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Iranian President Says Iran Ready to Negotiate with the U.S.

Iranian President Says Iran Ready to Negotiate with the U.S.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would be willing to enter into negotiations with the United Nations if the United States is willing to lighten its stance on his country obtaining nuclear capabilities.

Ahmadinejad made the comments just as Iran is marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. It also came just days after the supreme leader Ali Khamenei rejected the possibility of engaging in direct talks with the U.S.

In his address, which was accompanied by “death to America” chants from the audience, the Iranian president said that he will negotiate with the United States directly if they “stop pointing weapons at the Iranian nation.” He also pointed out that talks should be done with fairness and respect without pressure.

Ahmadinejad’s response came just a week after Vice President Joe Biden offered Iran a seat in the negotiation table with the P5+1, which includes the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Khamenei, who has the final say and authority, chastised the U.S. and accused it of resorting to coercion tactics by threatening military action if Iran refuses to negotiate.

The U.S. currently has sanctions in place, which is aimed at curbing Iran’s uranium enrichment program. The sanctions have caused a severe economic crisis in Iran by limiting oil exports, which is the nation’s main source of revenue.

Ahmadinejad has vehemently denied that his country’s economic crisis is due to the sanctions though Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi admitted that the sanctions have played a role in the economy’s downward spiral.

Western nations have also expressed concerns over Iran’s satellite program, which they fear could be used to develop long-range missiles. Iran regularly announces technological breakthroughs, which includes sending a monkey into space and bringing it back home safely. Such claims cannot be independently verified by the U.S.

Festival of Smites

WikiLeaksWhile a quasi-sharav continues to confound the regular rains and chills of Kislev; while Jewish families get ready for the annual Hanukkah rigmarole; while Israel, like the rest of the world, is dealing with the dreaded WikiLeaks report; the dream of peace is as far away as ever.

The Fatah Furor

The most levelheaded of Palestinian factions, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, according to an article in United Press International, said it refuses the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and has called on Palestinians to actively resist it. A unanimous Jihad because such demands – that is calling Israel a Jewish State, per a Knesset-approved law, last month – violates “international law” and “human rights conventions.”

Summing up its fifth convention during a three-day session in Ramallah, the Fatah Revolutionary Council said:

“The council affirms its rejection of the so-called Jewish state or any other formula that could achieve this goal. The council also renews its refusal for the establishment of any racist state based on religion in accordance with international law and human rights conventions.”

Furthermore, PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, told the council he will not resume peace negotiations with Israel until there is a halt on building settlements.

Meanwhile, Hamas security forces arrested four Fatah party supporters, Sunday in the Gaza Strip. The detainees were identified as Adel An-Naji, Ra’fat Shahin, Sami Abu Samra, and Rizq Abu Al-Kas.

The German Judgment

On Sunday, Shimon Peres met with German President Christian Wulff, who arrived on an official visit to the Middle East. Wulff said that he specially chose Israel as the first country to visit outside the European Union because the countries are bound by a special relationship, and Germany remains the guarantor of the existence and security of Israel.

The two presidents called for pressing forward with the Middle East peace process. The German president added that the Israeli government should “adopt a constructive attitude” to the issue of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Also on Sunday, WikiLeaks started publishing about 2.8 million secret American documents, representing for the most part, the Foreign Office correspondence with U.S. embassies, including the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The documents have already been released, in private, to the New York Times, Der Spiegel and the British Guardian.

OneJerusalem Special: The Peace Summit 2010

Part I: Washington D.C.

Middle East peace negotiations in Washington
Obama: I want to begin the summit by insisting to my Jewish and Muslim friends that these proceedings, leading where they will, are not just a shallow photo opportunity for this Nobel prize winning Pres!

Netanyahu: Not at all!

Abbas: No way Jose…..

Obama: Sebaba! Let’s get this baby moving. The President of Cool has some disco lessons with his wife! Ya dig?

Netanyahu: Swing her up down and all around President of Cool! Hahaha!

Abbas: Haahahaha.

Obama: Hahahaha. Ok Ok. Let’s get started, shall we? (motions for Abbas to speak)

Abbas: A’salaam Aleichem!

Netanyahu: Shalom Aleichem!

Obama: Peace my brothers. Welcome to Washington D.C.. Anybody up for some fresh Maryland crab cakes?

(Abbas squirms in discomfort)

Netanyahu: Yeah, I’ll try one of those bad boys.

Obama: I was kidding Benjamin. Now, down to brass tacks my brothers. Let’s start with Israel. Bibi, what say you?

Netanyahu: Israel is ready, willing and able to cooperate on a plan for peace. Our hearts are broken over this age-old, bloody dispute. It has to end. We will be reasonable and listen to the Palestinian
demands…so long as they do not compromise Jewish statehood.

Obama: (lights a cigarette) We are glad to hear that. Hillary and I have been praying to hear that Israel is ready to talk peace. How about Mahmoud – the quiet kid in the corner. What say you?

Abbas: The conflict has got to end. And that has to start with ending the occupation. It is one thing to set and honor a building freeze – but what we really need is to get the settlers out of the West Bank, for good. Look, even your own artists won’t perform at that new theatre in Ariel. You are wrong. Just plain wrong. If Israel returns to her pre-1967 borders, that also means there can be no settlers.

Netanyahu: No settlers? Settle down Mahmoud! This is very holy land for the Jews. We tell them that they can build and then two years later we change our minds? This does not look good. You all saw what happened in Gush Katif. There will be riots!

Obama: The only way to appease all parties is to make sacrifices. No solution without a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Netanyahu: Very well, Barack. But I think that both you and Mahmoud are overlooking the danger which Hamas poses. They have already made their way into the West Bank and are terrorizing my citizens. What will they do to the Islamic citizens living under the PA?

Mahmoud: Yes Bibi, we’ve consi—

Netanyahu: And not to mention the dangers posed by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the no-goodniks. You cannot make it seem like kicking the Jews out of Samaria will bring instant peace!

Mahmoud: Perhaps a civil war is necessary!

Netanyahu: If war is necessary than why should we appease the Palestinians who have no order among themselves! Less even than the Jews!

Mahmoud: Because the outposts are illegal!

Obama: That’s right. (puts his arm around Abbas and begins to rub his shoulder). Bibi, how about if I trade you arms for land?

Netanyahu: The settlers, my colleagues, will castrate me!

Obama: Bibi, how about arms and an additional $1 billion so you can build that spaceship you’ve been dreaming of!

Netanyahu: Ooh lala! (his eyes begin to twinkle and his face grows a big dumb grin).

To Be Continued….
(next time from Sharm El Sheikh)

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding

All parties involved in the powwow are positive. Heck, they didn’t go all the way down to DC for the barbecue ribs.

Bibi sent an inspiring message to the Israeli press after week 1:

“We will need to think creatively, and in new ways, about how to resolve complex problems…”

He was not talking about the education budget or the evaporating Dead Sea. He was also not talking about the bumper to bumper traffic during the morning commute between Highway 1 and Route 9 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“…In order to reach practical solutions, we will need to think about new solutions to old problems…”

He then continued, failing to cite an actual objective.

“To succeed, we will need to study the lessons of the 17-year effort at negotiations and to embrace original thinking, to think outside the box…”

He was referring to the Oslo accords.

But the Prime Minister made it clear that he is:

“willing to achieve an historic compromise with our Palestinian neighbours so long as it maintains the national interests of the state of Israel with security first and foremost.”

Of course undermining Jewish nationhood would be disappointing for millions.

Amid threats by the Palestinians to end the negotiation process if the Jewish Country refuses to renew the West Bank building moratorium upon its September 26 expiration, Avigdor Lieberman assured that this will not and cannot be the case. During a special Rosh Hashanah toast, he also recalled the ineffectual Oslo conference and the ensuing tragedy of the Second Intifada.

“Do we have a real partner?” he pondered, “What if we sign with Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Hamas takes over?”

Why would the result of an exit from the West Bank be any different than the result of the Jewish exit from Gaza?

“We learned nothing from the Disengagement from Gush Katif…If we return to the 1967 territories, the demands from the Palestinian side will only increase.”

Meanwhile, Nabil Abu Rudaineh cursed Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Mahmoud Abbas when he was quoted as saying:

…The one who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified election results, who oppressed the Iranian people and stole authority has no right to speak about Palestine, its president or its representatives…

…President Mahmoud Abbas came to power through free, democratic and authentic elections supervised by more than 2,000 international and Arab monitors…We are the ones who fought for Palestine and Jerusalem…

…the Palestinian leadership did not oppress its people as did the Iranian leadership under Ahmadinejad….

Jihad and the Jews: A Guide to the Peace Talks

For those without a press pass or the time and patience to filter through every tidbit of information available to the public concerning the Middle East tango – you’ll at least want to follow the upcoming peace talks between Palestinian, Israeli and American politicians and think-tanks with a bit of a recent background scoop.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently released this statement:

“I think this is a most fundamental question and I believe, without wishing to really prejudge what will happen in the next few days, the next few weeks, we are approaching that moment of reckoning…Some questions really need to be answered…There is not really a whole lot of time to waste…”

The Palestinian Plea:

A state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital.

Some background:

A poll was recently taken by the French press about the Palestinian population’s general consensus on the matter.

Here is what they came up with:

91% of Arabs in the Palestinian homeland – that is from the Jordan to the Mediterranean – believe that an official Palestinian state is “essential” or “desirable.”

94% of Palestinians in Jerusalem, (both east and west) believe that the city should belong to a Palestinian state.

86% of Palestinians are in support of the use of violence to the creation of a state. (“the use of violence is essential for 36.7% of respondents; desirable for 18.7%, 16.8% acceptable, tolerable for 14.0%”). On the other hand, according to deduction, 13.7% of Palestinians are opposed to violence.

Here is what Israel has done recently to concede with Palestinian demands and the demands of those behind the Palestinian cause:

In the West Bank…

Since the beginning of 2010, sixty roadblocks have been removed, leaving sixteen checkpoints remaining open.
Road number 443 has opened for Palestinian traffic.

There has been a 50% increase since 2009 of permits issued to enter Israel.

In the beginning half of 2010, there has been a 15% increase for Palestinian patients receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. 82,058 of these permits were issued and 14,675 of which were issued for children.

There has been an 11% increase of the number of trade permits issued for entry to Israel. In the beginning half of 2010, 22,910 trade permits were issued, in comparison to 20,503 trade permits which were issued in the first half of 2009; and 500 additional permits were issued to merchants to enter Israel.

There’s been a 78% increase in vehicle imports to the West Bank in the first half of 2010 in contrast to the first half of 2009.

There was a 2.7% increase in the al-Quds stock market index for the first half of 2010, and this while unemployment decreased by 3% in the first quarter of the year.
3,000 housing units were built for a brand new Ramallah district city.

6 Palestinian Security Forces battalions and 150 civil defense personnel were coordinated for special training in Jordan.

There have also been regular joint meetings between heads of the Palestinian Security Forces and the IDF Central Command. In addition to this, there have been joint Israeli and Palestinian police and firefighters’ meetings.

According to the official IDF spokesman Twitter feed:

“In 1967, 80% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria not connected to water network. Today, 90% connected to water grid.”

According to the official IDF blog, in Hamas controlled Gaza:

“During the week of 22nd – 26th August 2010, a total of 1,074 truckloads (24,288 tons) of humanitarian aid and development assistance for the local civilian population and 1,697,598 liters of diesel fuel entered the Gaza Strip.”

And

“Between June and August, the capacity of the Kerem Shalom Crossing was expanded by 210%, facilitating the daily entry of up to 250 truckloads of goods for humanitarian and development projects throughout the Gaza Strip.”

For a chart of Arab Public Opinion of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, click this

Russia Steps In

President MedvedevPresident of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev has urged the United States to actively work to achieve peace in the Middle East – citing the “human tragedy in Gaza”.
The comment apparently indicates Moscow’s willingness to become an active Middle East mediator. Are they wanted? Last week, during a visit to Syria, Medvedev said that the Israeli-Arab tension threatens to draw the Middle East into a “new catastrophe”.

Bibi, despite insider allegations of the contrary, claims that he does not “intend to halt construction of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem”. The Palestinians, of course, accuse the Jewish Country of undermining trust and urge Obama, who supports establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, to intervene.

Medvedev claims that no one should be excluded from the peace process, clearly referencing Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of Hamas – shunned as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union nations – and rightly so. Medvedev did urge Mashaal to free Gilad Shalit, according to Kremlin spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

At the meeting in Damascus with Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, the two presidents agreed on the affirmation of Iran’s right to develop a nuclear energy program.

We Can’t Go On Together, With Suspicious Minds

Israeli sources have stated repeatedly that the Jewish Country would reject any move by the Barack Obama administration to set benchmarks and a timeline for peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu & Obama

International forces such as Jordan’s King Abdullah, who met with Obama in Washington recently, said the US must put pressure on both parties by setting a timeline for the peace process.

US National Security Advisor, James Jones said that the administration was mulling over ways to renew the peace talks, but no final decision has been reached.

He also made comments on recent reports in the US media, according to which Obama was “seriously considering” declaring an American peace plan for the Middle East, this autumn, to be based on the outlines presented by former President Bill Clinton at Camp David a decade ago.

Jones confirmed that Obama recently met with former administration officials to discuss formulating a new strategy for the situation. According to him, there are ongoing talks, but no surprises are being planned.

Another senior US official had this to say:

“The principal difference between now and previous administrations is the Iran problem… From our perspective, it increases the urgency of Israel keeping the international community focused on that problem and not on other problems. And the Israelis need all of us to be working together on the common goal of keeping the pressure on the Iranians to back off.”

The Test

construction of new apartments in the West BankPalestinian construction workers should be finding new work soon, as Bibi has authorized the construction of new apartments in the West Bank.

Is it:

a) To put Palestinian construction workers back to work

b) To house more Jews in Samaria…resuscitating the injured Zionist dream

c) To tell the Obama administration that Israel is NOT a territory of a Middle-Eastern American empire, and therefore under Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction, despite any amount of welcome donations, as Vice President Joe Biden arrives in the Holy Land for a piece of the Peace Talks with our Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas.

d) To deny Palestinians of their human rights

Only G-D knows!

There will be 112 new apartments in the Beitar Illit ultra-Orthodox settlement, known as the “The Torah city of the Judean Hills.”

In this action, the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of trying to undermine the peace talks even before they began:

“If the Israeli government wants to sabotage Mitchell’s efforts by taking such steps, let’s talk to Mitchell about maybe not doing this (indirect talks) if the price is so high… put a big question mark on what it is that we came to do.”

The Palestinians presented the U.S. envoy with a document outlining their desired agreement: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with minor border adjustments.
This is what Bibi said after speaking to Biden:

“I believe we will succeed in advancing the diplomatic process…But the diplomatic process is not a game, it is real, and rooted first and foremost in (Israel’s) security.”

Peace Now settlement expert, Hagit Ofran said:

“The Israeli government is welcoming the vice president by demonstrating, to our regret, that it has no genuine intention to advance the peace process.”

Hamas and other known trouble-makers, have condemned Abbas’ decision to renew talks, accusing moderate Palestinians of caving in to U.S. pressure.

On Monday Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad unveiled a $3.13 billion budget for 2010, about $80 million more than last year, funded by the international community. He said that after years of a conflict-driven downturn, Palestinian government revenues are up, partly due to economic growth projected at 7% this year. Fayyad also said he will more than triple spending on development projects to $667 million, in accordance with donor countries desiring to see more money earmarked for infrastructure, health and education.

How Long will the Delay Game Continue?

bibi obama abbasA few days ago we saw the much anticipated tripartite meeting between Mahmoud Abbas, PM Netanyahu, and President Obama, in that usual stance where Israeli and Palestinian leader are clasping hands and the US leader is in the middle, hands outstretched, in that sort of “I know, deep down, you really do love each other,” type of body language.

rabin clinton arafatLet’s take a quick analysis of this picture, comparing it to the old one back in 1993. First of all, Obama looks a lot less happy then Clinton. Oh, but wait a minute: So does Abbas, and Bibi for that matter. They all look fairly miffed, like nobody really wants to be there, or they’re all constipated and need some fiber capsules. It’s hard to tell.

What’s really interesting, though, is that Israel is on the same side of the picture as she was in 1993. The left side. Abbas is on the right, as Arafat was. What is the significance of this? Take a look at any popular book on body language. What it will tell you is that to show the palm of your hand is an expression of capitulation, whereas to show the back of your hand is an expression of power and domination. When Bibi is on the left side of the picture, shaking Abbas’ hand with his right, he shows the back of his hand in the photograph. Abbas is left open-palmed and helpless.

I solute Bibi on this move, whether or not he did it accidentally.

But then again, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Nobody wanted to be in that picture in the first place anyway. And back home, everybody is griping about it. Following the meeting, Minister Without Portfolio (AKA Minister of Absolutely Nothing – there are a few of those in Bibi’s government) Benny Begin (son of the late PM Menachem Begin) called the chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat a “wild beast of a man” quoting the Bible in describing Ishmael.

Senior PA officials who came along with Abbas to New York called it something of a “complete failure,” in that Obama is reportedly no longer demanding a total settlement freeze from Israel. Further, Bibi and Abbas reportedly came back from the meeting with totally different conclusions, Bibi’s being that negotiations will proceed without preconditions, and Abbas’ being that negotiations will only resume after a total settlement freeze. At least they both came away with conclusions at all.

MK Danny Danon, a Likud lawmaker, said that now that Obama failed to obtain any concessions from Arab countries, Netanyahu must restart unlimited building in Judea and Samaria. That’s the right. And on the left…

Even Yossi Beilin, architect of the Oslo Accords and former Meretz chairman, is all hot and bothered. In his words, “It was clear that the participants were not enthusiastic about the meeting. It wasn’t a meeting of people who want to make peace.”

What would give you that idea? Could it be the looks on their faces? So I repeat the question posed in the title of this article. How long will this game of picture-taking and delay go on until somebody makes a move, somewhere, on some sort of principled stance involving any kind of conviction?

Could be a while. I wouldn’t count on anybody currently in office moving anywhere significant.

Bibi’s Peace in Our Time

bibi_peaceBoth Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, are not wasting any time in indicating how they will deal with issues regarding Israeli domestic and foreign policies. An earlier post dealt with Lieberman’s speech on how he intends to helm his position, much to the chagrin of many world leaders, including those of both Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel. In response to the European Union’s threat to suspend Israel’s upgrade in relations with the EU, Netanyahu’s curt response was “don’t set conditions for us!”. Nothing more bottom line than that, it appears.

The Europeans, and most likely the Americans as well, are not very happy about the new Israeli government, and its apparent right-of-center foreign policy direction. In contrast from the previous government, led by the Kadima Party, and it’s now former and disgraced leader Ehud Olmert, the new political realties emanating from Jerusalem appear to be along the lines of “don’t xxxx with us!” Netanyahu added to his previous noted remark by saying “we (the government) are in the process of reviewing our policies -don’t rush us”.

All of this comes on the heels of the recent fiasco of the Conference Against Racism in Switzerland, the outcome of which we noted earlier. In light of this, and the upcoming Durban II conference, which will most likely be similar to the previous one (in which Israel was truncated by most of the delegates, causing the Israeli delegation to “exit, stage right”), both Mr. Lieberman and Netanyahu have decided on an entirely different course in which to steer the Israeli Ship of State.

On Lieberman’s part, the policy of “land for piece”, so popular with both Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni (now head of Kadima and leader of the opposition),
is no longer a negotiating factor in the new government. According to Lieberman, although the PA does not have to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” the radical Islamic Hamas organization “must be suffocated”. “Don’t even mention the ‘right of return’ ” Lieberman was quoted as saying in regards to Palestinians being able to return to and settle within Israel proper.

Both Netanyahu and Lieberman want the members of the EU to “stop speaking in slogans” in reference to reaching a solution with the Palestinians; and in regards to other policies affecting Israel and its relations with other countries, including Iran.

Ironically, Lieberman has been invited to visit Egypt, which was conveyed during a just concluded visit by Egyptian intelligence chief Omer Suleiman. What reception Lieberman is likely to get in Cairo or some other location (such as Sharem al Sheikh) remains to be seen. But in any respect, countries like Egypt may even respect the new political reality now in place in Israel, as at least it is more predictable than the “poochy moochy” one espoused by Olmert. In any respect, it’s now a whole new political ball game.

Middle East Students Conference

MESCFor the first time (that I’m aware of) a students’ simulation of regional peace talks is going to take place in Israel.

Between the 17th and 22th of August, Tel Aviv University will host the 2008 Middle East Students Conference — an initiative of the “Stand With Us” fellowship program. Participants are invited from all over the world, to represent all the countries involved in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

If you want to participate, hurry up to the Conference website and fill in the relevant form.

Simulating Peace Talks
Cagle Cartoons

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