From Flash Traffic Blog Wordpress.Com
Secretary John Kerry, Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni (left), and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (right).
(Washington, D.C.) — The very fact that Israeli leaders on the center-right of the political spectrum are getting anxious, even angry, strongly suggests two rumors are true:
1. The Obama administration and the Europeans are putting enormous pressure on the Netanyahu government behind the scenes to say “yes” on to an American-imposed peace plan; and
2. Netanyahu is seriously contemplating agreeing to deeply painful and enormously controversial concessions, including dividing Jerusalem and rolling Israel back to her pre-1967 borders.
Many analysts have felt for the past year that Secretary Kerry’s frenetic efforts to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was going nowhere and doomed to failure. Now there is rapidly growing evidence that Kerry has driven the two parties into the corner. He appears to be putting the most pressure on the Israeli side.
Here’s what we know so far:
Two weeks ago, for example, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon lashed out at the American plan, describing it as worthless, naïve, “messianic,” and dangerous. ”The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” Ya’alon said. “It contains no peace and no security. Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure that Ben-Gurion Airport and Netanya don’t become targets for rockets from every direction. American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians….Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) is alive and well thanks to us. The moment we leave Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) he is finished. In reality, there have been no negotiations between us and the Palestinians for all these months – but rather between us and the Americans. The only thing that can ’save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.” The Obama administration was furious, and Yaalon apologized, sort of, under pressure from Netanyahu.
This week, Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett lashed out at the American plan and harshly warned Netanyahu not to give away Judea & Samaria and put Jewish settlers under Palestinian sovereignty. “Our forefathers and our descendants will not forgive an Israeli leader who gives up our country and divides our capital,” Bennett warned, adding that the government’s growing fear of boycotts “is what will bring on the boycott. This is no way to handle negotiations, running frightened between the capitals of the world.” Bennett later added that the Prime Minister’s approach “reflects the loss of a moral compass. We didn’t experience 2,000 years of yearning for the Land of Israel so that we could live under the government of Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas). Anyone thinking of placing the lives of Jews in the Land of Israel under Palestinian rule is pulling the rug out from under our presence in Tel Aviv….I call on the prime minister to immediately reject this terrible idea.” Netanyahu’s team threatened to fire Bennett from the ruling coalition unless he took back his personal attack. Eventually, Bennett apologized, sort of.
Such tensions would not be flaring this intensely if Kerry wasn’t about to lower the boom on Israel, and center-right political leaders in Israel weren’t so worried Netanyahu was about to agree to far-reaching concessions.
Consider the following:
What is in the ”framework agreement”? The Obama team has leaked key details to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times:
· The “Kerry Plan,” likely to be unveiled soon, is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims
· following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines)
· with unprecedented security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.
· The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs
· but Israel will compensate the Palestinians for them with Israeli territory.
· It will call for the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem
· and for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
· It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel proper.
Is there evidence that Netanyahu and Abbas are trying to prepare their people for painful concessions? Here’s an interesting analysis of the “framework agreement” — and Sec. Kerry’s effort to hammer out “interim” deals on both the Iran issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — by David Ignatius of the Washington Post.
· [The] issues may still prove insoluble: Listening to Israeli Finance Minister Naftali Bennett at a conference here Tuesday, it was clear how vehemently the right-wing settlers’ movement he represents would oppose a Palestinian state. “Our forefathers and ancestors and our descendants will never forgive an Israeli leader who gives away our land and divides our capital,” Bennett said, his voice almost a shout.
· Yet the prospect of a framework agreement, of the sort Kerry is seeking, seemed tantalizingly close in comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the gathering, which was sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies.
· Netanyahu told the conference that the U.S. was compiling a document that would summarize the points that have emerged during the months of secret Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
· He said that Israel might agree to further talks under this framework, while not accepting all the U.S. ideas, as long as the Palestinians agree to a demilitarized state that guarantees Israel’s security and accepts Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people.
· Abbas said in televised remarks to the conference that he might be willing to accept a phased, three-year Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and continued presence by other military forces, as ways of satisfying Netanyahu’s security concerns.
· Amos Yadlin, a retired chief of Israeli military intelligence who heads the institute that hosted the conference, described Kerry’s goal: “It’s a framework agreement, or an agreement on a framework, or an American piece of paper,” he said, but the aim was to roll forward the negotiations for another nine months.
· The White House has backed Kerry’s attempt to pull together the parameters that have emerged in the negotiations, rather than simply striving for another round of confidence-building measures, such as Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners and Abbas’ restraint from taking his case for a Palestinian state to the United Nations.
· As in the Iran negotiations, a framework agreement would patch over what are still wide differences on a permanent, final-status agreement. But they would reduce the risk of outright conflict while diplomacy continues.
What are the political ramifications inside Israel if Netanyahu says “yes” to the U.S. “framework agreement”? Useful analysis by Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News:
· U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is obviously getting somewhere in his attempt to achieve a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, because all the right people — the far-right people — are going a little nuts.
· At a security conference this week in Israel, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party — reacting to an earlier suggestion made by the leader of his governing coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that Jewish settlers could conceivably find themselves living under Palestinian rule one day — asked, “Why should Jews live in Tel Aviv with Israeli sovereignty and in Eli and Hebron under Palestinian sovereignty? Open up the Book of Genesis and form an opinion. I demand that this idea be removed from the agenda.”….
· Netanyahu, unlike a set of government ministers to his right, including Bennett, understands that Israel’s addiction to West Bank settlements is undermining the legitimacy of his country, and endangering its role as a democratic haven for Jews.
· This is why he appears to be taking small rhetorical steps in Kerry’s direction — floating the idea that Jews on the West Bank could remain where they are under Palestinian rule (a proposal the Palestinians, so far, at least, reject) is one way he’s signaling to the Israeli public that unpopular decisions might be coming.
· Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also seems to be bending under Kerry’s pressure, offering just this week a concession of his own: Israelis forces, he said, could remain in parts of the West Bank for as long as three years after an agreement is struck. Previously, Abbas had argued that all Israeli forces must depart as soon as a deal is made.
· For Israelis, there are two ways to look at Kerry’s Herculean (and often Sisyphean) efforts to outline an agreement between extremely hesitant parties.
· The first way is Bennett’s: Much of the Israeli right sees Kerry as the enemy, trying to break the will of their prime minister in order to uproot settlers and create a Palestinian state that will become a source of endless violence.
· The second way is the one favored by Israelis of the center and the left: suspicion of grandiose American schemes but also a sober realization that someone needs to figure out a way to disentangle Israel from the lives of its Palestinian neighbors, and that that person may well be Kerry.
· The particular difficulty for Netanyahu is that he might have both of these understandings fighting it out in his head.
Is the Obama administration trying to divide Jerusalem?
(Washington, D.C.) — A fascinating but dicey and possibly dangerous moment is rapidly approaching in the epicenter.
The Obama administration is about to tell the Israelis and Palestinians how to solve their problems. The White House is about to pressure both sides to agree “in principle” to an interim agreement, and then work on a final peace treaty. How the two sides will react is anyone’s bet. Could the dynamic actually lead to a peaceful resolution of an ancient conflict? Seems unlikely. Could it lead to a calm and quiet at least for a while? Sure, theoretically. But to be candid, it could also lead to political chaos, or even to renewed violence.
Let me explain as concisely as I can.
Within days, or at most a few weeks, Secretary of State John Kerry will present both sides with what he calls a “framework agreement.” Essentially, this is an American-crafted peace plan. Yes, it will be based on month after month of discussions with both sides, and with the Jordanians. But make no mistake: it’s the plan President Obama wants to impose on the two parties. It is supposed to create the context for the final peace treaty, which the White House wants negotiated, completed, and signed by the end of 2014.
There will be much in the “framework agreement” both sides don’t like. For example, the plan reportedly calls for dividing Jerusalem and turning into East Jerusalem into the Palestinian capital, something the Netanyahu team adamantly rejects. The plan also keeps Israeli troops helping patrol and secure the Jordan Valley for a period of years, something the Abbas team adamantly rejects. Nevertheless, the two sides are supposed to say “yes” to this interim deal, and then use it to craft a final and supposedly ”better” deal.
But this where the problems lie. There are many. Let’s consider just two.
First, the Obama team could inadvertently make the situation worse. It could accidentally set into motion events that lead to renewed Palestinian terrorism (i.e., a “Third Intifada”) which would force the Israeli Defense Forces into a combat mode. Casualties could escalate, and things could get out of control. It’s happened before. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton tried to pressure the Israelis and Palestinians to make a final deal at Camp David. Then-Israeli PM Ehud Barak finally agreed to make sweeping concessions to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Barak offered the Palestinians all of Gaza, 93% of the West Bank, and half of Jerusalem for their capital, in return for a final peace treaty and the end to all claims. But wanting much more, Arafat said no. He quit the talks, left Camp David and then supported the Second Intifada, which unleashed a wave of suicide bombers who kept killing Israeli civilians, and caused the IDF to invade cities and towns in the West Bank to find and crush these terror cells.
Let’s pray this doesn’t happen. We all want peace. We certain don’t want violence to break out again, especially on such a wide scale.
Second, trying to force both sides to accept an American peace plan could blow up either or both governments.
If the Netanyahu government says “yes” to this interim Obama peace plan, his coalition may revolt. Already the right-wing parties fear that Netanyahu will make dangerous concessions in the final negotiations. He has made major concessions before, giving the ancient city of Hebron to the Palestinians, for example. If Netanyahu looks like he’s agreeing to more painful and arguably unwise concessions, certain Israeli political parties may quit the coalition, or Netanyahu might fire them. Political tensions in Jerusalem have been spiking all week for these very reasons. Saying “yes” might mean the Netanyahu government has be significantly reshuffled (i.e., replacing defecting right-wing parties with one or more left-wing parties). But it also could collapse all together. If so, then new elections would have to be called, which would further delay if not derail the “peace process.”
But if Netanyahu’s government says “no” to the Obama plan, there could also be repercussions.
· Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid warns European countries could impose a boycott on Israeli goods to punish Israel for saying “no” to the American plan. Lapid says this could cost Israel billions of dollars in lost exports and “hit every Israeli citizen directly in his pocket.”
· Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz says Lapid’s concerns are overblown, and Israel could weather the storm.
Given that no one knows which side of that debate is right, there is a great deal of pressure on the Netanyahu team not to inadvertently create an economic nightmare for the Israeli people.
Yet there is also great pressure on Netanyahu not to make concessions that threaten the long-term security of the Jewish state.
· What if Hamas Islamists seize control of the West Bank government from the more secular Fatah faction, like it did in Gaza? Then what?
· If the IDF stops operating in the West Bank — arresting terrorists and shutting down rocket factories — then the security situation in the West Bank could devolve into the nightmare that we see in Gaza, with rockets being fired at Israeli towns and cities, and even at Israel’s airport. Then what?
· If the IDF stops overseeing security in the West Bank, what if al Qaeda and Hamas and other jihadist groups (such as the 30,000 jihadists that are operating in Syria right now) turn the territory into yet another base camp for suicide bombers and other forms of terrorism?
· What if Christian holy sites in Jerusalem are turned over the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas eventually comes to power? Will Christian tourists feel safe visiting those sites under Hamas supervision? Would the Hamas government even allow Christian tourists to visit?
· The “framework agreement” reportedly would put 75% to 80% of Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Palestinian control. Would the Jews living in the rest of the settlements be safe in such a scenario?
That said, you and I have not actually seen the Obama/Kerry plan yet. There is no need to rush to judgment. We’ll see all the details soon enough. I just want you to be aware of the dynamic, and the tensions that are building.
Like many of you, I am praying for peace. I want Israelis and Palestinians to live in freedom, security, prosperity and with full religious freedom.
I don’t want to be a cynic. But I must be honest — I am skeptical.
The interim agreement this administration just struck with Iran — on the way to a full, comprehensive agreement — is a terrible deal. Dangerous for the U.S. Dangerous for Israel. Dangerous for all our allies in the Middle East.
Will this interim deal be similarly flawed, or even dangerous? Time will tell. But there are real reasons to be concerned. Let that drive us to prayer all the more.
What’s the latest with the “framework agreement”? Here are excerpts from useful story published by the Times of Israel:
· “The Obama administration will soon present a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that the sides may accept with reservations as a basis for a final deal by year’s end, the top US negotiator told Jewish leaders.
· Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on Thursday that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would remain in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state.
· Indyk said the framework would be presented to the sides within weeks, and that there will be “no surprises” for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, according to four people who were on the off the record call.
· This was because Indyk and Secretary of State John Kerry consulted closely with the leaders of both governments as Indyk’s team drafted the agreement.
· Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas would be expected to accept the agreement, with reservations, as the basis of continued negotiations, Indyk apparently said.
· Making it a US-drafted framework permitted the leaders to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues, Indyk said. “There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” he said, according to the notes of one participant.
· Broadly, Indyk said, the agreement will address: mutual recognition; security, land swaps and borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and the end of conflict and all claims.
· A request for comment from the State Department was not returned.
· On some sensitive issues — particularly the status of Jerusalem — the framework would be vague, but Indyk went into detail on other issues that participants said was surprising.
· Among these was the security arrangement for the border between Jordan and the West Bank: Indyk said a new security zone would be created, with new fences, sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles.
· Indyk also said that the framework would address compensation for Jews from Arab lands as well as compensation for Palestinian refugees — another longstanding demand by some pro-Israel groups but one that has yet to be included in any formal document.
· He said that the framework would describe “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people,” a nod to a key demand by the Netanyahu government that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
· He said the framework would address the issue of incitement and Palestinian education for peace.
UN weapons inspectors in Syria. (photo: AP)
In 2013, a U.S. and Allied military attack on Syria was averted at the last moment by a Russian-negotiated deal. The Assad regime promised to disclose all of its WMD sites and have U.N. weapons inspectors remove 100% of Syria’s chemical weapons on a specific timetable.
But months after the deal was struck, Reuters reports that Syria has only given up 5% of its stockpile, and will miss yet another critical deadline.
Meanwhile, the danger remains that al Qaeda or other Radical jihadist forces could seize some of the chemical weapons.
Let’s pray that doesn’t happen, and leave that for a future political thriller. But here are the latest details.
Excerpts from a Reuters story:
· “Syria has given up less than 5 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal and will miss next week’s deadline to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
· The deliveries, in two shipments this month to the northern Syrian port of Latakia, totalled 4.1 percent of the roughly 1,300 tonnes of toxic agents reported by Damascus to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
· “It’s not enough and there is no sign of more,” one source briefed on the situation said.
· The internationally backed operation, overseen by a joint OPCW-United Nations mission, is now 6-8 weeks behind schedule. Damascus needs to show it is still serious about relinquishing its chemical weapons, the sources told Reuters….
· Failure to eliminate its chemical weapons could expose Syria to sanctions, although these would have to be supported in the UN Security Council by Russia and China, which have so far refused to back such measures against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
· The deal under which Syria undertook to eliminate its chemical arsenal stopped the United States and its allies from launching bombing raids to punish Assad for a chemical attack last August and made clear the limits to international action against him.
· UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested in a report to the Security Council this week that shipments had been unnecessarily delayed and urged the Syrian government to speed up the process….
· Under a deal agreed by Russia and the United States after the August 21 sarin gas attack, Syria vowed to give up its entire stockpile by mid-2014. The rocket attacks in the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds, including women and children.
· Eradicating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, mustard gas and VX, requires massive foreign funding and logistical support.
· The bulk of the most toxic substances are to be destroyed on the Cape Ray, a U.S. cargo ship now en route to the Mediterranean that will be loaded with the chemicals at an Italian port. The remainder will go to several commercial waste processing facilities, including in Britain and Germany.
An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi/Times of Israel)
(Washington, D.C.) — In a game-changing development, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence delivered Senate testimony on Wednesday stating that the Iranian regime has all the scientific and technical information, industrial infrastructure and practical know-how to build nuclear weapons. The Director said Iran also has ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against regional actors, including Israel, and is developing long-range missiles capable of hitting the United States.
The long-expected and long-feared news does not mean Iran has operational nuclear weapons yet — at least U.S. intelligence doesn’t think they have them yet — but Washington now believes that once the Ayatollah makes the political decision to build them his scientists and engineers will be fully able to carry out his orders.
The sobering news comes one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the P5+1 deal with Iran merely set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program by six weeks.
“Although there are internal disagreements in Iran, there is no dispute in the regime about developing nuclear weapons and the goal of wiping Israel off the map,” Netanyahu told the crowd at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, reported the Times of Israel. “This agreement merely set Iran back six weeks — no more — according to our assessments, in relation to its previous position, so that the test, as to denying Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, has been and remains the permanent agreement, if such [a deal] can indeed be achieved.”
The big question is: Now what — will the U.S. or Europe take decisive action to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat, will Israel, or will Iran be allowed to build The Bomb unimpeded?
There seems little evidence the U.S. will attack Iran in 2014, given how deeply invested the Obama administration is in this newly negotiated deal with Iran. Europe won’t act on its own. Does that mean Netanyahu will, or as the deal tied his hands for the foreseeable future?
“Iran now has all the technical infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons should it make the political decision to do, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a report to a Senate intelligence committee published Wednesday,” noted a separate Times of Israel report. “However, he added, it could not break out to the bomb without being detected.”
In the “US Intelligence Worldwide Threat Assessment,” delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper reported that Tehran has made significant advances recently in its nuclear program to the point where it could produce and deliver nuclear bombs should it be so inclined.
· “Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. “These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”
· In the past year alone, the report states, Iran has enhanced its centrifuge designs, increased the number of centrifuges, and amassed a larger quantity of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride. These advancements have placed Iran in a better position to produce weapons-grade uranium.
· “Despite this progress, we assess that Iran would not be able to divert safeguarded material and produce enough WGU [weapons grade uranium] for a weapon before such activity would be discovered,” he wrote….
· Clapper told the Senate committee that the interim deal will have an impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program’s progress and “gets at the key thing we’re interested in and most concerned about,” namely, Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium.
· Iran had also worked hard to advance its program at the Arak heavy water facility, wrote Clapper. Its ballistic missiles, he noted, of which it has “the largest inventory in the Middle East,” are “inherently capable of delivering WMD.” And its space program gives it the means to develop longer-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
· “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. But he noted that Iran’s overarching “strategic goals” were leading it to pursue the capability to do so.
· The national intelligence director reiterated that imposing additional sanctions against Iran would be “counterproductive” and would “jeopardize the [interim] agreement.” He advised that additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic should only be kept “in reserve.”
· The report was released a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the interim nuclear agreement only set back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by six weeks.
· “This agreement merely set Iran back six weeks — no more — according to our assessments, in relation to its previous position, so that the test, as to denying Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, has been and remains the permanent agreement, if such [a deal] can indeed be achieved,” Netanyahu said at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
· Last Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Obama administration of mischaracterizing the terms of an interim nuclear deal. “We did not agree to dismantle anything,” Zarif told CNN.
· Follow on Twitter — @joelcrosenberg
· Order Damascus Countdown – a New York Times best-selling novel about an Israeli first strike on Iran’s nuclear program — now available in paperback, online and in bookstores nationwide
· Listen to Damascus Countdown as an audio book.
· Order the paperback of The Tehran Initiative
· Order the paperback of The Twelfth Imam
· Learn more about The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.net) – educating and mobilizing Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, and caring for the poor and needy with food and other humanitarian relief – read our 2013 Donor Report, and make a year-end, tax deductible, secure on-line contribution