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Entries in Benjamin Netanyahu (15)


Gaza Latest: Cairo Intercepts Missiles, Mossad's Flotilla Testimony, and Hamas on Direct Talks

Missiles Intercepted by Cairo: Palestinian news Agency Ma'an reported on Saturday that Egyptian authorities intercepted a shipment of at least 190 anti-aircraft missiles, rockets, and other ammunition in Sinai and seized explosives and weapons in Rafah.

Mossad to Give Flotilla Testimony: The Turkel Commission, an independent public commission set up to investigate the Freedom Flotilla attack, sent a letter to Mossad's Director Meir Dagan to give testimony. The commission has already called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and top Israel Defense Forces officials for testimony on the decision-making process before the Israeli forces' raid on the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla's lead ship.

Israel: A Rabbi’s War on Palestinians (Yenidunya)
Israel-Palestine Opinion: Hamas, Northern Ireland, and US Diplomacy (Abunimah)

An Israeli military investigation team has already concluded that the operation's planners lacked critical intelligence. The team concluded there were "operational mistakes" but no “operational failures”, and it was possible to prevent the flotilla’s mission to Gaza by political means, such as the opening of land crossings.

Hamas United against Direct Talks: Last week Hamas' Damascus bureau leader Khaled Meshaal stated that the upcoming talks between Israelis and Ramallah were illegitimate and the result of Washington's coercion.

Gaza's leader Ismail Haniyeh followed this with the assertion that the Palestinians cannot give up Jerusalem or any other part of Palestine. Haniyeh said: "Israel is trying in dozens of ways to achieve its goal, and now it is through negotiations."

Turkey Inside Line: New Anti-PKK Equipment; Waiting for an Apology from Israel

According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, Turkish officials want to buy the BiScopic Protection System for use against members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) crossing the border from Iran, Syria and especially Iraq. This radar system has both visual and thermal cameras selecting small images up to 1 megapixel.

Meanwhile, according to Israel's Yedioth Ahronot, a senior Turkish diplomat has said that an apology letter, covering tensions in Israeli-Turkish relations, was written jointy by Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer  and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at their secret meetings this spring. The official said that the letter was sent to the Israeli government to be approved but barred by a minister.

When the Ben-Eliezer meeting with Davutoglu was revealed, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called it a blow to his trust in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Turkish diplomat stated that Israel had made an important step by supporting the UN investigation committee into May's raid on the Freedom Flotilla and added that Ankara is still looking forward to an awaiting apology letter and a compensation amount to the families of nine dead activists. The diplomat continued:
People's memories are short. They forget Erdogan's visit to Israel and Israeli President Shimon Peres' talk in the Turkish Parliament (TBMM). If there had been an anti-Israeli policy, would we have done these? We are in a weird situation because of this between two friends. If Israel was an enemy, we would not mind and if our aim was to cut the ties, we would have done it already!

Middle East Inside Line: "Warm" Turkish-Israeli Relations; Latest on Israel-Palestine Talks

Ankara's "Friendly Face" to Israel: Weeks after reports alleging that Ankara had been threatened by the US with a cut-off of military transfers unless ties with West Jerusalem improved, senior Turkish officials currently visiting Washington announced their commitment to preserving warm relations with Israel.

The Latest from Israel-Palestine-Washington: Haaretz reports that the Palestinian Authority submitted a paper, prepared by Israeli jurists, saying that --- contrary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim --- Israel has the authority to freeze construction on private land. The PA demanded that the Obama Administration press for an extension of the freeze to East Jerusalem fr.

However, Haaretz reports,  from sources "close to the Obama Administration", that Washington will be urge Palestinians to soften their stance on Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor's proposal offering the continuation of construction in large settlement blocs but not in isolated settlements. In response to this "concession", land from Area C, which is both governed and controlled by Israel, will be transferred to Area B which is controlled by Israelis but governed by Palestinians.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has proposed the continuation of settlement constructions in parallel with the "natural growth rate", stated on Wednesday that the de facto freeze in East Jerusalem cannot continue after 26 September:
Presently there are 1,000 housing units on the table in Ramot, another 600 housing units in neighborhoods like Gilo, east Talpiot, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev. What, does someone expect that we will continue to freeze 1,600 housing units that went through all the [bureaucratic] procedures?

Pressure on Netanyahu Inside Israel: Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni accused Netanyahu of not being able to prevent the discrediting and delegitimising of Israel at the international level. She welcomed Netanyahu's decision to enter direct talks but warned him: "I hope the prime minister won't enter the talks as a favor to the Palestinians, or to the US, but rather that he will understand that this is in our best interest."

Ministers from the Labor Party are reportedly applying pressure on party chairman Ehud Barak to leave the coalition if Netanyahu turns toward the extreme right and clashes with Obama next month.


Israel-Palestine Analysis: What is Washington's Strategy on Settlements and Talks?

On Monday, reminded about the statement by Palestinian representatives that they would walk away if the settlement freeze was not extended in the West Bank, U.S. State Department Spokesman P. J. Crowley said:
Well, first of all, we look forward to the first meeting next week with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, and Secretary Clinton here on September 2nd as well as the individual meetings and dinner that President Obama will host at the White House on September 1st. We look forward to getting into the direct negotiation and then we believe that once that negotiation starts, it’ll be incumbent upon both the Israelis and Palestinians to avoid steps that can complicate that negotiation.

Middle East Inside Line: Hezbollah’s “Evidence” on Hariri Assassination; A Nuclear Reactor in Lebanon?
Palestine-Israel Analysis: Ramallah’s “One Month Trial” and Netanyahu’s “Security Card”

Then, asked whether Washington was worried that the Israelis had not committed to extend that moratorium, Crowley implicitly revealed the Obama Administration's expectations:

No. As we’ve been saying throughout this process, our focus has been to get the parties into direct negotiations and once in the direct negotiations, then these very issues will be tabled and resolved.

On Tuesday, Crowley was asked whether the US had reached an understanding with Israelis that there would be no announcement that the settlement freeze would continue but some construction, possibly in large settlement blocks, would continue. Crowley did not deny but reiterated Washington's classic statement: "Well, we look forward to the meetings next week."

In contrast, a senior administration official briefing reporters in Jerusalem said that the US position had not changed,and that Washington “doesn’t accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”. The official also said there were no “clandestine” understandings with either side.

On Wednesday, two US officials --- Daniel Shapiro, a top National Security Council staffer handling Israel and neighbouring countries, and David Hale, deputy to special Mideast envoy George Mitchell --- are going to the region to talk separatelywith Palestinians and Israelis.

Washington's message is clear to both sides: No provocative actions until 2 September and the start of the directly. The second strategy is to urge the Israeli government for a partial, if not a full, settlement freeze in the West Bank. Still, the question remains: beyond the refugee and status of East Jerusalem issues, how is the US going to persuade Ramallah to accept a peace plan likely to be linked to Israel's "sensitive" security concerns, even if it is based on 1967-War borders(even not mentioning the refugee and the status of East Jerusalem problems)?

Palestine-Israel Analysis: Ramallah's "One Month Trial" and Netanyahu's "Security Card"

After half the members of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization failed to attend the discussion over direct talks with Israel, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported that Hamas cancelled Saturday's reconciliation meeting with Fatah.

According to the London-based Arab language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has re-labeled the talks as a two-stage process: a one-month trial period to see if Israel's Netanyahu Government will extend the freeze on West Bank settlements and then direct talks focusing on core issues.

Israel-Palestine: Forget the Hype, Talks Are Going Nowhere (Walt)

For that second stage of the talks, Abbas suggested that the Quartet --- in which Russia, European Union, and United Nations sit with the US --- can press Washington to get Israel to reveal its hand, behind closed doors, on the borders of a future Palestinian state. In a letter, Abbas urged the Quartet members to abide by resolutions of the UN pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the principles of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, the 2002 road map and the 2002-2007 Arab Peace Initiative.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official who also serves as an adviser to Abbas, expressed dismay over Washington’s failure to invite representatives of all the Quartet members to the launch of direct talks in Washington early next month.

On the Israeli front, Prime Minister Netanyahu is preparing to use his best card, "security issues", as soon as the talks commence. Over the weekend, Netanyahu said he plans to focus on security arrangements before addressing final borders. (That means "drawing final borders across security arrangements". If Israeli forces are deployed in the Jordan Valley and most of the 500.000 Israeli settlers are kept as a buffer force for the Israeli state from missiles, then the lines have more or less been drawn.)

Netanyahu increased the pressure by depicting a "real partner on the Palestinian side, sincere and serious in negotiations, negotiations which will require both sides to take necessary measures, not only the Israeli side but also the Palestinian side”. Then it would be possible to “shortly reach a historic peace agreement between the two peoples.”

In response to Ramallah's "one-month trial" for the extension of a settlement freeze, Netanyahu will use his "security" card in order to get the maximum concessions at the beginning of negotiations. That is a wise strategy: if the concessions are not made, then West Jerusalem can blame Ramallah for not living up to its agreement to negotiate. However, that in turn also points to the difficulty of getting Israel to move beyond the initial phase of talks.

Who might be responsible for that position? What about a country whose administration once supported Palestinians pre-conditions --- including the settlement freeze and ending the occupation in East Jerusalem --- yet, with urgent phone calls to Ramallah, has insisted on no pre-conditions and definitely no reference to Israel's weapons programmes, including its nuclear capability? Any guess who that might be?