captives for interrogation.
“The problem with these kinds of tactics lies with the fact that so many things can go wrong, and they usually do,” said Middle East expert Tony Cordesman. “You don’t want to solve one problem only to create a dozen others.”
But the praise of U.S. officials for Syria’s part was deeply appreciative. “The Syrians were perfect; they gave us the works,” said one U.S. official familiar with the incident…..
Your Attention, Please
By Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski
Friday, November 21, 2008; Page A23, Wash Post
The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president is profoundly historic. We have at long last been able to come together in a way that has eluded us in the long history of our great country. We should celebrate this triumph of the true spirit of America.
Election Day celebrations were replicated in time zones around the world, something we have not seen in a long time. While euphoria is ephemeral, we must endeavor to use its energy to bring us all together as Americans to cope with the urgent problems that beset us.
When Obama takes office in two months, he will find a number of difficult foreign policy issues competing for his attention, each with strong advocates among his advisers. We believe that the Arab-Israeli peace process is one issue that requires priority attention.
In perhaps no other region was the election of Obama more favorably received than the Middle East. Immediate attention to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would help cement the goodwill that Obama’s election engendered. Not everyone in the Middle East views the Palestinian issue as the greatest regional challenge, but the deep sense of injustice it stimulates is genuine and pervasive.
Unfortunately, the current administration’s intense efforts over the past year will not resolve the issue by Jan. 20. But to let attention lapse would reinforce the feelings of injustice and neglect in the region. That could spur another eruption of violence between the warring parties or in places such as Lebanon or Gaza, reversing what progress has been made and sending the parties back to square one. Lurking in the background is the possibility that the quest for a two-state solution may be abandoned by the Palestinians, the Israelis, or both — with unfortunate consequences for all.
Resolution of the Palestinian issue would have a positive impact on the region. It would liberate Arab governments to support U.S. leadership in dealing with regional problems, as they did before the Iraq invasion. It would dissipate much of the appeal of Hezbollah and Hamas, dependent as it is on the Palestinians’ plight. It would change the region’s psychological climate, putting Iran back on the defensive and putting a stop to its swagger.
The major elements of an agreement are well known. A key element in any new initiative would be for the U.S. president to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be. These should contain four principal elements: 1967 borders, with minor, reciprocal and agreed-upon modifications; compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as real home to two capitals; and a nonmilitarized Palestinian state.
Something more might be needed to deal with Israeli security concerns about turning over territory to a Palestinian government incapable of securing Israel against terrorist activity. That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.
To date, the weakness of the negotiating parties has limited their ability to come to an agreement by themselves. The elections in Israel scheduled for February are certainly a complicating factor, as is the deep split among Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. But if the peace process begins to gain momentum, it is difficult to imagine that Hamas will want to be left out, and that same momentum would provide the Israeli people a unique chance to register their views on the future of their country.
This weakness can be overcome by the president speaking out clearly and forcefully about the fundamental principles of the peace process; he also must press the case with steady determination. That initiative should then be followed — not preceded — by the appointment of a high-level dignitary to pursue the process on the president’s behalf, a process based on the enunciated presidential guidelines. Such a presidential initiative should instantly galvanize support, both domestic and international, and provide great encouragement to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
To say that achieving a successful resolution of this critical issue is a simple task would be to scoff at history. But in many ways the current situation is such that the opportunity for success has never been greater, or the costs of failure more severe.
Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He is president of the Forum for International Policy and the Scowcroft Group. Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. He is trustee and counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The two are authors of “America and The World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.”
Syria hit by double blow on oil prices and falling supplies
By Anna Fifield
Financial Times, 20 November 2008
The decline in crude prices has taken oil-producing nations by surprise, but few will be hurt as much as Syria, which is grappling with rapidly falling supply. The double blow has huge implications for the economy.
“Energy is a problem,” says Nabil Sukkar, an economist who heads the Syrian Consulting Bureau. “Our energy-generating capacity is below demand and our oil reserves are falling, while our gas reserves have not been developed rapidly enough.” Dwindling Syrian resources are often cited by analysts as one of the main reasons the country needs to end its international isolation, a process that has now started with improved ties with Europe. David Miliband, UK foreign secretary, was in Damascus this week in the latest sign of a thaw in ties between the west and Syria.
While fighting off pressure from the US and other western states over alleged interference in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Syria has struggled for economic survival.
The energy sector comprises a large chunk of its economy and oil revenues have funded a quarter of the expenditure in the nation’s huge public sector. Five years ago oil comprised more than half of Syria’s $29bn in income, but last year it contributed only $3.8bn to revenues totalling $22bn (€17.5bn, £14.6bn).
The International Monetary Fund says Damascus will face unsustainable budget deficits by 2015 unless it can find new sources of income.
The decline in oil production – it fell by 6.5 per cent to 394,000 barrels a day last year and is set to shrink further – will also weigh on growth, which has averaged 4.5 per cent in the past three years, due mainly to oil.
The IMF estimates that the non-oil parts of the economy contracted 7.3 per cent last year, worse than the 6.4 per cent shrinkage in the previous year. In particular, Syria’s agricultural sector has been suffering from the worst drought in 40 years, which has put 1m people at risk of malnutrition and caused more than 100,000 to lose half their livestock.
But encouraging the non-oil sector and developing new sources of growth will be difficult unless the energy shortages are solved, as Syria lacks energy supplies to power new industries.
Sectors essential for industrialisation – such as cement and steel – are among the worst hit by energy shortages. The government now requires anyone wanting to build an energy intensive factory to set up a power-generating plant, a sizeable investment that is hindering some from expanding just when Syria needs such products for construction.
Electricity power stations, fuelled primarily by oil and natural gas, are unable to meet demand. New plants are being built, including some solar power stations funded with Gulf investment. However, Syria’s plans to add 3,000MW of power-generating capacity by 2010 have been hindered by delays.
Some analysts see the energy crisis as a chance to shake up the economy and accelerate restructuring.
“They are well aware of the need to increase non-oil revenues and have taken a series of measures in this direction,” says Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon’s Byblos Bank. “So the sudden drop in global oil prices might accelerate the implementation of reforms.”
Already, reform-minded politicians are using the need for change in the energy sector to introduce sensitive ideas to Syria’s “social market economy”.
Abdullah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, suggests the private sector should play a greater role in electricity supply. “We are developing a private partnership policy to bring in investments in the energy sector,” he says. “The essential prerequisite for a sustainable energy policy is to have the correct prices.”
Electricity and oil have been heavily subsidised for decades. The government expects to spend $7bn on energy subsidies this year.
Syria’s Economy May Expand 7% Next Year, Deputy PM Dardari Says
By Natalie Weeks
Bloomberg, 19 November 2008
Syria’s economic growth may reach 7 percent next year as it continues to attract investment from the Middle East and exports diversify away from oil, Deputy PrimeMinister Abdallah Dardari said.
The global credit crisis doesn’t “represent any serious risks” to banks in Syria, which have remained isolated from the worldwide system because of U.S. sanctions, Dardari said in an interview in Athens today.
“Demand for Syrian products could be affected, but if we find the right niche exports, and we do have them, and present ourselves as the place for real economy investments we can actually take advantage of the crisis,” Dardari said.
Economic growth in the nation of 20 million will accelerate from about 6.6 percent this year, Dardari aid. Inflation is expected to decelerate to 9.8 percent within the year, he added.
The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast price growth will reach 16.8 percent this year from 12.2 percent in 2007 because of reductions in fuel subsidies and a 25 percent increase in
government salaries and pensions.
Syria is diversifying away from a dependence on oil. The country’s non-oil exports exceeded $12.5 billion last year, compared with less than $1 billion in 2000, spurred by regional demand for items such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, cotton and agricultural produce.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria in May 2004, including a ban on trade transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria, in an effort to halt exports to the country that is accused by President George W. Bush’s administration of aiding militants in Iraq and pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Syria “doesn’t want to pin high hopes on dramatic change” as Barack Obama’s administration takes office in January, Dardari said. “We believe, we hope, that the approach of the new U.S. administration will be different toward the issues of the Middle East and Syria specifically.”
Report says Britain hammers out Damascus intelligence agreement
By Raed Rafei
Los Angeles Times, 19 November 2008
It’s another effort by a Western power to draw Syria out of its international isolation in hopes Damascus would loosen its strong ties with Tehran and groups such as Hezbollah and some Palestinian factions.
The U.K.’s Foreign Minister, David Miliband, made a landmark visit to Damascus on Tuesday. He’s the first British top diplomat to visit Damascus since 2001.
Before heading to Beirut, Miliband said that Syria had an “essential role” to play in the stability of the Middle East. This move might be seen as a sign that the U.K., after France, is warming up to the Syrians.
Milliband said that Syria had responsibilities in the region “in respect of counter-terrorism, in respect of Iraq, in respect of the Middle East peace process.” He urged Syria to resume talks with Israel…Apparently, the main focus of the visit was the reestablishment of high-level intelligence cooperation between the Brits and the Syrians…
Syria may invite Russian mobile carrier – minister
Reuters, 20 November 2008
Syria is considering inviting a Russian cellular operator into its market, Russia’s Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev said on Thursday.
‘They have an idea to add one more mobile operator there. The participation of Russian companies in the Syrian mobile market is possible,’ Shchyogolev told reporters after a session of the Russian-Syrian Intergovernmental Commission.
Russia’s mobile phone market penetration currently stands at around 125.4 percent, according to market research group AC&M, suggesting the impressive growth rates in telecoms sales of the past years are now set to slow down. According to media reports, Syria’s cellphone penetration does not exceed 40 percent, and the market is split between Syriatel, owned by a Syrian businessman, and MTN Syria, part of Sub-Saharan Africa’s top mobile phone operator MTN.
Syrian officials have repeatedly said the country is going to auction off a third license…..
Russia: Syria won’t get Iskander for now
The Jerusalem Post, 20 November 2008
Months after offering Russia to deploy long-range ballistic missiles in his country, Syrian President Bashar Assad was informed this week that Moscow will not sell Iskander missiles to foreign clients due to production delays.
According to a report in the Russian news agency Novosti, the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has decided that despite interest from a number of countries – including Syria, the United Arab Emirates and India – Moscow will not export the Iskander missile until the Russian Armed Forces are fully equipped with the system.
The Iskander missile – also known as the SS-26 Stone – is a short range, solid fuel propelled, theater quasi-ballistic missile system. According to reports, the Iskander missile has only been subject to test firing and will likely only become operational in four years.
The system was developed to carry conventional warheads for the engagement of small targets, fixed missile silos and anti-aircraft systems as well as command posts and critical civilian infrastructure facilities. The missiles are reportedly difficult to intercept.
In August, Assad visited Moscow where he spoke with President Dmitry Medvedev and reportedly discussed the possibility of allowing Russia to set up Iskander missile launchers in Syria.
Israel was concerned with the reports and feared that the missiles could be used in a future conflict in the region. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a lightning trip to Moscow to urge Medvedev not to sell Syria advanced missile systems.
In May, a Syrian military delegation, led by Air Force Commander Gen. Ahmad Al Ratyb, visited Russia for talks about the possible procurement of the Iskander as well as the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system.
Earlier this month, Medvedev threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland in order to “neutralize if necessary” a proposed US missile defense system in Europe. Chief of the General Staff Gen. Nikolai Kakarov said that the military was prepared to deploy the missiles per Medvedev’s final order.
Syria: Al-Moallem, Stefani Discuss Syrian-Italian Bilateral Relations
SANA, 20 November 2008
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem discussed on Wednesday with President of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Italian Parliament Stefano Stefani bilateral relations between the two countries and means of developing them….
Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes but the problems are still gigantic
By Richard Beeston
Times Online, 21 November 2008
….. American and Middle Eastern officials, along with regional analysts, believe that Mr Obama could restore full relations with Syria, begin to normalise US ties with Iran – suspended nearly 30 years ago – and breathe new life into the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians….